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Online Tools for Schools

Online Tools for Schools

Students and families rely on school as part of the everyday structure of their lives. During this public health emergency, it is more important than ever to continue services that keep students safe, healthy, and connected to their school community. This guidance is provided to support districts as they implement Distance Learning for All students.

ODE recommends that districts start by assessing the capability of students and families to engage in learning activities while away from school. How can instructional staff best communicate with each student and their family during this closure (e.g. email, phone, videoconference, or other)? In the beginning, it is best to use tools that are familiar to your staff and students rather than implementing something new. Also consider the assets that students bring and leverage resources that can be found in their homes. There are a lot of resources and strengths that will come to light in new environments. Begin by creating the conditions that will allow for learning to occur and attend to student well-being (as well as your own). Student fluency and understanding of the appropriate uses for technology should also be supported with direct instruction and clear expectations. Once the conditions for learning are present, review content that was covered before the school closure before introducing new content.

Districts should also determine which students and staff have consistent access to the internet, and what form that access takes (web-enabled devices, smartphones, or other). This will help determine the best way to deliver learning resources to students. Much of this information may already reside within the district’s student information system. Districts will need to determine how to reach families with no access to email or internet, as well.

The glossary below includes important definitions of terms commonly used in online learning contexts. These terms may be unfamiliar to some district personnel. Clear communication requires shared understanding of terms. Building a shared vocabulary is an area of need as districts plan for implementation of online support systems.

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This section contains resources to help families who lack internet access at home, or only have internet access through their smartphone. Not all solutions will be available to every family or in every region.

Oregon Internet Service Providers (ISP) details local ISPs commitment to the FCC’s Keeping America Connected pledge and new customer sign-up offers during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Oregon Lifeline Discounts

National Internet Service Providers

  • Comcast is providing internet service for $9.95 per month to low-income families in their service area through their Internet Essentials program.
  • Xfinity hotspots are currently available to anyone who needs them for free. Visit Xfinity for a map of available hotspots. 
  • AT&T is providing internet service for $10 per month to families who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or the National School Lunch Program through their Access from AT&T program. For additional information please see their COVID-19 Response.
  • Spectrum offers their Internet Assist​ program to provide low-cost internet service to qualifying families. Additionally, Spectrum is opening their wifi hotspots for public access.
Cellular Providers (MiFi "Pucks")
Districts with wireless hotspots might consider loaning these to families without other internet access options.
  • Verizon
  • TMobile - $10/Mo. 2GB Cap - $20/Mo. Unlimited
  • AT&T
Instructions for Smartphone Tethering (Using cellphone as a WiFi Hotspot)
​WiFi on Buses
  • Suggested:  Mount wifi routers (i.e. Cradlepoint) on buses.  Point the DNS through district/ESD DNS (i.e. Securly).

​Districts or schools that are seeking to build capacity for online learning will carefully consider the regulations that need to be met to replace your current in-person “brick and mortar” school with an online school (see “Navigating Impacts of Instruction” in ODE’s COVID-19 FAQ).

Student Data Privacy​

Children's Internet Protection Action (CIPA) Compliance

Administrators

  • Provide expectations, guidelines, and processes for supporting the agency and participation of all students [including students with individualized Education Programs (IEPs), students who are emergent bilinguals (EBs), and other populations with individual needs]. These should include coordination among general education, special education, assistive technology (AT), and educational technology personnel.
  • Schedule opportunities for teachers who support students with an IEP, students served by a Section 504 Plan, or students who are emergent biliguals, and general education teachers to collaborate on the development of curriculum and instruction.

Special Education Teachers

  • Coordinate with general education teachers to ensure that students’ accommodations and modifications continue to be provided during remote learning days. Follow guidance provided by your district so that electronic communications protect student privacy.
  • Where possible, maintain consistency in delivery of specialized instruction, including the same materials and tools used at school.
  • Set a schedule of personal communications with the students on your caseload (and/or their families as appropriate) to check on their progress. Be as specific as possible, such as asking if their assistive technology is working as expected and if they’re clear about their accommodations or modifications on assignments.

