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Communicating in a Crisis

Although concerns about the swine flu are subsiding, I've been very impressed by the role technology has played in keeping students, teachers, parents, and administrators connected during this unexpected break for some students and teachers.

My colleague Michelle Davis and I talked to several school districts and disaster preparedness experts about the ways that technology can help ensure a continuity of education for this story that appeared on edweek.org. Since then, I've come across several stories about districts tapping their already existing or makeshift technological infrastructures to keep kids engaged in their studies.

Take Michael Sanderson, for example, who is a science teacher at M.L. Kirkpatrick Middle School in the Fort Worth Independent School District in Texas, which has been closed since last Thursday. He's been answering students questions about science via text messages, he says. The students in his class created a "study chain" where they forward questions and answers that they have while studying for their state tests—TAKS—through text messages. The impromptu communication system was set up by the students, and he just jumped in to guide them when they hit a roadblock, he says.

And if, like me, you're wondering how in the world he answers questions in 140 characters or less, he says that sometimes it requires two or three text messages to get the answer across. And in those cases, he encourages the students to call him, says Sanderson.

Thanks to Margie, who commented on Kathleen's story on Web 2.0 tools, for the tip about this particular example of the way that technology is making it possible to keep in touch in times of crisis. And if you have any examples of the way that students, teachers, and administrators are communicating through technology during school closures, please let us know in the comments, or feel free to email me!

See edweek.org's complete coverage of schools and the swine flu here.

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