Sunday, April 26, 2020

💯% Free: Special Ed #SpEd & Digital #Accessibility Resources During #RemoteLearning from Microsoft Education

New Special Education site in the Microsoft Educator CommunityInnovative educators know how important it is to provide inclusive, accessible learning environments for their students. While, many have figured this out in the classroom, when teaching and learning remotely, it's a little different. 

Microsoft has you covered!

They've put together a resource to support educators in creating a personalized and engaging remote learning experience for all students including those with disabilities and who speak languages other than English.  

Remote learning and the use of technology has provided innovative educators with opportunities to try new ways of providing services, collection data, and connecting with students and families. 

The resources provides information on the following:

Supporting a new model to deliver specially designed instruction

Support for students

Inclusive practices for all learners

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Prom, Dances, School Celebrations: Ideas When #RemoteLearning

How do you have a prom or other school celebrations in a time of social distancing? Students, staff, and families across the nation are getting innovative.

Ideas from across the nation

You can check out what some students are doing in the stories below.

Virtual celebrity prom

And, then there is John Krasinski's "Some Good News" on YouTube. He conducted a virtual prom for students featuring artists like the Jonas Brothers and Billie Eilish.

Some high schools are bringing Krasinski's idea to their school. In Colorado a high school announced that it will be hosting a virtual prom, and the local news station plans to broadcast the stream.

Getting started

Not sure how to get started with your school celebration? 
Seventeen magazine provides a guide that takes you through all the steps of hosting a virtual prom with lots of options, including:
  • Picking a video conferencing platform
    • Facebook, Meet, Zoom, Houseparty
  • Transforming your space
    • Festive background
    • Mood lighting
    • Fun themes
    • Tasty snacks
  • How to go glam
    • The Outfit
    • Accessories
    • Hair
    • Makeup
    • Nails
  • Elements of a virtual prom party
    • Playlist
    • IG Photo-op
    • TikTok dancing
    • Game time!
  • After party
    • PJ party
    • BFFs gather
    • Movie time
    • Time for beauty

How-to guide

Kapwing resources has put a how-to guide together featuring some additional innovative ideas, including:
  • Create virtual invitations
  • Announce challenges like best dressed, best dancer
  • Use a hashtag
  • Learn a group dance
  • Have a fun competition i.e. hula hoop
  • Have performances from talented students or community members
  • Make a photo collage using a collaborative tool like Kapwing collage maker

Your turn

How are you celebrating school events when it’s not business as usual? Have you engaged in any of the ideas shared here? Anything missing?

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Virtual Graduation 2020 - Ideas in the Time of #RemoteLearning

Graduation in 2020 will be unlike any graduation before it. While the thought of losing the traditional pomp and circumstance is difficult, there are some innovative options available. 

Face-to-Face Graduations

Drive-in movie theater

One district in Pennsylvania came up with an innovative approach to graduation. They are using a drive-in movie theater for the graduation. Students will get diplomas in person (one-by-one) or mailed home in accordance with the Center for Disease Control recommendations. 

Asynchronous Graduation 

Practice social distancing while embracing the traditional walk across the stage in cap and gown by setting up times for students to walk the stage individually prior to graduation day. Set up time slots for seniors to walk the stage (and household members to watch) and capture it via video. On graduation day, you'll have a great video for the school community to watch together. Clinton High School in Arkansas is taking this approach.

    Drive by Graduation Celebration

    Families can also get creative. Have your child suit up with cap and gown and have friends and family pass by at proper social distance or in cars with celebratory signs and/or balloons. You can see how that happened for one student in the video below.

    Virtual Graduations

    These five steps to a virtual commencement are a great start. It includes what should be prerecorded i.e. speaker addresses, National Anthem, creating slides for each graduate, and turning it all into a video. This can be done on various platforms such as Google, Microsoft, etc. Just make sure you have security controls in place.

    Considerations for Virtual Graduations

    If you are going to conduct a virtual graduation, check out this informative webinar from Teq that outlines what you should consider for virtual graduations. 

    You can also see the actual webinar with lots of resources Teq's Otis website.

    Virtual Graduation Platforms

    If you decide to go this route, you'll need to consider which platform you will use. To follow are some options.

    Microsoft's Virtual Graduation Toolkit

    In this toolkit as well as this virtual graduation guidance, Microsoft outlines how to incorporate online solutions ranging from PowerPoint presentations prepared by faculty/administrators with input and content from students, to hybrid live, recorded, and live-streamed ceremonies. 

    This webinar shows how to use Microsoft Live for virtual graduations. 

