Tag Archives: Remote Learning

Getting Peachy with Pear Deck

Pear Deck seems to be calling me this fall. In an online workshop on Hybrid teaching with Emma Pass @emmabpass she raved about Pear Deck being one of her favorite edtech tools. Additionally, the technology specialists at my school offered two workshops on Pear Deck integration into our hybrid model. My science teacher now says it has changed her teacher life for the better. Due to the universe pointing me in the Pear Deck direction, I decided to update a few activities with Pear Deck and see for myself the benefits of using this digital platform.

Pear Deck is awesome because of the ability to directly add interactive questions (multiple choice, short answer, drawing, matching) into Google Slides (or Power Point). This capability makes it easy to collect formative assessment data when delivering a lesson synchronously remote or in person. There is also an option to make the lesson “self-paced” so students can move through the lesson independently and interact with materials, follow links, and answer questions. Here is a video that provides a little overview:

Here are some additional benefits to using Pear Deck:

  • The “Classroom Climate” when turned on allows students to reflect on their mood pre-lesson, post lesson, and students can reflect on how they thought the lesson went.
  • Utilize and turn on “Immersive Reader” for slides in your Pear Deck Sessions.
  • Using the Templates from the “Templates Library,” “Orchard” and “Weekly Wonders” provides innovative ways to have students engage with the content they are studying. The Orchard has ready-made templates that are edible and adaptable. You can drop them into any of your lessons. Weekly wonders are curated content from educational and inspirational sources on the web — think Wonderopolis. Each week three decks are released and each includes a video or article paired with 2-3 discussion prompts and short activity.
  • The Teacher Dashboard allows you to see work in real time and provide meaningful and timely feedback.
  • “Takeaways” allows you to publish personalized review Doc for teach student that contains every Pear Deck slide and that student’s response. This allows for feedback for students and material review.
  • Pear Deck has teamed up with Newsela to create free, ready to teach activities. Every Monday, five decks are released featuring an adaptive news article and interactive prompts to help explore current events. They are designed to help improve literacy, enhance critical thinking skills, and build classroom community

I am currently teaching in a Hybrid learning model with half of my students remote and the other half in person. Taking a teaching idea I found on Teachers Pay Teachers of “Figurative Language Truth or Dare” I adapted the questions onto Google Slides with Pear Deck for a live game of Truth or Dare. Students were given options to respond to a truth or a dare question/activity. Most students told me they enjoyed the choice and were able to review figurative language in an engaging way.

Need more reasons to use Pear Deck with your students? Matt Miller of Ditch That Textbook created this video on teaching lessons remotely with Pear Deck and he offers a dozen or more ideas how to use Pear Deck with your students on his blog:

Pros – Students will appreciate the interactivity of the slideshows, which get them drawing, writing, and responding to teacher-created prompts and polls. Slideshows peppered with interactive assessments can support students’ understanding and retention. 

Cons – Some students might use the slides to write what ever they wanted. For example, one of my students during Figurative Language Truth or Dare decided to draw a ladybug instead of matching the similes and metaphors – it was clear that he wasn’t engaged in the lesson.

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Jammin’ with Google’s Jam Board

This week my school quarantined due to a COVID outbreak. As a result, the next two weeks we are teaching synchronous lessons remotely. Students and teachers are online from 8AM – 3PM; that is A LOT of screen time. How do you keep students engaged in live online lessons?

This semester I have found Google’s Jamboard to be a great chameleon-like tech tool for any content area teacher to utilize. Here are ten suggestions how you can use Google’s Jamboard for collaboration, classroom hooks, showcase understanding, exit tickets, and even assessment. What is even more awesome, you can open or create a Jamboard right in Google Meets.

Now this tool is not all cotton candy and rainbows. An important thing to note is that just like any of Google’s other collaborative tools, once you share a Jam with your class they have full editing power, meaning they could write on any and every sticky note provided for the class (or do a number of other devious things. So, setting clear expectations with students is imperative.

