Thursday, December 31, 2020

Ideas for Connecting with Families Remotely

Slide saying: Parent Coordinators Professional Learning 2020
After the pandemic hit, Lorrie Ayers, a family leadership coordinator in Brooklyn, New York realized she needed to brush up on her technology skills so she could continue to help families in her district feel welcomed. She attended weekly learning sessions offered by the district on various ways to use technology to connect with families. In the sessions hundreds of staff members who support families come together not only to learn, but to network, connect, and share how they are putting what they learned into practice. 

She took what she learned and put into practice new, innovative, and even better ideas for connecting. 

Ideas for connecting remotely with families:

  • Bitmoji: Make it fun! Use Bitmoji in communications with families to add a little fun and flavor to your outreach.

  • Social emotional check: It’s important to acknowledge how families are doing. Before interacting, do a little check to see, acknowledge, and address how they are feeling.

  • QR Codes: Make it easy for others to access your content by adding a QR code that can easily be scanned. 

  • Mentimeter: Use live polls, quizzes, word clouds, Q&As and more to get real-time input - regardless if you’re remote, hybrid or face-to-face.

  • Virtual Coffee and Tea: No matter the beverage or time preference, virtual meetups make it easier for families to connect with schools. Provide weekly options for parents to connect with school staff from wherever they are.

  • Digital scavenger hunts: Families are encouraged to go outside, learn, and share using the district’s hashtag.

  • Zoom baking classes: It’s easy to teach a baking class from your own kitchen and learning to bake in your kitchen works well too. 

  • Social media: Families may not read their email, but many of them love connecting with schools on Instagram and Facebook. Find the right hashtag(s), make it accessible, and strengthen the home-school connection.

  • Virtual fundraising success: Gone are the days of sending home envelopes with donations. Virtual fundraising enabled one school to have record-breaking fundraising success.

  • Digital elections: Rather than having to come face-to-face for PTA elections more votes could be counted with an election on Zoom and digital voting.

  • Virtual wine tasting: Tasting wine from your home is a great way to support local business, connect families, and have a toast safely.

  • Virtual award ceremony: Canva video lets you take creative content to the next level and design with amazing templates that can be used for celebrations, award ceremonies, exercise classes and more.

Lorrie shared that these classes made her unafraid to try using new technology and to share what she learns with others. Check out the video below to hear directly from Lorrie.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Join Me at The Emergency #HomeLearningSummit

Emergency Home Learning Summit logo
Join me at the free Emergency Home Learning Summit as speakers (including me) answer the question: "What do you know about learning that could dramatically help or change the lives of students (as well as parents, teachers, librarians, and others) at this moment?"

Whether by circumstance or choice, learning at home is now the reality for more students than ever. The event is for educators and parents interested in helping students to learn. This is possibly what may be one of the most important conversations about learning in the history of the world. Understanding when, where, and how learning takes place has never been more important. The event goes through the end of November. 

Here is some of what you can expect

The Emergency Home Learning Summit will cover a variety of topics from more than 150 speakers in both drop-in conversatinos and curated series.

Topics include

  • Balancing home and school
  • Blended learning
  • Classroom 2.0
  • Defining success
  • Family & parenting
  • Screen time concerns
  • Microschools
  • Mindful teaching & learning
  • Student entrepreneurship
  • Modern assessment methods
  • Virtual and world schooling

Speakers include:

How to navigate the Summit

Visit the The Emergency Home Learning Summit website then either:
  • Sign up for future speakers who you can add to your calendar and watch live.  
  • All past speakers can be viewed for free for five days
  • Sign up by November 30th for the $99 pass to access all content. After November 30th the pass price goes up to $149. 
Each day's recorded sessions are posted at 9 a.m. US-Eastern Time and are available to be viewed for five days. (You need to click the "Include Completed" checkbox to see previous talks, including the ones released earlier in the day.)

Saturday, November 7, 2020

What A #BidenHarris2020 Presidency Means for Education

Biden and Harris watercolor with the word "United"

I did a series on what a
#TrumpPresidency meant for education. As a result, I was invited to Washington D.C. to do a press briefing on the topic. While there was possibility for some good, four years later, not much has changed as a result of his presidency.

