Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology

Remote Learning

Schools and colleges working to support remote learning may leverage technology to help ensure educational continuity. While tools, approaches, and levels of connectivity may vary by community, digital learning holds great promise in keeping students engaged and learning outside of school. The following list of guidance and resources represents a collection of best practices shared within the educational community. To suggest additions, e-mail doug.casey@ct.gov, or share via social media using the #KeepCTLearning hashtag. You may use the links below to jump to specific groups of resources:

>>  Guiding Considerations

>>  Planning Frameworks and Checklists

>>  Connecting Students Outside School

>>  Free or Reduced-Price Software

>>  Free and Open Educational Resources

 

Guiding Considerations
In developing continuity plans, districts should take into several key considerations:

  • Staff Preparedness: How ready are educators to support online learning using current and possibly new tools to communicate and collaborate with students? Do educators have the devices, broadband connections, and skills needed to do so effectively outside of school? Consider that many teachers and administrators have families of their own who may be affected by school closures. What central office staff supports are available to assist educators before and during school closings?

  • Student Preparedness: While survey data indicates that nearly three-quarters of high schools and more than half of middle schools in Connecticut run 1:1 computer programs, with devices dedicated to individual students, an estimated eight percent of K – 12 learners in our state do not have Internet connections at home. And many students — whether connected or not — have individualized education plans (IEPs), varying levels of language proficiency, and other situations that may make it difficult to shift to an online-only learning experience. How will schools support learners who need more intensive accommodations, with the goal of providing equal opportunities for all students? School leaders should consider a mix of online and analog (e.g., print) resources that students can leverage in both facilitated (if possible) as well as self-paced instruction.

  • Your Technology Toolset: Districts already have a set of tools they use to organize, facilitate, and assess learning. Typically these fall into “stacks,” such as Google Chromebooks paired with Google Classroom and the G Suite of collaboration apps. Other districts may use Microsoft, Apple, or other combinations of technologies, along with collections of digital books and apps that support specific learning objectives. Teachers may leverage general-purpose applications to record and share instructional videos with students. Work with your district’s technology and instructional leadership teams to identify the tools your staff and students are familiar with, and avoid introducing new tools at the last minute, if possible. Resources from a few of the major technology platforms appear below:

 

Planning Frameworks and Checklists
School leaders may find the following resources helpful in considering plans for remote learning, organized alphabetically by publisher:

  • Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) Coronavirus Page: The national professional organization for K – 12 technology leaders provides a host of resources and planning tools, from instructional design to data security.
    https://www.cosn.org/coronavirus
  • Digital Learning Collaborative eLearning Days: This compendium of state policies offers a useful implementation checklist on pages 10 – 12, addressing issues from teacher preparation and supports to accommodations for students with special needs:
    https://www.digitallearningcollab.com/s/DLC_eLearning2019.pdf
  • Kathleen Morris: This educator and blogger has created a compendium of Resources for Teaching Online Due to School Closures. This sweeping overview of distance-learning considerations: balancing online and offline time, providing realistic goals for students and their families, and lots of checklists and templates for use in planning:
    https://www.theedublogger.com/teaching-online-school-closures/
  • Next Vista: The organization has published Continuity Considerations, an excellent overview with guiding questions that address existing practices and tools in the context of your district’s culture and resources:
    www.nextvista.org/advice/continuity/index.phtml

 

Connecting Students Outside School

Internet and Devices
To support digital learning, Students and their teachers need access to the Internet, a device (computer or tablet), technical support, and the digital literacy skills to leverage these resources. The following programs help connect the educational community.

Community Hotspots: Among other assurances, Internet service providers who signed the March 2020 Keep America Connected Pledge agree to open their wireless networks to the public through May 13, 2020. A partial list of Connecticut providers includes Charter, Comcast (Xfinity), Cox, Frontier, and Altice (Optimum). Students of any age should be able to log into these hotspots wherever they are available.

