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Mar 17 2020 - 10:35 AM
Navigating K-12 Distance Learning

After Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement on Sunday that NYC Public Schools will be closed from now until April 20, the city’s teachers are moving into the largely uncharted territory of reaching students at home. The practice of remote or distance learning is common in higher education and has also been utilized in secondary education environments, but has not been used often with younger learners. Teachers, administrators, parents, and students are all doing their best to adapt to this new format. Teachers College has rolled out Academic Continuity Planning, which can be used by instructors within the college yet is full of ideas that can be applied by those working with outside student populations. Other universities have done the same, as evidenced by resources collected in this spreadsheet by the director of faculty development and technology development at DePaul University. 

(Image from BrainPOP homepage)

As an educator with NYS certification in progress and a student myself, I have been collecting resources to share with anyone rising to the challenge of migrating K-12 learning into a more digital sphere. There is a lot of information floating around with regard to internet access changes, learning platforms, and other teaching tools that are both copyright compliant and available free of charge. These resources have all been tried by myself, my colleagues, my friends who have children of their own, and students across the world. Resources can also be searched on Common Sense Media for more reviews. Some have received glowing reviews from students themselves (I can almost hear my first graders demanding GoNoodle from here)!

If there are any resources that you would like to highlight, feel free to leave a comment. Despite the distance, we’re all in this together. 


Keep Americans Connected Pledge set forth by the FCC asks data providers to:

“(1) not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic; (2) waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and (3) open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.”

300,000 Apple devices are set to be purchased by the city to distribute to students in need. Some schools have taken initiative to distribute devices as well. Schools will remain open solely to distribute food to students.

Online learning Platforms:

  • Google has compiled a resource guide for schools and families preparing to use Classroom, Hangouts, and other Google products for their online learning environment.
  • Zoom is rising to the occasion with modified policies and tutorials for educators around the world. They’ve even put together a list of tips and tricks for teachers.
  • Schools using Blackboard have access to Blackboard Collaborate, which lets classes meet through a videoconferencing mode.
  • Older students may already be familiar with Twitch (livestreaming service) and Discord (channel-based text and voice chat, similar to Slack), so reaching out to them using these platforms may be an easier jump for them.

Teaching Resources:

  • BioInteractive is a free science database for upper grades.
  • BrainPOP (pictured above) offers videos, games, and activities across subjects, and its popularity in schools will bring a sense of familiarity to students using it at home.
  • CK-12 offers a free collection of interactive digital textbooks for 1st grade through college level called “FlexBooks.” The organization is providing extra support for educators who want to learn how to use them in light of school closures. There are FlexBooks for math, science, social studies, and English.
  • houses a collection of free lessons and activities.
  • Enrichment activities are continuously added by age, parent involvement level, and cost to this spreadsheet.
  • lets students observe animals like eagles, bears, elephants, saltwater fish, and more in their natural habitats. Yes, there are puppy and kitten cams, too.
  • Frontline is brimming with free documentaries and corresponding activities.
  • GoNoodle gets younger learners playing and grooving (and may get some songs stuck in your head)!
  • Google Arts and Culture has curated collections, 3D objects, VR/AR views of cultural sites, and more. Field trip, anyone?
  • Jarrett Lerner’s free activities give STEAM-inspired creativity boosts, straight from the mind of a middle grade author.
  • Khan Academy is known for its free lessons and test prep, but it has adapted its very own schedules to benefit pre K-12 students who are learning remotely.
  • Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems will be streamed live daily and archived on YouTube, so Elephant and Piggie enthusiasts can draw along with the man behind the Pigeon himself.
  • PhET Interactive Simulations are STEM tools developed for children by University of Colorado. They have a keen eye towards accessibility, offering translations in many languages and simulations with adaptive controls.
  • Prodigy Math provides free math games for grades 1-8.
  • Scholastic is offering daily activities for a variety of age groups and subjects.
  • Yoga With Adriene is geared towards grown folks, but anyone who wants to practice mindful movement can do so at no cost.

Old-fashioned storytimes in a new-fashioned world:

  • Libookends has a list of authors who are allowing people to stream readings of their books, as well as authors and illustrators who are providing live and pre-recorded story times, lessons, and book talks.
  • The Metropolitan Opera has made performances available to view online. A different kind of storytime.
  • Moosiverse is a podcast for kids, designed with a new generation of storytellers in mind.
  • Queens Public Library Story Time videos are available on YouTube.
  • Storyline Online is a free site where excellent picture books are read aloud by professional actors.
  • Virtual Story Time from Brooklyn Public Library happens via Facebook Live - check this link for the schedule!
Posted in: Learning at the Library|By: Rachel Altvater|2550 Reads