Leading in a Crisis: Supporting Your School Community with Online Tools and Resources
April 22, 2020
Here at EdTec, supporting charter schools to succeed is at the heart of everything we do, day in and day out. As we navigate this difficult time together, this blog series will address various topics to help school leaders identify the tools, resources, and support they need to lead effectively.
Many school leaders across the country are asking themselves, “How do we continue quality learning at home while school is closed?” They are tasked with the unusual challenge of supporting teachers to keep their students engaged through online learning and asking parents to play a central role in the learning process for the next few weeks or even months.
We’re monitoring how schools across the country are managing this challenge and have gathered a list of tools and resources to help school leaders understand some of the options available to help ease the transition and enhance the learning experience. Among them, school leaders will find online communication tools, content and curriculum platforms, a list of companies offering temporarily free or enhanced connectivity services, and online support groups.
Keep in mind that what follows is only a partial listing of tools and resources, and that some may or may not be effective for your requirements. As we can all appreciate, a solution that works for one school or classroom might not work for another.
Online Communication Tools
Maintaining consistent communication with students and parents is critical during this period of remote learning. Here are a few platforms we have come across that may help teachers to schedule check-ins and stay connected with students and families.
Teachers, students, and parents can use Edmodo to communicate and continue education even when in-person learning isn’t possible. Teachers can send messages, share class materials, and access Edmodo’s free Distance Learning tool kit.
Schoology: A PowerSchool Unified Classroom Product
PowerSchool is helping districts and schools across the country get up and running with distance learning by expanding access to Schoology. The Self-Service, Enterprise, and Basic subscriptions are free to use immediately until July 2020.
Pear Deck makes it easy for teachers to connect with learners of every age and ability. Teachers can install Pear Deck as a way to stay connected with students during school closures.
Calendly is a meeting scheduling tool. Now through June, Calendly will support free integrations with video meeting tools such as Zoom to make connecting during the COVID-19 quarantine easier.
Remind helps schools to manage communication by sending messages to students and parents. Remind provides tips on using the free teacher account to support online instruction.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom has lifted the 40-minute meeting limit for K-12 schools so that the platform is accessible for educators transitioning to online learning. Zoom has developed a comprehensive guide for educators, along with tips and tricks for teachers, administrators, and students.
Webex is offering free video-meeting software to K-12 schools to keep classrooms connected through real-time instruction.
Content & Curriculum Resources
As teachers are forced to rapidly adapt to remote learning, they may be searching for high-quality curricular resources and content to include in learning plans. The educational tools listed here are just a few examples of what’s available to help both teachers and parents to keep learning going at home.
The audiobook company is hosting a free set of stories handpicked by the company’s editors, for as long as schools are closed. This resource may be of special interest to teachers supporting English learners.
BrainPOP is now offering free access to schools and families impacted by school closures and is accessible through any screen device.
To empower distance learning, Kahoot! is now offering schools free access to Kahoot! Premium so that teachers can engage students anywhere.
Great Minds provides knowledge-building resources, such as written materials and instructional videos for Grades K-12. They post new video lessons and update their content daily. Teachers can choose their grade level and search for materials and video lessons for students.
Edpuzzle is a platform that allows teachers to take any video and create their own interactive video lessons for students. Edpuzzle is helping teachers to stay connected with students during this challenging time by offering free access to Edpuzzle Pro.
Parents can browse hundreds of TED-Ed Animations and TED Talks designed to spark their child’s curiosity. There are thousands of video-based lessons organized by age-level and subject.
Khan Academy offers free online educational resources including exercises, quizzes, and tests so students can practice and master skills, as well as instructional videos to help students learn. As part of their response to the COVID-19 crisis, Khan Academy is hosting daily social media streams for teachers, parents, and students navigating school closures, and put together guides with practical information such as daily schedules and FAQ’s. Teachers can sign-up for a free teacher account and set up their classroom for remote learning.
YouTube partnered with Khan Academy and other learning creators to bring parents and families fun and educational resources and activities.
Crash Course is a YouTube channel with courses in topics such as physics, economics, U.S. government and politics, astrology, and more.
Wide Open School is a free collection of online learning experiences for kids put together by more than 25 partner organizations including Google, National Geographic, Scholastic, Khan Academy, and PBS, and curated by the editors at Common Sense Media.
Online Learning Guides
Many teachers are teaching from home and adopting methods of online learning for the first time. Here are a few examples of free resources available to help K-12 teachers learn how to use the tools available to them and become more comfortable with online learning.
Google Education: Exploring Distance Learning Resources for Schools Affected by COVID-19
This guide provides suggestions for engaging students through distance learning during school closures, as well as training videos for teachers and school IT administrators.
This resource is an information hub of tools and resources to help teachers teach from home during this time.
Google for Education: Teacher Center
Google has designed free, online training for the digital classroom.
COVID-19 Educational Resources App
This app is a master resource list that is updated continuously, by educators for educators. Teachers may search for specific resources and share and submit resources of their own.
Affordable Connectivity Services for Schools and Homes
This is a partial list of internet providers who are committed to closing the connectivity gap by offering (temporarily) free or enhanced services or waiving fees for families in need.
T-Mobile is increasing the data allowance at no additional cost for schools and students who use their EmpowerED digital learning programs, through May 13th, 2020.
Cox is helping families in need connect to the internet by offering the first two months of their Connect2Compete program for free.
Comcast is offering new families two months of Internet Essentials at no cost. Also, Xfinity Wifi hotspots across the country will be available to anyone who needs them for free.
Charter is offering free access to spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi for K-12 households for 60 days.
The California Emerging Technology Fund has made it easy for schools and parents to search for affordable internet offers to ensure families stay connected to the internet during this challenging time. Parents can also call 1-844-INFO to find out if they pre-quality.
Support Groups & Wellness
Below you will find some supplemental resources such as Facebook groups and a wellness tool that may be helpful in promoting support and wellness among administrators, teachers, parents, and students.
School Administrators Coronavirus Planning Facebook Group
This Facebook group encourages school administrators to collaborate and share ideas amid the current crisis.
Educator Temporary School Closure for Online Learning Facebook Group
This Facebook group supports educators who are planning online learning due to school closures.
Parent Support for Online Learning Facebook Group
This Facebook group provides support for parents who are new to online learning.
In response to the many school closures, Downdog has made all apps free until July 1st so that teachers and students (and their parents) can access wellness practices during this stressful time.
Again, it is important to keep in mind that every situation is different and what works for one school or classroom might not be a good fit for another. We’re hoping the list of tools and resources we’ve shared here will help school leaders to explore some of the options available to them as they work to provide support to teachers, students, and families during this time. Remember, many online tools and resources also provide instructional videos to help your school community learn to use them effectively.
If there are other tools and resources that have been helpful to your school community that you would like to share, please reach out to let us know and we will add them to this list.