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MAY 2020 TECHLEARNING.COM

BEST TOOLS FOR COMMUNICATING TO YOUR REMOTE LEARNERS


SPECIAL REPORT: BEST TOOLS FOR COMMUNICATING TO YOUR REMOTE LEARNERS

CONTENTS

CREATING CONTINUITY

The special report includes the best tools and strategies your schools can use for online learning.

4 CONSISTENT COMMUNICATION; SCHEDULE; SUPPORTING SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING 5 TOOLS; CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

BEST PRACTICES FOR ONLINE LEARNING 6 USING VIDEO TO STAY CONNECTED; HARDWARE 8 ROOM SETUP AND LIGHTING; BEST PRACTICES AND PITFALLS

BEST VIDEOCONFERENCING TOOLS 12 A VARIETY OF VIDEO APPLICATIONS

FEEDBACK AND REFLECTION 14 FEEDBACK STRATEGIES; REFLECTION STRATEGIES; FEEDBACK AND REFLECTIONS TOOLS

ELEARNING RESOURCES 16 COMMUNICATION CHECKLIST; ARTICLES AND VIDEOS 17 RESOURCE LIST: LINKS TO TOOLS MENTIONED

MANAGING DEVICES REMOTELY 18 THE CHALLENGES TECH LEADERS MUST OVERCOME WHILE SUPPORTING DEVICES REMOTELY

Group Publisher Christine Weiser christine.weiser@futurenet.com CONTENT Managing Editor Ray Bendici ray.bendici@futurenet.com

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A LETTER FROM THE AUTHOR

CARL HOOKER

Have you ever heard a song and not quite understood the lyrics? A couple of years ago I watched Tom Murray from Future Ready Schools give a keynote on the importance of communication. During his talk, he played some famous songs with misheard lyrics. Songs with lyrics like “We built this city on sausage rolls” from Jefferson Starship, or “Sweet dreams are made of cheese” by the Eurythmics are just a few examples of times when we might hear something different than what is being actually said. Communication is the same way. We tell people one thing and they might hear something completely different. This happens a lot in face-to-face conversations, but now that we’ve been forced into isolation and remote learning, communication is limited to text, voice, and the occasional video chat. We have all been dumped into this 24/7 online learning experiment at the same time. Being inundated with tools to communicate with our remote learners has been both a blessing and a curse. Many educators, while extremely adaptable, have been thrust into this remote learning world without all the tools (both hardware and software) needed to properly transition to online learning. Parents and students are often overwhelmed by the number of options and log-ins involved. IT directors worry about what kind of data is being given away to “free” resources and about the best ways to deploy and service devices remotely. School and district leaders are scrambling to help families without access and devices and hoping that nothing inappropriate is inadvertently recorded or shared. With all of these variables and a compressed time frame, the importance of communication has been magnified. Communicating timelines, expectations, and support for our learners and families while acknowledging that they, too, are going through a rapid transition is critical. Now more than ever, we must make sure the lyrics are clearly understood. The special report includes the best tools and strategies your schools can use to create a continuous learning plan.

All contents © 2020 Future US, Inc. or published under licence. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any way without the prior written permission of the publisher. Future Publishing Limited (company number 2008885) is registered in England and Wales. Registered office: Quay House, The Ambury, Bath BA1 1UA. All information contained in this publication is for information only and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Future cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. You are advised to contact manufacturers and retailers directly with regard to the price of products/services referred to in this publication. Apps and websites mentioned in this publication are not under our control. We are not responsible for their contents or any other changes or updates to them. This magazine is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein.

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JGI/JAMIE GRILL

CREATING CONTINUITY

Consistent Communication Communicating a clear and consistent message through times of crisis and displacement can do wonders for a community. While our worlds may have been turned upside-down, our families, staff, and students long for some sense of normalcy. Making sure leaders and teachers provide consistent communication can help stabilize and provide structure for the at-home learning day.

