Virtual School Meanderings

October 17, 2020

Join Us at the Aurora Institute Virtual Symposium

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

We hope to see you in October for one of our free virtual events

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

In This Week’s Issue

  • Join Shawn Rubin & Cathy Sanford’s Book Club session at Aurora Institute Virtual Symposium
  • Great Teachers in Action series kicks off on Monday, 10/19 – spots still available
  • Upcoming webinar with Newsela on Disrupting Inequity through Culturally Relevant and Sustaining Pedagogy
  • Reflecting on last week’s Always Ready for Learning Strategy Lab convening

This year, the Aurora Institute Symposium (formerly iNACOL Symposium) is going virtual! Aurora Institute has designed an entirely new Symposium experience to combine the most engaging aspects of our in-person event with the opportunities embedded in a virtual gathering. The virtual Symposium will run October 26-28, 2020 and will include three days of learning and interaction with the field’s most forward-thinking leaders.

One such event is the Meet the Experts with Authors book club conversation with our own Shawn Rubin and Cathy Sanford, co-authors of the book Pathways to Personalization: A Framework for School Change. Registration is free and we look forward to a rich and thought-provoking conversation. Learn more about the book here and sign up for our session by registering for the symposium below.

Great Teachers in Action Sessions

Monday, October 19 is a professional development day on the statewide calendar for Rhode Island schools. Join us, in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Education, as we officially kick off the Great Teachers in Action series, a yearlong project highlighting the best practices of RI District Teachers of the Year and Fuse RI Fellows. A few spots are still remaining for our first FREE sessions:

  • Session 1: Back to Basics: Maximizing the Use of Google Apps for Student Engagement & Formative Assessment, facilitated by Rebecca Willner (Beacon Charter HS) from 1:00-2:00PM
  • Session 2: Increasing Student Engagement through Playlist Design, facilitated by Jess Donato & Heather Neil (both Woonsocket Education Department) from 2:00-3:00PM
  • Session 3: Combining Self-Reflection & Feedback to Strengthen Student Writing, facilitated by RI Teacher of the Year Ashley Adamson (Portsmouth) & Maeve Murray from 2:00-3:00PM

What role do educators have in disrupting the inequity that exists in curriculum, instruction, and classrooms? On Wednesday, October 21 at 3PM ET, join Newsela and Highlander Institute for a free virtual panel focused on Disrupting Inequity Through Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Pedagogy. Key takeaways for participants in this event include:

  • Achieve clarity on our roles in disrupting inequity in our curriculum, instruction, and classrooms
  • Gain strategies to unite as a school community to create the conditions for all of us to feel liberated
  • Understand the importance of culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogy (CRSP) in relation to curriculum, resources, and professional learning

We will share our pedagogical framework and you will learn tangible strategies and practices aligned to the framework from a Providence educator. We hope to see you there!

Reflecting on the Always Ready for Learning Strategy Lab

Last Friday, The Learning Accelerator, in collaboration with Bellwether Education Partners, hosted a network convening for a project called the Always Ready for Learning Strategy Lab, which helps districts envision and plan ways to prioritize resilience and equity. Our Director of Pedagogy, Malika Ali, joined four panelists from organizations around the nation to work with seven districts on problems of practice and to share insights and examples to support their respective plans. Cohort members and panelists considered how to think through competency-based learning, Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Pedagogy, and virtual/blended learning through the lenses of system resilience and equity for all.

Highlander Institute thanks our Mission Sponsors for their generous support:

October 8, 2020

Future of Learning: Tapping teachers with tech expertise

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 8:09 pm
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The feature item may be of interest to some, as well as a couple of other items.

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Future of Learning
A newsletter from The Hechinger Report
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Tara García Mathewson

By Javeria Salman

Not long after schools closed because of the coronavirus last spring, a Rhode Island nonprofit launched a hotline for teachers who were struggling to launch new technology for remote leaning and trying to figure out how to teach with it. Within a few weeks, hundreds of teachers — and eventually parents, too — were flooding the line with calls for help.

