Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Wide Open School from @CommonSenseEd

Screenshot of the Wide Open School website

Common Sense just created a powerful resource for teachers, students, and families called Wide Open School.  It helps make learning from home an experience that inspires kids, supports teachers, relieves families, and restores community.

More than 25 organizations came together to support this effort and more are joining. Wide Open School is a free collection of the best online learning experiences for kids curated by the editors at Common Sense. There is so much good happening, and Common Sense is gathering great stuff and organizing it so teachers and families can easily find it and plan each day. 
On the site they also address the importance of connecting all kids. For those yet to be connected, Wide Open School offers many resources that can be completed offline and on smartphones, as well as bilingual and English-language learner resources.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Learn to Make Remote Content Accessible to Those with Disabilities

Common Accessibility Terms and DefinitionsRushing to create online curriculum and activities? That content must be made accessible. If you are taking screenshots or pictures of documents that you share or post online, it's probably not accessible. At this point, you should assume that the documents you create will end up on the device of a person with a disability.

There's a lot of support to ensure they access it!

In NYC, The Office of Digital Inclusion & The Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities are partnering to support schools with this work.

Here are some classes and resources for educators:
Innovative educators understand the importance of including all learners and their families in the content we create—and they help others do the same.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Tips for Remote Meetings / Video Conferencing

In 2017 MarketWatch predicted 50% of the workforce would be working remotely by now. They were wrong. An unforeseen pandemic has made remote working an essential component for much of today's workforce. Many, who had not worked this way previously, are being thrown into this method of working. They need a little support in getting on top of their video conferencing game.
Top 3 Trends Defining the Future of Video Conferencing - Let's Do ...

Here are some tips


While some people may question the use of video, it is an important tool to help people who are apart feel connected. 
  • Enter the conference with video on 
  • After initial greeting, it's fine to turn off your video if you don't want to be on camera the whole time. This can also help with bandwidth.
  • If you will be talking for more than a quick response, put your video back on.
  • Look into the camera and make sure it is framed correctly.
  • Turn the video back on when signing off.
  • Dress for work, at least from the waist up. You don't want to look like you just got out of bed.


Even if you are not speaking and even if you think you are being quiet, these tips are important to keep in mind so you don't distract and annoy other participants.  
  • Enter conference with mic off.
    • Most microphones can pick up minor background noises, like coughs, sneezes, or typing.
  • Unmute only when you are speaking.


Assigning roles will help your remote meetings run more smoothly.
  • Facilitator
  • Chat monitor 
  • Note taker(s) 
    • You may want to assign more than one note taker. 
    • Share the link to a shared notes document at the start of the meeting and let everyone have edit access so they can share relevant materials or documents there.  

Free K-8 #RemoteLearning Curriculum from @TeachingMatters

Teaching Matters gives us another week of remote learning materials. Get a weeks worth of student-facing home learning resources aligned to the NYC schools' remote learning curriculum. It's also available in Google Classroom.

Visit the Teaching Matters Site to download the curriculum for your grade and subject. Watch the video below to learn how to use the curriculum.

Learn from Home Resources from Teaching Matters on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Practical Advice for the Remote Teachers & Families

The most important thing to know about remote learning is that it is not simply doing school at home. It's different. Throw the bell schedule out!


Book: A Realistic Solution to Structure

  • Teacher

    • Posts assignments with support materials like instructions and videos.
    • Provides optional times throughout the day for students to come together to chat, get support, discuss, and answer questions.
    • Sets times for students, pairs, or groups, to schedule appointments. 
    • When students submit work, the teacher is commenting on that work, giving feedback, and perhaps chatting via voice, video, or text with the student.  

  • Students 

    • Follow a schedule that works best for the family. 
    • Submit work as their schedule allows within a recommended time frame.
    • Know how to request both synchronous and asynchronous help from their teacher.

  • Families 

    • Make schedules for their day
    • Know how to make appointments to connect and conference with their teacher. 