Now that Joe Biden is our president elect, it's time to take a look at what a Biden / Harris Presidency means. Here are some highlights of changes that may improve our public schools. Let's start with what there is no focus on.

No focus on:

  • Standardized tests
  • Standards
  • College for ALL
Bravo! These were terrible ideas that existed under previous administrations. They stiffle innovative and individualized teaching and learning.

Areas of focus:

Let's take a look at some needed areas of focus that Biden plans to implement.

Safe, Healthy, & Innovative Schools 

Make sure teachers and students can work and learn in safe and healthy environments. Public school facilities received a grade of D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers. In fact, each year the U.S. underfunds school infrastructure by $46 billion, resulting in thousands of schools that are outdated, unsafe, unfit, and – in some cases – making kids and educators sick. President Biden will include in federal infrastructure legislation funding specifically for improving public school buildings. First and foremost, these funds will be used to address health risks. Additional funds will be used to build cutting-edge, energy-efficient, innovative schools with technology and labs to prepare our students for the jobs of the future.

Build Innovative Schools 

Build the best, most innovative schools in the country in low-income communities and communities of color. Preparing our students for the workforce increasingly entails not only rigorous academics, but also problem-solving, collaboration, and technical skills. Biden will create a new competitive program challenging local communities to reinvent high school to meet these changing demands of work. This funding will be targeted first toward building the best schools in the country in low-income communities and communities of color.

Prepare Students for Good Jobs (even without college)

Ensure middle and high schools prepare students for good jobs. Students who participate in high-quality career and technical education are more likely to graduate, earn industry credentials, enroll in college, and have higher rates of employment and higher earnings. Like the arts and music, vocational training can often engage students in school, encourage pride for creativity and making, and teach entrepreneurial skills. Yet, American high schools have largely given up on “shop classes” in order to meet measures of accountability. The Biden Administration will invest in school vocational training and partnerships between high schools, community colleges, and employers. These partnerships will create programs that allow students to earn an industry credential upon high school graduation, a credential that readies them for a good-paying career. Career and technical education can also be used to increase access to middle- and high- school courses in computer science so that students learn computational thinking and are prepared to lead in fields such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

Improve Teacher Diversity

Improve teacher diversity. Research shows us the substantial and unique impact that teachers of color have on students of color. For example, for black students, having just one black teacher in elementary school reduces the probability of dropping out. Biden will support more innovative approaches to recruiting teachers of color, including supporting high school students in accessing dual-enrollment classes that give them an edge in teacher preparation programs, helping paraprofessionals work towards their teaching certificate, and working with historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions to recruit and prepare teachers.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Here's How Virtual Work Can Be As Good (Or Better) Than Face-to-Face

Microsoft Whiteboard with people collaborating via video conference  along the bottomCulture Wins: The Roadmap to an Irressitable Workplace by William Vanderbloemen and Reed Hastings's No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention are interesting reads with useful takeaways. However, both books provide the perspective of older, admittedly old-school, white men who have become used to many traditional practices. 

Both Vanderbloemen and Hastings share the perspective that working virtually is harder and less effective than working face-to-face. Especially if the work being done is highly collaborative.

The books do touch a bit on virtual work, but they don't delve deeply enough. While these men run successful businesses, both books, and perhaps, even businesses, would benefit from reexaming their views and biases and providing more information from the perspective of those that have had great success with virtual work.  

Office Space verses Virtual Space

The downsides to office space are obvious. It's expensive to keep the lights on and pay for space. So many businesses and institutions are finally realizing that their need for office space can be reduced, eliminated, or dramtically changed when we allow employees to work remotely. 

Additionally, in big cities, like where I work in New York City, office staff are often crammed together in cubes and many times with people sharing one small cube. There's also the matter of privacy. It is often difficult to find a space for a private conversation. And then there are those annoying colleagues who clip their nails, talk way too loudly about their mother-in-law's health issues, take conference calls on speaker phones, etc. It's simply not the best environment for creativity, innovation, or concentration. 