The “dream team” of experts answering calls all had stellar credentials: They were teachers themselves, with training in how to deploy technology for learning and years of classroom experience.

This team of educators was part of the Fuse RI initiative, a fellowship program that teaches educators, administrators and local education agencies in the state how to integrate blended and personalized learning and technology practices into classrooms. The program was launched by the Highlander Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to creating “more equitable, relevant, and effective schools,” and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (The Gates Foundation is one of Hechinger’s many funders.)

Five-years into the fellowship, the group’s leaders had hoped to launch a restructured model of the program that would train school leaders and teacher teams to design and implement blended and personalized learning initiatives in their in-person classrooms. They never imagined a crisis scenario in which millions of teachers would be plunged into ed tech all at once. Nevertheless, said Highlander’s chief education officer Shawn Rubin, the group “felt like there was a moment and an opportunity” to activate the 104 Fuse RI fellows spread out across the state to help make the transition to remote learning easier for other teachers.

Rubin said the resulting School Support Helpline “would allow any teacher that wasn’t getting the support they needed from their home district or school an opportunity to phone in and talk directly with a fellow who is explicitly trained to be very confident in both the technology and the pedagogy, but also very competent in coaching and supporting teachers who are brand new to this work.”

The hotline launched on March 23 in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Education. Forty of the 104 Fuse fellows volunteered to field questions. Teachers could call the phone number or visit a website to be matched with a fellow, based on the problem and the fellow’s expertise. By April, the helpline took off.

“People who didn’t know anything about technology and had kind of avoided in their own classrooms were really seeing this as a lifeline,” said Maeve Murray, the Highlander Institute’s services manager. “Many of them were repeat users of the helpline.”

Fuse fellow Debbie Ramm, the instructional technology coordinator for Johnston Public Schools, was one of the first to begin fielding calls from teachers. Ramm, who was part of the first cohort of Fuse fellows in 2014, was already providing support sessions for teachers and administrators in her district. Up to 300 educators attended the workshops, which ran every day and sometimes on weekends. When Highlander called, Ramm signed up because she knew teachers outside of her district must be struggling, too.

“I can’t imagine not having that support system,” Ramm said. During her Fuse fellowship, she became part of a tribe of teachers, she said. “Before I met people from Highlander, I was an island, I was in a silo.”

Another Fuse fellow, Lisa Leaheey, an English teacher at North Providence High School, was part of the third cohort of the fellowship, which ran from 2016-18. Leaheey began informally offering help to teachers in her school when the pandemic hit. She also helped create a tech integration support website for the high school, providing teachers with resources on blended learning and flipped classrooms, technology integration and student support.

Since she was already fielding Zoom calls and emails from her peers, Leaheey said volunteering for the helpline was an easy transition.

“It was the same kind of thing just on a larger, more formal scale,” said Leaheey.

Sometimes a call was as simple as showing a second grade teacher how to organize her Google classroom in a way parents and students could easily navigate. At other times, Leaheey said, her role was to encourage teachers “to think about their goals for student learning, before they worried about what tech they want to use.”

In some cases, she challenged teachers to consider “if technology is even needed.”

Ramm, the other fellow, said sometimes listening to teachers was just as important, to help them understand when to slow down so they did not become overwhelmed. “I really think that is the approach that was needed during this craziness,” she said.

Ramm said her approach was to ask teachers what was already working really well in their classrooms and suggest they capitalize on that, first. Technology is not always the “top answer,” she said.

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The Shortlist 
1. Schools change approach to SEL. A new global survey, “Remotely Ready: Global Insights Into Effective Teaching and Learning in a Pandemic,” found that schools were unprepared for the sudden transition to remote learning last spring, and most had to adjust their approach to social emotional learning. In the July 2020 survey, conducted by the educational technology company SMART Technologies, a majority of the approximately 250 teachers and administrators responding indicated their school was either “not at all” or “somewhat” ready in four of 10 areas, such as parent involvement, student involvement, and teacher training, and a majority — 58 percent — stated their school had to “mostly” or “completely” change its approach to SEL in response to the additional stress caused by the pandemic. Read the full report.