Home Access: In addition to opening access to the general public, a number of providers have special programs to connect families with school-aged children to the Internet. See the following page from the SETDA eLearning site for details on both home Internet as well as cellular hotspot programs for schools:

https://www.setda.org/priorities/equity-of-access/digital-equity/programs/

Craig Szymanski of Berlin has developed a helpful list of Connecticut providers to share with families (English and Spanish).

For exemplary ideas on how to connect students outside of school, national policy and funding discussions, and other insights on digital equity, visit the Benton Foundation's set of resources at https://www.benton.org/coronavirusandconnectivity


Televised Options

While a significant digital divide still exists in Connecticut, the "television divide" remains much smaller, and schools may wish to leverage televised options:

  • Local Carriers: Some local cable companies have begun curating educational content for students to access from home. Check with the carriers in your town or city to see what options they provide.
  • Local Access Television: Many communities in Connecticut run local-access television stations. District leaders can partner with these public providers to schedule educational programming, especially for younger grades. Click here for a list of local access stations provided by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

 

Free and Reduced-Price Software

Schools should try to leverage the digital tools they already use, to minimize disruption as students and teachers shift to online learning. However, teachers and leaders may wish to consider the many offers from educational technology providers recently made available.

Note on Data Privacy: While Connecticut's data privacy laws remain in effect, Executive Order 7I (March 21, 2020) has allowed for flexibility in compliance by schools and educational technology providers. For details, visit the Commission's page on Student Data Privacy:
https://portal.ct.gov/DAS/CTEdTech/Commission-for-Educational-Technology/Initiatives/Student-Data-Privacy

For a list of software that districts may use (compliancy-pledged), visit Connecticut.LearnPlatform.com (free - requires registration).

State Department of Education Resources
The Connecticut State Department of Education has published Resources to Support Student Learning During School Closures Due to COVID-19,  a list of apps and tools, listed by grade and subject, that districts may consider using.

National List of Providers
The following sites provide searchable lists of free or reduced-price software offers made available following recent school closures:

Build and Share Your Own List
District leaders and educators can build and share their own personal list, curated from thousands of ed tech products using LearnPlatform's My EdTech List, available free of charge: mylist.learnplatform.com

Tips and Best Practices in Video-Based Instruction
The following resources provide legal guidance, practical tips, and insights on how to use specific tools to support safe, engaging learning experience using common videoconferencing services.

 

Free and Open Educational Resources

Teachers looking for free and openly licensed materials to support learning can leverage the GoOpenCT Web pages for the following resources:

>> Guidance, Governance, and Leadership

>> Training and Professional Development

>> Content Collections

>> Open Lessons and Units

>> Content Evaluation (Quality and Standards)

In addition to the above resources, Connecticut schools may take advantage of the Skills21 Personal Interest Project program free of charge:

Skills21 at EdAdvance - Online Personal Interest Project (Free Online Program and Support)
Skills21 at EdAdvance is offering an Online Student Personal Interest Project (PIP) beginning the week of March 16, 2020. Adapted from Skills21’s Middle and High School Capstone program, an Online Personal Interest Project is uniquely suited to extend meaningful learning online during this period. To support students and teachers from grades 5-12, Skills21 will be delivering instructional videos, live webinars, student templates, and an online environment for students, teachers and mentors to collaborate on each student’s Personal Interest Project.  All of these materials are available asynchronously so that students and teachers can work on them when it is convenient/possible for them.

How to Get Started
For teachers - Go to pip.skills21.org and create a Teacher Account using a school Google account. If your district does not use Google accounts, email us at info@skills21.org and we will create a manual login for you and your students. Skills21 will automatically be notified when you sign-up and we will email you a short video explaining how to use the platform as you support your students on their Personal Independent Projects. 

For students - Go to pip.skills21.org and create a Student account using a school Google account. If your school does not use Google accounts your teacher will provide you with a login. Be sure to select your school from the school drop down menu when you sign-up. If you don’t see your school please email us at info@skills21.org. Once you have successfully signed on, you will see a HELP link at the top right side of the page (next to your name). That link will provide a series of short videos to get you oriented to your Personal Interest Project.