10 team-building activities to help during virtual learning

These fun team-building activities can help teacher teams, or classes, bond and maintain social relationships while schools are closed

This story on team-building exercises to strengthen relationships during distance learning, originally published on April 28, was eSN’s No. 1 most popular story of 2020. Check back for our 2021 trends and predictions.

As a teacher, team building is something that comes naturally. We do it to break the ice at the beginning of the year, to build a community in our classroom, and as a brain break when our kids (or the teachers) need a break.

Now that we are all learning and teaching from home, building a community and connecting with our kids is a little harder with distance learning factored in.

Related content: Student mental health goes virtual during a pandemic

Here are 10 excellent team-building strategies to keep the kids engaged and having fun all while learning a little more about their classmates and building a better community.

1. ​Name Game: Every member of the group chooses an adjective that starts with the same letter as the first letter of their first name. They put that adjective in front of their first name, and they have their new name. So for example: Joyful Jill. For an added challenge, you can see if people can remember everyone’s names throughout the conversation.  


How to teach coding and robotics from home

Coding and robotics can be just as engaging when students learn from home--all it takes is a little planning and some creativity

When our school shut down in March, initially, it was for a two-week period. I thought, “Well, this isn’t too bad, we can do a few coding activities from Code.org or maybe put together some Google Slides presentations for when we return.”

Then, two weeks turned into the end of April and my plan had to change.

As the technology teacher in our district, I felt I was adept at communicating with my students online (we are a Google Apps for Education school, and I’ve been a Google Classroom user since its beginnings), but I knew others in our district weren’t quite as tech savvy. I put together a few tutorial videos on how to use Google Classroom, Google Meet, and Zoom for our staff members to use to reach out to their students.

Related content: 3 key parts of a coding and robotics program

As April turned into May, the likelihood that we would be returning to school dropped substantially. Virtual graduations, meal deliveries, and Google Meets became the new normal–a phrase I quickly came to despise. As I’m sure many of you educators out there would agree, we concluded our school year, but it felt like we never really finished.


Here’s the biggest mistake educators make with remote learning

The pandemic has caused a shift to remote learning instead of face-to-face--and presents a unique opportunity for educators across the globe.

This story on the biggest mistakes educators are making during remote learning, originally published on June 4, was eSN’s No. 2 most popular story of 2020. Check back each day for the next story in our countdown.

Education thought leader Alan November isn’t shy about discussing what he believes is a key misstep that many educators are making in shifting to web-based instruction during the pandemic.

Instead of taking the same techniques that teachers have used in their classrooms for years and trying to apply them within a remote learning environment—an experience he compares to forcing a square peg into a round hole—November believes teachers and administrators should view the pandemic as an opportunity to reinvent education.

Related content: Lessons and leadership during remote learning

“We’re trying to recreate the traditional school experience online,” he says. “What we should be doing is looking at models for learning that are very different.”

How to structure remote learning in a way that leads to deeper learning and engagement is a question that remains very relevant, even as the current school year winds down. New guidance on reopening schools from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that students be spaced six feet apart when they return to school, at least initially—and K-12 leaders will have to apply some ingenuity to make this happen.


12 multimedia learning tools for the classroom

Learning is more engaging when educators incorporate digital resources--here are some multimedia learning tools you can try in your classroom

Multimedia learning tools play an important role in classrooms in a number of ways–including, but not limited to, boosting creativity, encouraging student engagement, and helping students learn to collaborate.

Shy students may come out of their shells when allowed to give a presentation via blog post or podcast. Natural leaders may emerge during group work as part of a team presentation assignment. Other students may find their true artistic calling using graphics or creating videos in the classroom.

Multimedia learning tools engage students, and as we all know, students who are engaged in their learning often demonstrate higher academic achievement and take more ownership of their learning.

Related content: 20 top edtech tools

Because there are so many tools and teachers have limited time, we’ve compiled this list of multimedia resources to get you started on your search.

