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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.

“Egg”-citing Experiments

And now for something completely different…Rick Crosslin, the resident scientist of a school district in Wayne Township, Ind., has developed a series of science experiments using eggs that students can try at home. Crosslin's "Egg Investigations!" can be seen on YouTube and this newscast, including lessons for making a raw egg turn rubbery, fitting a whole egg through the narrow opening of a glass bottle and getting an egg to float. Check out his other YouTube offerings as well.

Remote Learning Success: Survey Says Correlation to Family Income

Students from wealthier families are more likely to be engaging in remote instruction, according to a survey from the advocacy group ParentsTogether. Data shows that 83% of students from families earning more than $100,000 annually were participating in distance learning daily -- compared with 4 in 10 of the country's students from the poorest families accessing it about once a week or less. The survey also found big gaps reported by families whose children are in special education.

Remote Learning is Taking a Toll on Some Students, While Others Flourish

Remote learning is taking a toll on parents’ and students' mental and emotional health, say Peter Faustino, a school psychologist for a public school district in New York State, and Shawna Rader Kelly, a school psychologist in a Montana district. They share strategies to help teachers and parents identify kids who are disengaged, such as logging on for a class but not enabling audio or video, and suggest ideas for offering support.

In contrast, some students are thriving with remote learning, including some who have shown to be distracted or struggle in a traditional classroom environment, or who prefer to learn at their own pace. These turnarounds have also manifested among some teachers, who are faring well with less social interaction.