Schedule Our students are used to a regular schedule of learning. Now that those schedules have been thrown out the window, parents and schools are scrambling to establish a “learning schedule.” Teachers and leaders can help promote this by communicating on a regular basis and at the same time each day. This could mean a principal sending a morning assembly-like video every morning or a teacher leaving a personal message for his or her students on Mondays and Wednesdays. A set schedule of communication can also help parents with the deluge of information they receive at home. If the district, school, and teacher all send information at random times throughout the week, their messages are likely to get lost in the shuffle. Leaders should encourage staff to sync when they’re sending communication and to keep in mind the cognitive load of those on the receiving end.

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Supporting Social-Emotional Learning We’re all in a state of distress. For some families that distress is more extreme than it is for others. Remember that people must feel stable and safe in order to be able to learn. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs over Bloom’s taxonomy. Having consistent communication and uniform tools help reduce some of the stress, but it’s also important to check in with students about their well-being. Connecting with students through video can be a powerful way of supporting their social-emotional needs. Some teachers send a daily morning video just to check in with students and prepare them for the day’s assignments. Education leaders can post a “joke of the day” or brain twister to lighten the cognitive load while maintaining the connection between school and home. A student who feels this kind of support from school as well as from home will be much more likely to engage in learning.

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CREATING CONTINUITY Tools The standard tools of email and phone calls are the bare minimum when it comes to communication. Social media can be an ally now that many parents spend more time on Facebook than ever before. If you decide to use an educational communication platform instead of a standard one, make sure that staff are consistent with its use. For example, nothing is more frustrating to parents than receiving one message from their child’s teacher in Remind and then seeing the same message again in Google Classroom or Bloomz. Now throw in the various forms of video chat (Skype, Hangouts, Zoom, etc.) and you can see why failing to designate one tool for communication could lead to much frustration. Pick one and be consistent! Yet another layer of communication is involved when you throw in things such as virtual collaboration and the distribution and retrieval of student work. Many school districts have a learning management system that offer communication with parents about the distribution of materials. Google Classroom, Canvas, Seesaw, and Schoology seem to be the dominant players in this arena, but there are certainly others. Again, consistency is key: school and district leaders need to make sure that all staff are using the same LMS tool to keep things streamlined at home and to reduce the complexity of support needed from IT.

Some district leaders have employed a few simple techniques to make access easier. One is designating a portal or single interface that students can use to access all their work. Tools such as ClassLink, Clever, or RapidIdentity provide single-interface portals that offer students one signon access to all of their approved applications. Schools without a single portal should consider sending parents a “cheat sheet” for their child’s usernames and passwords for the various applications that they might be accessing during extended distance learning.

Clear Expectations Just as you want to be consistent with communications, you also want to make sure that parents and staff have clear expectations around the learning that’s taking place. Many staff members are also now home-schooling their kids and balancing that with their work as teachers. Clear expectations ensure that everyone stays on the same page. Many schools have embraced the idea of virtual “office hours” for teachers. In this scenario, the parent and student are told what times the teacher is available for help during the school day. Support can come from a quick email exchange or through the communication app of your choice, but the expected turnaround time (2 hours, 1 day, etc.) should also be communicated so that everyone involved has clear and reasonable expectations.

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BEST PRACTICES FOR ONLINE LEARNING

HALFPOINT IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

Questions to Consider around Communication

Here are few questions to think about as you consider how you communicate with your schools and community as well as how you distribute work: • How will students and parents access the communication? • Is communication integrated consistently with a current tool? • Do teachers use multiple tools or a single common tool for communication? • How will work be distributed for those who don’t have access? • What expectations in terms of schedule and time of day have been communicated?

Using Video to Stay Connected Almost instantly, video conference software has become one of the stars of this pandemic and the go-to communication platform for everyone. Schools hold faculty meetings via Zoom or Microsoft Teams to make sure staff are staying in sync. Teachers use it to connect synchronously with their students for real-time instruction. However, just as there are best practices for online learning, there are also best practices for video communications.