1. iMovie: With iMovie for iOS and macOS, students can browse video clips to create Hollywood-style trailers and 4K-resolution movies. They can even start editing on iPhone or iPad, then finish on a Mac. Students can unlock their creativity with green-screen effects in iMovie for iOS and macOS, placing themselves or their characters in exotic locations with a tap or a click.

2. SoundCloud: Students can use SoundCloud to create and share their own podcast, all from one place. With a Pro Unlimited plan, they can schedule releases, highlight their most popular podcasts, and more.


10 learning resources to use during the coronavirus outbreak

Even as the global health pandemic rages on, the coronavirus has sparked continued concerns about student health, school closures, and how to keep learning

This story about keeping learning going during the coronavirus, originally published on March 7, was eSN’s No. 3 most popular story of 2020. Check back each day for the next story in our countdown.

As confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, grow daily, administrators and teachers are faced with the daunting challenge of maintaining learning while also taking extraordinary precautions to limit the spread of germs.

The Centers for Disease Control has issued guidance and recommendations for school leaders as confirmed cases of coronavirus spread across the nation, and has noted that schools should plan for the possibility of extended closures and should put plans in place to disrupt learning as little as possible.

Related content: 4 ways online learning expands equity

The majority of states and districts have already taken action. Dr. Michelle Reid, superintendent of the Northshore School District in Washington, announced the decision to close all school sites beginning March 5 as district leaders monitor the situation and health department recommendations.

The district’s instructional staff worked with students and teachers to make sure they are able to use the district’s online learning platform, and the district has set up a site with classroom-to-cloud information to help students and parents/guardians. The district is loaning devices and internet hot spots to students without home access.


3 school security technologies that can mitigate health and safety risks

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a sudden need for enhanced safety protocols as schools reopen—here are some school security strategies that can meet that need

In a global crisis, one key area organizations should consider evaluating is their security strategies, policies, and procedures. Existing security systems and new innovations can help mitigate risks during future crises and, in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, help reduce the spread of germs. For many districts, school security systems can help establish safer and healthier environments for students, staff, and visitors in schools—and should be updated to continue doing so.

Related content: Get schooled in cybersecurity

At first, the process and price tag of updating school security systems and policies can be overwhelming, but government and private funds have been established to support initiatives like security enhancement. School leaders must push to find and leverage these opportunities to create a more innovative and proactive security program, especially by focusing on these three improvement areas:

Seamless interoperable communications

In an emergency, quick and efficient communication can make a difference and ultimately save lives. An interoperable communications platform is a critical component of any security strategy, especially in K-12 and higher education schools.


Equity and equality are not equal

Equity in education is absolutely critical for students to achieve their potential--but what does the term really mean?

A rising tide raises all boats. However, it is hard to guarantee equal outcomes in education when students are not starting from the same place, nor are they exposed to the same quality of instruction. People throw around the term “equity in education” so frequently that it has lost significance. Inclusion and respect for diversity is a virtuous and necessary goal for public education, but what exactly is equity?

Writer Robert Longley explained how equity and equality have been misconstrued over the years. Longley states: “Equality refers to scenarios in which all segments of society have the same levels of opportunity and support. Equity extends the concept of equality to include providing varying levels of support based on individual need or ability.”

Related content: 3 ways to bring equity to STEM education

Writer Ellen Gutoskey added, “Equality has to do with giving everyone the exact same resources, whereas equity involves distributing resources based on the needs of the recipients.” Gutoskey points out, “equality is about dividing resources into matching amounts, and equity focuses more on dividing resources proportionally to achieve a fair outcome for those involved.” Gutoskey and Longley both put forth excellent analysis. However, the communist slogan is similar, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” was put forth by Karl Marx in Critique of the Gotha Program.


7 tips for home-based learning

Straight from a teacher directly impacted by the coronavirus, these suggestions can help educators prepare themselves and their students for home-based learning

This story on how to make the most of home-based learning, originally published on March 16, was eSN’s No. 4 most popular story of 2020. Check back each day for the next story in our countdown.

Imagine yourself sitting on a beautiful beach in the Philippines, enjoying a relaxing week off from school when your phone buzzes with messages. Your flight back to China has been cancelled. Your school is closed. You need to be ready to support teachers thousands of miles away who must start “home-based learning” on Monday.

