The need to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus has led to an explosion of distance and hybrid learning approaches. Tools and pedagogies vary by school and community, and the use of digital learning approaches can help ensure continuity and personalization of learning for all students. The following sections provide resources and best practices in digital learning collected from and shared with Connecticut's educational community.
To suggest additions to the resources listed in the following sections, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or share via social media using the #KeepCTLearning hashtag. You may use the links below to jump to specific groups of resources:
- NEW: The January 2021 report, "Home Internet Connectivity: Barriers and Opportunities for K – 12 Students," reflects the responses of school leaders to questions about remote learning in their communities. Feedback from respondents casts light on the factors that may vie against broadband and technology adoption among families, as well as exemplary outreach approaches to engage students in remote and hybrid learning.
- The Commission's report, "School Technology: Current and Planned Investments to Support Remote Learning," represents feedback from the the spring of 2020 on the plans of K – 12 leaders to invest in connectivity, devices, professional development, software, and other aspects of digital learning. The survey data behind this report also helped determine device and connectivity needs that Governor Lamont's Everybody Learns initiative has addressed beginning in the summer of 2020.
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:
- Apple: Apple Teacher Learning Center, Learning from Home, Quick Guides to Support Learning from Home, App Store: Learn and Study from Home, Remote Learning Video Series, Preparing Apple Devices for Home Use
- Google: Edu OnAir, Chromebook App Hub, District Distance Learning Survey
- Microsoft: Remote Learning in Education
Planning Frameworks and Checklists
School leaders may find the following resources helpful in considering plans for remote learning, organized alphabetically by publisher:
- NEW — School Reopening Resources: As districts prepare for the fall, they should leverage the following state and national guides in developing plans to support in-person and blended learning:
- CT State Department of Education: Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together
- CoSN: Back-to-School Planning Rubric
- Getting Smart: Reopening Schools Webinar
- New America: Pandemic Planning for Distance Learning: Scenarios and Considerations for PreK–12 Education Leaders
- SETDA: National List of State Reopening Plans and Resources
- 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.
- 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:
- Ed Tech Collaboration Day Archive: Presentations and resources from Fairfield University's annual Ed Tech Collaboration Day. Streamed presentations and resources provide insights into specific tools as well as best practices in digital learning:
- EdAdvance – CAPSS Alternative School Sessions: This plan comes from Jonathan Costa of EdAdvance with input from the Technology Committee of the Connecticut Association for Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), intended to foster conversations about alternative learning sessions. While not finalized or endorsed by any State agency, it may provide assistance in planning for remote learning. Some Connecticut districts have used the document to plan for alternative learning opportunities in the event of extended school closings:
- Educause: The national professional organization for technology in higher education has a host of articles and resources to assist administrators as well as professors in shifting to online (remote) learning:
- Eduro Learning: Another set of resources that derive heavily from overseas communities that have experienced extended school closings comes from Eduro Learning:
- International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE): The leading organization supporting digital learning has developed a compendium of resources at www.LearningKeepsGoing.org. That site includes a link to Providing Effective and Equitable Digital Learning for all Students, an extremely valuable framework for districts considering all aspects of remote learning. The news and reporting group EdSurge, newly acquired by ISTE, offers a series of learning continuity Webinars. Schools may also find the Extended Closure Digital Learning Compendium useful, a resource that helps ensure equitable opportunities to learn outside of school for extended periods of time:
- 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:
- LearnLaunch: This Massachusetts-based digital learning incubator and think tank provides an interactive planning tool that guides district teams through all aspects of remote learning:
- 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:
- Plans and Lessons Learned (Various): This crowdsourced drive of digital learning plans reflects the lessons learned from leaders in international schools, including many in Asia, that have been closed for weeks but are still delivering instruction remotely: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1VipbmytyUVINjIQ2VsxS5zezVgsfUFJb
- RESC Alliance: The Alliance of Regional Education Service Centers and Connecticut State Department of Education have developed a comprehensive set of resources that districts may add to and leverage regarding a host of topics, from devices to tools used to communicate with families.
- Safe Computing Guide for Families: Resources for parents covering a range of topics from account setup, antivirus protections, and digital citizenship:
- State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA): The recently launched eLearning Coalition provides a professional learning network (https://www.edweb.net/eLearning) as well as a comprehensive guide to online learning, with sections covering standards, educator supports, tools, and sample lesson plans.
- Tech in Pedagogy: Best practices, exemplars, and resources from Fairfield University professor Josh Elliott to support teachers in their use of digital tools to support blended and remote learning.
- Tech Toolkit for Families and Guardians: Google resource kit for parents in their efforts to promote effective at-home and blended learning for students of all ages:
Connecting Students Outside School
A number of national and state programs exist to get students online. These initiatives include the federal Emergency Broadband Benefit and Emergency Connectivity Fund as well as Governor Lamont's Everybody Learns program to ensure that all K - 12 Connecticut students have access to a computer, broadband Internet connection, and other supports for remote learning. Visit this page for details on how to connect students:
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. In addition to Connecticut's Everybody Learns initiative, the following programs help connect learners, educators, and families.
Community Hotspots: Among other assurances, Internet service providers who signed the March 2020 Keep Americans 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 for Students and Teachers: In addition to opening access to the general public, a number of providers have special programs to connect teachers and families with school-aged children to the Internet. See the following resources for details on both home Internet and cellular hotspot programs for families with school-aged children as well as educators:
- Connecticut Providers (list in English and Spanish, courtesy of Craig Szymanski of Berlin)
- Digital Bridge (national list of providers and equity resources): www.digitalbridgek12.org
- Digital Equity Toolkit (Commission guidance and recommendations)
- SETDA eLearning Coalition (national index of providers): www.setda.org/priorities/equity-of-access/digital-equity/programs/
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.
NEW: Cellular Hotspots: Schools, libraries, and universities often purchase or lease cellular hotspots (i.e., "MiFi" devices) for students and patrons without home Internet access. The Commission has developed guidelines to help institutions with the often confusing task of identifying relative costs, features, and benefits of these programs across providers:
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:
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 two installments of 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 once they confirm these resources comply with Connecticut privacy statute:
National List of Providers
The following sites provide searchable lists of free or reduced-price software offers made available following recent school closures:
- Digital Promise: www.digitalpromise.org/online-learning/online-learning-resources/
- ISTE: www.learningkeepsgoing.org/resource-directory
- LearnPlatform: connect.learnplatform.com/covid19/
- Technological Horizons in Education (THE) Journal: www.thejournal.com/Articles/2020/03/13/Free-Resources-Ed-Tech-Companies-Step-Up-During-Coronavirus-Outbreak.aspx
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.
- Common Sense Media guide for teachers and parents on safe video conferencing
- CoSN legal and privacy considerations for the use of video conferencing
- Education Week Guide to Safe and Effective Videoconferencing
- Google Meet guidance for distance learning
- Microsoft Teams remote learning guide
- WebEx guide for parents and educators
- Zoom tips and tricks for teachers (State of Nebraska)
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:
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.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
Free Summer Camps
For a list of free online activities for students, visit Summer Camp Hub, https://summercamphub.com/free-online-summer-camps/.