    YouTube Live and Google Meet 

    Check out the webinar below to see how to do virtual graduations using YouTube Live or Google Meet. 

    StreamYard to Livestream Graduation

    StreamYard is a live streaming studio in your browser. Interview guests, share your screen, and much more. Stream directly to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, Periscope, LinkedIn, and other platforms. The stream is one way, so anyone in your community can view it. You can have up to ten presenters with six people on the screen at any time. Below you can hear my colleague Clay Smith and I discussing virtual graduation on StreamYard. Following that you can hear a tutorial from StreamYard on how to use their platform for a virtual graduation.

    Visit for a free trial and discount.


    How about a virtual graduation in Minecraft! Elementary school students in Japan created a Minecraft graduation. Inspired by that, college students took it to a new level. Fortnite is another option.
    Students on the stage, graduating in Minecraft


    Flipgrid can be a part of a virtual graduation. It has lots of suggestions for virtual graduations. For example, England’s Newcastle University Medical School celebrated its first-ever online graduation ceremony, where the graduating doctors in the Class of 2020 read aloud their Hippocratic Oath on Flipgrid.  Find out other innovative ideas at Flipgrid’s “Host a Virtual Graduation Ceremony” article.

    Partner with local television

    In places like Palm Beach County, they are broadcasting graduation on local television stations and the streaming on the district websiteStudent's names will be called and their picture will be displayed to mark this milestone. Students and their families will hear from speakers including their principal and classmates. Students and their families are encouraged to host a virtual watch party where they can invite friends and family to enjoy the celebration.

    Graduation Website

    If you are conducting virtual graduations, or even if you're doing something more traditional, creating a website is a great way to celebrate graduates. 
    Include things like:
    • Videos of student and guest speakers. 
    • Photos and information about each graduate in their cap and gown. 
    • A place for well wishes

    Get Social

    Celebrate each graduate on social media with specific information such as a quote, memory, what they'll miss, and what's next. Here's an example from a secondary school.

    Hire a company 

    If setting up a virtual graduation seems daunting for a school, there are companies that will help conduct a virtual graduation for about $2000 - $4000 depending on the package you pick. This might be a good idea for schools with big budgets that don't feel comfortable learning how to do this on their own.

    Your turn

    Do any of these ideas sound like good options for your school community? Are you doing something else? Please share in the comments.

    Friday, April 17, 2020

    One Great Thing #RemoteLearning

    Image may contain: 37 people, including Christina Basias, Clay Smith and Laura Ogando
    Virtual Google Educator Group
    Meetup Participants

    During the first virtual Google Educator Meetup, I hosted a session called: One Great Thing. In it, educators shared one great thing that has happened during this time of remote teaching and learning. 

    Some great things resulting from remote learning

    Accelerated Technology Adoption

    • We accomplished what we set out to do in our five year tech plan in one year. I couldn't be more thrilled to write a new plan.
    • My goal was 100% Google Classroom adoption and remote learning made it happen.
    • Teachers hungry to learn technology and rising to the challenge. They are making mistakes and learning from them. They are are adding new tools to their teaching craft.
    • Witnessing the almost overnight transformation of teachers who thought they could never participate in digital spaces is deeply fulfilling.

    Silos broken down / Connections made

    • We’re isolated by grade band in school. With remote learning I see staff across the school more often.
    • I work in an office where we generally are heads down and work within our team. In all my years I've never worked across offices, divisions, and departments nor met so many new people as I have during remote learning.
    • This was my first year in my school. I’ve actually gotten to meet more people in my building than ever before.
    • Virtual office hours have been a great way to make more frequent connections with students. It's easier to have private one-on-one conversations and support than in the classroom.

    Innovative work with students

    • Attack Chess Club- Chess meeting once a week with instruction and having all members join a site LICHESS.Org so they can play against one another online.
    • My students made each other greetings in scratch. It was super cool that they came up with a lot on their own with very little instruction.
    • We made a movie of photos of staff at home with their kids, dogs etc and signs saying We Miss You etc. This was posted it in every classroom. Next week we are going to compile one of all the student’s doing their work at home that have been uploaded to Classroom.

    Tech companies are accelerating updates

    Your turn

    Did you see some great things here that are occurring where you work or that you can bring into practice? What's one great thing happening in your education community?

    Thank you to our contributors who included:

    Apologies for anyone I missed. Teams me and I'll be happy to add you.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2020

    Go Team! @MicrosoftEdu Updates #MicrosoftTeams for #RemoteLearning

    Teams meetings clip art featuring four students working in a TeamMicrosoft Teams has established itself as a leading business alternative for Slack, but when it comes to working with students, it still needed some work. 

