Virtual School Meanderings

June 28, 2020

Summer Is Here, But Help Continues

An item from a US-based blended learning organization.

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Join the conversation as we partner with communities to design and implement school-based change.

In This Week’s Issue

  • Our Distance Learning Helpline is here to help you through the summer
  • Update from our Distance Learning Spotlight Series
  • Listen: Episode 66 of the Be Education Podcast features reflections on distance learning – what do we keep?
  • Reclaiming Personalized Learning summer book club with Paul Emerich France

 Have questions over the summer?  Continue to contact the Distance Learning Helpline.

If you have a question or need to be connected to resources, please describe your request by calling (401) 232-4725 OR filling out the brief form on our website at

Distance Learning Spotlight Series

The Distance Learning Spotlight Series shares free resources and strategies with those interested in using the summer to grow their practice in preparation for the school year ahead.

We are happy to announce that we are now in the process of releasing resources on a regular basis. Our latest spotlight covers how to engage families through family focus groups and you can sign up below to gain access and submit requests for future spotlight topics.

Podcast Episode 66: Distance Learning Feedback – What Do We Keep?

On the latest episode of the Be Education Podcast, the hosts take a look back at survey data to consider the responses from students and teachers regarding distance learning. What was successful? What should we consider keeping as we move forward amidst uncertainty? Tune in by clicking the button below and consider subscribing on Spotify or Apple Podcasts to get notified when new episodes are available.

From Other Organizations

Join Paul Emerich France for a book club series, “Personalizing in a Pandemic,” to discuss his new book Reclaiming Personalized Learning: A Pedagogy for Restoring Equity and Humanity in Our Classrooms. The book club series kicks off on July 14th with special guest Carol Ann Tomlinson, professor and author of “The Differentiated Classroom.” Sign up here!

In these unprecedented times, humanizing digital learning is more important than ever. In Reclaiming Personalized Learning, Paul Emerich France differentiates between humanized and dehumanized personalization, imploring teachers to move away from technology-driven practices that require students to learn through automated programs or hyper-individualized content tracks. The global pandemic has only intensified the need for critical discussions on digital pedagogy and how to restore humanity and equity in a time where many of us feel more disconnected than ever. Over the course of the four meetings, participants will discuss how to humanize distance learning sessions using the three dimensions of personalization, and develop an action plan for how to humanize your distance learning practices for the future.

  • July 14: Foreword, Introduction, Section 1 (with Special Guest Carol Ann Tomlinson)
  • July 16: Section 2 (Chapters 5-6)
  • July 21: Section 2 (Chapters 7-9)
  • July 23: Section 3 (Chapters 10-12)

Highlander Institute thanks our Mission Sponsors for their generous support:

June 21, 2020

What Gets Done When Partners Come Together

An item from a US-based K-12 blended learning organization.

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Join the conversation as we partner with communities to design and implement school-based change.

In This Week’s Issue

  • RI Parent Distance Learning Helpline update
  • Sign Up for our Spotlight Series & share your resource requests with us
  • Listen Now: 2 new Be Education Podcast episodes focused on screencasts & curating content
  • Join the Parent Support Network on July 1 for an SEL Workshop for Parents

A Closer Look at the RI Parent Distance Learning Helpline

Inspired by our interactions since March through both the educator and parent-facing helpline, the Distance Learning Spotlight Series will share free resources and strategies with those interested in using the summer to grow their practice in preparation for the school year ahead.

Since we launched the sign-up page for our Distance Learning Spotlight Series, we have spent the past few weeks seeking input from multiple stakeholders around requested topics and questions. In the weeks ahead, we will be populating resources tailored to these requests. We hope that this series continues to be responsive to your needs, so please reach out to share your input with us at any time.

2 More Be Education Podcast Episodes Now Available

The Be Education Podcast is your one-stop-shop for timely and thought-provoking discussions in short form (15-20 minutes) format. Listen for free today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and other podcast sources. Hosts Nick DiNardo and Christina Corser have released 2 new episodes, including one in partnership with The Learning Accelerator’s project Today’s One Thing.

  • Episode 64 – Screencasts: What, How, and Why?
  • Episode 65 – Today’s One Thing Week 4: Curating Content

From Other Organizations

Click the button below to register for this 90-minute virtual parent workshop focused on Social Emotional Learning on Wednesday, July 1 from 2:00-3:30PM. Participants will learn strategies to support their children in promoting self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, relationship skills, and decision-making. Contact us for registration assistance or technical support at 401-467-6855.

