A 50 – 100 car pile-up on the Penn. Turnpike on Feb. 14, 2014 made it impossible for most people to get to work on time, One dedicated New Jersey teacher was able to impress not only her students but her colleagues with her dedication to teaching and her savvy implementation of both social networking and communicative technology.
A Delayed Opening Was Already Too Much
Lynn McNulty usually gets to school at 7 a.m., but had to change her routine according to the delayed opening at the Hun School in Princeton, NJ. Like so many, McNulty relies on the Penn. Turnpike to get to work, but the devastating accident on the morning of Valentine’s day essentially froze her commute to work.
After emergency responders took control and initial damages were assessed, the pile-up became more of an inconvenience to those who weren’t in immediate danger, surrounded by immobile vehicles and minor collisions. “Two cars right next to me collided,” recalls McNulty. “There were little pocket accidents.”
Fed up with the number of snow days and the importance of her AP Euro students’ curriculum, she was determined and able to use her cell phone as a hot spot and link her computer to it to FaceTime her class, despite it using almost all of the data she is allotted per month by her cell provider. The students at the Hun School are very tech savvy since the Hun School’s initiative to include tablets and laptops in their classrooms. Of her 15 students, McNulty claims about 11 have either a laptop or a tablet.
She used the school’s internal program called Scoology to communicate with her students beforehand, ordering that they dial her in for the conversation. There was no resistance to this from her students or even her supervisors.
“My department chair said he hadn’t observed me in a while anyway,” joked McNulty.
The turnpike was not open until 4:30, and Ms. McNulty did have other classes to teach that day. A colleague supervised the other two classes. McNulty justifies this by remarking that her AP Euro class was discussion-based while her other two required more independent research. “One of my colleagues covered my one class and that was in the library doing research. Most of them just emailed me their final questions,” she said.
Interactive Technology And Its Role In A Classroom
“What I did was out of desperation, but I certainly use technology in the classroom,” McNulty said.
Classrooms have become very technology-driven at the Hun School. Maureen Lemming, director of communications and marketing, calls the program an “equalizer.”
“Having tools on one device is like having a digital Swiss Army knife,” said Lemming.
iPads have been linked to overall improved learning, according to some studies. The studies suggest that students can grasp more abstract concepts when they have a physical device they can manipulate for audio and visual purposes while taking notes on the content. The multi-tasking feature of tablets allows students to absorb work more thoroughly, assuming they aren’t distracted by non-eduational elements or apps.
The continued creative ways to insert technology into classrooms comes as no surprise to students in McNulty’s class. Surprisingly, her students claim they didn’t second-guess or question her order.
“I took it pretty seriously,” said Claire Smith, a junior in McNulty’s AP Euro class. ” I saw there was a pretty big pile-up [on the Turnpike].”
Kevin Chen, another student, believed her but was a bit skeptical at first. McNulty remarks, “In general, once I turned the camera around to prove that I wasn’t sleeping in or in Miami or something, they took it more seriously.”
What This Could Do To Future “Snow Days”
Students at the Hun School have even claimed that they have peers who have “FaceTime’d in” to a discussion in the past, but how extensively can this technology be used to enhance learning, especially when winter is kicking schools and curriculums pretty hard with snow days?
The opportunity to make education widely available in more otherwise preventative circumstances is no longer a “what if” or “one day” conversation. Lynn McNulty’s FaceTime lesson session is just an example of the doors technology has opened to schools and education going forward as schools nationwide face budget cuts and winter 2013-2014 continues to shut the doors of educational institutions for days at a time.
“I’d love to tell you I think it’s going to change, but I think we’re already there…” concludes Leming.
Something Important To Note That All Parties Requested Be Included:
Ms. McNulty was not operating a vehicle while FaceTiming her students. She was in her car, which was turned off and stuck in a very large accident that left many people stuck on the PA Turnpike for over 5 hours. There has been negative commentary towards using media and operating a vehicle. Ms. McNulty denies all accusations and remarks, “It is something I would never do. I don’t do anything else but drive when I’m in the car.” When asked, her student, Maddie Carlson, backs up this claim, saying, “I don’t think Ms. McNulty would ever do anything dangerous.”