Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads continues expanding

From Broadway to the lab and from the courtroom to the construction site, we are excited to bring work-based learning activities to our students as they learn at home and to provide relevant, ready-to-use resources for teachers to use with students. Share the Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads series with your teachers and students! 

As we start the 2020-2021 school year, we are creating and publishing new episodes. If you have a suggestion for a potential guest for a Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, please share that with us using this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads Guest Recommendation Form. 

September 2020

College Changes Everything (CCE) Conference

This year’s annual College Changes Everything® (CCE) conference is being held virtually in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The online conference includes both recorded interest sessions and a schedule of live sessions over a two-week period with the first live event on July 22, 2020. 

To register for the live sessions and access the recorded session as your schedule permits, please visit the 2020 CCE conference website

July 2020

Learn about Competency-Based Education

Join Education Systems Center for a webinar that highlights Competency-Based Education
June 23rd from 9 to 10.30 AM 

Competency-Based Education can provide a stronger foundation for providing deep, authentic learning opportunities for all students and for most appropriately challenge students as well as meeting individual academic and social-emotional needs. Competency-Based Education offers flexibility that can also support very strong implementations of Career Pathway Endorsements and a wide range of Dual Credit offerings.  

Over the past four years, dozens of Illinois school district have been implementing Competency-Based Education. As one of these superintendents recently said when referring to the shift to remote learning in March, 2020, “Being a Competency-Based district made the move to remote learning so much easier, and we were so much more effective with students as a result of the work we’d been doing.” The benefits of Competency-Based Education extend far beyond remote learning. The realities of remote learning have caused professionals across all kinds of fields to consider changes to their work. In the case of educators, one result of these reflective questions is a heightened awareness of and desire to learn more about Competency-Based Education. 

On June 23, 2020, our partners at Education Systems Center invite policymakers and practitioners to a webinar that will explore the opportunities remote learning provides to shift from traditional teaching and learning to more systemic personalized and competency-based approaches. Led by national experts, this session will provide a framework with entry points and next steps for pivoting to personalized instructional systems that meet students “where they are” and support them in moving forward as they are ready. Participants will also examine the challenges they have addressed implementing remote learning and consider how shifting to personalized, competency-based approaches can provide a useful framework for next school year and beyond. 

This session will be led by three national experts in personalized and competency-based approaches who are authors of the new book Deeper Competency-Based Learning: Making Equitable, Student-Centered, Sustainable Shifts: Rose Colby, Karin Hess, Ed. D, and Daniel Joseph. In addition, participants will hear directly from Illinois districts at the leading edge of implementing competency-based approaches through the state’s competency-based pilot. 

Following registration, participants will receive excerpts from Deeper Competency-Based Learning: Making Equitable, Student-Centered, Sustainable Shifts along with reflection questions to respond to in advance of the session. 

Register for the June 23, 2020 Shifts Happen: COVID-19 “disruptions” can offer new opportunities for moving toward personalization and competency-based approaches webinar 

June 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Jocsan Martinez – Nuclear Power Plant Management

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Jocsan Martinez, who is a civil engineer and shift manager for Exelon Corporation at the Byron Nuclear Power Plant in Byron, Illinois. The Byron Nuclear Power Plant can generate enough electricity each year to power over 2,000,000 homes, and Jocsan leads one of the teams that runs the plant’s main operations, which range from managing the layers of safety systems to performing important maintenance in order to produce power all day each day. Jocsan grew up in Chicago and attended Whitney Young High School before studying civil engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology. An internship at the Byron Nuclear Power Plant led to his eventual full-time employment there and a unique 5-week rotating schedule that features 12-hour shifts.

As a civil engineer, Jocsan’s job is part of the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathway.

In this video, Jocsan describes engineers and their work by saying, “We solve problems, and there are always problems to solve.” Additionally, while he stresses the importance of math and science skills, he emphatically states that “teamwork and communication are key” to success in his work.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads with nuclear power plant shift manager Jocsan Martinez.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

May 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Erika Sittler – Electrical Engineer

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Erika Sittler, who is an electrical engineer for the City of St. Charles (St. Charles, Illinois). Erika provides background about arriving in Chicagoland as a 14 year-old and entering Schaumburg High School before attending Harper College and then the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As she moved through her higher education experiences, she focused on electrical engineering–partially because she did not think she would be interested or successful with the type of hands-on work with machinery that is often part of mechanical engineering. Today, one of Erika’s favorite aspects of her work is being in the field and helping to diagnose and fix broken equipment.

Erika’s job crosses multiple Career Pathways. As an electrical engineer, her job is part of the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathway. Likewise, given Erika’s role in helping to maintain the city-owned electrical grid in St. Charles, Illinois, her position also has strong connections to the Human & Public Services Career Pathway.

Erika tells students that it is important to enjoy and be good at problem solving, writing, and math in order to do her job well. Put another way, Erika says that people who like to tinker and building things and who enjoy solving puzzles have important skills to do well as an electrical engineer.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode with electrical engineer Erika Sittler.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

May 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Steve O’Neil – Environmental Biologist/Wastewater Operator

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Steve O’Neill, who is a Wastewater Operator for the City of St. Charles (St. Charles, Illinois). Steve speaks about his educational background, including the importance of one of his high school teachers at St. Charles East High School and earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology from Eastern Illinois University. Steve highlights the range of activities he encounters and completes each week in his work, ranging from biology in a lab setting to working with industrial machinery in the field, and he explains how he feels his work improves the world by maintaining human and environmental health within the community locally and by contributing to clean water globally.