However, there are many people who prefer going to an office. These are often those in senior leadership positions who have private offices and don't have to contend with many issues associated with working from cubes. However, there are still some who prefer an office, even one where everyone is in cubes for other reasons. For example, there may be too many distractions at home such as children or partners. They may prefer to be with people from work over being with those at home. They may not have space in their home to work effectively or they may not have the same sophisticated set up at home that they do in an office.  

The best option for businesses and institutions then is to give staff the choice of working remotely or from an office. 

Strategies & Platforms for A Workplace with Virtual Staff

Today businesses and institutions are rethinking the face-to-face and virtual workplace. To follow are successful strategies and platforms for a workplace that has all or some virtual staff.  

G Suite & Whiteboards for Collaboration

My colleagues say my style is collaboration on steroids. I love collaboration with those inside and outside my team. Technology makes this flow extremely well. Here are some of the ways we do this.

Virtual Whiteboards for Collaborative Brainstorming

We use Microsoft Whiteboard. There are other great options like Google Jamboard. These are free virtual whiteboards let collaborate in real time, across devices from anywhere on the same virtual canvas. They allow you to transform your work into professional-looking charts and shapes on an infinite canvas with an interface designed for pen, touch, and keyboard. When you are done, they save automatic and you can always resume seamlessly.  No need to take photos of your whiteboards, recreate them digitally, or mark them with “Do Not Erase.” 

G Suite for Collaborative Documents

When it comes to collaboration, Google is king. We create all our work using apps like Docs, Slides, and Sheets. All our work is saved in a shared Google Drive. We don't use old-school attachments. We only share using links. No version control issues and we can work quickly and more effectively than working on documents on separate devices. When it comes to collaboration, Google is better than Microsoft and Apple whose products are glitchy and buggy in the collaboration department.

Microsoft Teams for Meetings

For meetings, it's Microsoft Teams for the win. It's the best for the following reasons:

  • Discussions are persistent
  • You can create meaningful hyperlinks
  • You can easily include emojis, GIFs, files
  • Everything is integrated right into the Teams platform. 
    • You can even incorporate Google or Zoom into Teams. 
These features do not exist with other platforms such as Zoom or Google Meet. 

If your place of work has both face-to-face and virtual participants, make sure you assign someone as the virtual participant monitor. This person sets up the technology so that those attending remotely are brought into the room using the selected tech. 

Meeting via Teams works best for us because we can see each other (and even ourselves if we want) see expressions, collaborate effectively, and easily record if we want. There are benefits to the awareness that happens when you see yourself during a meeting. Several of us have a better understanding of our own reactions to others after seeing it. Recording is key if we need to go back to a meeting, or if someone couldn't make it. Additionally, we feel connected. Even though we are in different places, our relationships have remained strong.

Microsoft Teams for Dropping By

Some people love just being able to drop by someone's desk as is possible in a face-to-face environment. If you are one of those people, know this: Not everyone likes you just dropping by. For me, this was a productivity sucker. I'm friendly and social, but I also like to focus and get my work done. It becomes difficult to get into a flow when people just drop by. Because I'm friendly, social, and work in tech (some I'm often the go to person for issues) people drop by frequently. I could not complete high concentration work from the office. I'd have to wait until I could do it from home uninterupted. 

However, there's a win-win when working remotely if you use a tool like Microsoft Teams. Want to drop by to chat with someone. You can simply chat, call, or video conference them on Teams. If they're not available, they don't have to respond. An option not there for face-to-face environments. The inability for people to just roll on up on me is one of my favorite parts of remote working. 

Facebook and Teams for Chance Encounters

Some people who prefer face-to-face work because of those romantized chance encounters. I'm admitedly biased toward remote work, but I don't miss those face-to-face chance encounters for a couple reasons. Often they just aren't good. Like the time I got screamed at for removing someone's burnt toast from the toaster. Or the time when someone I really have no interest in talking to corners me. Or when I'm stuck in an elevator with someone I've been trying to avoid. 