This quick video shows students adding ideas and observations to a class Google Jamboard during a Google Meet after reading aloud a student’s essay on gun control. Students add sticky notes with their observations of the craft moves in the essay.
  1. Stickynote Brainstorming – Ask a question. Students respond and reflect. Jamboard is great for student brainstorming to share their thinking in a collaborative way.
  2. Annotate a Text – Consider Jamboards a giant whiteboard and the teacher can add print text, a key quote or even a picture. Students can each annotate and write around the text to show thinking and understanding. FYI, if you teach science you might post an image of a cell or rock formation and students flood the board identifying and labeling elements of the image. This video provides more detail how to annotate texts in Jamboard.
  3. Graphic Organizers – The teachers can use a Jamboard template to create a Frayer Model or Sequence Chart, or Mind Map. Matt Miller of Ditch That Textbook offers lots of graphic organizers for Jamboard you can copy and use in your classroom.
  4. Jamboard templates – Want more? this post on Ditch that Textbook provides 10 Jamboard templates for distance learning (with Kris Szajner)
  5. Exit Tickets are easy to create on Jamboard. Students can post something they learned, a question they have or even rate the lesson. The tech fairies recommend for exit tickets, keep it as simple as students dragging their sticky note to a column (or image) that was labeled with what they learned, what was interesting, or a question that they still have.
  6. SEL – Since many students are learning in isolation being remote, teachers are now being asked to focus on social emotional learning. Beginning your lesson with a check in using emojis, pictures, and icons, and asking how are you feeling allows teachers to take a SEL temperature among students.
  7. Freewriting & Sketchnoting – Give students the space and time to sketch and write responses, prototypes, even brainstorm story and design ideas. Provide students the opportunity to debrief afterwards and share their thinking with others.
  8. Storyboarding – Students can put sticky notes of events that happened in a story or book to create a plot pyramid. In History class students can design a timeline or if students are creating a movie they might sketch and write out the types of shots to plan the beginning, middle, and end of the story presenting.
  9. Show What You Know – Math teachers can use Jamboards for students to show their work and explain how to solve a problem or define a math concept.
  10. Towering Ideas – Google has a collection of Jamboard activities for students in grades 6-12 that focus on critical thinking and collaboration. You can read more about them in this document: Student Centered Learning with Jamboard.

Before Jamboard I used Padlet and I still am, but as a paid platform I am limited in the amount of padlets I can create using the free version. With Jamboard, I can create unlimited Jamboards and allow for similar collaborative features that Padlet provides. Plus, teachers are getting even more creative using Jamboards for blackout poetry, games, and 6 word stories and more. Perusing social media and Pinterest, you can find lots more ideas to adapt for your own content and students learning.

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This is how we do it … synchronous hybrid teaching

Who knew what the fall would bring upon our return to the classroom. Teachers are working harder than even creating content and rethinking their traditional teaching practices to meet the needs of the diverse learners in our classrooms.

Every school has a different model for learning during the pandemic – there is no one model that works for all. Whether you are fully remote, hybrid, synchronous or asynchronous, each pandemic school plan has its strengths and weaknesses. As teachers, we do not get to select the teaching model but are left to our own devices to plan, create, design, and execute active learner centered curricula that supports the diverse learners.

I am currently teaching in a hybrid synchronous school. I see my students with the last names A-L Monday and Thursday and students with the last names M-Z on Tuesday and Friday. On Wednesday all students are fully remote. Although my M-Z students are not in the classroom on Mondays and Thursdays, they are required to log in to my Google Meet during our class period to participate in the lesson. I am technically teaching to in-person learners and at home learners at the same time.

Julie Mason recently wrote in an article for We Are Teachers, “By design, hybrid learning is meant to combine the best parts of face-to-face learning and online learning to maximize students’ learning experience and potential. Asking teachers to take one curriculum and teach half of it online and half of it in person at the same time does just the opposite of that. It’s like putting a square peg into a round hole: it doesn’t make fit no matter how hard you try.”

Now there is a lot of criticism of the hybrid synchronous model and teachers are working harder now more than ever, myself included. At the same time this is a opportunity for me to look closely at the curriculum and teaching materials to assess and reflect on what are the best tools, strategies and teaching methods that will help engage students so they can learn deeply.

So here are some hacks that I have put in place to help both the unperson learners and at home learners build their literacy skills, while at the same time learn some new skill sets and utilize technology in innovative ways.

Keep it Simple – I am talking about assignments as well as Google Classroom.  I want my classroom to be accessible to all students. I post a daily agenda so that students know what to expect each class. That students can see whether they are in class or working from home.

Simplicity goes for Google Classroom as well. Everything is clearly labelled and easy to find on my Google Classroom pages. I limit the announcements so that students are not bombarded with messages and have important documents accessible. For example, every day I begin with a Read Aloud and I have been keeping a running list of the titles, authors, and guiding question for students to refer back to if needed.

Provide Choice and Implement Universal Design Learning – Every unit my students are given choices. Choices in the books they read, the activities they complete and even their assessments. I create choice boards and learning menus to help my students choose the activities that they feel confident in showing me their understanding and learning. The social justice menu is the most current choice board that students are working on as they read books with social justice themes.

Social Justice Choice Menu

UDL focuses on representation, engagement, and the actions and expression of learning. When teachers design with Universal Design Learning in mind, differentiation and accommodations for all learners are already built into the curriculum. The goal is for all students to knowledgable and motivated who evolve into expert learners. This is where assistive technology also plays a role to make learning accessible to all.