Like many of the Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads guests, Steve’s work spans across a number of Career Pathways. In large part, his work is rooted in the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Career Pathway, but given the role of large, industrial machinery in Steve’s work, there are also significant elements of the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathway. Finally, as is clear in Steve’s interview, his focus on being a public servant as a government worker also provides strong evidence of his job being part of the Human & Public Services Career Pathway.

In this episode, Steve spoke about how diverse his work is within a day and from one day to the next, and he also spoke about first being aware of the possibility of working for local government as a result of a summer job he held as a teenager. From that, he built and maintained relationships that then led to a long-term position and a career. Even in a job that requires dealing with raw sewage, Steve reminds students to “never shy away from an opportunity to learn something new.”

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode with environmental biologist Steve O’Neil.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

May 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Joan Schouten – Government Purchasing Manager

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Joan Schouten, who is the Purchasing Division Manager for the City of St. Charles (St. Charles, Illinois). Joan speaks about the importance of collaboration and organization in her work, and she discusses how critical it is that government’s use of the money that comes from taxpayers is efficient and ethical. Joan comments on the wide range of individuals with whom she is able to work in her role and how interesting it is to always be learning about new products, processes, and solutions as she sets-up and manages purchasing processes for the wide range of goods and services necessary to keep a city government operating.

As a purchasing manager, Joan’s work is rooted in the Business & Finance Career Pathway, but as an employ of local government, her occupation is also directly connected to the Human & Public Services Pathway.

Joan stresses that her work gives her a strong sense of pride as she feels like she is giving back to her community with the work that she does each day. Joan also finds her work incredibly interesting as she interacts with people in a wide range of industries and jobs regularly based on the many different goods and services that the city needs to purchase.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads interview with government purchasing manager Joan Schouten.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

May 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Jeff Carter – Electrician

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Jeff Carer, who is an electrician and the owner of A and J Electric in Sycamore, Illinois. Jeff explains the process of becoming an electrician, which includes a four-to-five year apprenticeship, and he stresses the importance of ongoing learning throughout one’s career. Today, for example, Jeff continues to learn about updates to code in different counties and municipalities as well as a focus on safety as defined by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

As an electrician and a business owner, Jeff is in the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathway as well as the Business & Finance Career Pathway.

In both his profession as an electrician and beyond as a former baseball player and current shark diver, Jeff has a unique perspective on his work, and he explains how much he enjoys that each day is different in his job. From working on the re-construction of Soldier Field to skyscrapers in Chicago to work locally, there is tremendous satisfaction Jeff finds from safely and successfully completing each job. Jeff also stresses the importance work ethic and a desire to learn – Arriving early and asking questions are two key examples of this.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads interview with electrician Jeff Carter.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

May 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Bridget Caragher – Social Worker

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logo Since students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Bridget Caragher, who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and co-owner at Green Door Therapy. Bridget provides therapy for individuals and families, and she also has responsibilities in managing the business that range from working with insurance companies to posting on social media. Bridget explains the requirements of earning a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree as well as then continuing on for your clinical certification, and she also provides tips about what high school and college/university students can do now in order to prepare for a career as a therapist even while they are in school.

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Bridget’s work is in the Human & Public Services Career Pathway.

In speaking about social work and other related careers, Bridget explained an educational progression that would include a Bachelor’s Degree, followed immediately by a Master’s Degree, and then a full-time internship. She also spoke about how students can begin to explore the career by volunteering and working roles like serving as a camp counselor while still in school. Most importantly, Bridget stressed that critical competencies for success in this work were to be open-minded and empathetic, saying the key to helping others in her job was to ‘look for resilience where people don’t see it in themselves.’

Watch this interview with social worker Bridget Caragher.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Brian Pekron – Wind Farm Operations

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Brian Pekron, who is in Wind Farm Operations. Originally earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Nuclear Engineering, Brian and a partner created a manufacturing company that designed an improved mixing nozzle for adhesives. Recently, Brain came back to working in the energy field with his new role in Wind Farming. In this role, Brian is involved in everything from planning to implementation, and his work ranges from managing financial projections and reports to working with suppliers and ensuring that wind turbines are fully operational.

Brian’s work in Wind Farm Operations and his range of job responsibilities keeps his work firmly rooted in both the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology and Trades Career Pathway and the Business and Finance Career Pathway.

To be successful in his work, Brian has developed skills and competencies ranging from coding to deep understanding of the science behind energy to finance. For students, Brian speaks of the tremendous opportunities available in the fast-growing fields of wind and solar energy as well as of the need to gain exposure to many different careers while in school.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads interview with Brian Pekron about wind farm operations.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

P-20 Network Virtual Spring Meeting

Our Spring 2020 P-20 Network Meeting was originally scheduled for April 23, 2020, at NIU Naperville. Due to the shelter-in-place order in Illinois as a result of COVID-19, the Spring P-20 Network Meeting has been moved to an asynchronous virtual event. While this format unfortunately requires us to miss out on the face-to-face discussions that are such a critical part of the P-20 Network, we are excited to share a number of the previously planned presentations as videos that can be viewed across the P-20 Network and beyond.

Each of the presentations below links to a video on the P-20 Network YouTube Channel.

Transitional English – More info coming soon!
In the coming weeks, we also look forward to hosting a webinar about proposed competencies for Transitional English that have been developed by a group composed of stakeholders from across school districts, postsecondary institutions, and state agencies throughout Illinois.

Meeting Evaluation
After watching the videos, please take a few minutes to provide feedback using this short form on your P-20 Network experience as well as on the needs of your organization moving forward.