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October 4, 2020

Announcing the Substitute Training Program

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

A free training course for 200+ participants

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

In This Week’s Issue

  • Announcing the Substitute Training Program
  • Applied Learning Tasks PD at Coventry HS
  • RI School Support Helpline for educators & families
  • Register now for ISTE20 Live
  • This Is Our Chance free film festival from Fielding International

NEW! Support RI Schools through Substitute Teaching

Are you currently underemployed, unemployed, or simply looking for a change in your career? Are you a college student taking a gap year, or looking for a flexible work schedule?

Due to COVID-19, there is an increased need for high quality substitute teachers to be ready and willing to serve our schools and districts. Substitute teaching is challenging, and the current educational environments necessitates a new set of skills across multiple learning models. Still, there are strategies and practices new candidates can learn in advance of their placements to ensure success.

The RI Department of Education announces a new FREE substitute teaching training course, with a goal to train upwards of 200 individuals to be substitute teachers this fall. In partnership with Highlander Institute, the Substitute Training Program will ensure that students receive an uninterrupted education supported by caring and qualified adults.

Qualified candidates will receive 10 hours of asynchronous course instruction which includes:

  • Strategies and practices to support across different COVID-proof learning environments;
  • Exposure to topics such as child development, curriculum development, and engagement strategies;
  • Classroom management training;
  • Understanding and ability to utilize most commonly used online and blended learning platforms;
  • And much more!

Candidates who successfully complete the course will be included on a hiring list, shared with schools and districts across the state. Current substitute rates range from $125-$225 per day. To learn more about this FREE professional development and workforce training opportunity, please fill out the form by clicking the button below.

Designing Applied Learning Tasks at Coventry High School

Last week, Mike Miele and Heidi Vazquez from our Implementation Team led a school-wide professional learning session for our partners at Coventry High School on applied learning tasks. Our supports this year will focus on gathering portfolio evidence for the district’s Vision of a Graduate. To begin, the group of 125+ educators read the article “Accelerate, Don’t Remediate: Why PBL Must be Part of Your School Re-Opening Plan” from PBLWorks and responded using the Sentence-Phrase-Word Thinking Routine through Jamboard.

Next, teachers reviewed the school-based definition and rubric for applied learning tasks created this summer by CHS leadership and Highlander Institute team. Teachers unpacked the resources by using the criteria for an exemplar, before separating into cohort teams to preview coaching for the year. Coaching will involve creating or revising an applied learning task, implementing with students, and using a tuning protocol to revise. Student focus groups in the fall and the spring will help us learn more about the impact of these applied learning tasks on student learning and assessment experiences. One participant shared:

“I liked how informative everything was and how eager they both were with trying to help us with any of our questions. As a first year teacher, I thought that the information and the way they presented it was very user friendly.”

From Other Organizations

Register Now for ISTE20 Live 

Immersive and exploratory, ISTE20 Live will be unlike any other online education conference out there. We’ve designed a custom experience that allows you to:

  • Engage: get expert advice on engaging with students in online, blended and face-to-face settings;
  • Experience: choose from hundreds of learning opportunities in a variety of formats. Attend live or save them for later;
  • Connect: connect with presenters, educators and tech company reps via text, chat or video call; and
  • Access: revisit sessions and review learning materials until June 2021.

The learning you need NOW! You’ll enjoy interactive content, powerful stories of inspiration, ideas from thought leaders from around the world and just-in-time strategies to address the challenges of the moment.

Dedicated to designing schools where all learners thrive, Fielding International is honored to co-host and participate in This is Our Chance Film Festival  a free film festival about the intersection of Race, Education, and Youth Empowerment – to realize meaningful change and create a more promising future for all children.

Our responsibility as designers and leaders is to support, promote, and advocate for equity in and out of schools where all people are seen, heard, valued, and loved. Fielding is committed to equity and inclusion in all of the learning spaces we design. The films in This is Our Chance will take you on a journey to confront our past and reimagine our future. Join just for the free movies, or dive deeper with live events and additional resources.

