4 ways to keep your school resilient during distance learning 2.0

The first phase of distance learning shocked education systems across the nation as schools were forced to migrate students and staff to distance learning in a week’s time, leaving many struggling to simply “make it work.” Fast forward six months and schools are still dealing with the weight of the pandemic–but are now confronted with new, added challenges.

On top of preparing for a new year, which already comes with a demanding check list, our staff and students have the added stress of potentially achieving an academic year through a completely digital learning environment – which means it’s not just about getting laptops and connectivity into the hands of students – it’s about an ongoing, optimal online learning environment.

Related content: Engaging distance learning starts (and continues) with collaboration

Whether schools are operating completely remotely or implementing a hybrid version that incorporates both in-person and distance learning, we all have to ensure that our devices – whether being used by administrators, teachers, or students – are fully operational, secured, and kept up to date for the duration of the entire school year, no matter what it may bring.


Staying Connected During COVID-19 [Teacher Spotlight]: Madeline Caballero

In partnership with eSchool News, Illuminate Education is spotlighting teachers in a series recognizing educators, the way they have moved instruction online during COVID-19, and how they have prioritized the needs of their students.

Madeline Caballero
English Teacher, 7th-9th Grade
Fajardo, Puerto Rico

“Be grateful for what you can do and for what you have.”

What inspired you to be a teacher?

When I grew up in the 60s and 70s in New York, I didn’t have a lot of great teachers. They made me feel less than because of my Hispanic background. I would never want to make someone feel like that. So when I was eight years old, I knew I wanted to be a teacher so that I could help make a positive difference. And now I’ve been teaching for 40 years.

Related content: How a middle school teacher tackles online learning

Today, I don’t have to teach, but I love to teach. I even retired at one point and went back to teaching. There’s just this desire to see kids progress. You want them to be educated and to teach them well. Students can really enrich your life. They’re so intuitive—they notice everything and are so clever. They are why I continue to teach.

What has been your experience teaching in another country?

Well, it’s really hard to teach in a foreign country because you don’t have a lot of resources needed to teach. When I taught in the United States, even the public schools gave you some supplies. But here in Puerto Rico, and also when I taught in South America, it’s not the same and we don’t get a lot. Teachers are the ones who have to buy everything. In the States, schools will just throw away old computers or projectors, but we could really use those here on the island. We really rely on donations. We don’t care if items are old.


How educators are battling pandemic stress

In a recent principal training session, a participant raised his hand and asked: “How can I afford to invest in social-emotional learning when my students have fallen so far behind?” EdSource reports.

The real question is whether we can afford not to invest in practices that support students’ social, emotional AND cognitive development right now. If we really care about student success, then we need to honor the biology of our brains — our interconnected centers of emotions, focus and learning.

Read more.


3 ways to improve online learning security

Over the coming weeks, students, teachers and caregivers alike have adjusted to the modern-day classroom – many of which consist of a full or hybrid online learning model. This virtual shift brought on by COVID-19 comes with many unique challenges, and one of the most concerning is ensuring optimal online learning security across new and emerging technologies.

School districts across the country have rolled out new technologies to accommodate virtual learning options, ranging from video conferencing tools to educational mobile applications. But, more often than not, deploying these solutions is based first and foremost on convenience and accessibility, with online learning security falling by the wayside.

Related content: Why security experts are concerned about online learning

Making matters worse, today’s sophisticated cybercriminals are well aware of the opportunity presented by online learning, targeting their attacks accordingly. In fact, recently, the Humble Independent School District in Texas suffered a cyber attack during the first day of online learning, disrupting the district’s servers and causing students and teachers to resort to offline measures. Given today’s complex, evolving threat landscape, this may not be the only instance we hear of malicious actors taking advantage of vulnerable online learning systems and software.


4 ways teens can jumpstart their careers from home

For teens, summer usually means playing sports, volunteering at summer camps, hanging out with friends, or working a summer job. Because of the pandemic, many of these activities were put on the shelf this year.

While they may not be able to have the same in-person summer experiences they traditionally look forward to, young people can still have a fun and educational summer with their friends by taking part in virtual opportunities – even preparing them for future careers.