Not only will the student's schedule be different, so will the teachers. The school day no longer exists. Learning, feedback, and assessment are more fluid and aligned to the natural schedules of teacher, student, and family. If you're new to this, it will take a bit of time to get used to. The "Realistic Solution to Structure" from seasoned homeschooler, Sue Wolf Patterson, may help.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Remote Presenting Guidance

Image result for remote meetingsPresenting through online platforms requires unique skills. Presenters need to be able to multitask and know how to troubleshoot in the moment. Below are some best practices my colleagues (ClayCodesLauraOgando7PatriciaPaddock)  and I collected which are helpful to keep in mind while presenting remotely. 
Roles can be combined depending on the person’s skills. If a live audience is present, it’s recommended to have the presenter support those in physical attendance and a facilitator support those online. 

If the presentation is strictly online it’s recommended to have a remote monitor to support questions but the presenter can also build in breaks to answer any questions that may have come up. 

For teachers, think about which students might be good in each role.
  • Remote participant monitor
    • Greets people who enter remotely
    • Answers questions
    • Provides resources
  • Tech Support
    • Helps people access the agendas and slides
    • Helps open application or download extensions
    • Helps participants if they’re having tech issues
    • Mutes participants
    • Pins participants
  • Facilitator
    • Presenting
    • Engaging with the audience
    • Responsive to questions and feedback
Best Practices
  • Start with going over housekeeping 
  • Bring the energy!
  • Be sure to pause slightly longer than normal for any questions that expect a response.
    • People may be struggling with technology and need time to respond.
  • Create a check off document of everything needing to be done prior to presenting.
    • A checkoff document is a great reference point and inevitably the times it’s not used will be the times something goes wrong.
Lessons Learned
  • Set up and test all the tech as soon as you access equipment
  • Test sound, microphone and all other components
    • Consider having another device that can be used to pick up audio if the main device doesn’t have a working microphone.
  • Give yourself enough time to tinker and troubleshoot (at least 45 minutes)
Tech Tools
  • Microsoft Teams
    • Directions for set up:
      • Schedule the event through teams.
      • At the time of the event join from your calendar. 
      • Use the present screen button to present your screen or a document. 
  • Extensions
    • Prior to session
      • Check that extensions to be used are installed.
      • Log in to any extensions if they require it. 
      • Test the extension use as it would be done during a training. 
Tech Specs
  • Speak close to the mic 
    • A headset would be helpful if you want to move around 
  • Mute all participants so their sound doesn’t interfere with the presentation.
    • Remind participants to enter with mics muted. 
    • Provide them with protocols for speaking i.e. indicate in the chat you'd like to speak.
    • Participants can control their own mic and verbally participate in the session one at a time.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Free K-8 #RemoteLearning Curriculum from @TeachingMatters

Launching remote learning? Get a weeks worth of student-facing home learning resources aligned to the NYC schools' remote learning curriculum. It's also available in Google Classroom.

More coming...next week. Visit the Teaching Matters Site to download the curriculum for your grade and subject.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Start #RemoteLearning with #GoogleClassroom

Teachers everywhere are preparing for or engaging in remote learning. Google Classroom has become the go-to place to launch this work. Whether teaching remotely or face-to-face, innovative educators know that G-Classroom saves you time, keeps you organized and helps you communicate with your students. 

If you're new to Google Classroom, no worries. They've put together this great resource to help you get started today. 

The Get Started Kit includes:

The Basics

Lots of video tutorials to get you started.
screenshot of g-classroom video tutorials

Teachers Lounge

Tips and tricks from teachers.
Screenshot of tips and tricks videos

Extra help

    • In-depth knowledge and FAQs.
    • Get answers to your questions from experts.
    • Detailed professional development in simple to understand steps.

Get Started

Simply visit Google Classroom and get started now. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Supervisors: What Not to Do to Teachers New to #RemoteLearning

Schools across the globe are moving to remote learning during these unprecedented times in our world's history. Innovative educators are jumping on board, embracing the challenge, and even enthusiastic about discovering some new and better ways of supporting learners.

Person at computer with supervisor over shoulder with a magnifying glass.This is the best possible outcome in trying times. However, more and more teachers are sharing that as they are trying to move forward, their supervisors have taken this as a cue to monitor and micromanage. This makes for a very nerve-racking and stressful situation for teachers who are already overburdened.  

Below is a list of what educators don't want supervisors to do as they transition into a new way of supporting learners. 

