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Digital/Different Day met with caution

The Glencoe-Silver Lake School District’s proposed “Digital/Different Day” to provide students with a learning opportunity on snow days has drawn both enthusiam and caution from school board members.
The proposal would encourage the use of “Google Classroom” and other online resources for learning on snow days so that students can continue their education even while at home.
School Board Member Jamie Alsleben rightfully pointed out that the measure could have the potential of increasing the learning gap between students with adequate financial means and students who do not have those resources. Economically challenged families typically do not have access to computers, iPads, other devices and Internet service.
But Superintendent Chris Sonju and other administrators are stressing that those students without technology access will still have alternative ways to complete “Digital/Different Day” assignments.
We feel the approval of a trial run for “Digital/Different Day” is a step in the right direction. Some day, technological access will be as common as running water and electricity. Many cities are already providing free Internet service to residents, while many school districts are trying to provide each and every child with a device, such as an iPad, so that they can access educational resources from home, libraries or wherever Internet service is available. GSL has already started a program to put such devices in students’ hands, although it has a ways to go before every student is equipped.
There will be, no doubt, some drawbacks to “Digital/Different day.” Some students may simply not have the internal initiative to complete assignments without a parent or teacher to encourage them. Others may not have access to the Internet because they are at a grandparent’s home or a day care or, as Alsleben pointed out, simply don’t have the financial resources to purchase Internet service.
It may, in fact, turn out to be an idea that is simply ahead of its time. But it is best to be in front of the cutting edge, rather than behind it. It’s an experiment worth doing, and we applaud the School Board for moving ahead, with appropriate caution and concern.
And best of all, as Sonju pointed out, the “Digital/Different Day” encourages administrators and teachers to look at education with fresh eyes and consider other options for delivering education that can be tailored to each student’s unique needs. And we applaud that, also.