Related content: Inspiring students for college, career, and beyond

Nearly all hiring managers indicate they are having trouble finding qualified job candidates to fill open positions because of gaps in technical skills or gaps in soft skills like effective communication. By 2030 the skills gap is estimated to cost businesses trillions of dollars worldwide.

Career experiences like internships help students discover what they love and teach them key skills employers look for when making hiring decisions.


What Are Students’ Top Interests for 2020?

What do Billie Eilish, Serena Williams, Albert Einstein, and SpongeBob SquarePants have in common? They rank among students’ most popular interests, based on responses collected by NoRedInk from millions of students in grades 5–12.

Top student interests

NoRedInk is an adaptive writing curriculum that engages students by personalizing exercises according to their interests. Below are students’ top choices from the 2019–20 school year across several categories:

  • Actor: Tom Holland
  • Actress: Zendaya
  • Animated character/superhero: Deadpool
  • Baseball player: Aaron Judge
  • Famous person: Dwayne Johnson
  • Football player: Odell Beckham Jr.
  • Historical figure: Albert Einstein
  • Musician: Billie Eilish
  • NBA player: Kobe Bryant
  • Tennis player: Serena Williams
  • TV show/movie: SpongeBob SquarePants
  • WNBA player: Candace Parker
  • Video game: Super Mario Bros.

Students are continually invited to suggest new interests for NoRedInk. Based on these suggestions, the company has added 180 new interests for the 2020–21 school year, bringing the total number of interests on the site to nearly 1,000. Top new requests included the anime series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, author Jason Reynolds, and K-pop band Twice! NoRedInk also added a new category for Olympic athletes.

“Students write more frequently and grow more quickly when they’re deeply engaged in their learning,” said NoRedInk Founder and CEO Jeff Scheur. “Ensuring that our English Language Arts curriculum is always infused with exciting, relevant content allows us to significantly boost student achievement while representing the diverse interests of the students we serve.”

About NoRedInk

NoRedInk builds stronger writers through interest-based curriculum, adaptive exercises, and actionable data. It is used by students and teachers in more than 60% of all districts in the United States. For information, visit www.noredink.com.


GoGuardian Finds Three Factors That influence K-12 Student Engagement Online and In-Person

The GoGuardian Research and Insights team today announced its comprehensive findings on the factors that create an engaging learning experience in K-12 schools, both online and in-person, in its 2020 State of Engagement Report.

The report released by GoGuardian, an education technology company supporting thousands of K-12 schools and over eight million students through powerful tools and research, captures field research from the GoGuardian Research and Insights team, with insights from more than 450 students, teachers, administrators and policy leaders across the U.S. Through this eight-month research project, they identified the factors that impact an engaging learning experience and strategies that school boards, administrators and teachers can implement to help improve student engagement. Because the COVID-19 Pandemic has restructured U.S. classrooms to an online or hybrid model, this report also includes a supplemental analysis of existing research and literature on engagement in online learning, to provide context on how the themes discovered in the field research apply to the current distance learning environment.

“Engagement levels in a learning experience are dynamic and context-driven, but our research found remarkable commonalities across many school communities and stakeholder groups. We’ve found a few consistent themes relating to the variables that impact engagement and the indicators that signal students are engaged in what they are learning,” said Mariana Aguilar, director of research at GoGuardian. “The lessons that created the most engaging experiences for students often were a combination of opportunities that encouraged discussion, gave students learning choices and allowed students to create. These elements are immensely transferable both in the online and in-person classroom and can facilitate a positive learning environment, whether in a synchronous or asynchronous setting.”

Three key areas that can support and facilitate engaging learning experiences were found in the research—developing effective instructional practices, picking effective lesson content and creating a productive classroom culture.