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Hardware As most districts were caught unprepared in terms of distributing devices, many end-users are often left with whatever they happen to have at home. Luckily, most tablets and laptops come with a built-in front-facing camera, which eliminates the need for an external camera. For those users looking for better image quality, here are a few external camera options for less than $100: Microsoft LifeCam Studio—$75 from TigerDirect Logitech C922 Pro Stream—$99 from Office Depot Razer Kiyo (with built-in ring light)—$99 from Razer Sound quality is also very important if you’re creating video content or trying to hold virtual conversations. Having faulty or bad audio can actually be more distracting to a learner than poor video quality, so if you have to choose, opt for better audio quality. Using the built-in laptop or phone microphone can be fine, but AirPods or a plug-in microphone/headset usually offer better quality. Professional podcast producer Errol St. Clair Smith, from the BAM Radio Network, offers a couple of suggestions: USB Microphone Kit —$55 on Amazon Blue Yeti USB microphone —$129 on Amazon

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BEST PRACTICES FOR ONLINE LEARNING Room Setup and Lighting

Best Practices and Pitfalls

We’ve all watched those videos in which you can barely see a person or the person talking sounds like they’re in an echo chamber. The truth is, most of us don’t have the luxury of setting up a recording or video studio in our house. That said, here are a few tips to improve your video and audio quality when recording or live-broadcasting to your students or staff: • Make sure you’re in a small, quiet room. This will reduce echoes and distracting noises. A closet works but has poor lighting. A bathroom usually has great lighting, but watch out for echoes. • When considering lighting, try to avoid any type of bright backlight, such as sitting in front of a sunny window, as it will cast your face into shadow. Setting up with a plain wall, door, or dark curtain behind you can help reduce backlight. Front lighting can be done with a ring light or even a nice overhead light or lamp. Avoid spotlights, as they cast shadows and can make it hard for you to see. Outside natural light is great, just watch out for ambient noise.

While some educators had experience with video conference software or webinars before this pandemic, others may have no idea what to expect. Here are a few best practices that don’t cost a penny and will increase the quality of your video connections. • Professional dress—While no one is getting dressed up for work now that we’re all at home, it’s important to present yourself to your students and staff in a professional manner. This doesn’t mean business formal, but certainly business casual (on the top half of your body) can present a more professional image. • Limit interruptions—Many of us have kids and pets (or both!) that demand our attention. They often seem to need that attention when we’re recording or doing a live broadcast. If at all possible, try to reduce potential disruptions before you start. If you’re recording for later use, disruptions can be edited out, but editing does make the process of sharing your video a little more time-consuming and complicated.

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WESTEND61/GETTY IMAGES

BEST PRACTICES FOR ONLINE LEARNING

• Check your security settings—The phrase “Zoombombing” has emerged in the past several weeks. This refers to random people on the internet jumping into open, public Zoom calls and posting inappropriate messages or images. Most platforms have settings that require video conference attendees to have a link, a log-in, or even a simple password. Michael Cohen, a.k.a. TheTechRabbi, has a great video on how to go from a Zoom novice to pro in less than 10 minutes. • Video length—If you’re recording something for your students, know that a 50-minute lecture can be challenging for a student to watch. Keep your video segments short (5–10 minutes) and focused

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on a specific topic or project. Live instruction and virtual office hours should also be limited to between 30 and 60 minutes, as students need time to work. Being forced to watch a teacher lecture live online can be a problem—particularly if a student has limited access or learning time. • Watch your background—Platforms such as Zoom allow you to create a false background. These can be fun, but also distracting. Some teachers have even created backgrounds that mimic the classroom, which can be comforting to students. One potential pitfall while doing live video is that sometimes unexpected guests can walk behind you. Warn people in your house when you’re online so they know it may not be the best time to check the laundry without any pants on! • Student privacy and usage—As we dive into the tools in the next section, please be aware that many might not be COPPA compliant (not permitted for kids under 13). An entire manual could be written on student privacy and video chat software. Using district-provided software that has been vetted by your IT department will help avoid any violations, and giving students the option to “opt out” of interactive video calls can also help. Students can also choose not to enable their cameras as a measure to avoid any unintended video capture.

