A First Aid Kit for Teachers when the Internet goes Down

February 23rd, 2020 Sunday evening 6:58 pm: We got the dreaded email. Technology, as we knew it, was not going to be an option on Monday.

Everyone in our district was sent an email from our Director of Technology. This was a part of the email:

Saturday evening the I.S. Department noticed suspicious activity on our servers.   Several local I.S. staff members immediately went to the District Office and shut down the servers and network. Upon further investigation, it was determined that we had a cyber incident. I.S. staff has been working today to evaluate the situation.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have disabled Windows login until a site Network Technician can check the device. Chromebooks and Macs are not affected

Okay, so Monday is going to be interesting. No one except for a small handful of teachers with Macs will be able to login or use the classroom Windows computer to project to the the digital projector. No biggie, our school is 1:1 with Chromebooks, our students can still do their work. Wrong.

Monday morning: Yes no access to Windows computers, but guess what. No internet either. What does that mean?

  • No internet for the Mac teachers
  • No WiFi for the 1:1 Chromebooks
  • No projecting to the digital projector
  • No one can login to the copy machines
  • We have no textbooks, we are a 1:1 school and even if we have them, they are at the student’s home
  • No one can take roll.
  • No one in the front office can do anything
  • No one knows when this will get better- it could be days. Days!

So now what? What do you do? Here is your tech failure First Aid TOME:

  • Team up together (create quickly)
  • Open with an Obstacle: create involuntary curiosity built around a problem or challenge, sell the problem.
  • Make something Memorable (But make it with Analog tools, no tech)
  • Engage with Empathy (Student centered) Do something from their lives that they will care about. What do THEY need? Go where THEY “live.”


What did I do, well… when life hands you lemons you make. Make what? Well that’s up to the students, but they will make something, with lemons. Maybe lemonade, maybe lemon sorbet, maybe lemon squares, or lemon rectangles. Creativity craves constraint.

So I decided we would make mini-zines. Sean Ziebarth and I love making mini-zines with our students. Here are the steps I took, as I came up with this on the fly.

  1. Day 1: Explain the situation to students. What we know and don’t know. What will will try and do to fix it. Ask if they have any questions or ideas. (15 min)
  2. Day 1: Ask students to take out a piece of paper and write down the five things they love most about the internet or internet connected activities on their TV like streaming services. Then share with their group and see if they want to add anything. I then had one person from each group share something they will miss. (15 min)
  3. Day 1: Then have student write down exactly what is it that they will miss about each thing- what function does that serve in their lives, what needs does it feed? (10-15 min. end of lesson)
  4. Day 2: Before class starts I had put scissors, printer paper. I have eight groups of four students and one group of five in my class.
  5. Day 2: As class starts I have them take out their paper from yesterday. On the whiteboard I had something I would miss: text messages. Then I explained what role text messages have in my life: community, getting and giving  help, checking in on people, making plans etc… then I shared with them a few ideas of what could replace those without the internet or phone service. (5-10 min)
  6. Day 2: Then I asked students to pick ONE thing they would miss the most and find a student in the class who had the same thing. Occasionally we had to make a group of three, but we only want two, you’ll see why in a bit. (5 min)
  7. Day 2: Then they sat down back in groups but next to their partner. Then I handed out one, or two mini-zines to each group. I asked them to read them to the group and then we rotated every so often so each group could see a few more zines. I collect and keep mini-zines in a plastic box. This was fun. I wanted them to see what’s possible with mini-zines. (20 min)
  8. Day 2: Then I showed them how to make their own mini-zine. Of course I didn’t use that tutorial created by English teacher Scott Glass, I just showed them in real time. (10 min)
  9. Day 2: Then I shared with them that they would make a mini-zine showing people how to live without the specific tech they would miss so much. I told them we would put the zines back to back using the copier (once it was working) to create two zines in one. Then I let them spend the rest of the day planning the zine they would create while talking with their partner. (15 min)
  10. Day 3: I had markers, scissors, glue sticks, and magazines and told them they had the day to make their zines. It was awesome walking around.
  11. Day 4: They brought in their zines and shared them with the groups. By then the internet was working and we got back to where they were.

So how did they look?

Pretty rad. Oh… how did they look inside?

Click on individual images to see larger ones. 

This one was hilarious

Many different how to do something zines

Some amazing art work

I learned about my students and the world as THEY see it.

I also wondered if they already knew Mr. Ziebarth

Now I know what you’re thinking. Theriault, I can’t zine in my subject area. Come on, of course you could. But let’s say you want to do something else. If I could hand you a TOME on emergency learning with creativity, I would hand you just one book.

But could you use the book Intention with any subject? Glad you asked.


And that’s just one of four pages.

So how did this whole experiment turn out? It was rad. Zines aren’t just for class or for fun, there are many serious writers who create zines and share them with the world. There are some many times that I think that I’ve seen my students world just because they are in my class every day, but until I have them MAKE something that shares their world with me I’m only seeing what’s on the surface, and zines seem like an easy analogy no-tech solution to seeing my students’ world. It make me wonder.

You’ve seen the world, but have you ZINE it? If not, you should have your students:  #zinetheworld

2 thoughts on “A First Aid Kit for Teachers when the Internet goes Down

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