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Stay Current with Google Tools For School and Online Learning

As some schools prepare for a return to remote instruction, Google recently announced 50 new features -- including a widget that will help students manage assignments -- on its Classroom and Meet platforms. Google also will help support online learning with the release of a new Assignments app and a digital toolkit for families.

Homework Hints for Math Homework

As kids across the country are getting ready to go back to school, one page you may want to bookmark is a free web site called ASSISTments. The site offers students math homework hints that have been crowdsourced from teachers using that particular math curriculum. So far research has shown students answer problems correctly in 58% of cases, compared with 54% for those without access to the hints, according to a forthcoming study. Neil Heffernan, a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts who established the program, says that more importantly is to determine whether the hints help students complete more math homework, rather than giving up when they get stuck.

Video Series To Keep Kids Fit At Home

The University of Michigan has developed an online program, InPACT at Home, to help kids remain active while learning remotely. The free video series, targeted at K-12 students, is available nationwide and is aimed at replacing exercises that kids would have received at school via recess, physical education and, in some cases, their daily walk to school.

How to Throw a Virtual Birthday Party

As the pandemic stretches on you may find yourself needing to throw a virtual birthday party. But where to start? Common Sense Media has actually collected a set of ideas for everything from a video chat with family to virtual dance party with everyone using Bluetooth headphones. How about a movie night?  Netflix Party is a Chrome extension you can use to watch shows or movies together. Everyone needs to download the extension, and the host shares a link with partygoers.

YouTube Number One During School Closures

Eighty-four percent of the most popular websites visited by students on school-managed devices during the recent period of remote instruction were educational, according to a review by GoGuardian, a company that monitors activity on school-owned tech devices.  While the majority of the top 10 websites were educational in nature, the number one site visited by students was YouTube (though possible it could be used for education as well). Others on the list included Clever, Zoom, Khan Academy, Instructure and Flipgrid. If you are not familiar with some of those sites, you may want to check them out.

Lessons Learned From Remote Instruction

An article on the National Public Radio site offers some lessons that could be useful as educators consider possible instructional models for the fall, and parents get ready for the impact on their family’s lives. Among them are additional support for parent-assisted learning, programs targeted to keep teens on track, and online systems to assess, remediate and individualize learning. The article is a must read if you think your district will be supporting full or partial remote learning this fall.

Learning About Online Learning

Wondering about the overall success of online learning during the pandemic? An article in The New York Times outlines two reviews of nearly 300 studies comparing remote and in-person learning, stating findings that students generally learn more when a teacher is physically present. This matches anecdotal narratives surrounding forced remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic. However, the articles also states that students who had access to an instructor during remote learning are performing at the same level or higher, noting that “virtual education will depend for its success on old-school principles: creative, attentive teaching and support from parents.”

TikTok Expanding Content

TikTok, a favorite social media platform of tweens and teens, is evolving from featuring short-form quirky clips to live video and content related to everything from sports and gaming to cooking, fashion and beauty, says Bryan Thoensen, head of content partnerships. The social platform expects to see expanded educational content, which would boost users' time on the app while helping creators monetize their efforts, and generating more ad dollars, he says. So expect your children may be spending more time on the app.

Telehealth and Your Family

While stay-at-home orders are being lifted, one change in daily life that seems likely to stay is telehealth. Simply defined, telehealth is the use of digital devices to remotely access health care services, which has been very important during the lockdown, when going out of the house was not suggested. But like most uses of technology, there are pros and cons. Certainly some of the pros are convenience and accessibility since you can manage your health care visits without leaving the comfort of your home. Many a parent has been very grateful not to have to transport, particularly on public transportation, a sick child to the doctor on a cold or rainy day just to get a quick diagnosis. Another pro is that telehealth makes health care more accessible to more people, although it should be noted you do need a smart device to access most telehealth apps and not all adults in the US have or use the right kind of sophisticated technology and high speed Internet to connect.

Another con is patients often fail to notice or mention other symptoms that would be helpful to the doctor in a diagnosis. For example, the tone of a person’s skin, eyes, lips, and body could signify a certain disease, but their discoloration or lack of color might not be evident to a doctor on a video screen. That means that patients become an even bigger factor in their own diagnosis and may need some training to help with diagnosing.

While telehealth is useful during times like this, especially when traveling to and going inside a hospital could put a person at more risk of getting ill, it is important to recognize the limitations. Patients that need physical interaction with doctors for wound care, broken bones, procedures and more still need to stick to the traditional in person visits. Bear in mind that you should always weigh the pros and cons of whether you need to see a doctor in person and choose the one that would be best for you and your family's health and well-being.  

College Board Halts Plants for Remote SAT Testing

The College Board announced recently that it is dropping plans to administer the SAT college-entrance exam remotely this year. At issue, the College Board said that students would have required three hours of uninterrupted Internet access, which may not be possible for all students.