NIU P-20 Research & Data Collaborative
From statewide research projects to working with districts of all sizes on their research and data needs, the NIU P-20 Research & Data Collaborative is excited to offer a wide range of services and partnerships to advance knowledge and practice. Learn more about the NIU P-20 Research & Data Collaborative, and contact us for more information about specific projects.

For more information and to be part of the conversation of the P-20 Network:

Fall 2020 P-20 Network Meeting
Finally, plan now to attend the Fall 2020 P-20 Network Meeting on Thursday, October 1, 2020, at the Barsema Alumni & Visitors Center on-campus at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Molly Levy – Fintech Product Management

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Molly Levy, who is Vice President for Product at Liberis, a Fintech company working with small businesses. Fintech refers to the sub-sector of companies that focus on developing and implementing information technology solutions from hardware to software that create new or enhance existing financial products. Molly, who is from Chicago’s Northern Suburbs but now lives and works in London in the United Kingdom, leads the team that is responsible for the creation and ongoing development of products at Liberis, a company which focuses their efforts of providing capital to small businesses.

As a leader of a Fintech company, Molly’s current role as the Vice President for Product as being in both the Business & Finance Career Pathway as well as the Information Technology Career Pathway.

While Molly grew up in Suburban Chicago, from there, her career has taken her to San Francisco and now to London, and through these experiences Molly has learned a great deal about the importance of being flexible and about being able to work with others from different cultures, which Molly discusses in this video. Molly has learned about and stresses the importance of the feedback loop. In the case of her company that feedback loop is specifically between customers and the design team, and it results in an iterative design process through which products are always being improved. Molly’s key advice to current students to find value in all of your work place experiences and to view them as opportunities to learn and improve.

Watch this interview with Molly Levy, Vice President-Product at Liberis.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Lisa Sharp – Architect

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Lisa Sharp, an architect who owns her own architecture firm based out of DeKalb, Illinois, USA. Lisa provides an overview of the workflow of architecture from obtaining work through the design and planning phases and, of course, on to construction. With experience doing a wide range of work, including the restoration of the historic Egyptian Theater in Downtown DeKalb, Lisa is able to provide students with an understanding of all aspects of being an architect.

As an architect, Lisa works in the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathway. As the owner of her own firm, her job also exists in the Business and Finance Career Pathway.

From a very young age (6 years old!), Lisa remembers wanting to be an architect. She has always liked drawing, math, and being with people – all of which are necessary to be successful as an architect. She describes the role of an architect as being like the conductor of a band as one works with other professionals across a broad range of job types from engineers to interior designer to construction workers. Despite the fact that 98% of her work is completed on a computer today, Lisa still stresses that drawing is a critical skill for success, and she says it is also very important to have a strong imagination and to be very good at thinking ahead and planning.

Watch this interview with architect Lisa Sharp.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Desiree Battaglia – Communications-Media Relations

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Desiree Battaglia, a media relations specialist at Northwestern Medicine. Desiree recently moved into this role after serving as the Manager of Public Relations and Corporate Communications for Wilton Brands. In both of these roles, Desiree has worked with everything from media outlets ranging from television stations to magazines as she has worked to tell stories for each of these organizations while inspiring others as they engage with that work.

As a communications specialist, Desiree’s work would be classified as being in the Human & Public Services Career Pathway, though currently her work is also directly related to the Health Science & Technology Career Pathway as the stories she is telling are that of a major healthcare and hospital network in Chicagoland.

During the interview, Desiree shared her experiences in serving as a member of the staff of the school newspaper in high school, and then, she worked at both the newspaper and the television station while attending Northern Illinois University. Even prior to those experiences, she always had a love for making speeches and doing presentations, and these personal interests and school experiences all aligned perfectly with her career.  From this, she advises students to turn their “passion into a career” while also telling students that relationship-building, follow-through, writing and communications skills, and being resilient are all critical to career success as a communications professional.

Watch this interview with media relations specialist Desiree Smith.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Laura Rice – Microbiologist

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Laura Rice, a microbiologist who holds a PhD., has over a dozen patents, and has published dozens of technical articles. Laura works for the Nalco Water division of Ecolab, a very large international corporation. In Laura’s role, she leads teams that solve problems in the Paper and Pulp industry to ensure that machines can work efficiently in creating everything from office paper to the cardboard used in pizza boxes. Through these efforts, there is less waste, which not only increases profitability for companies, but it also results in environmental benefits as a greater percentage of the trees harvested for paper turn into product rather than end up wasted.

As a microbiologist working in the paper industry, Laura’s work would be classified as being in either the Agriculture Food, and Natural Resources and/or the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathways.

During the interview, Laura talks about being a shy student who was afraid to take the risk to ask questions in class, and she encourages all students to ask teachers at all levels for help. She highlights many of the essential skills that are vital to success in her workplace stressing that it is important to be a problem solver and to be persistent in your efforts. Above all else, Laura tells students that collaboration and communication are critical each day. When thinking about entry level positions that students will have they begin their careers, Laura reminds students that regardless of the task on which they are working, it is important to understand why it is important and to always welcome feedback as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Watch this interview with microbiologist Laura Rice.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Arthur Mingo – Attorney

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Arthur Mingo, an attorney who has recently started his own practice in Chicagoland. Arthur goes into great deal about law school teaching students to think like attorneys and about the process of taking and passing the Bar Exam. Arthur also talks about how, like a doctor who is a general practitioner or family doctor, an attorney with a new, small practice will likely take a wide variety of cases before possibly specializing in a particular area of legal work.

As an attorney, Arthur’s work would be classified as being in the Human and Public Services Career Pathway.