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BEST VIDEOCONFERENCING TOOLS A Variety of Video Applications Many of the available video options are offering free options for educators, but be aware that some of those free trials may not last until the end of the school year. Another word of caution: Some of these tools require a log-in for student access. Parents will have to help set these up initially for the youngest students who don’t have email accounts. Here are the top video options that educators around the country are using: Zoom—The early winner when it comes to go-to solutions for schools to do some form of video conferencing, Zoom is fairly easy to install and works well on mobile devices. The free account for education is fairly generous and the 40-minute limit has been lifted for K–12 schools during the COVID-19 crisis. Premium paid packages can allow for up to 1,000 users. Other bonuses include fun backgrounds that you can import and the ability to break out users into teams for facilitated group discussion. Being a frontrunner in the video conference category also means it has been getting a lot of attention for negative usage as well. New users who haven’t set proper security settings have been hit by hackers posting inappropriate imaging (“Zoom-bombing”). In response, Zoom has tightened security by requiring all meetings to use a password. In addition, this article from PCMag.com provides ten ways to prevent Zoom-bombing. Google Hangouts Meet—Those schools that have GSuite already in their district can take advantage of Google’s video-conferencing solution. The free version that comes native with GSuite can be used almost immediately with little or no setup. Simply share the link with students or embed it in your calendar invitation. Adding on the Meet Grid View extension can make it easier to manage when you have more than five users online simultaneously. Another nice bonus feature is the ability to turn on live captions when people are talking. This blog by Jennie Magiera does a nice job of explaining all that Google is currently offering to education.

Microsoft Teams—This product is also free and you don’t necessarily need to be an Office 365 school to use it. The paid version is also very moderately priced and its integration with other Microsoft products like Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote make it appealing for those who regularly work in the Microsoft suite of tools. Flipgrid—One of the newest members of the Microsoft family, Flipgrid hit the ground running a couple of years ago in education and hasn’t looked back. While it’s the only one on this list that doesn’t have synchronous video communication, teachers and students find its ease of use to be extremely appealing. This free product allows teachers to create video discussion walls, or grids, on various topics. Some bonuses include controls for the teacher on time limits and allowing emojis. Newer features, such as the whiteboard, allow teachers and students to record themselves drawing responses rather than just filming themselves. Flipgrid also integrates with multiple other platforms and tech tools that you can check out in their disco library. Skype—Another company now owned by Microsoft, Skype was one of the first players to offer video chat and conference software. While it has many of the same features as other video tools, Skype also offers a large platform of educational resources, including on-demand events, Mystery Skypes, and home-learning guides for parents and educators. Webex—While not as intuitive as Skype or Zoom, Webex does have a strong network, backed by Cisco, which means better quality video and less lag. The free version has some limitations (e.g., it allows only one presenter), but the company recently announced that the pro version is free for schools during this shutdown.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER REGARDING VIDEO COMMUNICATION

• How will my end-users be accessing these tools? • What about those students without access? • How much setup and installation is involved? • Does the tool integrate with my existing platforms? • Will students have to log in to use the tool? • Feedback and Reflection All educators have been thrust into this online learning world overnight, as have the students and parents. All involved should maintain some level of patience and understanding, but we also need feedback and reflection in order to improve how learning takes place in the home. All involved need avenues to communicate feedback effectively and to reflect on learning thoughtfully.

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FEEDBACK AND REFLECTION

➡ ➡ Feedback Strategies Feedback is a vital part of the communication cycle. Without the feedback loop, communication becomes unidirectional and less interactive. Teachers need to provide regular feedback to students. This happens continuously during the traditional school day with verbal responses as a student is working. This can’t be as instantaneous during remote learning, but it’s still important for helping students progress toward their goals and learning outcomes. Feedback during distance learning will obviously look very different than those face-to-face encounters. Written feedback is generally the go-to strategy for teachers, but I’d also encourage teachers to try verbal feedback through audio or video. This gives the feedback a voice and a face and makes it much more personal. With many of the tools listed below, this can be done as easily as written feedback. The goals of feedback are support and improvement, but that can be difficult if teachers don’t consider each individual situation. Before providing critical feedback, be sure to take into account the individual student’s social and emotional needs. Otherwise they may not be as responsive to what you have to say.