Highlander Institute thanks our Mission Sponsors for their generous support:

June 13, 2020

Congratulations Cohort 5 Fuse Fellows!

A newsletter from a K-12 blended learning organization.

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Join the conversation as we partner with communities to design and implement school-based change.

In This Week’s Issue

  • Our 5th annual Fuse Fest celebration goes virtual
  • Sign up today to receive the Distance Learning Spotlight Series in your inbox
  • Listen to the latest episodes of the Be Education Podcast, including installments for The Learning Accelerator’s Today’s One Thing series

Virtual Fuse Fest 2020

Last night, we celebrated the graduation of the 25 Fellows in Cohort 5 of the Fuse RI program during our Virtual Fuse Fest. Chief Education Officer Shawn Rubin shared some opening remarks, excerpted below:

As Fellows we are counting on you to use your voices to stand up for the needs of teachers, students, and families during this time of uncertainty. Your two years as a Fuse Fellow have prepared you with skills for managing difficult conversations, building arguments for linear stepwise processes and using data to inform decision-making. We are always here for you when you encounter situations in which you do not know how to proceed, but we are relying on you to be those voices and to speak up even if it’s not the most popular sentiment. 

This includes owning your identity as an educator and doing the work necessary to understand the racially charged education system that we have before us. On the heels of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officer, as well as the many other black bystanders who have died at the hands of law enforcement, you as educators must question your own power and your own roles in the systems of white supremacy that permeate our schools and society. 

Every one of you has the potential for impact on countless colleagues. And, when we all speak out for justice, our impact can be far greater than content mastery – we can truly be agents of social change in ways that improve students’ experiences way beyond the classroom. We believe in you and we’re counting on you. 

Thank you for all the incredible work you have done as Fuse Fellows. We know your best work is still in front of you. As the current chapter of Fuse RI comes to a close, our deepest hope is that your experiences as a Fellow and the hard lessons learned amidst the pandemic help you recommit to your “why” as Rhode Island education leaders and remain transformed. Congratulations again on this achievement!

To support ongoing continuous improvement efforts within distance learning implementations, we are proud to announce our Distance Learning Spotlight Series. This series is free and available to anyone, in both RI and beyond. While online resources cannot replace the value of customized, one-on-one coaching sessions found through the Helpline, we hope this series can be the beginning of a repository of information for educators,  leaders, and families as we continue to plan – amidst uncertainty – for the school year ahead.

Be Education Podcast Episodes 60-63 Now Available

The Be Education Podcast is your one-stop-shop for timely and thought-provoking discussions in short form (15-20 minutes) format. Listen for free today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and other podcast sources!

Hosts Nick DiNardo and Christina Corser have released 4 new episodes, including 2 in partnership with The Learning Accelerator’s project Today’s One Thing.

  • Episode 60 – School Story: Student Engagement with Baychester Middle School
  • Episode 61 – Today’s One Thing Week 2: Structures for Independent Work
  • Episode 62 – Virtual End of Year Celebrations
  • Episode 63 – Today’s One Thing Week 3: Setting Up Systems of Accountability

Highlander Institute thanks our Mission Sponsors for their generous support:

June 9, 2020

June Update: Standing With #BlackLivesMatter And Doubling Down On Our Mission To Connect Educators With Critical Support For The Long Run

A newsletter from a US-based organization focused on K-12 blended learning.