That’s what happened to me, and as much as I wanted to chuck my phone into the ocean and go back to my coconut drink and my Michael Connelly novel, I knew I needed to get to work. The coronavirus had caught us by surprise and as a technology coach I knew I needed to work with our administrators, teachers, and learning support team to figure out a way to use the digital tools we had at our disposal to piece together an experience that would enable us to keep students connecting and learning from home.

Related content: 10 resources to keep learning going during the coronavirus

That was over a month ago. My school, based in Shanghai, China, still does not have a set date as to when campus instruction will resume. But as our home-based learning program has gone through numerous changes, tweaks, and modifications, we’ve effectively “built a plane in the air” and have learned quite a bit.

As many American technology coaches now find themselves in the same position I was a month ago, I encourage you to consider the following as you create your own home-based learning program and build your own airplane mid-flight:

1. “You must put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others” – You are no good to your students if you do not take care of yourself first. This is a stressful time. In our situation, we have teachers all over the world staying at hotels, bunking with friends or family, and responsible for providing home school for their own children as well as preparing lessons for home-based learning. You need to self-advocate for your own care and know your limits. Reach out to your team when you are overwhelmed and work together to share the load. If you are an administrator, make sure you ask your teachers about their situation and ask yourself if your expectations are reasonable.


How to help struggling readers during online learning

Education specialists dive into how educators and parents can support struggling readers, ELL students, and students with dyslexia in an at-home learning environment

This story on supporting struggling readers online, originally published on June 30, was eSN’s No. 5 most popular story of 2020. Check back each day for the next story in our countdown.

Parents who might be uncomfortable with continuing their role of teacher this fall can find solace in this fact: authentic teachable moments happen outside the classroom all the time. If your student or child had to rapidly transition to an at-home learning environment as a struggling reader, an English language learner, or one with dyslexia, there are many ways that the support they were receiving in school can transfer to their home.

Creating authentic learning experiences such as having your child help prepare meals, shop, and participate in outings to parks or museums can improve literacy. Simply engaging in conversation in the language spoken at home around shared experiences, explaining your thinking, and asking open-ended questions so your child can share their thoughts, facilitates a deeper level of communication. This builds metacognition, which is key for comprehension and reading success.

Related content: How we reinvented our district’s reading program

As an implementation coach and educational specialist for a reading program, we would like to share two simple tips no matter what area of reading your student struggles with: finding effective resources and strategies, and building background knowledge. Students who struggle with reading need repetition, practice, and familiarity to keep momentum going. Providing your student with authentic experiences and background knowledge on the topics they are reading gives them a head start on reading comprehension. There are many ways parents and educators can further support their readers, whatever their need. We broke down specific strategies you can use to make learning at home as effective as possible.

For your struggling readers

Set specific goals: A helpful way to begin is to identify some simple goals for reading. For example, have your student use their finger to ensure they stop and look at every word rather than guess or skip words. Another goal may be to pause whenever they see a period, since many struggling readers miss punctuation. Discussing the content with your student is vital for building reading comprehension and retention. For younger children, that may involve them retelling the story. Older students may identify the key points in the text.


6 resources for student mental health during COVID-19

The coronavirus has closed schools, and many students may need help regulating their mental health and dealing with anxiety

This story on student mental health resources, originally published on April 9, was eSN’s No. 6 most popular story of 2020. Check back each day for the next story in our countdown.

In addition to physical health concerns related to the COVID-19 outbreak, the global pandemic is causing most people–especially children–mental health stress and concerns, too.

With schools across the country closed indefinitely and with states in various stages of social distancing or more severe lockdowns, students have lost their daily connections to friends and teachers. These abrupt changes in schedule can amplify anxiety and worry about what may happen to family members and friends.

Related content: How to be a successful virtual teacher during the coronavirus

Experts have urged parents and caregivers to limit children’s screen time, remain calm when discussing the pandemic and measures states are taking to spread its transmission.

According to researchers at the University of California, Irvine, many people experience psychological distress resulting from repeated media exposure to the crisis.