Remote Learning "Don't" List for Supervisors

  • Don't ask to be added to everything.
    • Teachers don't want you watching and commenting on their every move while their learning something new.
  • Don't do their work.
    • There are environments where supervisors can see what teachers are doing with students. In these cases, supervisors should not chime in, in the space of teacher and student and start doing the teacher's job. It's just awkward and  undermines the teachers work and authority.
  • Don't focus on monitoring
    • Many teachers share their supervisor's biggest concern is monitoring them and that is uncomfortable. The role of the supervisor in these times is to be as supportive as possible.
  • Don't mandate tools, practices, and processes
    • Suggest, support, and offer, but don't mandate how a teacher does their job. This is a time for learning and innovation. There may be tools that they feel will help them better support learners. Let them use those tools as they move into a new way of teaching.
  • Don't treat remote learning like face-to-face learning
    • Some supervisors are expecting staff to be on the same exact attendance and bell schedule. No! Just, no. 

Tweet that says: Principal wants us to take attendance in each class and follow a bell schedule.  I'm so lost.


What do you think? What has your experience been? Do you agree? Disagree? Have anything to add? 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Television as #RemoteLearning Tool During School Closures

Television can provide a great way for everyone to learn. It is especially useful as a learning tool, when using laptops may not be the best option. 

This may be the case for a few reasons, such as:  
  • A student has a disability that makes using a laptop difficult
  • A student may not have access to a laptop
  • A student may not have WiFi 
If you are planning to incorporate television viewing into your child's learning experiences WNET and PBS have put some tips together.

Elementary Students

  • Read reviews to ensure you are choosing the right shows.
  • Have questions for you child to consider such as:
    • Do you think what happened in the show is something that might happen in your life or the life of someone you know? Why?
    • How would you have handled what happened in the show?
  • Enhance listening skills by asking your child questions about what they're watching
  • Make connections to what your child is watching to books, articles, and research
  • Use television characters in learning activities
  • Make a family screen time plan

Learn more by visiting Tips for Enhancing TV Learning Experiences

Child holding a remote and pointing it toward a television
View Parenting Minutes from WNET Education

Secondary Students


Engaging in discussion or related activities before, during, and/or after the show can help you remember what you've learned. WNET has discussion questions and activities for any show you watch on PBS - no internet needed! - to take what you just watched to the next level. 


There are lots of activities you can do while watching a program such as taking the role of reporter or journalist, reenacting what you saw, and thinking like a producer.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

#RemoteLearning Support Resources from BrainPop

The need for distance learning is quickly becoming a reality for millions of students as schools around the world close temporarily due to the coronavirus. Meeting the challenges of teaching and learning remotely requires being flexible, having vision, and thinking creatively about how best to support students.

BrainPop has a webinar, resources to make assignments, build assessments, and manage student learning remotely. In the webinar, they outline integrations with various Learning Management Systems, such as Google Classroom and Canvas, providing suggestions for both synchronous and asynchronous approaches to online learning.

Recognizing not all students have access to technology at home, BrainPop provides guidance for developing equitable lessons that are effective whether completed on or offline.

Screenshot of a BrainPop website page of school closure resources

Here are links to the BrainPop materials:

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

How to Do Virtual Parent - Teacher Conferences

In NYC, all parent-teacher conferences are now virtual. Here is the guidance for staff to help them make this work.

Headlines from local press on March 10, 2020

Common Sense Messaging Apps & Tips to Connect with Families During School Closures

Image result for parent teacher conferenceStaying connected to families is always a good idea.  It becomes even more important in times of school closures. If possible, it is best to have a system already in place for family communication. Common Sense Education provides advice on how best to communicate and what tools to use to do so. 

Best Messaging Apps & Websites

Common Sense shares apps and websites for texting, messaging, and communication that make it easier for teachers to send out assignments, reminders, and progress reports. They're also great to communicate with families about conferences, field trips, and volunteer opportunities. The list helps you find a tool to keep your communication consistent, reach parents on platforms they're already using, and, in some cases, give students the opportunity to lead the conversation by demonstrating their learning in the classroom.

