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Pulling the Plug

by Aviva Dunsiger

Arriving at school early on Tuesday morning, I booted up my classroom computers as I always do. It was then that I noticed a problem: they didn’t connect to the network. Oh no! Then I turned on my tablets, and the wireless network was also down. I couldn’t believe it! Our school network is usually so reliable, and it looked like we were going to be without the Internet today. As soon as the principal arrived, I approached him with news of the problem, and he explained that we were getting an upgrade to our network. This would take time though, so we would probably be without Internet access for the rest of the day, and maybe into tomorrow. Not good news …

Yes, my students use pens, pencils, markers, and paper all the time, but they also use various tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. Our program relies on being “plugged in,” and today we were going to be “unplugged.” I knew that this was going to be problematic, but I figured that students would adjust to the change, and we would just use our notebooks more today. It wasn’t until the day was over that I realized just what this lack of Internet access really meant. Here’s a look at some of the things we couldn’t do because of the network issues:

1) It was our Thinking Thursdays reflection day, and students planned on using Twitter and a chat room to talk about the moral or deeper meaning in the texts that they read. Neither option was a possibility today.

2)  Students were going to use a chat room, our class blog, or Twitter to discuss Divergent during our class read aloud. All of these collaboration options were inaccessible with the network down.

3) A student was away on a family vacation and we were going to have a video call with her during our math lesson. She wanted to participate in our introductory activity on determining the area of a parallelogram. Without wifi access, the video call wouldn’t work.

Despite the problems, we worked together as a class to develop some solutions:

1) For Thinking Thursdays, students chose to work in partners and small groups and record video discussions on the tablets. I uploaded them later from home.

2) With no Internet options for our read aloud, students wrote notes in their Thinking Books or in a word processing program that they emailed to me later from home. We stopped and had more frequent full-class discussions since the students could not use their various tools to “chat” during the read aloud.

3) It’s hard to get a good cell signal in our classroom, so our first idea to use a data plan for our video call was not a good solution. One student stood by the window and was able to use her data plan to at least text the vacationing student about the change of plans. Thankfully she was able to do a video call with us the next day as we reviewed this same math concept.

We made it through the day without Internet access, but it definitely wasn’t an easy day for anyone. When technology is such an integral part of the classroom environment, it’s hard to eliminate it from the equation. Not only do I rely on the Internet as the teacher, but the students rely on it to communicate and collaborate seamlessly with each other.

All classroom activities involve regular access to the Internet for creation, collaboration, and communication, and replacing these activities with just more face-to-face options would have meant a significant change in routine. Changes in routine impact greatly on students, especially those with special needs, and I wanted to consider ALL student needs when modifying for the day. Even an “unplugged day” involved the use of plugged in devices.

What impact would network issues have on your daily classroom program? How have you handled a school day without Internet access?


Aviva Dunsiger taught Junior Kindergarten to Grade 2 for 11 years before moving to Grade 6 this year. She’s passionate about using technology in the classroom to support student learning, and she’s presented on this topic numerous times both online and offline.

She enjoys maintaining her blog, Living Avivaloca: My Many Musings on Life and Learning. Aviva’s reflective writing about her professional practice inspires communication between educators, administrators and parents.  



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