About 40 educators in Microsoft Teams together mode.
NYC DOE teachers at a Microsoft Meetup
Of course there are some good chance encounters, but I personally prefer a chance encounter with a more controlled audience. Facebook groups and Microsoft Teams are great for that! These are places where you can set up intentional communities of people coming together for a common goal. Not only are there chance encounters via the comments and discussions, but in my work, we also set up several times where members can meet up virtual to talk, discuss, and share best practices. These encounters are positive, productive, and lots of fun.

Video Conferencing for Connecting On A Personal Level

Some people miss the handshakes and hugs. They miss grabbing coffee or going out for drinks with colleagues. My colleagues and I have taken this to video conferencing. We've had happy hours, housewarming parties, game nights, exercise class, and more via video conference on any platform. I usually use Facebook Rooms or Groups or Google Meet for this. We've actually had the more interaction and connection since working virtually than we had prior. 

As for the handshakes and hugs, I for one, say good riddance to the germy handshakes and the awkward work hugs. I acknowledge some people miss these, and for them I hope they can find a close friend or family member to fulfill that need.

Your Turn

What do you think? What tools have you found best for virtual work? Are any of these new to you? Do you agree or disagree with this view of working virtually? How do you think your place of work will change or remain the same following what we've learned during the Corona Virus pandemic?

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Anatomy of a Killer Agenda

Great facilitators have killer agendas. This is the place where students can go to find anything they need to support their learning. Do your agendas include the five elements listed below?

5 Elements of a Killer Agenda


The agenda has a title that clearly conveys what the session is about.

Brief overview 

Provide an overview of the session that includes what students will know and be able to do following the session.


There are meaningful hyperlinks to all resources. Students should not have to copy down urls or have to memorize directions. These should all be in the resources.


A well thought out agenda is timed outlining how many minutes are allocated to each topic.  

Link to slides

Link each part of your agenda to the corresponding slide. This makes it easier to go back and forth between the deck and agenda should a student want to do that. It also makes it easier for any student to turn-key the information to others. This is particularly important for scenarios when the person taking the class may be asked to be responsible for taking what they learned back to their school or office and teach it to others. 

Here's an example

Screenshot of an agenda with all the elements stated in the article

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Gesticulation As A Strategy to Engage Learners

Whether a lesson is pre-recorded, live video, or face-to-face, one simple, research-based idea to engage learners is to use gesticulation. This means using gestures, especially dramatic ones, instead of speaking or to emphasize one's words. Here are some ways to do that.


Props are a great way to help with this. Big glasses, hats, wands, etc. You can hop on Amazon and search photobooth props and get lots of packages that don't break the bank. 


Pull out the old costumes or wait til they go on sale after Halloween and get some new ones. Gesticulating while wearing a costume provides a fun and easy way to engage students.


Create or load up some backgrounds related to what your teaching. Most video conferencing platforms have some built in and also allow you to customize. Of course, you can also create a physical background using items such as maps. Be ready to dramatically gesture to items on your background to help illustrate what you are teaching.

Fun with Filters

Get your filter game on and figure out which filters pair well with your lesson.  Below is a Tweet for inspiration. 

Gesticulation in Action

Hat tip to Cornelius Minor for sharing the importance of gesticulation in a recent share session where he also provided an example of an excellent teacher who incorporates this into her work. Click on the video to go to the Outschool website where you can see Teacher Saara, M.Ed in action.

Teacher on screen with props (glasses and nose)  and a virtual background (map)

Your Turn

Which of these ideas might you incorporate into your work. Are there ideas you've tried that aren't mentioned here? If so, please share.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Playlist: Innovative Ideas from Homeschoolers for Learning During a Pandemic

The 2020 pandemic has required us to rethink everything including the risk of sending children back to school. Many parents feel guilty about keeping their kids home. They also have numerous concerns about if there will be negative consequences for doing so.

That's why I'm bringing you a series of conversations among veteran homeschoolers to address common concerns. They will provide unique insights about what it means for students to learn, socialize, and prepare for success in the world without the full support of school. 