Reflection Strategies Reflection is one of the key components to experiential learning (Kolb’s Learning Cycle) and should be a significant component of any type of learning environment. Reflection can be just as powerful in a remote learning situation as it is in the classroom. Each student has a unique home situation and different levels of support. Pausing to reflect on their learning and life can help them internalize what they’ve learned and also provide an outlet for their thoughts and emotions.

Feedback and Reflections Tools There are many ways to give feedback and gather reflection remotely, assuming all of your students have devices and internet access. Emails and phone calls are

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great low-tech strategies for those students who might lack broadband access. A handwritten journal can allow space for a student to reflect even if it’s not seen by others. Some school districts are also distributing worksheet packets for students to work on because of the lack of connectivity. The downside to that is that students know their work will likely go unseen by their teacher unless there’s a strategy for returning the work and providing feedback. When it comes to finding a tool that works for your district and community, try to keep it simple. Tools like Seesaw, Google Classroom, and most LMS programs provide a “stream” of interaction where teachers and students can exchange ideas and feedback. Think about solutions that provide multimodal feedback so that it goes beyond just the written word. For those who do have access, here are some device-agnostic tools that offer a conduit for feedback and also provide space for reflection for students: Seesaw: A favorite of early elementary teachers and students, Seesaw provides opportunities for students to receive feedback from their teachers and also to post reflections in their online journals. The ability to add photos, videos, and audio responses makes the learning feel much more personal. Google Classroom: Teachers gravitate toward a tool like Google Classroom because of its simplicity. Feedback loops are created within the stream, though there isn’t much opportunity built in for individual reflection. Some teachers assign Google Docs within the platform for students to have a space to reflect. Microsoft Teams: This tool from Microsoft is built on the very thing it’s named after: team. You can create hubs for people to collaborate and keep all their tools in the Office 365 suite in one place. The channels built into teams can be ideal for group work or even for setting up a quick video or audio call to provide feedback. Flipgrid: Flipgrid allows for feedback (from peers and teachers) and for reflection. Teachers can post prompts for students to reflect on daily or weekly to stay connected and can also create a space for students to record their thoughts. Bulb: One of the strongest eportfolio solutions on the market, Bulb excels in the area of student reflection. The platform works well on any device and supplements traditional blog writing with the ability to embed video, photos, and HTML. Edublogs: This WordPress-powered solution provides a space for students to blog about their experiences in a format that’s very familiar to those on social media. The free version allows students some access to a traditional blog creation tool while the “CampusPress” pro edition allows for greater controls by the teacher and district.

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COMMUNICATION CHECKLIST CONSISTENT COMMUNICATION

ARTICLES AND VIDEOS:

…… Select days and time of day to send communications

WHAT IS SEL?

…… Sync up communication from all staff, schools, and district …… Use similar tools and methods for communicating …… Support social-emotional learning needs …… Communicate expectations to staff and families

AUDIO VS. VIDEO (YOUTUBE)

BECOME A ZOOM PRO (YOUTUBE)

ZOOM EDUCATION PLAN

…… Using video to stay connected …… Teachers and students have access to hardware to connect

TOP 10 WAYS TO PREVENT ZOOM BOMBING

…… Staff are aware of best practices when on video …… Tools are approved by IT for security and privacy …… Consideration for users without access …… Ease of installation and setup …… Integration with existing systems …… Feedback and reflection

FLIPGRID DISCO LIBRARY

TURNING ON LIVE CAPTIONS IN GOOGLE MEET

USING GOOGLE TOOLS FOR EDU—BLOG

…… Expectations around feedback have been conveyed to staff …… Tools and strategies for feedback are consistent …… Use of reflection in learning is encouraged

SKYPE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

KOLB’S LEARNING CYCLE

…… Students have a way to reflect and give feedback

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RESOURCE LIST RESOURCES FROM OUR PARTNERS: EPSON As educators adapt lesson plans and look for new ways to engage with students while teaching remotely, Epson’s portable, high-performance document cameras along with video conferencing apps enable them to easily capture and display books, maps and charts with clarity. Educators can easily rotate the camera, record audio and video and leverage the Freeze and Capture buttons to save and share presentations. To learn more about how to enhance virtual lessons, watch this video demonstration.