Power Up Parent-Teacher Communication

Effective parent communication is crucial in helping students learn. But, for busy teachers it can be challenging just to keep up. Apps and other digital tools make it easier to keep everyone -- parents and students -- in the loop. Transparency and equity are key to managing any communication between home and school. Check out the parent-teacher communication materials to find a variety of tools and useful tips to help you better engage your parent audience.

Parent - Teacher Conference Tip Sheet

These three tip sheets—for principals, teachers, and parents—can help ensure that parent–teacher conferences achieve their maximum potential by providing guidance that reflects each person’s role and responsibility in promoting productive home–school communication. Designed to be used as a set, the tip sheets combine consistent information with targeted suggestions, so that parents and educators enter into conferences with shared expectations and an increased ability to work together to improve children's educational outcomes.

Translator for Parents Non-Native Speakers

Learn how to have a live, translated parent-teacher conference using the Translator app. Parents can download the app in advance, scan or enter the conversation code when they arrive, and translations appear on their device in real-time. We even provide fully translated letters you can send to parents in their languages to tell them how to participate.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Planning for Elementary School Closures #CoronaVirus #CoVid19 #RemoteLearning

Schools being closed is nothing new. There are spring and winter breaks. There are snow days. There is summer vacation. At these times teachers, schools, and districts may decide to give students homework packets with various activities. Parents need to figure out childcare.

These days we have the Corona Virus looming and already being the cause of school closures in various cities, countries, or just at particular schools. In the age of technology, planning for secondary students has become a bit easier as many schools already use platforms like Google Classroom, Schoology, or Microsoft Teams.  Additionally, childcare is not as a big of a concern for older children, but what about elementary school students?

Here are some ways schools can prepare:


Communication is key.  Once you have a way to stay connected, families can be informed and updated as needed.

Online Platforms


Facebook is where parents already are and the learning curve for most is non-existent. Set up a private group, using your school's email address. Send the link to join to all your parents. Designate group administrators and moderators. Set the group rules. Start important discussions, such as:
  • Help parents connect around childcare needs.
  • Give parents tips for home learning
  • Provide the latest news
Learn how to use Facebook Live to speak with parents and encourage them to comment on the Livestream.


If you don't have one, set up a community for students in a platform such as Google Classroom, Teams, or Schoology.  Have all students log in during class. Try to ensure parents can help their students log on. Practice having students engage in the platform. If you have very young students, practice with a very simple prompt and have them respond with emojis.  The point is getting them used to the platform. Experiment in class with things like video conferencing.


There are schools where many families may not have access to devices or Wi-Fi.  Don't forget about the power of the telephone. In some districts, Microsoft Teams is set up so that up to 250 people can be in a call. If you don't have this set up, see if you can arrange that. Free Conference Call is another option.

Make sure that you have as many phone numbers as possible, and have a number set up for families to call as makes sense.  Google Voice might be a good option for this.


Have families start thinking about this now. Encourage them to connect with each other. Encourage them to connect with teachers and other school staff who may be able to help. Suggest they think of family members such as grandparents who can come visit and help with childcare needs.


Here are some ideas for keeping the learning going when school is closed.


  • Breaks:
    Encourage families to start by thinking about the learning that happens over summer and breaks. 
  • Homeschooling groups:
    Find some local and online homeschooling groups they can join. Homeschooling / Unschooling and Unschooling Mom2Mom. Find out how they provide learning for children. Here are some free resources that can help.
  • Library:
    Go to the library and have your child(ren) pick out lots and lots of books.

See what this looks like in an elementary classroom

Online Resources

 Image result for common sense media
Common Sense Media:
Not sure what's best for online learning? Common Sense Media has you covered with ratings, reviews, and recommendations for apps, movies, websites, games, and more. 

 Image result for go noodle
Help your children and yourself stay active and mindful with GoNoodle

 Image result for thrively
Find the right kids activities, educational games, and apps for your child. Show your kids just what they can do with Thrively. Joining is free. Kids get a strength assessment and then suggested online and face-to-face activities.

A forced school closure whether due to virus, disaster, or other unwanted circumstance will be challenging. However, if districts, schools, parents, and students work together to stay connected and be prepared, there is an opportunity for everyone to learn important lessons and become more connected.