Instructional practices that teachers use to create an engaging learning experience for their students include:

  • Performing regular checks for student understanding
  • Articulating clear objectives and directions for the lesson
  • Developing students’ metacognitive skills required for learning
  • Serving as a facilitator or a “guide-on-the-side” instead of a “sage-on-the-stage”
  • Encouraging productive play and creative expression

Lesson content for students that is differentiated to the learner’s needs, contextualized to convey relevance and designed to minimize distractions were found to consist of:

  • Matching content to students’ learning level
  • Making lessons relevant and relatable to students’ lives
  • Finding digital content designed for student focus

A productive classroom culture that facilitates engagement for students includes:

  • Cultivating positive and productive student-teacher relationships
  • Being consistent in classroom management
  • Showing investment in students’ long-term success
  • Creating an empowering and future-focused learning space

The State of Engagement 2020 Report also explores elements in the 21st-century classroom environment and those factors that consider and contribute to whole-child education. To learn more about the 2020 State of Engagement Report and GoGuardian Research and Insights, click here.

About GoGuardian

GoGuardian believes that education is the highest point of leverage for improving society and that digital learning can meaningfully advance educational outcomes for every student, school, and district. GoGuardian helps thousands of K-12 schools and districts maximize the learning potential of every student by providing solutions that enable more productive and safer digital learning. Its products help educators identify learning patterns, protect students from harmful and distracting content, and support mental health. To compile data on how educators can use technology to improve learning outcomes, GoGuardian has invested in a Research and Insights team, composed of psychology, advocacy, and education research specialists. Read about their study on the factors that influence student engagement in the 2020 State of Engagement Report.

Learn more about GoGuardian’s industry-defining analytics, student engagement, and self-harm prevention products at www.goguardian.com.


Discovery Education Experience Updates Tailored to Support Students and Educators for Remote, Hybrid, or In-Person Learning

Discovery Education–the global leader in standards-aligned digital curriculum resources and professional learning for K-12 classrooms–today introduced updates to the award-winning Discovery Education Experience platform designed to support educators and students in distance and hybrid learning environments. The updates focus on increasing functionality, capability, and personalization for all users.  

Experience, Discovery Education’s flexible K-12 learning platform, connects educators to a vast collection of compelling high-quality, standards-aligned content, ready-to-use digital lessons, and professional learning resources vetted by Discovery Education’s expert content team. Together, these resources give educators everything they need to facilitate instruction in any learning environment and create lasting educational impact.  

Now, teachers and students can take advantage of new features inside Studio, the embedded creation and collaboration tool, as well as ready-to-use SOS instructional strategies templates, a reimagined Professional Learning Center, and comprehensive English Language Learner (ELL) Center. Learn more about each update below: 

Studio Redesign and SOS Instructional Strategies Templates 
The Discovery Education Experience powerful Studio tool has been completely rebuilt with features that continue helping educators engage students and add flexibility to remote, hybrid, and in-class teaching and learning. These updates to the in-product authoring tool let teachers and students build content Boards and new Studio Slideshows to create their own lessons and presentations, search and bring resources directly inline from across Discovery Education, and safely create and collaborate in one dynamic platform. 

Educators can get started with new SOS templates that incorporate these ever-popular strategies into grab-and-go digital lesson activities or start from scratch to add content and elements like gifs and emojis that fit the interests of their students. Additionally, new Studio Quizzes empower educators with the ability to easily assign content, check for understanding, increase differentiation for groups or per student, and monitor student progress wherever learning is taking place. 

Professional Learning Center 
To continue building educator capacity and confidence, the Discovery Education Professional Learning Center has been reimagined with pathways for teachers and leaders that meet them wherever they are on their digital education journey. The informative step-by-step guides, strategies, and Hot Topics are now accessible in curated channel format. 

English Language Learner Center   
Only available to Discovery Education Experience partners, the new English Language Learner (ELL) Center provides additional professional learning, instructional support, and relevant content connections for educators to differentiate learning for these ELL students in and out of the classroom. Educators can find ready-to-use instructional strategies templates and engaging, relevant content collections to incorporate into lessons, including Virtual Field Trips, podcasts, audiobooks, and native language support. 

Along with these important updates, the Discovery Education team continues adding, contextualizing, and organizing exciting new content and timely resources to Experience each month in response to current events and the ever-evolving needs of educators. These resources, sourced from trusted partners, reviewed, and curated by Discovery Education’s team of content experts and aligned to state and national standards, help educators bring the outside world into teaching and learning every day. 

Finally, Experience works within school systems’ existing infrastructure and workflows. Through expanded partnerships with Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom, Schoology, Canvas, and Clever, integrating Experience into existing IT architecture is easier than ever. 

