Digital tools are available to assist educators in communicating with students and families, facilitating distance or online learning, and creating engaging instructional and learning opportunities for students. The lists below include options districts/schools may want to investigate or utilize in continuity of learning plans.
Education Law 2-d and Part 121 of the Commissioner’s Regulations outline requirements for school districts and BOCES related to the protection of the personally identifiable information of students, as well as some teacher and principal information. As districts develop and refine continuity of education plans related to school closures they should be mindful of privacy and security laws and regulations.
When working with a third-party contractor, such as a computer software company, that receives student data, districts must ensure the contracts in place with these contractors are compliant with privacy and security laws and regulations. Agreements created in electronic form, sometimes referred to as a click wrap agreement, in which a user must agree to terms and conditions prior to using the product or service are subject to Education Law 2-d requirements. For more information, contact your local RIC or BOCES.
- Traditional communication tools, such as phone, e-mail, websites, and popular common social media channels
- Notification tools - Tools such as the below can help educators stay in contact with families and older students (through messaging, chat, photofeed) without sharing personal contact information, and will translate messages into 35+ languages.
- Video/web conferencing tools - Depending on the available features or type of license, educators can use online conferencing tools to connect with students synchronously; interact through video, audio, and chat; and show a screen. Teachers can also set up collaborative work sessions between older student groups and/or record lessons to post online for student reference.
- Zoom: Zoom has temporarily made their video conferencing tool free for teachers and students. To being using Zoom complete the Zoom K-12 School Verification Form.
- Google Hangouts Meet / Microsoft Teams - Google is temporarily providing free video conferencing for teachers and students using Google Hangouts Meet along with additional online learning services through July 1, 2020. Microsoft is offering a free six-month trial globally for a premium tier of Microsoft Teams.
- WebEx, GoToMeeting, AdobeConnect, etc. - Other videoconferencing providers may be available or offering extended free trials to assist schools during extended closures.
A large number of educational technology tools exist to assist educators in creating engaging and quality learning experiences for students. Schools and districts are encouraged to consult with local curriculum, instruction, and educational technology experts for suggestions. Technology tools can assist teachers with providing instruction and developing learning experiences that introduce, build on, and reinforce content knowledge skills and foster the 21st Century Skills, which include Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Problem Solving.
Tools for Instruction can be used to
- Deliver instruction synchronously
- Record instruction for students to view asynchronously
- Curate resource collections and/or "playlists" (menus of learning experiences)
- Create interactive lessons
- Build assessments, polls, checks for understanding, and learning games
- Facilitate small group discussions or think-pair-shares
- Create personalized learning experiences to meet students' needs
Tools for learning can facilitate students' ability to
- Collaborate on a team project
- Develop and deliver/publish an individual or shared presentation or product
- Explore and learn about the world outside
- Conduct peer reviews / edits, or receive feedback on work from teachers or experts
- Create media (academic, creative)
- Communicate with others to build cultural awareness
- Reinforce learning through research-based practices (graphic organizers, concept maps, etc.)
- Learning Management System (LMS) - LMSs are software applications that allow educators to administer, document, deliver, and track online learning. Depending on the system, educators can upload content, create activities and assessments, and communicate with students all within a closed system. Districts should reach out to their local RIC to find out which LMSs are supported regionally. Common LMSs include
- Google Classroom / GSuite for Education - Google offers free productivity and management tools specifically for education. Google Classroom is one product in G Suite for Education, which also includes Google Drive, Docs, Sheets (spreadsheet), Slides (presentation tool), and more. Classroom works with GSuite for Education so that instructors and students can communicate easily, create classes, distribute work, and stay organized.
- Edmodo: Distance learning tool for managing classrooms. Edmodo has always been a free service.