MAXELL The MA-XL1 is an automated and collaborative solution that allows teachers to share content and annotations across WAN/LAN. Teachers can record and stream three channels simultaneously, as well as stream to platforms such as YouTube, Ustream, Facebook, and more. Main features are: Content switching (between the possible 10 channels), Record-StreamUpload, and Interactive remote classroom. The MA-XL1 is compatible with OpenCast, FTP, Panopto, Kaltura, Canvas, Moodle, Zoom and more… whether you’re in a classroom, remote learning, church, or anywhere else. Learn more at www.maxellproav.com.

POWERGISTICS TOWERS PowerGistics Towers are the space, time, and cost saving vertical alternative to traditional laptop charging carts in the classroom. Designed to enhance the learning environment by removing the barrier for students to access their classroom devices, our 100% student managed charging solution returns an average of 55 hours of instructional time to teachers each year.

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MANAGING DEVICES REMOTELY

ECLIPSE_IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

The Challenges Tech Leaders Must Overcome while Supporting Devices Remotely

No one could have foreseen the coronavirus crisis and its effect on our schools to this scale. Some of the sharpest IT minds around the country have had to develop plans to distribute devices and Internet access to students rapidly, train staff, and become 24-hour tech support for their communities. I recently interviewed five Educational Technology leaders from a variety of demographic areas across the country. (Find the list of interviewees in the sidebar.) Some had a version of 1:1 devices prior to this crisis, and they all use different tools for video conferencing and learning management systems (LMS). All have unique and common challenges that they need to overcome on a daily basis.

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How are you handling distribution of your devices to students? AP: Not being a 1:1 district, we were behind the eight ball, so to speak, when this started. As we were on spring break when the crisis hit, we had an opportunity to catch up and try to assemble as many devices as we can from our existing Chromebook carts across the district. Since we don’t have enough to provide every student with a device, we’re starting by giving one device to each family. The device will be checked out to the family’s oldest student at various high schools around our county.

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MANAGING DEVICES REMOTELY

NORMALLY, WE COLLECT ALL DEVICES AT THE END OF EACH SCHOOL YEAR TO HOLD FOR THE SUMMER. IT’S JUST PART OF THE ROUTINE WE’VE ALWAYS LIVED BY. AT THE MOMENT, I’M KIND OF PLAYING THIS ONE BY EAR. SINCE IT’S LIKELY WE’LL REMAIN IN A STAY-AT-HOME SITUATION, WE PROBABLY WON’T COLLECT ANY, AS THESE DEVICES DO PROVIDE OUR KIDS WITH THE SOCIALIZATION THEY NEED WHILE BEING ISOLATED. ­­— BRENT WISE BW: We were 1:1, but we didn’t originally send home all the devices as we held back those for K–1 students. We were hoping to supplement those students with other work, but we quickly got feedback from our community that they had a need for devices as well, so we arranged for parents to come in and check out devices. SM: We refurbished more than 5,000 devices to be distributed. Campuses took the lead on this and reached out to families and the community to see who needed a device and to check on Internet capabilities. Parents completed the loan agreements that we use for our current 1:1 campuses, and then worked out a time with the campus to come and pick up the device. BM: Being a 1:1 school prior to this, many of our older students had taken the devices home. Elementary students kept their devices in the charging cart in the classroom. For this period of time, students who did not already have personal iPads at home were given their school iPad to use. AW: We set up our gymnasium similar to a polling location. We spread out the devices to maintain social distancing and had a check-in area where families could come in during two designated days to pick up their child’s device. It was both efficient and safe, and it allowed us to distribute the devices to all who needed one in less than six hours.

