Charting an Educational Course for Success in Choppy Pandemic Waters.

Marianthe Williams discusses how to teach effectively during the pandemic.
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Charting an Educational Course for Success in Choppy Pandemic Waters.
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Marianthe Williams, School Administrator and Director of Technology for the River Dell Regional School District in Oradell, New Jersey, took a journey back in time to March of 2020 to help break down her district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Call it good fortune, or maybe just innovative planning, but the River Dell School District already created the environment and infrastructure to provide remote learning for students and teachers. So, when the pandemic hit, it was ahead of the curve. On March 11, it knew school closures were imminent, and Williams said the staff used a PD day to plan for online learning.

“We’re a Microsoft school,” Williams said. “So, we had all the 365 tools, years of PD with the HP device, and this was the game changer; everyone had a digital pen.”

With all of the digital tools in place, something the district was slowly rolling out, Microsoft Teams, kicked into high gear once things moved to remote learning.

Fast forward to the fall of 2020, and a new challenge emerged. Williams explained there was a combination of kids learning from home and kids learning in person. “Even though there’s a camera on your laptop, now there’s a barrier,” Williams said. “And everyone is six feet apart, and it’s much harder. You can’t just turn your laptop around.”

It was essential to make sure every student had a webcam to communicate with every student, whether in class or online.

One of the benefits of online learning Williams found is having one-on-one interactions between teachers and students. The situation was more manageable when everyone was doing online learning in the spring. This fall proved more challenging when teachers met new students with masks on their faces. “Even though you’re there, and there is a bond, there is a barrier too,” Williams said.

With her district’s ‘we got this’ mentality, Williams believes there are no obstacles it cannot overcome.

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The eLearning Lessons We Can Take into Post-Pandemic Life

Randy Rodgers, Director of Instructional Technology for Judson ISD, chats with Kevin Hogan, editor-at-large of eSchool News, about the technology and strategies he’s implementing to continue education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The eLearning Lessons We Can Take into Post-Pandemic Life
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  • Most teachers and students now have figured out how to utilize the technology that suddenly become required in March.
  • Student evaluation remains a challenge, especially with some state standards lagging behind technology growth.
  • Resources utilized during the pandemic still can be important tools going forward.

In March, most school districts were sent scrambling when the start coronavirus pandemic made it clear it was not wise to conduct school on campus – at least not in the traditional way.

Some students are back in the physical building, while others are learning entirely remotely. But, with nine months of time to develop strategies and best practices, not only are districts now starting to get a clearer picture of how to best educate students, but teachers are, as well.

Randy Rodgers, Judson ISD’s Director of Instructional Technology, said one teacher he works with struggled to get the hang of the learning management system but is now a campus leader. It’s hardly the only collaborative moment he’s seen among faculty members during the pandemic.

“One of the things that has been really exciting is that, when I’m not sure of an answer, one of the teachers will chime in and say, ‘Oh, I already figured that out!’” Rodgers said. “I think their skill level is going to be dramatically [increased]. They’re not going to be out there writing code, necessarily, but, as far as just the basics and how to integrate technology into their instruction, I think that’s definitely going to be a plus.”

That will require districts to remain committed to a different way of learning, even when it’s safe for classrooms to be full and everyone to be learning face-to-face once again. Rodgers said he hopes the gains made through hard work this year won’t be thrown away.

“We’ve got to maintain that presence. We’ve got to get better at integrating it seamlessly into our face-to-face instruction,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got that opportunity now.”

With more time to plan what to do post-pandemic than what to do at the start of it, Rodgers said districts should start thinking about how the technology they’ve invested in and trained their students and teachers on can continue to help improve the learning process for years to come.

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How automation keeps student bullies in check—both in-person and remote.

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How automation keeps student bullies in check—both in-person and remote.
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Even a pandemic won’t stop bad student behavior and in many cases inflames it. In this conversation with eSchool News, Laura Lockhart, director of student services of Keller Independent School District in Texas talks about how the district digitally updated their bullying reporting process to keep students safe and meet federal reporting regulations.

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STEM in the time of COVID—How one district keeps innovating in “The Weirds.”

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STEM in the time of COVID—How one district keeps innovating in “The Weirds.”
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Like every educator, Frank Pileiro has had to pivot. As Supervisor of Technology at Linwood Board of Education in South Jersey, he has the added pressure of overseeing their robust maker space programs while managing the current hybrid teaching setup. In this conversation with eSchool News, Frank explains how to keep engaging students, even if it’s from a distance.

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Looking For The Little Wins

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Looking For The Little Wins
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Everyone has a crazy COVID story. For Brigantine, NJ Superintendent Glenn Robbins, it goes something like this—lead a school district through a global pandemic having hardly met the students, parents, or faculty. In this conversation with eSchool News, Glenn details the never-ending variables of getting back to school in 2020 and how the priority should be well-being first. In some cases, technology can help not hinder.

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Game On—How one district is using gaming to build community and serve student well being.

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Game On—How one district is using gaming to build community and serve student well being.
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James O’Hagan is not playing around. As Director of Digital and Virtual Learning for the Racine Unified School District in Wisconsin, his job entails not just managing the virtual learning program in response to the pandemic, but also supporting library services, as well as developing his passion project of Esports. In this conversation with eSchool News, James talks about the essential role Esports can play when it comes to student health, mental wellness, social-emotional learning, as well as connecting to collegiate and career pathways.

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Time to Get Real—How one rural district is dealing with both connectivity and equality for fall.

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Time to Get Real—How one rural district is dealing with both connectivity and equality for fall.
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For Todd Dugan, Superintendent of Bunker Hill CUSD #8, a small, remote district in Southern Illinois, issues surrounding back-to-school COVID-19 style are not abstract but all too real. In this conversation with eSchool News, Todd tries to keep the glass half full as he looks to take advantage of these incredible disruptions to education.

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Time to Get Real with Equity

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Time to Get Real with Equity
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How one rural district is dealing with COVID-related connectivity and equality for fall.

For Todd Dugan, superintendent of Bunker Hill CUSD #8, a small, remote district in southern Illinois, issues surrounding back-to-school COVID-19 style are not abstract but all too real.

Some of the district’s biggest priorities include:

Rural struggles–and successes–as COVID hit Address learning loss that comes with inequity As school resumes, freedom of choice In this conversation with eSchool News, Todd tries to keep the glass half full as he looks to take advantage of these incredible disruptions to education.

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A Device in Every Hand—How one district handles the chaos of pandemic asset management

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A Device in Every Hand—How one district handles the chaos of pandemic asset management
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For Sandra Paul, Director of Director Of Information Technology at the Township of Union Public Schools in Northern New Jersey, the goal is simple—every one of the 7,200 kids in her district must have a device this fall. How to accomplish this? Not so simple. In this conversation with eSchoolnews, Sandra details her asset management tactics for whatever scenario her district winds up with—in person, hybrid, or remote.

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Feedback and Flexibility—Two Keywords for One District’s Goal for Fall.

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Feedback and Flexibility—Two Keywords for One District’s Goal for Fall.
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As the newly installed Director of Student Information at Barrington School District in suburban Chicago (IL), a district with 9,000 students and 13 schools, Phil Hintz has an added challenge to an already impossible situation—discover unprecedented solutions in an entirely new environment. In this conversation with eSchool News, Phil details how the district is reinventing itself through data collection, making tough logistical decisions, and inspiring both faculty and parents to stretch their imaginations when it comes to instruction.

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