Changing times, everyone is stressed and scrambling; each trying to do their best and to meet the needs of our community while using new tools and doing it all remotely.
We can do this.
Is it going to be the same? No. Is the same, only at a distance, what our community needs? No. The kids, the parents, all the teachers and admin need to maintain our community- not just the academic learning, but the important parts of the community of people caring and being cared for.
One piece of my job is to try to put all the pieces together, to meet folks where they are as far as their comfort level with tech tools. My goal is to make it easier for the teachers, and to make it work for the students and parents. Aside from setting up a whole slew of accounts and a portal for HES parents to access, I have also been attending as many of the PD opportunities that I can manage and finding out how others are working through these issues at their schools. If you need to gain more skills, whether it is in delivery of content or how to use a specific tool that your department or school has decided to use, there are resources out there.
I will be compiling all the PD resources, not the ephemeral ones, but the lists, slide decks, etc that you can pull out and reference on a shared drive for HPS, but in the meantime, here's some PD that may be helpful right now
3/31 - Tuesday @ 8:00 p.m.: Grades 6-12+ Educators - Hosted by John O’Neill and Erin Fisher
4/2 - Thursday @ 8:00 p.m.: Grades PreK-5 Educators - Hosted by Chris Gosselin and Rayna Freedman
The link to join is http://meet.google.com/xjk-cing-ftd
Sorry I seem to have misplaced a week or two as we all scramble to get up to speed and to help one another figure out what we are actually doing and how we can do it. Now that I think we have some of the basics down, or at least have figured out some of the parameters, what's next? Hoping to get some guidance from the state level as to what we, here in Massachusetts, are doing- enrichment?- distance learning?-dealing with equity issues? Lots and lots of questions. My biggest concern at the moment is how to provide continuity- both academically and to maintain the fabric of community- while we deal with the many aspects of accessibility.
So many of the edtech companies have come forward to offer their products for free as we try to reach out to all of our students and families. Although this is cool, a word of caution, don't introduce brand new tools if you can help it. Enrichment only, not for assignments if there is a learning curve. If your students have been using digital tools in class, try to stick to the known, as the whole method of lesson delivery is totally new to most of us. It overloads the teachers, the students and all of the families as we struggle to find the time, the tools and the means to distribute lessons or enrichment or just to reach out to build and sustain community.
One of the many webinars I have attended over the last 2 weeks was the SEDTA webinar last night, Supporting Students with IEPs During eLearning Days. After registering, I , along with 8000 others tried to get onto the edweb system. Needless to say, it didn't work. Luckily there is a recording, which you can access at edweb. AEM is offering a series of webinars coming up to help teachers use UDL in their lessons to reach all of the learners.
Here is more info from their page:
The AEM Center is hosting a series of webinars, each providing a deeper dive into a specific topic related to accessibility. Visit our AEM Events page for full details about each webinar.
So where do you sign up for any of these? Right here. A word of warning- hop onto the webinars on the early side if you can- they fill up fast. They are recorded if these dates/times don't work for you.
So what's next?
Our district is working hard to take the continuity plan and pull the teacher resources into our shared drive and to look carefully at the resources we are presenting to parents. Right now it is pretty overwhelming. Hopefully by the end of the week, we can begin to have it a bit more organized and have all of the HPS teacher resources in one place instead of filling your inboxes.
Ideas to Share
I could fill a book right now with all of the links I have collected, friends have shared, etc... It is a bit too much. If you like overwhelming - check out my Wakelets or this one. Here's a spreadsheet for all the spreadsheet lovers out there... and this is only the tip of the iceberg.
One of the things I have been hearing over and over again as we all prepare for any potential school closures is to essentially KISS- Keep It Simple... I tend to collate giant lists of potential tools, thinking that it's helpful to have lots of choices to match teacher/student needs and styles. Although I still believe in choices, right now, the tools that we need to focus on are the ones that we know as teachers, and the ones that the kids know how to use. That said- what if you haven't been using many digital tools at all? Well, the tools we need to look at do not need to all be digital- good ole paper and pencil work for most things and we don't have the equity issues.
If your school is trying to narrow the range of digital tools down to lighten the load, what are a couple of tools that you can learn and teach your students, given a week or two? What do you need? A way to communicate, a way to share lessons and stay connected. Here's a few tools to look at that may be helpful.
But, remember, if we actually have to close school, you can't be messing about learning new tools. Use the tools you and your students know, and lessen the cognitive load, as the whole thing will be stressful enough.