Student stands in front of smartboard
Logo JPG
Colleagues and Friends:
Last Sunday, my two daughters and I carried a bucket of chalk to our sidewalk. Sprawled on our hands and knees, together we wrote the names of black brothers and sisters recently killed by white hands and institutions. With each name, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery just the most recent among them, my six-year-old asked, “But mom, what happened? Why did they die?” We talked about racism, about the privileges we enjoy as a white family, about the violence that has been and is being inflicted upon on our neighbors – near and wide – due to racialized fear and oppression. My four-year-old listened quietly as she painstakingly chalked out “LOVE” in pink.
The events of the last 12 weeks have starkly laid out the disproportionate burden carried by and violence inflicted upon people of color in the United States. COVID-19 has impacted communities at higher rates. As schools closed, the education community struggled to offer equitable access to learning, exacerbating existing gaps in achievement and engagement. We’ve watched a rise in police brutality and militarized response to protests. These injustices are not new. Heightened during this current crisis, they are more visible, but institutionalized racism within education and out has inflicted enormous pain on black and brown bodies and minds.
TLA seeks to create a world in which every student receives the engaging, effective, and equitable education they need to reach their full and unique potential. Achieving this vision is impossible within systems constructed upon foundations of institutional racism and injustice. Standing up for all kids means working to tear down structures of white supremacy that hold us back from achieving true equality and our collective, democratic commitment towards a more perfect union.
Our team stands with #BlackLivesMatter. We’re committed to continuing to do the work necessary to build the internal mindsets and practices to work towards antiracism as well as to ensure our programs and external efforts drive towards social justice. We recognize there is much more that remains for us to do; as a team and board, we will be digging in together and with others to inclusively design a plan for action and additional commitments that honor our mission and the communities we work with. Our progress will not be measured by what we did yesterday or what we say today; rather, the evidence will exist in sustained effort and action, in the partners we choose, and in our daily priorities. Thank you for holding us accountable as a team and for the feedback you can provide to help us be better.
We continue to believe that our work to connect every educator with the tools, knowledge, and networks they need to transform K-12 learning is as important as ever. It is imperative that education communities restore access and push past challenges to ensure every student is learning rigorously and getting the individual support they need to thrive as complete humans. We recently sent out an update on TLA’s work to help educators navigate school closures, enable remote learning, and work together to build a more resilient future in light of COVID-19. Below we offer additional updates on new resources for school and organizational leaders as well as recent additions to our board and team.
With love and solidarity,
Beth Rabbitt, CEO
New Resources for Communities
Always Ready for Learning Coaching Support
Always Ready for Learning logo
To ensure every leader, regardless of local resource or connection, has access to human, expert support, we have launched a pro-bono, customized coaching initiative. Aimed to support system and school leaders across the country navigating summer school and planning for instruction in the face of uncertainty in the fall, we are offering sustained and free access to a coaching network that includes experts from the following partner organizations: 2Revolutions, Afton Partners, Catalyst:Ed, Highlander Institute, InnovateEDU, ISTE, KnowledgeWorks, LINC, PowerMyLearning, and Transcend. Please share this opportunity with districts in your networks, and learn more here.
Remote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Toolkit
In 2019, TLA launched a new network of seven virtual and partially remote K-12 education organizations to explore the intersections of remote culture and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). With the recent rapid shift to remote work for many organizations across the country, leaders must consider how decisions, practices, and remote culture may exacerbate inequities where they work and in the communities they serve. We collaboratively built and launched the Remote DEI Toolkit to openly share the group’s insights and strategies based on the challenges of remote DEI.
Problem of Practice Guidance Series
Data-Driven Instruction. Personalization that supports individual needs in classrooms requires broad, intentional use of data across schools and systems. Educators need to translate data insights into instructional actions to harness the potential of student data. In order to support student agency and ownership of learning, educators must be empowered to develop practices that enable students to understand and use their own data in meaningful ways. TLA has released a three-part guide to data-driven instruction, including real-world examples from schools across the country and links to tools and resources from experts in the field.
Leveraging Multilingualism to Support Students who are Learning English. This collection of actionable strategies guides teachers on how to leverage a student’s home language and culture in a personalized learning classroom and provides other strategic supports to engage students and contextualize their learning. (We are thankful to our fellows from Latinos for Education for their early support of this project.)
Driving Instructional Change with Google Tools
TLA teamed up with Google for Education to help teachers and school leaders understand and enact the following four key, research-backed learning principles for improving education:
  • Personalized & Measurable
  • Project-based & Self-managed
  • Collaborative & Diverse
  • Authentic & Experiential
We worked alongside educators who are pioneering the practical implementation of these principles and have made this robust and actionable set of resources available free for use across the globe.
New Leaders
Nik Namba Joins TLA Board
Nik Namba
TLA is happy to welcome education leader Nikolaus Namba to the TLA Board of Directors. Nik is currently a partner at Transcend Education. He has spent his entire career in education as a teacher, academic coach, principal, and leader in school districts and charter organizations focused on personalizing learning using a competency-based systems approach. Prior to Transcend, Nik was the Director of 21st Century Learning for Lindsay Unified School District and before that Chief Academic Officer of Ingenium Schools, a charter management organization in the Los Angeles area. We are thrilled to bring his voice and perspective to our leadership
Two New Partners on the TLA Team
Beth Holland
TLA also welcomes two new partners to our team. Beth Holland will lead our work in research and measurement. For the past several years, Beth has been examining the challenges of equity and communication within K-12 public school systems for her dissertation and working at the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN), where she led their Digital Equity and Rural initiatives.
JinSoo Huh
Jin-Soo Huh will be exploring ways that TLA can partner with and support technology companies in their work to bring innovations to schools. He is an experienced educator and school innovation leader and has expertise in school design, education technology, professional development, and personalized learning. Prior to joining TLA, Jin-Soo spent over a decade as a math teacher and school system leader. He also co-founded the Data Whiz community of practice and writes about innovation in schools as a columnist for EdSurge. Learn more about our team.
Additional TLA Perspectives
The Learning Accelerator | 167 Hamilton AvenuePrinceton, NJ 08540