What are you doing for students or families without access? SM: We’re utilizing our transportation department to distribute work packets to those students without WiFi access. We’re also looking at installing some Kajeet Cradlepoints on our buses and putting those in various locations throughout our district for students to get filtered access to our network. AP: Our district is currently surveying families and addressing the need. We know there are families without WiFi connectivity. Our immediate plan is to distribute 500 Kajeet hotspots and 150 T-Mobile tablets that can be used as hotspots to those families in need. AW: We’re trying multiple solutions to address this. Supplying WiFi hotspots is a great immediate fix, but we’re also trying to leverage partnerships with local internet service providers to get access into the households that we’ve identified as having a need. As parts of our community are densely grouped, we’re also asking for neighbors to grant

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access to their networks for their school-aged neighbors. It’s a complete community-team effort. KG: As part of our 1:1 plan already in place, we had identified those families without internet access and worked with cable companies in the New England area to help provide them with reliable connections. In some extreme cases, we’ve provided hotspots to families in need.

How do you support staff and students remotely? BM: We’re using TeamViewer on all devices so if there’s an issue, students can send me their ID and passcode and I can connect to see what the issue is. If there’s a bigger issue, we have someone in our school front office on Tuesdays and Thursdays for one hour. Families can bring in a broken laptop and exchange it for a spare if that’s the step we recommend to them. AW: If a device is broken, we’ve set up lockers on the outside of our central building. These are bolted to the building and monitored. Whenever a student needs a repair, we assign them a locker number and give them a temporary code for them to exchange the broken device with a replacement. We then put the device in a quarantine of sorts for a few days and wipe it down before attempting to repair. AP: We’ve recreated a Geek Squad of sorts. Families can email or call tech support. We use Chrome Remote Desktop to troubleshoot remotely, but if it’s a larger issue, we have them complete a form with their home address. I have technicians who can go to the home and deliver a replacement (using gloves and masks) to their front step and pick up the broken device. Then they wait for the parent or student to physically take the device into their home before leaving. Broken devices are bagged and put into a quarantine for several days prior to repair. KG: When we started seeing more of a need for video conferencing as a way to support both students and staff, we invested much of our efforts in getting teachers educated on the proper use of Zoom as a premium tool. In order for teachers to access premium Zoom, they’re required to get a “driver’s license” of sorts through a brief training and tutorial. This helped us leverage that platform to its fullest potential while avoiding many of the pitfalls you’ve seen in regard to “Zoom-bombing.” SM: In the case of a broken device, we have families make appointments to exchange devices at our buildings. While we try to help as much as we can via email and virtual support, we offer the opportunity to sign up for a 20-minute time slot if there is a larger problem. BW: We dedicated both an email to our helpdesk and a hotline of sorts to a voicemail that the repair technician and I receive. If it’s an instructional issue, I work with the family remotely and via email and chat to help them. If there’s a hardware issue, devices are exchanged with a replacement device at one of our schools during scheduled times with the family.

How do you plan to get the devices backat the end of the year? BM: Normally, we collect all devices at the end of each school year to hold for the summer. It’s just part of the routine we’ve always lived by. At the moment, I’m kind of playing this one by ear. Since it’s likely we’ll remain in a stay-at-home situation, we probably won’t collect any, as these devices do provide our kids with the socialization they need while being isolated. AP: This is a big concern of my department. We’re handing out devices that may never come back and we have to be prepared for that while at the same time communicating with families about the importance

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MANAGING DEVICES REMOTELY of maintaining and caring for the devices. My immediate thought is that we would set up a system similar to our distribution in which there would be drop-off locations throughout our county for families to return devices. It’s too early to tell how long this will go though, so we need to have some flexibility in that realm. AW: Transportation departments could play a vital role in this and they’re staffed with hourly employees who are suddenly out of work. They have access to vehicles for delivery and pick-up, and a dispatch system that could contact parents prior to arrival. We’re working with campus principals and are using buses to deliver replacement devices as needed, so that could be easily turned into a pick-up situation with the proper communication. However, right now, we aren’t thinking about that and are still very much playing it by ear. We want to be flexible in the event that there are expanded summer learning opportunities in our future.

