Ice, Ice Baby! When Technology Opens a Door

What are you supposed to do in the middle of the long drawn-out winter? With schools perhaps seeing once-in-a-generation levels of inclement weather closings, it can be frustrating for EAST programs trying to sustain projects and prepare for conference. One program has an answer that makes a bold EAST statement. At the beginning of the week, while even the EAST staff was iced out of the office, students and faculty at Sonora Elementary in Springdale, Arkansas, said, “we have work to do.” I was fortunate enough to join the work for a bit, and now I am fortunate enough to share it with you. Our guest blogger today is Dr. Regina Stewman, principal of Sonora Elementary. – Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative President and CEO.

By Dr. Regina Stewman
Principal, Sonora Elementary

With snow (ice) day number 12 at our door, it was time to get creative.

snow day chart

We know that the children we serve do not just learn best sitting in a desk/table in a classroom listening to a teacher recite their knowledge.  No, they need to be active learners, participating in the knowledge acquisition. The students sitting in our classrooms today are of the Generation Z (born 1996 and forward). For these students, the internet and other forms of technology have been major influences in their lives. They are accustomed to and need immediate feedback – their gratification! As teachers,we must change how we teach and engage students.  One of our teachers at Sonora is highlighting that today through the use of Google Chat.

Josh Worthy, our Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) Facilitator, is iced in like the rest of us today.  Yet, our conference team is preparing for conference, which is two weeks away.  There is no time to waste.  Therefore, his students are working from the safety of their homes with Google Chat.

Last night he sent out an e-mail to all his conference students:

“We’re going to try something new tomorrow.  Since school has been canceled and it looks like it may be a day or two before our kids will be able to work together, I’m going to host an online Google Hangout tomorow morning and maybe another one in the afternoon.  This is a lot like a Skype call that the kids can video chat or text chat back and forth about projects, ideas, etc.  

I’d like for Rikki and Kylie to practice their Founder’s presentation if at all possible. Morgan, Landen and I would also be able to work on the Camp Alliance story map together through the Hangout. Cayden would even be able to show us how to use Pivot animator through the “screen share” option. Kalyssa and Lexus should be able to work on nametag design and booth ideas, too. Not sure if I can get ahold of Josh H., but I’ll keep trying. It could be a REALLY cool event. The best part is that it would keep your kids busy for an hour or two during the snow day. 😉

All you really need is an internet connection and a computer. If you have a webcam, awesome. If you have a mic, even better. If you don’t have ANY of this, you can even call in from your phone. It’s pretty cool stuff. I’m hosting the event, so the chat will be private and only approved Sonora EAST students and parents will have access…no strangers or unauthorized creeps will have access.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know. Looking to launch the conference call around 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. It should be a lot of fun and it is kind of exciting to be able to work on EAST stuff while the kids are snowed in.”

So, this a.m. the children, safe in their homes, were hard at work on their EAST projects and EAST Conference preparation. Yes, these students had an option. They CHOSE to do this on a snow day! Pretty powerful stuff!


Using Social Media (Twitter and Facebook) to spread the word, they were lucky enough to get Mr. Matt Dozier, EAST CEO, to join them. As I type this they have taken a break for lunch but will reconvene. They have even added a previous student to the conversation.


You may be wondering why I haven’t joined them.  Well, my school computer does not have audio or video. I can watch, but not participate.  So, I chose to share their story!
Great things are happening at Sonora Elementary!
Our EAST students are finalists in the Founder’s Award for EAST, an award in honor of the founder, Tim Stephenson. This is their second year as finalist. In the history of this award, our program is the only elementary ever to be finalist! (Can you tell I am proud of them?)
You can check out the full events and posts of the day on the Sonora EAST Facebook page. You can find out more about the EAST Initiative at their website.

Special thanks to Dr. Regina Stewman for sharing this post with us and an extra special thanks to the students and faculty at Sonora Elementary for working hard and keeping me on my toes. You are truly inspiring! Neither rain, nor sleep, nor dead of night, can keep EAST students from helping to solve problems. 

Until next time,
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