Highlander Institute thanks our Mission Sponsors for their generous support:

September 26, 2020

Spotlight on our Oneida Nation Partnership

An item from a US-based blended learning organization.

Learn more about our parent workshop series


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

In This Week’s Issue

  • Oneida Nation professional learning series
  • Keeping up with the Fuse MA Fellowship
  • The RI School Support Helpline is here to help! Free coaching for all RI educators, students, & families
  • Free & virtual Board Boot Camp from the Rhode Island Foundation
  • Multiple parent workshops in English & Spanish from Parent Support Network

Supporting Your Child at Home Series with the Oneida Nation

This month, our team members Shawn Rubin and Malika Ali have been working in partnership with the Oneida Nation School System in New York State to deliver a series of virtual workshops for parents and families entitled “Supporting Your Child at Home”. These sessions have included strategies related to:

  • Setting up an at-home learning environment;
  • Practicing social emotional learning at home;
  • Achieving academic mastery;
  • Advocating for school change through feedback & design; and
  • Getting to know your child’s learning platform

During this time of upheaval and change, we recognize that both families and schools are looking for new ways to meet the needs of their learners. We are grateful to be part of this workshop series as one step toward deepening school and family partnerships, with the ultimate goal of supporting both the well-being and academic success of all students. Thank you to the Oneida Nation education community for your honesty, vulnerability, and creativity throughout this process.

Fuse MA Fellowship Cohort 2 Updates

Our Fuse MA Fellowship partnership with The Education Cooperative had its first official meeting of the 2020-2021 school year yesterday. Program Manager Meg Smallidge & Fuse MA Coordinator Ken Toomey led Fellows through small group check-ins around their independent projects. The second half of the meeting featured a cross-collaborative scavenger hunt and district-specific breakout rooms with pilot teachers and school/district administrators from the Cohort 2 partner districts. Educators discussed various challenges they’re facing as they navigate back-to-school scenarios and shared ideas and strategies that have been working well for teachers, students, and families. We look forward to our next monthly meeting in October. Thank you to all Fellows and Fuse MA community members who were able to join us!

From Other Organizations

Virtual Board Boot Camp

We are excited to announce that the Rhode Island Foundation will again host Board Boot Camp, a free training program for active, passionate Rhode Islanders who are looking for ways to serve their community and make a lasting difference by helping to shape the state’s critical nonprofit sector through board service. Entirely virtual, Board Boot Camp is designed to equip participants with the awareness, skills, and capabilities to serve on a nonprofit board. Candidates must have no prior board service experience. Those interested can register by completing the Board Boot Camp Participant Survey by October 1. 

New Opportunities from Parent Support Network

As students, teachers, and families prepare for the 2020-2021 school year, social-emotional learning will play an important role in helping them navigate the emotional and logistical challenges created by the events of the past few months. Social Emotional Learning can help us understand and examine biases, reflect on and address the impact of racism, build intercultural relationships, and cultivate adult and student practices that close opportunity gaps and create more inclusive school communities for these difficult times.

Parent Support Network continues to provide resources for parents, educators and other professionals who are working with children with serious emotional, behavioral and/or mental health challenges, and are dedicated to helping them be successful in and out of school.

Highlander Institute thanks our Mission Sponsors for their generous support:

September 24, 2020

Free Bilingual Virtual Workshop for Parents

Okay it seems that like it was back in March and April, and I guess May and June.  The volume of virtual, blended, hybrid, and remote learning items that I was to pass along are becoming too voluminous and I’m posting much more than I should over the weekends.  So for the remainder of the day, I’ll be posting hourly to get caught up.

Starting with this workshop notice – and note that the workshop is in about two hours or so.

Join us in partnership with Providence Promise


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

Spread the Word with Parents in Your Network!

Free Bilingual Virtual Workshop on How to Navigate Google Classroom

Available in English & Spanish

Thursday, September 24 at 5:30PM

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