General Education Teachers

  • Understand your students’ IEPs and 504 plans and work to provide appropriate access to Distance Learning.
  • Coordinate with your students’ other teachers, related service providers, and/or English language development specialists to plan and deliver instruction.

Special Considerations for K-2 Teachers

  • Families with young learners may need explicit communication, guidance, and strategies for effective home learning.
  • Young learners may not be ready to navigate online learning spaces independently.
  • Young learners have limited attention spans for academic work and families may need to build in time for frequent breaks.
  • Young learners will need more scaffolding and support, especially in some learning activities; families may need guidance in how to determine and implement appropriate support.
  • Video conferencing with groups of students is one way to help students continue a sense of connection to their classroom community. However, note that this might be difficult for some families with fewer devices than students or using a shared learning space, such as the dining room table or living room.

Technology Directors and Coaches

  • Test any assistive technologies being used for interoperability with the district technology being used for general curriculum.
  • Be available to students and families who use assistive technology.
  • Establish a process for requests for assistance.
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​Learning Management Systems and Online Learning Platforms

If your district is already using a Learning Management System (LMS), it could be used to deliver content to and communicate with your students. Implementing a LMS typically requires planning and a year or more to begin implementation. Districts that are interested in pursuing an LMS should be aware of the time that is typically needed to plan and implement an LMS before moving forward.

LMS most Commonly Used in Oregon:

  • Canvas - Districts may purchase Canvas at a discounted rate through the ODE State Contract.
  • Google Classroom highly recommended by many educators; accessible by computer, phone, and even game consoles. Many schools already have Google accounts for students, which mak​​​es this easy to access

Video and Communication Tools

Common Sense Media Resources for Educators

Tips for Engaging Students with Video

Screencasting and Screen Recording Options:

​Other Helpful Tools

​Apps and Web Services to Consider

  • Rivet (Reading Practice App)
  • Libby (app to borrow ebooks from library system - must have a library card)
  • Audible Collection of fee audio books
  • Calendly is a useful tool to quickly schedule 1:1 check-ins.
  • Remind: Communication with Families

The online tools that we ask students to use should maintain safety, respect privacy, provide equitable access, and enhance learning opportunities. How the tool is used is more important than which tool is used. Consider which tools will best support different learning environments (e.g. learning independently, with families, or in virtual spaces with classmates and teachers).

Consult this Technology Tools Checklist for help with technology tool decisions. See below for information concerning student data privacy and accessibility for all students.

Accessibility

Special education and related services expectations are in place for students with IEPs during school closures. 504 Plans must also be implemented. ODE understands there may be exceptional circumstances that could affect how a particular service is provided. We must connect with each other to innovate, share, and develop new solutions to support students and families to ensure that all students benefit from Distance Learning For All.

Under the circumstances of school closures due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, the US Department of Education released a webinar and fact sheet related to protecting students’ civil rights during the COVID-19 public health emergency and additional Questions and Answers. The Department makes clear that – when educational opportunities continue to be provided during a school closure – states, districts, and schools “must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP developed under IDEA, or a plan developed under Section 504.”

National Center on Accessible Educational Materials: Is it Accessible?

US Department of Education: FAPE​

While ODE recognizes the challenges associated with providing ongoing learning opportunities in the midst of this outbreak, it is essential that districts, schools, and programs find creative ways to do so.  In recent guidance covering the provision of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), the US Department of Education (ED) affirmed both the critical need and possibility to continue supporting students’ learning in this time:

Some educators, however, have been reluctant to provide any distance instruction because they believe that federal disability law presents insurmountable barriers to remote education. This is simply not true. Rather, school systems must make local decisions that take into consideration the health, safety, and well-being of all their students and staff.

To be clear: ensuring compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act should not prevent any school from offering educational programs through distance learning.

School districts must provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with IEPs and those individuals providing education, specialized instruction, and related services to these students.

ED signals that while districts are expected to provide FAPE, flexibility may be needed in terms of how districts meet students’ individual needs.



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