Webinar Available – Making Virtual Learning Work: Choosing Sites, Apps and Systems
This second-in-the-series of Emergency National Virtual Discussions went deep into the weeds of online learning, explaining in great detail which apps, sites and systems our nation’s leading education leaders are using to navigate their new virtual learning realities.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, Learning Counsel CEO LeiLani Cauthen and her team have been spending hours in conversation with school districts across America. They discuss the technology mix and how districts are putting all this pieces together. “So, when that comes up,” said Cauthen, “what are your choices? There are so many choices. It’s literally in the tens of millions. There are around 7,000 companies in the field right now, just doing professional grade. But then when you get into the repository and library-like places including the Teachers Pay Teachers types of places, it’s just unbelievable the amount of stuff that’s out there.
“So I think for emergency sake, a lot of districts when they went into this new thing that we’re in, they were calling us at the Learning Council, and they were saying, ‘listen, we need to move right now. What do we do?’ And I said, well, swallow the red pill (Matrix movie reference), because right now you’re going to have to be willing to pay for it because you need professional grade. If your teachers don’t have all your lessons in your learning management system and they’re going to be offline for weeks, that’s going to cause you to lose audience.
“One of the things you have to be thinking about as you pick resources is what does your time look like? If you look at the traditional teacher time and what they’re doing to prepare or do data entry in order to share out to students, it’s a lot right now. It was a lot before this. So now when you add on apps for every little thing, it can overwhelm your teachers very quickly. It’s not enough to say go and they just figure it all out on their own. You’re going to have to put some guidance around what you’re doing. The first thing we started telling districts when schools closed was you need to create community.”
Dr. Jasna Aliefendic, Coordinator of Tech Apps, Garland Independent School District said, “Just like everybody else, we got caught in the middle of our spring break. So, the very first thing was to extend our spring break for a week. While the spring break was extended for our students, our entire curriculum team was busy working on making a plan and for that first week we provided online resources that students could access. At the same time, our technology department was working on logistics on how we could distribute out the devices that we have to students that don’t have devices at home. When we put in place our emergency plan for what kids could do, we published it on our website for our region, and as a sample for other school districts in the area.
“And that was well received by parents by community and by students. At the same time, curriculum coordinators started developing learning plans or learning guides for students in case we had to stay at home for a longer time. So, when it was officially announced, I’m proud to say that we actually were ready for that. Not completely ready, but we try to follow our scope and sequence. Most of our textbooks are web-based and we distributed our devices to every single child or at least every household that needed a device. So, whether that’s an iPad or a Chromebook or some kind of a laptop, everybody has a device to work on.
“It was lots of preparation from our technology team and we are very, very thankful for that. But on the curriculum side, we try to follow our pacing guide and our scope and sequence. Our students are already on a single sign-on. We use ReadyHub for that. (Enboard). So, we are actually teaching; our curriculum is placed in Google drive. All our teachers are trained on a Google Classroom. So we share this new learning documentation and new learning plans with teachers so that they can adopt them and post to their Google classroom.
“We also create a parent guide every week for our parents and that guide has objectives and activities that students will be working, as well as what kind of assignments students will be doing at secondary schools. The elementary level parents receive one guide for all the courses. It tells parents what to expect. And obviously we’re not telling kids, ‘Hey you have to finish this by the end of the day today;’ we give them a whole week to finish. We understand that many parents are working from home and obviously it is challenging for them. And some of our high school students have to watch their siblings while parents are working. Many of them have jobs that they work at local grocery stores, etc. So, we are very mindful of that.”
Kahle Charles is the Assistant Superintendent for Assessment, Curriculum and Instruction at St. Vrain Valley Schools. He was asked what he was using for online resources, and what he used starting out at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. “We saw this as an opportunity to further online presence and get everybody on the same page though we were fairly organized ahead of this time,” said Charles. “We said we’re going to have two choices for learning a learning management system, which has been crucial for what we do and anybody that’s not using the two learning management systems, we are going to organize you into them. We have one for PreK-3 and one for 4-12. We’ve been providing training, we’re also able to use our already purchased conferencing system and provide training for that.
“So we’ve got everybody going on WebEx. That’s our choice for conferencing. We also organized our human capital around that too. Each one we call learning leaders, the curriculum coordinators, instructional technology coordinators, learning technology coaches and so forth. They’ve been assigned to one specific school to provide real time online support for teachers and for principals. That has helped us tremendously as we’ve gone through this.”
Watch the discussion
This second-in-the-series of Emergency National Virtual Discussions went deep into the weeds of online learning, explaining in great detail which apps, sites and systems our nation’s leading education leaders are using to navigate their new virtual learning realities. It is a very important discussion, and you will learn the strategies you need to ensure that your learners are getting the best possible education during this challenging time.