Distance Learning with Common Sense: Small Steps to Move Forward

Barbara Huth of Common Sense sits down with Emily Dillard, coordinator of instructional technology, and Jami Martin, technology integration specialist, of Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia. The three discuss some small steps schools and districts can take, now that schools in some areas are closed for the remainder of the year because of COVID-19.

As schools across the country continue to close due to the coronavirus, we’re all doing our best to navigate teaching and learning from home. But let’s be honest: It’s not easy! In this twice-weekly video series from Common Sense, we sit down for short discussions with educators from all over the country to learn how they’re coping with school closures, putting together distance-learning plans, and addressing some of the challenges that come with teaching remotely.

Recorded on 3/31/2020.

Emily Dillard @EDsTechTalk
Coordinator of instructional technology, Alexandria City Public Schools, Virginia

Jami Martin @JMartin4edtech
Technology integration specialist, Alexandria City Public Schools, Virginia

Barbara Huth (host) @Barbara_Huth
D.C. Metro education program manager, Common Sense Education

1. This is tough. You’re doing a great job. It’s not going to be perfect. Do what you can to make sure your students feel connected, supported, and safe, and the learning will follow.

2. Connect with your families. This is hard for parents, too! Use tools like Zoom or Google Voice for connecting with families. Remember, your parents are learning at home too. Suggest screen-based and non-screen-based strategies for families, like those shared on Alexandria City Public Schools’ COVID-19 Response Page: https://www.acps.k12.va.us/acps-at-home.

3. Use tools you know, and think of how you can use them differently. You don’t have to be the jack-of-all-trades. Start with using your learning management system to its full potential; it will help with organizing workflow and can give you a place to provide video announcements so that students can see your face and hear your voice, which is so important for staying connected during this time.

4. Consider privacy and terms of service for tools. You may need permission from parents or your district when using different tools. When sending out videoconferencing links, make sure you use a secure method to send codes and links to students. Common Sense Privacy Evaluations can be helpful here: https://privacy.commonsense.org/evaluations/1.

5. Think about equity from the start when you’re creating lessons. You can’t expect students to be in a certain place at a certain time. We don’t know what other responsibilities they have when they’re at home. On a district level, reach out to existing partners to see how they can support creating equitable access to the internet.

Are you looking for resources to help during the school closures? We’ve got you. Common Sense has free tips and tools for educators and families to support the transition to at-home learning. Get remote teaching resources, family education materials, and research-backed strategies to ease stress and encourage learning:

Join the conversation in our Facebook group, Common Sense Educators: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CommonSenseEducators/.

See more videos from the series: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8TjVyuBdsCm83SWlcCqv3yfnORe0g7_q

Common Sense Education supports K–12 schools with everything educators need to empower the next generation of digital citizens. Our innovative, award-winning Digital Citizenship Curriculum prepares students with lifelong habits and skills, supports teachers with training and recognition, and engages families and communities with helpful tips and tools. ​Schools everywhere rely on our free curriculum, expert advice, and edtech ratings to help kids thrive. Visit us at https://www.commonsense.org/education/.

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