Monday, March 11, 2013

Dealing with disaster: The usefulness of free technology

It was around 2.45pm on Friday 11th March 2011 that I was working through a rather difficult A-level Physics problem with my class. Mid-sentence, the building started shaking like it never had before, first from side to side then up and down. As we huddled under the desks, I began to wonder if the gas pipelines under the desk would rupture just before the shaking stopped.

The clock in my old office. It stopped when the earthquake hit.
We soon realised this wasn't like the other tremors we had experienced and evacuated the building. In the evacuation area, we watched videos on the TV of tsunami devastation hitting northern Japan. Two days later, the explosions at Fukushima meant we had to evaluate re-opening the school on the following Monday. We decided to close for a week and ended up staying closed for three whole weeks.
A few years before, we had set up plans for running the curriculum during school closure, at that time because of the threat of swine flu. Although swine flu never closed the school, the plans we had in place for using Google apps allowed us to react quickly and minimise disruption to learning.
On the first day of closure, teachers prepared lessons to be completed through the school's Google apps based learning environment. Students completed work, asked questions through Google Talk and collaborated with each other. Many people had left Japan and were accessing the curriculum and creating lessons from Japan, Korea, Australia, England, France and Singapore and for students with external exams on the horizon, this was essential to ensure they did not fall behind. Of course there were issues. Many students didn't access the work at all and some teachers were not as creative as others, but in a time of crisis it provided stability and a sense of community for the students and their families.
You never know what kind of crisis can end up causing a school closure and it is essential to be able to still provide a curriculum for students to keep a sense of normality. If your school is waiting until they can afford an expensive VLE solution, it is maybe time to shake senior management into action and let them know about the free alternatives available.
It would be wrong to write this without taking a moment to think of the people who died on that day, and the others who were left behind to deal with the devastation. Even two years on, for many life is not back to normal. My thoughts are continually with all those people and I hope the time when life returns back to normal is soon on the horizon. Ganbatte!


Post a Comment