Arthur stresses a number of important points to students when considering becoming an attorney. First, Arthur emphasizes that the work of most attorneys most of the time does not look like it appears on television and in movies. Second, Arthur points out that while his degree from the Law School at Southern Illinois University might not be considered as prestigious as an Ivy League Law School, he learned from the same books and got a very strong legal education while also earning scholarships and strengthening his financial future.

Arthur also notes that being argumentative is not the most important skill to becoming a good attorney. Rather, it is important that one truly listens to their clients, returns phone calls, and is a strong reader and writer.

Learn more about what it’s like to be an attorney by watching this interview with Arthur Mingo.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Elizabeth Stanley – Broadway Star

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Elizabeth Stanley, who is currently starring in the production of Jagged Little Pill on Broadway in New York City. Elizabeth grew up in Western Illinois attending Camp Point Central High School, and she holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University. In addition to singing, dancing, and acting in live theater productions, Elizabeth has appeared in many television shows. From her work in regional theater to the biggest stages in the United States, Elizabeth’s job is her dream job and a dream for many. In this interview, though, Elizabeth also stresses all of the related careers that are necessary to create and maintain live theater, providing opportunities for people with all kinds of interests and skills to be involved in a career in the Arts.

As an actress, Elizabeth’s work would be classified as being in the Arts & Communications Career Pathway.

In addition to describing what life looks while performers are looking for jobs as well as once they are in a production, Elizabeth offers a number of key tips for students that are not only important for those considering a career in the Arts but that align with the Essential Skills and are relevant to all Career Pathways.

  • Be as prepared as possible
  • Be Self-Motivated
  • Be resilient and persevere; Develop one’s self-esteem
  • Be thoughtful with one’s finances and save regularly

Watch our P-20 Network interview with actress Elizabeth Stanley on YouTube.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Brigette Wolf – Snack Food Innovator & Leader

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Brigette Wolf, the Head of Snack Futures Innovation at Mondelez International. In Brigette’s role, she works with and learns from customers and retailers in order to understand their needs, and she leads a diverse team that seeks to create new products that will be exciting to consumers with an emphasis on new ideas and sustainability. Brigette also provides her advice to students about beginning their own career journeys.

As an executive in the food industry, Brigette’s work would be classified as being in either the Agriculture Food, and Natural Resources and/or the Business/Finance Career Pathways.

Brigette specifically identifies that critical thinking, the ability to listen, and being good at asking questions are all essential skills that are necessary in her work. In a job that routinely sees her traveling around the world, literally to different continents each week and back home on the weekends, she also must be able to work with both teammates and customers from around the world. Brigette has identified that having the “agility to learn” is vital to her ongoing success, and like each of the Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads guests before her, she cites work ethic is being a must-have characteristic to achieve in her career.

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Jim Daly – Chemist & Corporate Leader

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Jim Daly, the Vice President of Global FloraLife and Corporate Research at Smithers-Oasis. Among other products, FloraLife is the company behind the packets of flower food that come with bouqets of flowers at the supermarket, and in this video, Jim talks about everything from the science behind extending the storage life of apples to the process of innovation.

As a chemist-turned-executive, Jim’s work would be classified as being in either the Agriculture Food, and Natural Resources and/or the Business/Finance Career Pathways.

Jim stresses the importance of consistent hard work over a long period of time as a key to success in any career. He talks about learning as much as possible when you are young and taking advantage of formal learning opportunities, so you can build upon those once you are in the workplace. Jim also emphasizes how exciting it is to innovate and create while also stating that, in his experience, leading people is more complex than solving problems with chemicals.

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Marco Casalaina – IT Leader & AI Innovator

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Marco Casalaina, the Senior Vice President – Product – Einstein at Salesforce.com. Marco is in charge of a global team working on Salesforce’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) efforts, and he talks about his work, the most important skills for himself and his team members, and provides advice to students about their own career pathways.

As a computer scientist and executive, Marco’s work would be classified as being in either the Information Technology and/or the Business/Finance Career Pathways.

Marco also discusses the importance of cross-cultural competence as he leads a global team with offices in the United Stands, France, Israel, and India, and he identifies two key skills for students to develop regardless of their particular career interests – communication and creativity.

Click here to watch the video on YouTube.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

March 2020

Dual Credit and Advanced Placement while Learning at Home

UPDATED – 27 March 2020 – Additional guidance about dual credit classes from ISBE, ICCB, and IBHE has been released and is available online here. Everything in this new guidance aligns with the “Dual Credit” section below, and it offers additional specific suggestions for ensuring students can access online coursework as well as for individual plans for students to complete the coursework and for late withdrawals if necessary.


With all Illinois schools being closed for on-site instruction due to Governor Pritzker’s Executive Orders (Executive Order 2020-10), school districts and community colleges have made a tremendous shift to distance/remote learning on a never-seen-before scale in a a matter of days. While there is a great deal of flexibility that may be on offer in a variety of classes, Dual Credit and Advanced Placement courses present unique challenges–namely, that their successful completion will also designate to other (future) institutions that the student has mastered specific skills and concepts.

Advanced Placement Changes for Spring 2020
On Friday, March 20, 2020, The College Board, the not-for-profit organization that administers the Advanced Placement (AP) program and creates, implements, and scores the AP Tests, made announcements about its plans to modify AP Testing for Spring 2020. Key elements of this decision include:

  • 45-minute, one-question free response tests in place of multiple choice plus free response tests that take hours to complete
  • Limited curricular scope that should include only what was already covered
  • Opportunity to cancel participation free-of-charge if students wish
  • Online testing as well as the option of photographing and sending a handwritten response (with support from College Board to help ensure access to both devices and the Internet for students who do not currently have both at home)

Additionally, beginning on March 25th, online support led by teachers will be available for students from The College Board via the AP YouTube Channel. A full schedule and resources can be found here under the header Free AP Review Classes.