These parents are full of innovative ideas and their perspectives are varied. One belief they share is that schools are there to best serve families, but ultimately it is up to the family to determine what works best. At times this may mean no school, some school, or full-time school.

The goal of this series is to help parents make informed decisions about their children and returning to school, or not, during a pandemic. As you'll learn from these parents, whatever you decide, you and your family can always change your mind and move to what works best for your family.

Each of these lively conversations are under an hour.

Topics we discuss include:

  • Can working parents homeschool?

  • What if my child falls behind?

  • What about socialization and socializing?

  • What if my kids want to play video games all day?

  • Pulling the plug on video games

  • The kids will be alright

Check out the playlist below.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Preparing for Back-to-School - Advice Educatos, Administrators, and Ed-Tech Coaches

Hear a panel of educators, administrators, and ed-tech coaches discuss the lessons they learned in the spring of 2020 that they’re using to prepare for returning to school this fall. The Academy of Active Learning Arts & Sciences brought together this panel to share, prepare, and help schools plan for the future of education in the time of a pandemic.  Watch the full panel discussion below or read the partial transcript.

Carl Hooker:

We’ve all experienced this rapid transition to online learning; all of us have in some different form or fashion. How did this rapid shift help us think about the future of schools? What are some things you noticed right away when the shift happened that you thought, “Wow, this is something we really need to consider in our schools in the future in case this happens again?”

Chris Bugaj:

I think my immediate answer to that question is accessibility. Meaning there was an immediate rush to say, “We’ve got to provide materials to students so they can do asynchronous events.” And then the next thing was, “How do we do synchronous events?” Something that’s been on the forefront of this since it started is, “Well, jeez, I’ve got students with all sorts of needs.” So how do I make sure I meet all of their needs as I design my instruction with flexibility in mind and with accessibility in mind. I know a lot of my time has been spent with a rush of general education teachers that no longer were necessarily waiting for a special ed teacher to kind of fix their lesson design. They were thinking, “How do I design it for everybody right from the get-go?”

Lisa Nielsen:

In my current role, I’m the senior director of digital inclusion. We’re really focusing a lot on that. The first thing that we were doing was we were ensuring all of our 1,800 schools in New York City understood how to make accessible websites. We’ve been focusing our concentration on that. But now we need every person in every school to understand how to make truly accessible content.

Anne Vega:

We’ve been one-to-one for quite a while now, but we had students who chose not to get a device, for whatever reason. When all of this happened, it was like an influx. So over the last two months, we have come into the office and enrolled about 600 plus devices. Of course, another issue is the internet. Our warehouse is actually going house to house, delivering these devices along with hotspots. So as long as they qualify, we’re delivering hotspots to those kids that don’t have access.

Brent Wise:

I think the main thing that we took away right away was, “How do we maintain relationships?” We’ve built up these relationships over the three quarters of the year, which we are very fortunate to have, but how do we maintain that to drive the learning? That became a big focus for us: how do we harness technology to maintain those relationships? Which will be a difficult thing if we’re back in this boat coming into the fall.

Carl Hooker:

I do think we take that for granted. That was one thing about the timing of this; it happened right at the end. So some of us were able to coast through. A lot of it was re-mastery of work. It wasn’t the beginning of the year, building those relationships.

Jake Habegger:

For us, I think one of the struggles was the access to technology for everyone, just like we’ve been hearing. But another part of that is teachers being trained on, “How do you deliver content remotely?” I’ve been a flipped educator for a long time. For me, I saw this as a golden opportunity. But since we, as a district, weren’t really prepared for this, we ended up not teaching new content in the last quarter. Instead, we were doing review packets. It’s just where we were. So I think getting teachers educated on what this can look like remotely for the long term is a big thing that we need to get pushed out.