June 4, 2020

Reflections & Commitments

A statement from a US-based K-12 blended learning organization.

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Join the conversation as we partner with communities to design and implement school-based change.

A Commitment from Dana & Shawn

We honor and grieve the countless lives lost to racist police brutality, and we condemn anti-Black violence. We recognize societal injustice is a truth that also exists within ourselves, our neighborhoods, and our schools. We believe that all students and families deserve to feel safe, respected, affirmed, and free. In order for this belief to become a reality, we must acknowledge that it is not true and has not been true for Black members of our community.

We believe Black Lives Matter. Always.

As white leaders of an organization that has worked in mostly urban schools for more than a decade, our instinct is to offer new solutions, advice, and approaches to solve any problem. This is exactly where white leadership goes wrong. We assume our own supremacy in terms of perspective and problem-solving. We assume that everyone wants to hear from us even though we have absolutely no idea what it feels like to be hunted by a justice system that claims to protect us.

As an organization that supports many white educators, we feel compelled to articulate our commitments moving forward, and invite white educators and leaders to join us and hold us accountable.

How have our actions or inactions contributed to racism in our work, our schools, and our lives?

Over the past 10 years we could have done more to publicly decry racism and act in anti-racist ways with our partner schools and districts. Highlander Institute has a #BlackLivesMatter poster on our office door, but we have not been vocal enough in denouncing racism in the unflinching and uncomfortable ways that are necessary when working with and within a racist system. As leaders of Highlander Institute we have stayed quiet and watched, even as members of our own team have pushed us to own our biases and deepen our understanding. And silence equals complicity.

We as white leaders can no longer claim to be part of the solution while simultaneously sitting on the sidelines, and so, we commit to the following:

  1. We will become more aware of and attuned to our white privilege. Until we – as white educators – put in the effort to understand how our identity as white adults impacts our behavior on a daily basis, we cannot make progress toward challenging policies and systems that perpetuate our privilege.
  2. We will cede power and make room for Black and brown people to lead – both within and outside our organization. We stand in solidarity with our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) colleagues, who come to the table with expertise and funds of knowledge beyond our capabilities as white leaders. We will amplify and elevate Black-led organizations by using our platform to showcase organizations that are doing this work through the lens of lived experience.
  3. We will listen, show empathy, and take action in the form of learning. There are so many resources guiding white people on how to show up for Black colleagues, students, and families. We will buy the books, read the articles, attend the workshops, and act on our new learning. [Diversity Talks is offering free online professional learning for white teachers this summer. Equity Institute has released a statement titled, “Racial Equity and Justice. Now.”]. We will follow Black education leaders on Twitter, and honor their perspectives by liking and retweeting their work without inserting ourselves. We will readread, and then read some more.
  4. Finally, we will engage in difficult, uncomfortable conversations that hold ourselves and other white people accountable for our statements, biases, actions, and inaction. We will engage in these conversations with humility, compassion, and a commitment to supporting the journey of others as well as our own.

As leaders in the process of redefining our organization’s value in a post-COVID-19 world, we commit to embedding racial justice across our future supports and endeavors. We will disrupt spaces of white supremacy and our actions will be informed by and coordinated with BIPOC leaders. Will you join us in dedicating time and space to these commitments? Can we hold each other accountable to a higher level of awareness and action?

We do not have the answers, but it is justice that we are learning about and working toward. We promise to be open and honest with our journey, and invite all of our white colleagues, white teachers, and white educational leaders to do the same.


Dana and Shawn

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