Dual Credit Classes
In keeping with the spirit of Illinois’ Dual Credit Quality Act and the Model Partnership Agreement, it is necessary for the community college or university offering the postsecondary credit and the school district that is offering and teaching the dual credit course to agree upon the standards and criteria necessary to continue with the awarding of postsecondary credit to students.

With school districts, community colleges, and four-year universities all moving to online and remote learning environments, there is a common basis for these discussions and decisions. In gathering feedback from school districts and community colleges throughout the P-20 Network and who are serving as leaders on these issues through the P-20 Network’s Dual Credit Think Tank, the following steps are suggested between school districts and postsecondary institutions as best practices at this time:

  • Discuss – Be sure to open the lines of communications about what is expected with regards to curriculum, how it is delivered instructionally, and how the skills and concepts will be assessed.
  • Make similar adjustments – As universities and colleges make adjustments to curriculum with the move to learning at home, those changes should be communicated to school districts, and it is reasonable to expect the school districts to make the same adjustments rather than simply expecting them to continue on as originally planned. It is critical that the course objectives are clear and consistent across school districts and the higher education institution, and that all students are being supported with meeting those objectives.
  • Trust school districts – Just as face-to-face courses in higher education have moved online, school districts will need to do the same with their dual credit courses like all of their classes. Additionally, teachers in school district settings are certified by the state as a result of their strong background in pedagogical coursework and their student teaching experience, so they should be as well-prepared as faculty in postsecondary institutions to make these adjustments.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), like other state agencies in Illinois and around the United States, are working through these policy challenges and seeking to provide clear guidance as quickly as possible. If guidance specific to Dual Credit is issued by either or both of these agencies, that should be followed. (It will very likely be issued by both jointly.) At the moment, ISBE has told school districts in its most recent March 23rd Guidance Document:

Please work with your community college partners to ensure that students will not be penalized by these circumstances. ISBE and ICCB are working on additional coordinated guidance.

March 2020

Exploring Careers while Learning at Home

We’re collecting questions about Learning at Home from teachers at all levels, and we’ll be working with experts to help get these questions answered. If you have questions, please provide them here.


Websites listed in this post are listed as examples because they are already in common use in Illinois. There is no endorsement of these companies or their services by the P-20 Network or Northern Illinois University.

Along with the physical closure of schools, work-based learning experiences have also been stopped for students. From its March 16, 2020, guidance document, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) clarified that students cannot participate in work-based learning experiences in the field with workplace partners.

ISBE - No Internships - 03162020

Does this mean that students cannot meaningfully engage in exploring careers while learning at home? Actually, E-Learning presents a wonderful opportunity to engage in further career exploration for students. Ideas for learning more about careers while learning at home include:

  • Using online tools to conduct their own research about careers about which they would like to learn more, including what type of postsecondary education to obtain a position in the career, what the workplace environment looks and feels like, how much money one is able to earn both when new in the career and later with more experience, and most importantly, how the career matches with the students’ personal and career interests as well as with regional occupational needs. If your school district uses a tool like Xello or YouScience, now is a great time to have students dive into their results and do some additional exploration.

Xello - Explore Careers

  • Students can also conduct interviews or do additional research into the more behind-the-scenes elements of different careers in which they might be interested to fully understand what those careers entail on a daily basis. In many cases, students have a deeper understanding of the careers of their parents or other adult family members as well as teachers. Beyond that, most students do not see the daily inner-workings of most careers. Movies and television not only leave out most careers and focus on specifically high-profile careers in very dramatic ways, such as law enforcement, paramedics, and frontline medical professions, such as doctors and nurses. Even with the large number of movies and television shows focused on these careers, large portions of the daily work routine in those fields are typically left out. Hours of documentation and paperwork each day is part of real life, but it does not make for dramatic viewing. Even when other careers are highlighted in movies and television, such as the scene below from Apollo 13 that shows engineers tackling a life-threatening problem, leave out the years of detailed, mundane creation and testing that these same engineers did prior to the launch of Apollo 13.
  • Use the curriculum of your course as a jump-off for career exploration – As we replace some of the face-to-face collaborative activities, labs, and other lessons that we would have been doing with in-person teaching that we have not yet figured out how to effectively move online or to students’ homes, take advantage of this opportunity to use your curriculum as a jumping off point for further exploration. Certainly, it is a great opportunity to explore the curriculum further and/or in unique personalized ways with independent research and creative, original products. It is also a great opportunity for students to explore careers related to this curriculum. While this may be a teacher-initiated career exploration, there is a great deal of room for individual student choice within this work as well as for students to create a wide range of products that can inform other students in other places and in the future about career options. This also a great opportunity for community partners of local school districts to provide information about their careers via video chats using tools like YouTube Live. (It takes 24 hours for YouTube to verify an account to allow it to broadcast live, so one does need to plan in advance).