We want our students to become empowered learners and practice digital citizenship so they can be creative communicators, knowledge constructors and global citizens. Teachers and students are currently Utilizing technology tools and platforms to customize their learning. Whether that includes utilizing a font like OpenDyslexic Font for Chrome to increase readability for readers with dyslexia or Texthelp’s Read&Write Tool Bar to provide visual and audio supports for learners.

My favorite new tool is Mote: Voice Notes & Feedback. This tools allows me to send students voice notes and feedback on their writing – especially when I am reading and responding to 96 papers in a weekend. I can leave a message in response to their work rather than type out comments and questions. Mote works with Google Docs, Slides and Sheets, as well as Google Classroom.

Lastly, check in regularly. Whether it is a daily meme check in or a Google Form, check in with your students to see how they are doing and how learning is going for them. This is a difficult time for many. Anxiety levels are up and the stress of working from home can have an impact on our students. When we check in and ask how are things going, empathy is so important now.

So what are the things that are going well for you and helping teaching in a hybrid model or synchronously? Share your roses and thorns when it comes to remote learning and hybrid teaching in the comment section below.

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Travel the World & More Remote Learning Opportunities From Your Couch

COVID-19 kept the majority of people home. Not only were schools, social events, sports all cancelled or moved online, many of people’s travel plans were postponed and or revoked. Whether visiting family in another state or looking to visit a famous landmark, so many of us have been homebound these past months.

I have found how a way to travel the globe without leaving my house. In fact, I have had the opportunity over the past four months to attend cooking classes, virtually walk the streets of London on a Harry Potter tour, participate in art and history lectures, and even listen to conversations with internationally acclaimed designers, writers, and health experts. I learned to make gnocchi with a chef in Italy and tagine cooking in Morocco. I made steak and frites and traveled to Brazil to watch a chef demonstrate classic Brazilian  cooking.

Indagare is a travel company and their mission is to inspire and empower people to change their lives through travel. When the pandemic hit this travel company created a global classroom hosting virtual travel and exploration for all.

This week our excursions include virtual adventures from Ancient Egypt and Rome to the worlds of Marie Antoinette and Harry Potter. My daughter and I travel virtually, as well as bake and taste our way around the globe starting with a  backyard safari, a beekeeping and baking class, pizza-making, painting and photography lessons, among other activities.

After participating in a Lecture with Q&A: Contemporary Black Art in America I was introduced to amazing artists, some who I already knew and others I was enamored to learn more about:

  • Kerry James Marshall
  • Sam Gilliam
  • Mark Bradford
  • Lorna Simpson
  • Nari Ward
  • Hank Willis Thomas
  • Rashid Johnson
  • Nick Cave
  • Mickalene Thomas
  • Kehinde Wiley
  • Fred Wilson
  • Simone Leigh
  • Toyin Ojih Odutola
  • Wole Lagunju
  • Devan Shimoyama
  • Grace Lynne Haynes
  • Njideka Akunyili Crosby
  • Tschabalala Self
  • Kara Walker
  • Julie Mehretu
  • Derrick Adams
  • Wangechi Mutu
  • Charles Gaines
  • Faith Ringgold
  • Betye Saar
  • Howardena Pindell

Wole Lagunju

There is a lot talk about learning loss during COVID-19 but that does not have to be the case. So many companies like Indagare are providing free content for the public. You can take virtual tours of many museums that still remain closed. Multiple museums are offering online lectures and Zoom conversations with authors, artists, and historians like The Jewish Heritage Museum in New York and the Gilder Lehrman Institute.

Many of the workshops provide follow up materials and web links for further interest. For example, I attended Understanding Anne Frank with Teresien da Silva, presented by the Museum of Jewish Heritage which provided a recording of the program on their YouTube channelAdditionally, a few resources that may be of interest were shared:
As well as some recommended reading:

If you are like me with an appetite for learning, travel, and enhancing your mind, body, and spirit there are so many valuable virtual experiences for everyone. If you are looking for more options, also consider:


Google Arts & Culture

King Arthur Baking’s “The Isolation Baking Show”


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Summer Months Virtual Learning Calendar

Virtual Learning Opportunities

One of the positive things that has emerged from COVID-19’s quarantine and remote learning is the wide abundance of virtual learning opportunities available now. I find that in-between teaching remotely, reading and writing I am also able to take classes, attend virtual lectures, and participate in enriching conversations. I have been lucky enough to expand my horizons virtually, travel the globe, learn new cooking techniques, and gain insight about history, writing, health, and so much more. This has allowed me to maintain my physical and mental curiosity and health.

I have put together a virtual learning calendar for my students and families for the month of June and will continue to share more opportunities for July and August. I want my students to have opportunities to “learn” this summer and even if it has to be virtually, there are incredible enrichment experiences online.