With these key updates to Experience, our teachers and students now have even more accessible learning content at their fingertips,” said Rhonda Parmer, Associate Superintendent Campus Development at Pasadena Independent School District. “I feel confident in our ability to keep students connected to learning, no matter the changes that may arise. 

Iteration and adaptation are key aspects of good teaching, and are qualities built into Discovery Education Experience,” said Discovery Education President of K-12 Education Scott Kinney. “Each change made to our content reflects the direct input and needs of educators and students across the country. Discovery Education is proud to support education wherever learning is taking place.” 

For more information about Discovery Education’s digital resources and professional learning services, visit www.discoveryeducation.com, and stay connected with Discovery Education on social media through Facebook, follow us on Twitter at @DiscoveryEd, or find us on Instagramand Pinterest. 


About Discovery Education
Discovery Education is the global leader in standards-aligned digital curriculum resources, engaging content, and professional learning for K-12 classrooms. Through its award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia resources, and the largest professional learning network of its kind, Discovery Education is transforming teaching and learning, creating immersive STEM experiences, and improving academic achievement around the globe. Discovery Education currently serves approximately 4.5 million educators and 45 million students worldwide, and its resources are accessed in over 140 countries and territories. Inspired by the global media company Discovery, Inc., Discovery Education partners with districts, states, and like-minded organizations to empower teachers with customized solutions that support the success of all learners. Explore the future of education at www.DiscoveryEducation.com. 


Copyright Clearance Center and EL Education Make it Easy for Schools to License Trade Book Content During Pandemic

Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. (CCC), a leader in advancing copyright, accelerating knowledge, and powering innovation, in coordination with participating publishers, is providing US schools and districts that have adopted the EL Education Language Arts Curriculum the ability to easily obtain permission to use grade level texts for distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many schools across the country have moved to hybrid or distance learning. Since closing their doors in the spring, students lost access to schoolbooks. Those that have purchased classroom copies of the supporting texts for the EL Education Language Arts Curriculum have asked for a way to provide teachers and students with permission to reuse those texts. Without an easy licensing service, it would be inefficient for school districts to purchase, distribute and recover potentially thousands of additional copies of the required works for those students without access to e-book editions. As a consequence, schools are seeking permission to photocopy or scan the texts in the EL Education Language Arts Curriculum to permit easy access and distribution.

CCC, EL Education and participating publishers have combined permissions into a single-source license covering the reuse of all participating texts as part of EL Education’s K-8 Language Arts Curriculum. Participating publishers include Boyds Mills & Kane, a division of Astra Publishing House; Holiday House Publishing, Inc.; Kids Can Press; Prestwick House, Inc. and more.

EL Education offers a full Open Education Resource (OER) curriculum for K-8 classrooms reaching nearly 500,000 students. EL Education’s curriculum is built around authentic, high quality texts that give students the opportunity to dig deeply into academic topics and help them make connections between their academic learning and the real world. Access to texts is fundamental to the success of the curriculum and for student learning.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need for schools and districts to give students flexible access to books and other course content,” said Emily Sheahan, Vice President & Managing Director, CCC. “With so many schools offering a hybrid in-school/at-home model or an all-online program, we’re pleased to partner with EL Education for flexible, cost-effective licensing solutions that help ensure students have access to high-quality texts.”

“COVID-19 has increased the need to simplify online access to book content for both students and teachers as we all face a 2020-2021 school year with so many uncertainties,” said Scott Hartl, President and CEO, EL Education. “By collaborating with CCC and leading publishers, we can empower educators to continue the joyful learning that comes with our curriculum and the books that it relies on – regardless of whether students are back in the classroom or learning from home.”

Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) builds unique solutions that connect content and rights in contextually relevant ways through software and professional services. CCC helps people navigate vast amounts of data to discover actionable insights, enabling them to innovate and make informed decisions. CCC, with its subsidiary RightsDirect, collaborates with customers to advance how data and information is integrated, accessed, and shared while setting the standard for effective copyright solutions that accelerate knowledge and power innovation. CCC is headquartered in Danvers, Mass. with offices across North America, Europe and Asia. To learn more about CCC, visit www.copyright.com.