Any other unique challenges that you’ve experienced or that tech leaders should be thinking about? AP: Our plan was to distribute one device per family, but we already encountered a family with eight school-aged kids. Immediately we realized that one device for them would not be very useful. I would advise leaders to have a plan, but to also build in some flexibility for extreme situations. BW: We didn’t initially plan to send devices home for our younger students but parents quickly realized that if they were using their own computer for remote work, their kids couldn’t use it too. Working from home on top of all of this has put a lot of pressure on families to be both parent and teacher. WE’RE RUNNING OUT SM: We’re starting to see a shortage in our supply line for parts. A large majority of our parts OF OUR SPARES FOR come from China and with the pandemic affecting REPLACEMENT AND ARE their production we are starting to see a delay in STARTING TO CONSIDER parts getting to the US. Now, we add this long-term ORDERING OUR shutdown and I’m finding it harder and harder to find REPLACEMENTS FOR replacement parts. NEXT YEAR’S STUDENTS AW: We put in an order for some Chromebook MUCH SOONER THAN chargers to have on hand to distribute. Those usually USUAL. WE THINK IT take two to three days to ship, but we’re seeing lead COULD TAKE MONTHS times of six to eight weeks now. I imagine those are FOR NEW DEVICES TO going to get even longer as this continues. COME IN VERSUS WHAT KG: We’re running out of our spares for replacement and are starting to consider ordering our TOOK WEEKS BEFORE. replacements for next year’s students much sooner ­­­— KERRY GALLAGHER than usual. We think it could take months for new devices to come in versus what took weeks before.

Has anything positive come as a result of all of this? BW: This has pushed many teachers to do things they’ve never done or tried before. I had a math teacher the other day contact me, excited to share how they were using screen recording features to do a virtual whiteboard recording. I think this opens up the mindset and willingness of teachers to use educational technology in enriching ways. KG: Teachers have been forced out of their comfort zones to try new things. We’ve had to quickly establish norms, expectations, and best practices around remote learning, but they’ve all risen to the challenge. I will say that, when it comes to online learning, the asynchronous model is the best model. It allows those students with limited access or families struggling with all of this to have time to learn without a strict schedule or putting kids in front of a device for several hours. AW: I think now, more than ever, we have an opportunity to work with local companies and businesses to make sure our students have the access they need. The issue around equity and access has been a national problem that’s now suddenly being addressed. It shouldn’t have taken this pandemic to do it, but I’m glad we’re all now thinking about creative solutions to solve access issues for our students.

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Thank you to the following district leaders for taking the time to discuss their challenges and solutions. Shad McGaha Chief Technology Officer, Wichita Falls ISD Wichita Falls, TX Enrollment: 16,500 Preferred video conference tool: Google Meet LMS: Google Classroom Student devices: Chromebooks, mostly 1:1 Adam Phyall Director of Technology & Media Services, Newton County School System Covington, GA Enrollment: 20,000 Preferred video conference tool: Webex LMS: Canvas Student devices: Mixed, mostly Chromebooks (not 1:1) Kerry Gallagher Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning, St. John’s Prep Academy Danvers, MA Enrollment: 1,500 Preferred video conference tool: Zoom (premium version) LMS: Canvas Student devices: 1:1 iPads Brent Wise Director of Strategic Initiatives, Mariemont City School District Cincinnati, OH Enrollment: 1,700 Preferred video conference tool: Zoom LMS: Google Classroom/ Blackboard/Seesaw Student devices: 1:1 iPads Brian Mull Learning Design Coordinator, Trinity Episcopal School New Orleans, LA Enrollment: 375 Preferred video conference tool: Google Meet LMS: Google Classroom/Seesaw Student devices: 1:1 MacBook Airs, iPads Andrew Wallace Director of Technology, South Portland Maine Schools Portland, ME Enrollment: 3,100 Preferred video conference tool: Google Meet LMS: Infinite Campus Student devices: 1:1, mainly iPads, some Chromebooks

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Profile for Future PLC

Tech & Learning.com - Best Tools for Communicating to your Remote Learners - May 2020  

Tech & Learning.com - Best Tools for Communicating to your Remote Learners - May 2020

Tech & Learning.com - Best Tools for Communicating to your Remote Learners - May 2020  

Tech & Learning.com - Best Tools for Communicating to your Remote Learners - May 2020