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Don't Let Flu Stop Student Learning

With some simple technology your students are already using, you can keep the learning going even if schools close.

By Edeanna Chebbi, NEA Health Information Network

If H1N1 outbreaks close schools this fall, technology will keep the learning open, according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“Our top priority is making sure that [students] get well, stay well and keep learning,” He said. “We’re providing a menu of strategies for educators to help ensure that the learning process will continue.”

Topping that menu is technology. The Department of Education recommends teachers use the Internet and cell phones to post homework materials, conduct classes, share information, and keep teachers, parents and students in close touch.

Duncan says kids spend more time online and on their cell phones then they do in the classroom.  For him, the challenge is maximizing that learning time beyond the traditional six hours a day in school.

How do I start?

First, you should ensure that you are familiar with your district and school policies on cell phone and internet usage.  Then, start small, before school closures are announced, by assigning homework that must be done outside of the school environment, just to get them used to the process.  A simple idea is to have students create book reports in class that they will later record online at home and distribute to their classmates as podcasts.

These Phones Were Made (for more) than Talking

We know that kids do a whole lot more with their cell phones than talk. You’d think they’d have thumbs the size of plums with all the texting they do. So tap in to their texting habits. Text them their homework assignments and ask them to text you with any questions they might have. Then they can email you their completed assignments.


 SchoolTube provides free access for educators to establish live feed video so they can conduct classes from anywhere, assign homework, provide instructional video, or simply update parents and caregivers on the status of the class you’re teaching.  Students even have an opportunity to create their own videos and upload them at no cost.  All you need? A computer with internet connection.


Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice and video conference calls over the Internet – all for free. Hold classes and study groups or break your class into smaller work groups so that they can Skype each other for assignments – all from their home computers.

“Even when school is open, I like to design curriculum that promotes autonomy and ownership and really moves beyond the bricks and clicks,” says Minneaopolis middle school teacher Brock Dubbels. “I try to extend the classroom beyond the building…and connect to the lives and voices portable social media enables.”

Do you have ideas for extending the classroom beyond the school building? Visit our discussion board to learn more strategies and share your own.

Where do I start?

Begin by surveying your class and assessing their accessibility.  Does every student either have a cell phone or access to one in their home?  How many students have access to the internet at home? 

Next, develop a social contract between the student, the parent, and yourself.  This will serve to establish safe usage of the technology. 

Finally, begin to incorporate technology into your lessons early by creating homework assignments that require the use of your selected media. 

Where do I get more information?

Websites like Google Voice provide you with a free phone number and voicemail so that you don’t have to give students and parents your personal information. allows you to establish a phone number and e-mail address where students can leave recorded messages and upload videos or pictures by e-mail.  This is an excellent resource for pop quizzes and scavenger type assignments.  Finally, blog sites such as Textmarks, Wiffiti, and Twitter provide opportunities for students to engage and respond to topics that you initiate, in real time.

As Secretary Duncan says, whether it’s online or on cell phones, we need to extend the learning time of our students beyond the classroom.  These are some simple ideas and examples of how to meet this need while preparing for possible school closures this fall.  And who knows, maybe you’ll just find yourself hooked!


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