EL Education is a leading K-12 nonprofit empowering teachers to transform schools in diverse communities across America. For more than 25 years, EL Education has brought to life a three-dimensional vision of student achievement that includes mastery of knowledge and skills, character, and high-quality student work. By promoting active classrooms that are alive with discovery, problem-solving, challenge, and collaboration, EL Education’s curriculum inspires teachers to fulfill their highest aspirations and motivates students to achieve more than they think possible.


Loyola Blakefield Delivers Professional Audio to Unique Spaces on Campus with Renkus-Heinz Solutions

Loyola Blakefield is a Jesuit preparatory school for boys in grades 6-12 that has operated since 1852. Its 60-acre campus in Towson, Maryland boasts several academic buildings and an array of student-centered facilities, such as a spacious dining hall, athletics complex, and common areas. The school’s mission centers upon delivering a superb academic experience coupled with spiritual formation in the Ignatian tradition. It also provides a variety of elective and co-curricular activities to their more than 940 students – including athletics, performing arts, cyber science, and speech & debate.

With such a wide array of activities and programming on campus, performances and presentations take place in several locations. When it came time for the school to upgrade its Dining Hall with an improved sound system, it was important to meet a vision that saw the space as a flexible and dynamic setting bolstered by an integrated audio system.

Steve Morill, IT Director for Loyola Blakefield, envisioned the many possibilities for the space with the deployment of a state-of-the-art system. Morill manages the school’s technology infrastructure needs and understands the influence and importance of audio/visual tech in a learning environment, including its unique role in content sharing and comprehension.

“This system allows our facility to be used for everything from morning prayer to emergency announcement,” said Morill. “It is a popular space for special events of many sizes with ever-changing seating arrangements. We want to offer the best possible learning environment for our students, and this space posed many challenges — the Lee Hartman and Renkus-Heinz teams did a great job for us.”

From providing audio support for guest speakers and professional development programming to welcoming incoming students and their parents, Loyola Blakefield needed a sound system that could provide the flexibility, reliability, and intelligibility required for both daily use and special events.

“We explored a couple of manufacturers when we first looked at the space,” said Mike Flaherty, Sales Engineer at Lee Hartman & Sons, Inc. “We had concerns about the aesthetics, and we didn’t want to invade the space with too many speakers. However, we wanted to ensure that the sound worked well in this acoustically challenging area. It became obvious with those needs that we’d be going with Renkus-Heinz.”

The Dining Hall at Loyola Blakefield is not a traditional school cafeteria. It has a crisp, modern look that incorporates stunning woodwork and stained-glass windows. The need to keep audio away from those reverberant surfaces was key to a successful design.

To achieve this, the project relied on Renkus-Heinz’ ICLive X Series, which makes use of Renkus-Heinz’ cutting-edge digital beam steering technology. With Renkus-Heinz digitally steerable arrays, integrators are empowered to put sound where it’s wanted: on the audience. The result? Superior sound in any environment.

Further, Renkus-Heinz allows for custom color designs on most products, ensuring that speakers always blend in with the surrounding space.

The Loyola Blakefield Dining Hall now utilizes two arrays of ICLive X loudspeakers. Each array is made up of two ICLX units, which provides a perfect fit for the space and allows for meetings of all sizes to be hosted when food service isn’t active.

“Once we had the speakers installed, we spent about 20 minutes aiming the beams through the RHAON software,” said John Hurley, Engineer at Lee Hartman & Sons, Inc. “The sound went from pretty good when they weren’t aimed at all, to truly amazing.”

Hurley said that level of quality resulted in a very happy customer.

“You always end up impressed by Renkus-Heinz,” Hurley said. “You know when they are part of the integration that the job is going to be done very well, and the customer will be beyond happy — and that was the case at Loyola Blakefield.”

About Renkus-Heinz
Headquartered in Foothill Ranch, California, Renkus-Heinz, Inc. is the worldwide leader in the design & manufacture of audio operations networks, digitally steerable arrays, powered & non-powered loudspeakers, system-specific electronics & fully integrated Reference Point Array systems. www.renkus-heinz.com