What Natural Disasters Mean for Education: Can Technology Mend the Cracks

Lonnie Monka Lonnie Monka / October 12, 2017 / Education

The Fragility of Infrastructure

The US still suffers from the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. These natural disasters injured and killed people, damaged huge stretches of property, and disrupted millions of lives. Schools were forced to stop working as people braced themselves for the storms. Many were even forced to evacuate their homes and the areas where they live.

According to the Miami Herald, (as of September 17th) education for many Floridians was still disrupted. Some schools needed to operate out of other schools, and many students continued to lack power in their homes. After the storm has passed, the main barrier to education is infrastructure. Beyond the initial horrors and dangers of these natural disasters, they can easily remind us of how much we take basic amenities for granted.

For instance, many areas in Florida still do not have electricity. Some Floridians are wondering how students can be expected to learn without air conditioning. Others are pointing out that new teaching methods, like computer-based learning or online homework, are impossible to do without electricity. These infrastructural problems require immediate solutions.

Given some current trends in education, there is much hope that integrating technology into the classroom will enhance student’s educational experiences. This mixing of education and technology ought to reveal new educational horizons. Yet, these recent natural disasters remind us of the fragility of the infrastructure for education, especially for technology-based educational activities.

Whether it be wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, snow storms, or some other similarly disruptive feat of nature, nobody is ever really safe. Hurricanes are not the only form of natural disasters that periodically interfere with people’s lives. Yet, instead of simply despairing over these disasters and then forgetting them, people in or connected to the field of education can be motivated by this summer’s storms to discuss possible long-term solutions for these problems. How can schools both integrate technology into the classroom, but also become more robust in the face of natural disasters?

For those schools hoping to rely more on technology, this summer’s disasters cast a shadow of fear. Perhaps schools integrating technology into their curriculums also need to prepare emergency lesson plans with the accompanying materials that do not rely on electricity. Instead of emergency rations of food and water, schools can begin storing hard copies of books, with pens and pads of paper. Then all of these materials can be distributed in the case of an anticipated natural disaster. Or perhaps these emergency lesson plans would be too time consuming to prepare, defeating the original intention of taking the tech route.

Natural Disasters & The Future of Education

New solutions to these perennial problems begin with thoughtful discussions. We welcome any new ideas or feedback about this issue from others in the field of education and from concerned parents. Even though unforeseeable disasters lay before us, security and planning rely on the conversations we have today.