YouTubeLive

  • Remote College & Career Counseling – Despite the fact that nearly all teachers and staff and counselors and advisors are working from home, in some ways, this is a better opportunity than a normal March or April to provide students with during-the-day college and career counseling. In many cases, engaging with students and parents together may be easier than it would normally be, as well. Remote college and career counseling can certainly take advantage of today’s technological tools, live video chat through Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams, or some other tool, but it can also take place via a phone call, enabling nearly all students and families to take advantage of this opportunity. In the example below from Maine West High School, Maine Township High School District 207 staff members walk students and families through the steps that they have created, and which others can replicate, to provide remote college and career counseling. (It is important to note that, in addition to the video here, the slide deck is publicly available and has been widely shared on social media to engage students, such as this Instagram post from Maine East High School.)
March 2020

Learning at Home – The importance of student choice

We’re collecting questions about Learning at Home from teachers at all levels, and we’ll be working with experts to help get these questions answered. If you have questions, please provide them here.


Websites listed in this post are listed as examples because they are already in common use in Illinois. There is no endorsement of these companies or their services by the P-20 Network or Northern Illinois University.

While covering the curriculum and standards is an essential part of developing instructional units and lessons for students, all students do not need to experience the curriculum and the standards in the exact same way. Student choice in any learning environment can be a key to increased student motivation, increased creation/production, and deeper, longer lasting learning.

If there is only one thing that each teacher who is creating E-Learning units and lessons should do, it is create opportunities for students to choose key elements of their learning. Choice may revolve around the products students create and/or the resources and processes that they use to learn the concepts, content, and skills.

Student choice can be as simple as allowing students to choose their own reading material – broadly or on a specific topic. Access to the Internet along with a device does significantly increase the amount of choice that students might have, but even without the Internet, it’s possible to provide students with options in their work. For example, schools that are still in session prior to the required closure beginning on Tuesday, March 17th and that have library books available for check-out can allow students to check out books based on whatever topics they would like, including fiction or non-fiction books.

Products

Creating open-ended projects that allow students to be assessed similarly but on a variety of different products. Products might range from a video or podcast that students create to a more traditional academic paper to a presentation (to their classmates or a more authentic audience, such as a school board or municipal board) to a persuasive policy letter sent to a legislator or bureaucrat. By moving away from a traditional test as an end-of-unit summative assessment, students who will have more opportunities to be creative and engage with their learning in a manner of their own choosing. Such projects also provide outstanding opportunities through academic coursework and even via E-Learning for students to learn and practice the Cross-Sector Essential Employability Competencies. (See page 6 of this document on the Illinois College and Career Pathway Endorsements.)

Even a series of smaller tasks can still provide students with choice as evidenced by this example of a Choice Board pictured below. This choice board had a total of 9 activities, and students are required to do 4 of them – 1 per day over 4 days. This provides students with a significant level of choice as they will do less than half of the activities offered to them. In this particular board, there is a significant emphasis on traditional E-Learning activities that require a device and a robust Internet and wireless network connection. In many cases, these prerequisites may be a barrier to completing the activities. As always, it is critical that educators know their students and design accordingly.

Choice Board

Assessment on this wide range of products will typically be based on a rubric or checklist that articulates the appropriate performance levels of content knowledge and skill attainment on a specific project. It is important to bear in mind that E-Learning activities should be activities that students can complete independently or with remote teacher support–rather than parent support. Likewise, assessment should consider what level of performance students can be expected to achieve independently via E-Learning. Obviously, at the high school and postsecondary levels, there are entire courses that have moved to E-Learning, and like with any class, in some cases, students learn a significant amount and are very engaged, and in other cases, that is not so. As teachers embark on E-Learning and are new to leading students through E-Learning and have not necessarily considered teaching through E-Learning until days before needing to implement, there will be significant learning for everyone. The best advice in this case is to be flexible and realistic with the expectations that are built into assessments as one develops experience with the structure and process and as one collaborates with colleagues on seeing the results of these efforts.

Resources and processes for learning

When connecting to curriculum and standards to current events, a wide range of resources are available to students to support their learning. By connecting curriculum to current events, news sites, while in some cases limited by paywall access, provide a wealth of options for students to read, watch, listen to, write about, and integrate into their own thoughts. Traditional news sites from major media companies are accessible to students as our platforms designed specifically for schools and for students, such as newsela, which is pictured below. Inherent in everything from traditional newspapers to modern media websites is that there are a wide range of articles from which students can choose to engage.

Newsela

Similarly, if your students have access to electronic books through your school library and through a service like myON or Overdrive. Likewise, if students have public library cards, there are also electronic books available from many public libraries. For accessing both fiction and non-fiction books, having access to electronic books provides tremendous choice to students regarding what they read and learn. For example, the image below represents just a small slice of books available from one library by one author.

EBooks

Similar to the range of options available for choice with electronic books, libraries that are able to subscribe to online databases offer students a wide range of articles from which they can learn. In many schools, it is common to see students using such databases as early as the intermediate grade levels. As the teacher of an E-Learning class, it may be necessary to provide instruction to students on how best to use a particular database and/or which databases will be most useful for which purposes. This is also a great opportunity to utilize instructional resources that can be developed by school librarians in one’s own school or that have been published across the Internet.

Library Research Databases

Finally, when students are conducting their own research, they will not only be able to utilize electronic books and library databases, but they will also be able to take advantage of an Internet full of websites. As students come across different websites, there are inherent challenges for students and teachers ranging from the text complexity of the website to the validity of the information on the website. Due to these factors as well as the need to help students stay on-track with their progress within an independent or collaborative research project, ongoing coaching from the teacher is necessary. Fortunately, online text and video chat tools help make this somewhat manageable and more like these same instructional strategies would be in a face-to-face classroom.

March 2020

Learning at Home – Tips for Video Meetings

We’re collecting questions about Learning at Home from teachers at all levels, and we’ll be working with experts to help get these questions answered. If you have questions, please provide them here.


