What can students do if they have to miss school due to an illness, family emergency, poorly planned vacation or some other unexpected life event. In the digital age, we as teachers should be able to hold absent students accountable for material by making more information from class available online (That is of course if the student can physically complete the homework or school work during their absence.)
Here are some ways that you can keep absent students connected even when they are not in the classroom...
1. Create a teacher website or blog and keep it up to date.
If you use the right website builder, it can be extremely easy to create and maintain your own website. My favorite website builder for this purpose is Weebly. Not only is it easy to use its drag and drop technology, but it is also free. Go to education.weeby.com to create a free teacher account.
2. If possible, upload daily homework assignments.
If you are using a Website builder like Weebly or a website template from your school, it is easy to upload documents to your website and give student easy access to materials. Many believe that students are less responsible for their paper homework when it is available online. I say three things to those people: 1) I have never seen a student throw a homework assignment in the recycling bin and proclaim, "I'll just get it offline!" 2) A student who is not going to do their homework will still not do their homework even if it is online. 3) If just one student is willing to put in the extra effort of going to my website, printing out the homework, and then completing it, it is worth my time to post assignments when possible. I suggest posting PDF files instead of .doc or .docx because they are more likely to be compatible with all of your students' devices.
3. Post a "Homework Hotline" where students can see what you did in class that day and check if they missed any homework.
I have explored many different ways of doing this and have finally came up with one that works best for me. I use a Google Drive spreadsheet that is set up like a calendar in which I write the lessons for the week or month depending on how far I have planned ahead. I published the spreadsheet to my Website where students can access live and reliable information. I know it is up-to-date because the homework hotline doubles as my lesson plans. I can change them at any time as needed. Not only can I access and modify these plans anywhere with an internet connection, but I also slowly create a personal archive of daily lesson plans that I can revisit the following school year. Below is the link to my personal template that I created for my "Homework Hotline." Please feel free to use it and share it. (Note: you must be logged into Google Drive to access the template.)
4. Encourage students to email you.
Quite possibly the easiest form of communication with students is email. I always tell my students to email me if they have questions or if they are absent and can't find the homework for that evening. Students can either send me an email by either using the form from my website or sending a normal email. I also remind students that they can always email me their projects if their printer is not working (or if they do not have one.)
5. Manage a virtual classroom on Edmodo or some other social network.
I personally use Edmodo with my students. Besides creating posts and sharing information, I also encourage the students to ask each other for help first. My students feel comfortable enough to not only talk to one another on Edmodo, but to ask each other questions about homework or other issues related to the class using the social network . Usually they can answer each other questions and do not even need my input.
image from cartoonstock.com