Caroline Little:

At-home access was big for us. We’re just in our second year of one-to-one initiatives, so we had lots of kids who didn’t have access to devices. So that was sort of our first big push, and then also with the internet, with everybody else in the country who wanted hotspots, we did a lot of collaborating with our neighboring districts who happened to have extras, and we borrowed some from them, and just really worked with our local cable providers. So that was a hurdle that we hadn’t really considered or thought about. We had people who would drive to where people live to see if local hotspots actually worked and that the kids would be able to get hooked up there. Once we felt like we kind of got over that hurdle, then the other big one really was supporting the teachers. We helped people through a lot of tears and things. But at one point, we did say, “If this wasn’t so awful, we would actually be having fun.” Because in our ed tech world, it was kind of nice to throw everybody in and to say, “All right, let’s go. Let’s see who can swim,” regardless of what part of the pool you’re in.

It’s kind of crazy to think that in the last two months, we can now pretty confidently say that all of our teachers can create learning opportunities in a digital environment.

Carl Hooker:

I’ve spoken to so many leaders about the analogy of having a wildfire that’s miles away in terms of ed tech, like, “It’s something I need to worry about at some point, but it’s not in my backyard yet.” Now it’s in your backyard, so you need to worry about it, right?

Michele Eaton:

I think the thing that we’re going to take moving forward is some of the positives that can come out of a situation like this. I think what’s been most unprecedented, (I know we haven’t heard that word enough in the last two months), is the foundation of technical ability we have now established with all of our teachers. It’s kind of crazy to think that in the last two months, we can now pretty confidently say that all of our teachers can create learning opportunities in a digital environment. That hurdle, that hangup that gets in the way of us really focusing on what’s most important, which is teaching and learning, is something that we can leverage moving forward. I don’t have to spend so much time making sure everyone knows how to use the tools. We can really dig into online pedagogy, on building community online, on creating highly interactive, highly personalized, accessible, digital learning activities for our students, because we’re all talking the same language, we’re all using the same platform. That’s pretty exciting. If we look for the good in all of this, I think that’s one of the things that I’m excited about looking forward to in the fall.

Carl Hooker:

Lisa, I noticed you’ve raised your hand. You had a couple comments you wanted to add on to that. What do you want to add to what we’ve been talking about? It’s a lot. We’re kind of all over the map on this, but also, we’re still honing in. I noticed the word relationship has come up on a couple of three different occasions. What are your thoughts on what we’ve been talking about?

Lisa Nielsen:

Something that I’ve heard many districts are considering is looping with their students if they might be remote in the fall. From the youngest grades, where that is not an uncommon practice, but even in the upper grades, having teachers just loop with their students. That helps address the relationship issue. And then the other thing, in New York City, we were never one-to-one. We never provided at-home devices for students. As a result of this, talking about the silver lining, every single one of our students now has a device and internet access. That’s amazing because this is something I’ve wanted for so many years in our district. In such a short time, we have accomplished one-to-one in New York City. So that is a definite silver lining for us.

But one of my greatest fears moving forward is that we go back. Hey, let’s just try and rush back to the way we did it, as opposed to, “Hey, how can we design for the future?”


Carl Hooker:

I do think the future of what school looks like in the fall is going to be different for all of us because all of us come from different areas. Down here in Texas, we’ve opened up somewhat. We’re opening up summer school next week, and we don’t know what the fall will look like, necessarily. But I know in New York, of course, Lisa, it’s going to look a lot different. This is an opportunity to leave, “the bad things” behind. So what are those things?

Brent Wise:

I think one of the most eyeopening conversations that I’ve been a part of with the high school staff, especially, is that they’ve all recognized there’s a lot of wasted time in a school day. They found, “I can do a lot and accomplish a lot more this way, but I need that face-to-face for other things.” So it was really neat to hear them say, “I can take all this stuff, this lecturing and all this other junk that I used to have to waste face-to-face, shove it over here, and now I’m doing these labs, I’m doing more relationships, I’m doing more discussions and back and forth.” So yeah, it’s kind of the flipped classroom. But finally, maybe what it’s really, really meant to be, as Jake’s high fiving over there, it’s an exciting time. Because I think if we can get staff to understand you’re going to be better for this because of this, I think we’re going to be able to take a huge step forward that we’re all forced into that was difficult at first, but now is making us all better for our kids.

