Volcanic Ash Surprises

I find two aspects of the current situation surprising. (In case you're reading this in 10 years' time or something, the 'situation' is that a volcanic eruption in Iceland has thrown a huge cloud of ash and smoke over half of the western hemisphere, resulting in a flying ban over Western Europe.) This has resulted in thousands of teachers being stranded abroad, leaving schools in the position of probably having to close unless they can get enough cover teachers in.

The first surprise is that nobody in the media has, as far as I know, accused teachers, headteachers and the entire educational establishment of gross irresponsibility. Last year, when some schools had to close because of the weather conditions, the papers were full of rubbish about how schools had wimped out. The facts that (a) the Met Office had issued severe weather warnings and told people not to make journeys unless they were absolutely necessary, and (b) that the transport system itself had all but collapsed in some areas (I was due to give a talk in Nottingham and couldn't even get to the station!) completely escaped them.

So here we have this volcanic ash cloud, which you can see in this video:

OK, so teachers can't fly back to Britain and their schools. Couldn't they hire a boat? Or knock up a raft? Or swim? It's only a matter of time before some in-depth report proves that all of these options were possible.

More seriously, here's a question, and this indicates the second thing that surprised me in a way. Given the investment in ICT over the last couple of decades, and the ubiquity of devices like web cams, and wireless broadband, why should schools and teaching and learning be disrupted, as opposed to inconvenienced?

To put it another way, what has not been done to make continuing schooling possible, even in the event of this kind of situation? I'm not saying this as a way of knocking schools, or to be provocative: it's a genuine question. If we can figure out why we can't almost carry on as normal in this sort of extreme situation, it ought to be possible to work out what is needed to ensure that the use of technology is truly embedded in educational practice in more normal circumstances.

This article was also posted on the Educational Technology - ICT in Education website, where a brilliant series for ed tech leaders is about to start!