Collaboration in education, whether between or among students or educators, remains primarily face-to-face. While other professions and companies use video meetings as a frequent, and often daily, part of their work lives, most meetings in schools, school districts, community colleges, and universities have remained face-to-face. COVID-19 is now requiring a high degree of use of video meetings among educators and between educators and students.

Today’s video meeting tools tend to use less bandwidth, produce higher quality video and audio, include screensharing options, and work across devices and platforms. Nevertheless, the following tips will help educators get started.

Picking a solution

  • When doing #elearning or #distancelearning with students, use video chat cautiously. Ensuring that students’ wireless networks and Internet connections can handle the bandwidth of video chat is not to be underestimated. This is particularly true for students in an elementary or secondary setting, or in a situation like COVID-19 when everyone will more-or-less be working from home rather than being able to take advantage of a robust network at school or the public library.
  • Use your institution’s supported video chat solution – If your organization uses Google’s G Suite, it may be Hangouts Meet, and if your organization uses Microsoft’s Office 365, it may be Teams. Alternatively, it could be a video meeting solution, such as Zoom or GoToMeeting or Adobe Connect. For educational institutions, it may be the video component of a Learning Management System, such as Blackboard or Canvas.
  • Be sure to test if this preferred solution allows you to collaborate with others with email addresses from other organizations. Some solutions may be set-up to only allow users from your own institution connect with the video chat solution due to security settings. This may or may not be an issue depending on your use-case. For example, if a superintendent or assistant superintendent who wants to meet across school districts, it is necessary that all of those different individuals can access the video meeting despite having user accounts/email addresses from different organizations. Questions about this should be addressed as soon as possible with the organization’s Information Technology staff to allow them the time to offer a workable solution that still meets the organization’s online security requirements.
  • If your institution has more than one supported solution, just pick one and use it consistently (or, at least, use the same one consistently with the same audience). For example, you might always use one solution for meetings with colleagues, and there may be a different solution that you always use with students. That’s okay, but try to keep those consistent within each group.

Dress rehearsal & orientation

Video Chat TestingWith any of the online meeting options, making sure that one’s microphone and webcam are working are usually the biggest trick. Unfortunately, everyone participating will need to go through and make sure that their own microphones and webcams are working. As the host, prepare ahead of time. Do a test meeting (or two or three) to ensure that the camera and mic are working and that you know how to create the event. You can do this with a friend or colleague or even by yourself with another email address.

Assume that your first meeting with each group will be spent troubleshooting these kind of issues with participants.

Your “studio”

Google Hangout StudioAt tech companies, there are often special rooms set aside for conducting video meetings. Most educational institutions are not so lucky, and even fewer educators have a location at home that is already prepared for video meetings and classes. Do a pick location that is quiet from which you can consistently lead and participate in video chat meetings and classes. Make sure that there is more light shining on your face than there is behind you–For example, avoid sitting in front of a window as the backlighting will make you simply appear as a shadowy figure, and those in the video chat session with you will not be able to see your facial expressions (which is part of the point of a video meeting).

Use wired headphones with a built-in microphone for the best audio quality. A pair of headphones from an older smartphone works great. This simple, inexpensive step makes a huge difference! 

Features to use and practice with the group

Once you have do have everyone in a meeting together with functioning microphones and webcams, take some time to walk people through the features you will be using. These might include:

  • Using a chat box or virtually raising a hand to talk or ask a question
  • Muting and un-muting one’s microphone
  • Sharing one’s screen and handing off control of the presentation to different people in the group

Of course, if you are recording the meeting, please be clear with all participants that you are doing so!

March 2020

Learning at Home – Using Twitter to learn more

We’re collecting questions about Learning at Home from teachers at all levels, and we’ll be working with experts to help get these questions answered. If you have questions, please provide them here.


On Friday afternoon, March 13, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that all Illinois schools would be closing for a week and a half at a minimum. In advance of that, over 100 of Illinois’ approximately 850 school districts had already announced closures. (See this website from the Illinois State Board of Education for more information – Scroll down to view their dashboard.) Some of these closures have been announced into mid-April. This same pattern is taking place throughout the United States and across the globe.

Follow #KeepLearning #LearningAtHome #elearning & #ILEdChat on Twitter

With the unprecedented move to Learning at Home in the face of COVID-19, resources and ideas are being widely shared, most notably on Twitter. As was shared in our previous post, encouraging teachers to actively engage with a PLN through Twitter can generally result in positive innovation and sharing, but such engagement is incredibly critical at this time–and will continue to be beneficial after we have completed the quarantine period. Even if you are an educator who is not on Twitter, clicking on the links for each of the following Twitter hashtags (a way of labeling and organizing content on Twitter) will allow you to scroll directly through the questions, answers, and resources being shared.

#KeepLearning

#LearningAtHome

#elearning

#ILEdChat

#ILSchoolsStepUp

Twitter hashtag header

Once you are in the hashtag search (which you can also access on your own by using Twitter’s search bar and simply typing in the hashtag), you will see a number of tabs near the top of the page:

  • Top
  • Latest
  • People
  • Photos
  • Videos

Of these, the two most useful are, as you would expect, Top and Latest. Top tab will show you the posts garnering the highest level of engagement on Twitter, which is defined as a mix of replies, retweets, and likes. The Latest tab will show you the most recent posts in chronological order. In either case, start reading at the top of the tab and scroll down as you read. Clicking on links as you read will allow you to access that information, and the links will conveniently open in new tabs in your web browser, so you don’t lose your place.

By the time you have scrolled through a portion of the list, there will likely be new tweets to view at the top.