I want to share this virtual learning calendar with my readers so they can also access the abundance of opportunities online. When you click on each picture, it will take you to a different video, article, podcast, reading list, class, or virtual tour.

Wishing you a happy summer where you can quench your curiosity.


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Supporting Diverse Readers in Virtual Spaces and Remote Learning #EdTechTeam Virtual Summit

#EdTechTeam is hosting three Virtual Summits this spring. The first is Saturday, April 18, 2020. The objective of the Summits is to support teachers and district leaders as schools move to implement remote learning, improve practice, implement new tools, design better online learning experiences, and continue to build relationships with students and families.

The learning begins at 10 AM EST with a key note speaker, then participants can access  presentations throughout the four session times,  and at the conclusion, a demo slam. I will be presenting at 2 PM EST on Supporting Diverse Readers in Virtual Spaces and Remote Learning.” I have shared the slide deck below.

My goal as an English Language Arts teacher is to promote a rich literacy experience for ALL the learners in my classroom. Shifting to remote learning has allowed me to refine the reading units I create with my students and make texts accessible to all my students. All of the assignments provide scaffolds to help students reach higher levels of comprehension.

These scaffolds include


graphic organizers

frontload vocabulary

using lots of visuals

dividing texts into manageable chunks

It is important to remember when teaching and planning lessons that every students is unique and valuable. I don’t want students to fall off my radar and it is important that students have a voice and choice throughout their learning. Providing multiple pathways to learning will help all students reach excellence.



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Digital Tools to Support Literacy in the Time of Remote Learning & E-Learning

My mailbox has been full of newsletters and emails about resources for remote learning, e-Learning, and virtual learning, and maybe for you too. In a small amount of time, teachers and school have shifted to online learning to help our students maintain some normalcy, meet learning targets, and support the community.

How do you make sense of all the educational platforms and virtual lessons ideas that will best support your students?

Web20Classroom created an infographic on “Teacher Tips for Active Learning Interactions Online” showcasing four types of blending learning opportunities for students whether we are in the classroom our working remotely: Learner-Content, Learner – Instructor, Learner to Learner, and Learner to Technology. We can think about these four types of active learning strategies when we think about planning our online lessons so that students are still engaged in active and blended lessons remotely.

Learner-Content is the traditional style of lectures and presentations, videos, and readings used to present information. Rather than pushing out a chapter from a textbook, teachers might consider a platform like Edpuzzle that allows teachers to embed questions in videos (from YouTube & TED) to improve attention and comprehension for students viewing. Additionally, if using print text, Actively Learn is an E-reading platform that improves students’ reading comprehension. Teachers can customize instruction, provide. real-time feedback, allowing peers to collaborate, and get analytics on student performance. If you have slide decks in Google Slides or Power points, you can upload them on to Nearpod and create interactive and engaging lessons for students with extended responses, polls, and games. Teachers might also consider making their own video lessons using the Screencastify Chrome Extension. This extension allows you to easily record and screencast your screen with accompanying audio and video commentary to present a new idea, concept, or lesson.

Learner-Instructor connections are so important and we do not want to lose the interaction and relationships among our students. Using Google Hangouts and Zoom  provide a time and place for learners and instructions to connect face to face. Teachers can schedule conferences to check in with small groups or individual students. I currently hold a Google Hangout once a week for questions and check-ins with my middle school and graduate students. I also email and call students to check in when they do not turn in work or seem to be missing days on end.

Learner-Learner is the interaction between one learner and other learners. If you are like me, group work and collaboration happened everyday in my classroom. How do we re-create this in a virtual world? Padlet allows teachers to create an online bulletin board to display information for any topic, use for brainstorming, and students sharing their insight. Users can add images, links, and videos. Flipgrid allows students to share their voice with one another. This social learning platform allows educators to ask a question, then the students respond in a video. Students are then able to respond to one another, creating a “web” of discussion. I use Flipgrid for sharing writing, book reviews, and group discussions. Seesaw  is Padlet and Flipgrid combined. It can be utilized for student engagement and digital-portfolios where students create, reflect, share, and collaborate.

Learner-Technology is about the interaction between learners and technologies to deliver instruction. In this current climate of remote learning and virtual learning we have shifted all our work online. That also means our students are spending A LOT of time online and in front of a screen. With a 9th grader and 5th grader at home, I see how much time we are all spending online — more than 5 hours a day online! Choose assignments that are meaningful and don’t try to fill a 40 or 50 minute time block as if we were still in our classrooms. Create your lessons wisely. There are so many fantastic resources online to support reading, writing, and teaching remotely. Let’s design experiences that are engaging, offer choice (like Hyperdocs and Choice Boards), support ALL learners, and are meaningful.

Looking for more ideas, check out:


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