    Until now.

    Teams has several new upgrades that have (or soon will) roll out to make Teams a great option when for digital education and video conferencing.  

    Here's what you can expect:

    Rolled out in April:

    ü  Raise hand 
    ü  Only Educators can start the meeting. Students can't join meeting before the educator 

    Rolled out in May:

    ü  Students can chat ONLY in the Meeting – (not before or after)

    Want to know more? 

    Visit Microsoft Teams meetings for the classroom – what to use now, and what is coming soon.

    Tuesday, April 14, 2020

    Ideas for Staff to Feel Connected When Working Remotely

    In these unprecedented times, it is important for staff to be intentional about staying connected and supporting the social-emotional needs of their staff.

    To follow are ideas that have worked well for my colleagues and I.

    Personal touch

    Team leaders can consider sending a note -- an email, teams message, or text -- to people on the team who you don't interact with regularly one-to-one while everyone is working from home. This might be the people who report to your direct reports, for example. This goes a long way in letting staff know you care about them.

    Daily check ins

    Start days with a daily check in. See how staff is doing/holding up. Then discuss any needs staff have and come up with ways to support their work.

    Intentional shout outs 

    Supervisors can shout out the great work of staff. Do your best to recognize each staff member (or team) at least once across the week. They can also invite staff to shout out colleagues.

    Video on!

    People want to connect and see one another. Turn the video on as you enter and whenever you are speaking. Turn it back on as you sign off. Additional video conference tips.

    Get personal 

    It's okay to set aside some time to share and connect on a human level. Anything interesting this week? How did everyone start their day? What's your exercise routine look like. Connection is key.

    Have fun

    Let's face it. Working (and doing everything) from home is hard. Add some fun into meetings as appropriate with filters and backgrounds. We all need just a little more opportunities to laugh. 

    My Corona Life Scavenger Hunt

    Here's a fun activity like a scavenger hunt to get to know your teammates a little better. Ideas may include: 

    • Your favorite food / drink during Corona
    • Something you have spent more time with during Corona Virus
    • A picture of (or actual) work-at-home companions during Corona i.e. pet, child, partner, roommate 

    Project list

    It's important to know what colleagues are working on all the time and especially when working remotely. We use something called an action tracker that indicates who is working on what project and what the status is. This is a great way to keep folks in the loop.

    Your turn

    What are you doing to stay connected in a time of working remotely?
    Five staff members in a meeting.

    Sunday, April 12, 2020

    Support English Language Learners & families with free @MicrosoftEdu translation tools for #RemoteLearning

    Microsoft has free tools (in 65+ languages) to communicate to English Language Learners and their family members that speak languages other than English.

    This is essential in places like New York City where nearly half of the population speaks a language other than English at home (census bureau data).

    These tools are great for student learning, parent/teacher conferences, group discussions, and more while engaging in remote learning and beyond when teachers incorporate digital learning into their classrooms.

    The video below provides a taste of how this works.

    Screenshot of the ELL & Parent Playlist linked to in the post
    English Language Learners and their Parents playlist.

    This letter that can be sent to families to show them how to download and use the Translator app. It is available in 67 languages.

    Wednesday, April 8, 2020

    Tech-Infused Lessons and Activities for Spring Break Fun

    Innovative educators wanting to provide tech-infused, quality activities and lessons for their students can find a treasure trove of resources for each day. 

    There you'll find resources from companies such as PBS/WNET, Common Sense, EverFi, Thrively, Angela Maier's: Genius Matters. They have compiled lessons, activities and resources for every grade, aligned to all the Spring Fun themes outlined by New York City's Chancellor this week.

    Everything is available at no cost!

    Learn more at 3:00 today during our webinar: Using Thrively for College & Career Readiness Theme for April 9th Learning,
    Thrively website screenshot that says: Unleash your child's genius. Get a head start. Put passion first.

    Monday, April 6, 2020

    Spring Break Activities for Remote Learning

    For schools that are doing remote learning this Spring Break there are lots of options for teachers to find materials, resources, and activities that will delight your students and that families will love. Each will be available at no cost during school closures.  


    Thrively gives every child a strength-based assessment that uncovers the student’s talents, interests, and abilities.  It also shows them via short videos the kind of lives and careers others have pursued who have similar strengths. Next, Thrively shows them how to pursue their interests via face-to-face and online activities, videos, experiences, and apps to inspire and challenge students- all personalized to their unique strengths. Finally, Thrively provides a digital portfolio for students to capture and share their accomplishments.