Screencastify or Nimbus look to be good choices. I haven't used Screencastify in a while, but according to Richard Byrne their latest update was a good one. Check out his post here.help.screencastify.com/ Screencastify is a chrome extension. Get it here.
Nimbus is another good choice, also a Google Chrome extension. Get it here.
We've been talking about using either Zoom or Google Hangouts/Meet. There are pros and cons of each, but I kind of favor Zoom, thinking I have more control. Check them out yourself.
We all know communication is key, especially if we are not able to actually meet in the classroom. How will your students get their lessons? How to keep parents in the loop? We are fortunate to have Google Classroom for grades 3-12 in our district. Kindergarten would like to use a blog, second grade already uses SeeSaw, preK wants to use physical packets with newsletters and materials. All of these can work. If you haven't used Google Classroom, it's pretty easy to set up and put your assignments in. SeeSaw is an easy to use platform as well. A class website, using Google Sites, or Weebly or Wix can do the job. Choose a tool that you already use or ask for help to learn the basics of a new one. Your LMS may have built in communication tools.
Ideas to Share
I have enjoyed attending edcamps for the last ten years or so, attending #edcampBoston, #edcampCT, #edcampKeene, #edcampNQ, #edcampwesternmass, #edcampGrafton, #edcampWorcester, #edcampAccess and more. What do I find appealing about edcamps? I get to choose what to learn, get to share what I have learned/tried, get to find answers to questions that I have, make connections with others who face the same challenges, brainstorm ideas. I don't have to sit 'n git through presentations that have nothing to do with me; I can get up and leave a presentation that isn't working for me and find a conversation that works. If I cannot meet my needs at edcamp, it is on me- not the fault of a well-meaning admin team who is trying to meet the disparate needs of a district and failing to address my needs.
So- what did I learn at #EdCampBoston?
My biggest take away by far was a session with Laura Beals D’Elia, one of the tribe of library goddesses on
Diversity in Picture Book Collections.
Laura is now over at Westborough and she has created an amazing padlet of diverse books. She led us through her discovery of how to assess a collection and how she is addressing diversity in her library. Not being a librarian, I hadn't a clue. I wish I lived closer so that I could take her course, sounds like an intense learning experience that we could all benefit from. So- what did she share? Here are the notes that Nancy et al took for the session. Here is the searchable database. One thing to note- this is a database- a list... not a list of recommended books- just a list. You can learn more about the way this came togetherhere. Laura's padlet has various categories, from family and friends to poetry to science. These are books that she has chosen to buy for her school library. Below is just a small sample of what you will find https://padlet.com/lauradelia11/tx9e8r7f2x0z
Another session that I enjoyed was Streamlining Classroom Routines with Tech. This seemed to be more middle/high school teachers, but there were things that I have not tried that seem to work for others, thus are well worth checking out.
We started out with using QR codes for sign out sheets- bathroom, hall passes, etc. I have seen various versions of this over the last few years. Since not all classrooms allow student cell phone use- a simple way is to have a spare chromebook with a link for the qr code- or just to the google form for the hallway/bathroom/nurse pass. This will document who signs out- when and where. Joli had a blog post with examples a while back.
A lot of teachers were excited to share their success with ZipGrade and GradeCam- neither of which I have used ( nor anticipate using). If you have a lot of this kind of grading to do, these apps must be a godsend. https://www.zipgrade.com/ or https://gradecam.com/
Teachers seem to promote using the chrome add-on -Pear Deck for Google Slides This is a quick and easy way to change a static presentation into an engaging lesson.
Another site that I haven't used is ClassCraft. The teachers who use this- love it. It is not free. The teachers at edcampBoston were talking about $60/year- but it sounds like it double that... It is gamified PBIS as far as I can see. You can add quests- like school work and give points for all sorts of things, collaboration, etc. So check out the videos below and see if you like it.
There were several others shared, EdPuzzle, Flippety.net, etc. You can check out the noteshere. And these were just 2 of the sessions I attended on Saturday. It was worth driving down to the Microsoft HQ in Burlington, learning and connecting with friends.
But, you don't have to travel that far if you live in western Mass, because EdCamp North Quabbin is right around the corner. Check it out here: https://www.smore.com/dhv24-edcamp-north-quabbin-is-coming?
One last thing to share...
Lisa Highfill created a great multimedia text set for Read Across America 2020. Check it out here Remember you can just go to file>make a copy to have your own copy of this that you can share with your students. It doesn't matter if it's March 2nd or not... great resources.