Lynn schools finding a way to make it work without internet

Hood Elementary School teacher Abigail Downing uses an overhead projector to teach her students after a computer virus shut down the Internet to the school more than two weeks ago. (Owen O'Rourke)

It’s been three weeks since Internet service failed in Lynn’s public schools, forcing teachers to remember what it was like to learn without technology.

With help from a third-party cyber security company, Lynn Public Schools is still battling the widespread computer virus that forced an Internet shutdown for every school on March 20.

It’s back to the basics — and not everyone is upset about it. Hood Elementary School teacher Abigail Downing had to forget about the tech-driven SMART Board and go searching for portable whiteboards and an archaic overhead projector.

“I had to think about what we used as kids with no technology,” said Downing, 28. “I went searching through the school and found the only projector in the whole building. Only one kid had ever seen one before, so it became like a science lesson with the old piece of equipment. They had lots of questions like ‘Why does it make so much noise?’ and ‘Why does it smell like that?'”

Downing said her jaw dropped when she got the initial call about the virus. She had students sitting in front of her and a lesson plan filled with technology-driven assignments. She took a breath, remained calm, and found a way to quickly adjust the lesson.

“This has been a learning curve not only for the students, but for me as well,” she said. “It’s been wild. I walk in and it’s a new adventure every day.”

Not only is the Internet on all school computers inaccessible, Downing said teachers aren’t allowed to bring in their own computers or USB flash drives and the building printers are connected to the same compromised network, making them off limits.

“We (teachers) have to print everything at home and make sure we don’t forget anything,” she said. “The printing situation has been really hard because it means we have to do more work at home. Teachers have been, and I have been, stressed and tired because we’re still at school for the regular amount of time, then we need to go home and work more so we can be prepared.”

The photocopier may still work, but to use it, teachers have to arrive earlier than normal and wait in line, she said.

While it may have been a struggle at first for both teachers and students, Downing said her classroom has developed a new groove and is doing just fine without technology.

“I’ve learned that I have taken certain things for granted with my teaching, so it’s good to always have a backup plan,” she said. “Even if things get taken away, students will always rise to the occasion and be ready to learn. It’s not the end of the world to not have technology.”

Last week, the virus prohibited students from taking the MCAS exams online as planned. Instead, paper versions of the test were handed out.

The cause of the virus is still unknown, according to Superintendent Patrick Tutwiler. He said he hopes to have an updated status from the security company on Friday.

Downing said administrators have kept teachers updated on a daily basis. They are being as supportive as they can and making other aspects of teachers’ jobs easier, she said.

“This whole situation became a conversation with students that sometimes things in life are out of control so you need to come up with a plan B and stay calm,” said Downing. “I hope they learned that out of all this.”


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