Carl Hooker:

Jake, I’ve got to kick it over to you now, because when you talked about the flipped, I know you’ve been doing it for a while and that’s been around probably for eight or 10 years. Of course, it’s all gotten a lot easier now, because you can kind of record anything quickly over the phone. But what are your thoughts on that idea?

Jake Habegger:

You’re speaking my love language. That’s it right there, I don’t have to use as much class time lecturing. I’m a history teacher. You’d think I just want to stay in there and talk the whole time. But really, if I can put some of that out of the way and have time for Socratic seminars, I’m as happy as I can be. For us not being able to teach in the fourth quarter, most of my time doing Zoom sessions with students was doing Socratic seminars. It was the deepest learning my students had all year because I wasn’t able to do anything else except go deep. For me, one of my favorite things is Mastery Learning. That’s one of the reasons I flipped, is that students could go more at their own pace. I have students who could, like you said, your daughter being done with her schoolwork by Wednesday. This could alter education completely if we went mastery-based. If a student can be done by Wednesday and they can move on, they can get 40 percent more of the curriculum for the next grade done already. We could be seeing high schoolers being done as freshmen. There are so many opportunities to completely flip the system. I think flipping, for me, is the… It’s the operating system that allows us to do that. But mastery is really the tool.

Carl Hooker:

You’ve now spoken my love language because I used to be frustrated. As a first grade teacher, I used to remember getting to spring break, and all the second-grade teachers are going, “Slow down. Don’t let the kids go any farther. They have to stay on this track based on their age.”

Chris Bugaj:

But one of my greatest fears moving forward is that we go back. Hey, let’s just try and rush back to the way we did it, as opposed to, “Hey, how can we design for the future?”

Saturday, August 29, 2020

School's Back, Now What? A Conversation About Teaching and Learning During COVID-19

Are you worried about sending your child back to school this fall? Do you have concerns about how your child will reintegrate into daily routines and peer relationships? Children and Screens’ Ask the Experts webinar “School’s Back, Now What? A Conversation about Teaching and Learning During COVID-19” on August 26, 2020, covered a plethora of thorny questions about sending children back to school this year and/or facilitating virtual learning.

You can check out the video below. You may also want to read these tips from the experts about navigating education during a pandemic. Following the video are time stamps of featured video highlights.

[01:55] Lisa Nielsen, the moderator for the interdisciplinary panel and Senior Director of Digital Literacy & Inclusion at New York City Public Schools, reviewed the variety of learning environments children and teens are experiencing and discussed what works for online learning and what doesn’t. Nielsen also reminded teachers to ensure their teaching materials are accessible and provided a handy mnemonic device (FIRST) to aid in this effort.

[10:39] To help parents understand the pandemic-related health risks to their children and families, Dr. Dimitri Christakis, world-renowned pediatrician and epidemiologist, addressed common concerns parents have regarding COVID-19. The conversation covered the infection rate of COVID-19 in children, specific protective and risk factors, and mitigation strategies that schools and parents should implement for a safe and healthy back-to-school transition. [25:28] Next, to help parents through the difficult decision of whether or not to send their children to brick-and-mortar school this semester, Dr. David McKinnon, a parent and Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior at Stony Brook University, highlighted the importance of weighing local infection rates, specific familial situation, and each child’s educational and social needs. He eased the decision making process for parents by providing strategies to reduce risks with online learning, and advised parents to consider all educational options available. [40:55] Along with physical health and education concerns, it is vital for parents to consider and mitigate mental health declines in their children during this anxiety-provoking time. Founder of InnoPsych and licensed psychologist, Dr. Charmain Jackman, discussed how to navigate the social-emotional needs of children in the midst of the most traumatic period most children have experienced. Dr. Jackman explained the differences between anxiety/worry and clinical anxiety and provided tried and true tips for thoughtful “back-to-school” conversations with children and their schools. [1:00:05] All of the panelists emphasized the importance of parents and schools working together to make this transition as successful as possible. Dr. Elizabeth Englander, Director and Founder of Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University and author of When The Kids Come Back: A Return-To-School Guide After the COVID-19 Pandemic, provided tips for top line communication. Dr. Englander broke down the trifecta of stress parents are feeling right now and explained how parents, schools, and communities can work together. Throughout the conversation, panelists answered questions from the audience, easing parents’ worries and providing evidence-based advice on everything from which masks children should wear at school to keeping kids engaged in virtual learning. Moderator: Lisa Nielsen, MA Senior Director, Digital Literacy and Inclusion, New York CIty Department of Education Permanently Certified Public School Educator and Administrator Author, Teaching Generation Next https://theinnovativeeducator.blogspo... Distinguished Experts: Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH Editor-in-Chief, JAMA Pediatrics Director, Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development Seattle Children’s Research Institute Charmain Jackman, PhD Psychologist Founder, InnoPsych, Inc David McKinnon, PhD Parent Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior Stony Brook University https://renaissance.stonybrookmedicin... Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits supporting and advancing evidence-based scientific research on technology’s impacts on child health and well-being, convening interdisciplinary clinicians, researchers, educators, public health experts and others; and educating the public about the impacts of technology on children’s health, well-being, and development. Follow Children and Screens on social media! Instagram: Facebook: Twitter: Visit our website at

