Education, Technology

Gwinnett Schools Use ‘Digital Learning Day’ As Make-Up Day

Nine-year-old Raj Singh, a fourth-grader at Camp Creek Elementary in Lilburn, sits in front of a laptop in his kitchen, where he logs into Gwinnett County Schools' virtual classroom called eClass.
Nine-year-old Raj Singh, a fourth-grader at Camp Creek Elementary in Lilburn, sits in front of a laptop in his kitchen, where he logs into Gwinnett County Schools' virtual classroom called eClass.
Credit Tasnim Shamma / WABE

Many students in metro Atlanta had the day off Monday because of a winter weather advisory.

But in Gwinnett County, that didn’t mean no school. Public school students there had to go online for what officials called their first “Digital Learning Day.”

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Camp Creek Elementary

Nine-year-old Raj Singh is a fourth-grader at Camp Creek Elementary in Lilburn. Instead of getting ready for school, he gets ready to come downstairs. He sits in front of a laptop in his kitchen, where he logs into a virtual classroom.

The screen shows a colorful graphic of a classroom. It almost looks like a computer game. Raj can click on different icons like a whiteboard that lists his assignments, a locker where he can save documents and a dropbox where he can upload his assignments.

He said he enjoys having the day off from school.

“It’s actually really fun,” he said. “Whenever I’m hungry, I can just go down and get a snack. Or whenever I get kind of bored and want a break, then I can watch some shows. It seems like the work is actually kind of shorter since I’m able to go on my own pace.”

His dad, Bipul Singh, also worked from home Monday.

“[Raj] woke up this morning and first thing he did without me prompting him: grabbed his computer, turned it on and started working,” Singh said. “If there’s regular homework, we have to fight him to get him to do the work. But this one, no trouble.”

Gwinnett County Schools said this first Digital Learning Day was necessary because the district already used up its three make-up days for inclement weather for the year.

Bipul Singh is the father of Raj Singh, a fourth-grader at Camp Creek Elementary in Lilburn. He is also assistant principal of R.L. Norton Elementary School in Snellville. He monitored teacher pages during Digital Learning Day to make sure students and teachers were able to connect through Gwinnett County Schools’ virtual classroom. (Tasnim Shamma/WABE)

Berkmar High School

Computer science teacher Leah dee Kilgore keeps tabs on her Berkmar High School students through e-mail, the school’s smartphone app and an online discussion board.

“It’s like learning at school,” Kilgore said. “They are not doing just a fluff lesson for me. They are doing a real lesson that I would have done at school regardless.”

Kilgore said it’s a more efficient way to deal with make-up days instead of adding days to the school year, which can complicate graduation dates.

“It is something of the future that students need to learn,” Kilgore said. “A lot of their college classes may be an online class. All of our technology is leading to information right at our fingertips. I don’t necessarily have to be in a physical classroom to learn.”

She said the physical classroom does have the advantage of “immediate feedback” and collaboration, but some of that can still be facilitated with online group chats when students are logged in at the same time.

Cyber Learning

Sloan Roach with Gwinnett County Schools said the district knows not everyone has access to a computer or a stable internet connection. These students can use a smartphone to submit assignments or make up the work when they return.

“This is new for students, it’s new for teachers, it’s new for families, and we understand that,” Roach said. “We felt like we were at a point where if we had to miss school again due to inclement weather or for whatever reason, that this would be a good option for us.”

Roach said cyber learning to make up days in Gwinnett County Schools is here to stay. At least one other county, Forsyth, also has digital learning make-up days.