Follow the Illinois Digital Educators Alliance Twitter account – @ideaillinois

IDEA Illinois is one of the leading chapters of ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) in the world, and as expected, they are taking a leadership role in providing resources regarding E-Learning to educators at all levels. If you have a Twitter account, you can follow @ideaillinois, by typing @ideaillinois in the search bar, and then clicking the “Follow” button. Even if you do not have a Twitter account, you can click here to follow @ideaillinois.

IDEA E-Learning Resources

IDEA Illinois is tweeting thoughtful questions and resources throughout the day each day and using the hashtags #elearning and #ILEdChat. Additionally, they are providing advice and gathering curated resources on this page on the IDEA Illinois website. (This page is being updated regularly, so keep checking it.)

Ask questions and share

Even if you are new on Twitter and even if you have very few followers, don’t be afraid to ask questions and share resources that you and your team have found or created. If you use the hashtags listed here (by simply typing them in with the # at the start and all one word–exactly as they are written in this post), you’ll likely get responses even with very followers.

Additionally, as you find others who are tweeting helpful information, click on their Twitter handle to go to their account click the “Follow” button to start to build up individuals and organizations that you are following directly.

March 2020

E-Learning Tips for Learning at Home

We’re collecting questions about Learning at Home from teachers at all levels, and we’ll be working with experts to help get these questions answered. If you have questions, please provide them here.


As school districts and postsecondary institutions across the P-20 Network, throughout Illinois, and around the United States and the world have had to rush to implement e-learning days in an effort to promote public health and slow the spread of COVID-19, teachers and faculty members are having to quickly grapple with days, weeks, or months of teaching online when they were previously planning to be working face-to-face with students in a more traditional learning setting. With the main goal of improving learning for all learners and supporting educators in that work, the P-20 Network will continue to seek to collect and share resources to make online learning as productive and efficient as possible for both students and their teachers. Initially, we’ve collected some tips and resources that may be helpful.

 

Engage students in impacting what & how they are learning online

As Thornton Fractional School District 215 Superintendent Teresa Lance demonstrates in the above tweet, it is critical that, from the start, teachers are transparent with students about this being a learning process for everyone. Doing so can serve to build community despite not being physically in the same location, an important social and emotional prerequisite for learning, and it can allow students to brainstorm and develop ideas that will actually improve instruction. Teachers can and should ask about:

  • Which online learning tools are most and least effective and why
  • Which activities are most engaging and why
  • How students have successfully created an environment at home in which they can learn (and where they are struggling with this)

Whether in-person or online, teachers should also create as much opportunity as possible for students to explore what deeply interests them about their curriculum, to read both fiction and non-fiction that is most relevant to their lives and appropriately challenging for them, and to create products that have real audiences and purposes. Education Pathway students at Buffalo Grove High School created this e-learning guide for teachers as part of their classwork, and it was widely shared via Twitter to help educators worldwide.

 

Connect with teachers worldwide

From early childhood educators through university professors, when teachers collaborate with other educators, they experience higher levels of self-efficacy, have greater job satisfaction, and most importantly, they are most likely to have a long-term and significant positive impact on student learning. For teachers who have not previously been on Twitter or for those who engaged in a professional development workshop regarding Twitter eight or nine years ago and who have not been back, now is the time to jump in.

Resources regarding how to provide instruction online have been shared widely as schools in other countries closed their classrooms weeks and months prior to schools in the United States. Additionally, there are already countless experienced teachers of online and blended learning courses who are active on Twitter and can help support teachers. In the example below, Adrienne Michetti, a Canadian who teaches in Singapore, and who has been an active educator on Twitter for over a decade demonstrates the profound power of being willing to ask for help from others in her professional, personal learning network.

Responses included the following resources:

Finally, even if you are new to Twitter and to teaching students online, don’t be afraid to share and ask questions!

 

Be realistic about students’ learning environments

Empty Primary ClassroomWhile Comcast has announced free Internet for low income families through their Internet Essentials program for 60 days, this service is not available in all areas–particularly rural areas. Even in areas where it is available, in many apartments, cables need to be run and modems deployed and set-up. In other words, many students will not even have Internet access. Even if 90% of your students have Internet access at home – 2-3 students per class on-average will not have Internet access.

For families and students using mobile devices to do their work, they face the additional change of costly data caps, and many do not have or cannot afford to use that device as a hotspot. (They are very limited in how many YouTube videos they will be able to watch to complete assignments over the weeks that schools and colleges/universities are closed. And, could you imagine typing a long-form writing piece on the small, glass keyboard on your phone.)

To help with this, survey your students using a private Google Form or Microsoft Form to learn about where in their home they will be working, what kind of Internet access they have, what distractions they will face trying to learn at home, and what other responsibilities they will have in their families at home during the “school” day. In addition to giving you actionable information, this will also allow students to reflect on these points and start to develop plans and solutions where possible.

Nevertheless, it is critical that teachers adjust expectations in accordance with these realities. To think that students will be able to do their normal 8.30 AM to 3.30 PM school day at home in the same way that they do it school creates an unrealistic foundation for trying to successfully “do” learning online.

 

Expect yourself to learn – and give yourself permission to do so

The greatest teachers are always learning, and everyone one of us will definitely learn when moving to online teaching. Even experienced online educators speak openly about how challenging it can be do effectively, and teachers who are new to it with little time for preparation need to be gentle with themselves regarding this reality. Understanding your students’ needs and current situations, taking instructional risks, and being transparent and open with students (and consistently gathering feedback from them!) throughout the online learning experience will go far in creating the best possible learning experience for students and upon which further improvements to future online learning can be made by teachers.

March 2020