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Some Thoughts on Hybrid & Remote Teaching

Districts around the globe are talking about having a hybrid model when returning to school.  In a hybrid model, students attend school 1 - 3 days a week. In some districts, they'll have a remote teacher and a face-to-face teacher who will teach them at a six-feet-apart distance and students will be six feet apart from each other.  

How will this work? 

First let's take a moment to review.

Lessons learned from remote teaching

Remote teaching taught us a many things. Here are two:

  1. Have a drop date each week:  This is the date that you drop your lessons in advance so students understand the expectations of their upcoming work for the week.
  2. You don't need to teach live: You can use videos of yourself teaching or you can have a video from a renknowned expert teaching or you can have a video of a student teaching. This is what they do in the successful flipped classroom model.  

So the question becomes this. If you have a flipped or in flipped classroom (where you can watch the lesson at school) what does the remote and in-person teacher do? 

Consider the medium

First, it is useful to consider the benefits of each medium: 

  • In person at a physical distance
  • Remote
If you're in person, you can touch stuff. This means you can use resources in the classroom as long as you don't share, stay six feet apart from folks, and disinfect often. So, I guess in this sense, things like art, music, making (i.e. makerspace), science labs make sense. But, ask any regular public school teacher, and you'll find out the following:
  • There are not many robust art, music, makerspaces, or science labs.
  • If there are, much of it is funded from the teachers pocket.
  • This works because students share. It would be cost-prohibitive otherwise.
  • You are very lucky if you have these things running well in your school.
  • These subjects usually are not prioritized
So, yes, if you can have those hands on experiences in school with the cavaets required in a pandemic, then school kind of becomes lab time where students do hands on work, perhaps after watching a video showing them how. 

When tech teaches, what do teachers do?

For the rest of folks who do not have art studios, makerspaces, and science labs, it comes down to your job consisting of the following: 

  • Relationships: When technology provides the on-demand lecture and feedback, teachers have more time to develop relationships with students.  Students want to be seen, heard, and known. Technology enables teachers to better know their students for who they are as a whole as well as their talents, interests, and areas where they want to grow.
  • Guidance: Young people need and want guidance. Teachers can spend more time guiding and supporting students.
  • Tutoring: When whole class instruction can be done using technology, teachers are freed up to do small group and one-on-one tutoring. 
  • Digital Literacy: Teachers can play an important role in helping to support students in being responsible and respectful digital citizens.
  • Learning Network Development: Connections are key and with technology we can help students safely make local and global connections.  What if we found a mentor for every student that could support them digitally and/or face-to-face.
  • Cheerleader: Students love knowing you know their accomplishments.  More time to notice what students have accomplished. Discuss what that means and give them support.

When technology is infused into learning, the way it has been during the pandemic, the teacher's time is freed up to do much more of the work that is so important for learning.  This transforms the role of the teacher who can engage in these activities whether you're in person or face-to-face.