New Year of “New Normal” – Planning for What’s Ahead

As we take stock of COVID-19’s impact on education and the “new normal” that’s part of our daily lexicon, now is the perfect opportunity to renew our energy and think big as we plan for what’s ahead. According to Dian Schaffhauser, senior contributing editor of THE Journal, here are what education leaders across US look forward to and expect in 2021:

  • Teachers Will Become Massive Social Media Influencers 
  • Data Privacy Concerns Will Draw Greater Interest
  • STEM Will Gain Amplified Application 
  • Districts Will Grapple with IT Sustainability
  • Existing Tools Will See Better Use
  • Ed Tech Seeds Will Take Root and Flourish
  • Connectivity Will Become as important as Textbooks
  • Web Conferencing Will Blend Classroom/At-Home Learning
  • Seat Time Will Make Way for Purpose-driven Learning
  • Tech Will Help Teachers Gain Insight into Student Needs
  • Parent-Educator Collaboration Will Be Strengthened by Necessity
  • Students Will See More Immersive Tech and eSports
  • Augmented and Virtual Reality Will Lead to Better Comprehension 
  • Schools and Parents Will Invest More in Tutoring
  • Early Learners Will Return to Hands-on
  • Ed Tech Will Tackle Academic Needs at Multiple Levels of Performance
  • First Responders Will Get AI Help
  • K-12 Will See More High-Profile School Breaches
  • Attackers Will Capitalize on Distance Learning 
  • Automation Will Drive a Wave of Spear Phishing
  • Chatbots Will Become Critical to Student Engagement
  • 5G Will Spawn the Next Tech Revolution
  • Private LTE Will Address Digital Divide…
  • …and Wi-Fi Strain
  • Expectations for Flexibility, Assessment and Integration Will Expand
  • Districts Will Gain More Right-Sizing, Hybrid and Connectivity 
  • Attendance Will Drop, Engagement Will Grow
  • Display Use and Functionality Will Morth 
  • The “How” of Teaching Will Forever Change

Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools

Key Takeaways:

  • Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority.
  • Vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports.
  • Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
  • In addition to universal indoor masking, CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as screening testing.
  • Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.
  • Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.
  • Many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time. Therefore, this guidance emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies (e.g., using multiple prevention strategies together consistently) to protect students, teachers, staff, visitors, and other members of their households and support in-person learning.
  • Localities should monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies (e.g., physical distancing, screening testing).

For more information click the link below.

Post COVID – The Potential of Online Learning

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed adult learners and educators across all levels of education to adapt to online learning.  The impact has birthed an opportunity to increase service  capacity and permanently change how education is delivered.  Virtual knowledge has allowed the world of education to maintain continuity amid a global crisis. The forced shift to online education reflects a moment of change and a time to reimagine how education can be delivered.

The COVID‑19 crisis has resulted in a significant increase in online learning by adults. Much of the training that had started as face-to-face in classroom environments has been pursued online. Furthermore, individuals are being encouraged to use the time freed up by short-time work schemes to take up new training. As such, the crisis provides a powerful test of the potential of learning online. It also highlights its key limitations, including the prerequisite of adequate digital skills, computer equipment and internet access to undertake training online, the difficulty of delivering traditional work-based learning online, and the struggle of teachers used to classroom instruction. This brief discusses the potential of online learning to increase adult learning opportunities and identifies some key issues that the crisis has highlighted. Addressing these issues could contribute to expanding online learning provision in the post-crisis period and to making it more inclusive.

Click below for more information.

Social and Emotional Learning Support

Harris County Department of Education prides itself on the training and resources we provide to districts on the emotional side of safety. The Center for Safe and Secure Schools are committed to providing research driven and responsive professional development that aims to make an impact teacher actions to influence student well-being and school safety. With both students and staff having faced some trying times it is important that Harris County Department of Education answers the call of school districts to provide support.  Here we are sharing tools from McGraw Hill with downloadable and printable resources. 


 Free Social and Emotional Learning Activity Bundle 
Our team at McGraw Hill has recently released our second Virtual Care Package, a set of specially curated social and emotional learning resources and activities for teachers, students, and parents. These care packages are intended to enable us to share in critical learning moments, even when we’re all apart due to remote learning, the summer months, and continued challenges from the pandemic. The latest Virtual Care Package is themed “The Power of Patience”, to help us each practice patience with ourselves and each other. 

Find the free, downloadable and printable resources here

E&E Team Member Spotlight

Team Member: Dr. Colina Poullard

In this issue, we would like to recognize Dr. Colina Poullard, the Curriculum Director for Digital Education and Innovation within HCDE’s Teaching and Learning Center. With over 20 years of combined Education and Media experience, Dr. Poullard brings a unique perspective on the impact on COVID-19 and planning for what’s ahead in the digital realm.  We caught up with Dr. Poullard to get her insights. 

Regarding digital learning, how has teacher self-efficacy increased since the beginning of COVID-19? 

Teacher self-efficacy has increased significantly since the beginning of Covid. Early on, I was spending a lot of my training time bridging the gap between face-to-face learning and virtual learning. There were some “rockstar” face-to-face teachers who struggled when it came to virtual learning. So, one way that we, in TLC, supported teachers who faced those challenges was to create weekly digital learning days where I was able to support technology and instructional needs. 

What about student self-efficacy?

Student self-efficacy was another tough one during Covid. What I noticed was that educators expected students to translate what they knew about their phones and social media into a learning platform and there was a huge learning curve. Students could easily create videos and upload, but they couldn’t create a PowerPoint. However, because children are so resilient, we saw some significant gains once new digital relationships were formed between the teachers and students and the groundwork was laid for instruction to happen.

Moving forward with digital instruction, what support systems are still needed in the 2021-2022 school year for teachers and students?

I think moving forward a mind shift towards education and digital instruction must happen. I’m noticing that educators and students are using the term “back to normal” when referencing how we “do” school. I think that the 2020-2021 school year ushered in the “new normal.” I believe that school districts that aren’t 1:1 now, need to get there and fast. I think we need to start thinking about how to build real digital learning into our literacy and numeracy early education classes to make what we’ve all just been though a smaller hurdle for next time we face drastic changes.

Stretch Your Dollar with Educator Discounts

Coronavirus Info for Students, Borrowers, and Parents

Just Announced: Student Loan Payments to Restart After Jan. 31, 2022

On Aug. 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education announced a final extension of the student loan payment pause until Jan. 31, 2022.

The pause includes the following relief measures for eligible loans:

  • a suspension of loan payments
  • a 0% interest rate
  • stopped collections on defaulted loans

Alert: Don’t accept unexpected offers of financial aid or help (such as a “pandemic grant” or “Biden loan forgiveness”) without checking with your school to see if the offer is legit. Learn how to avoid scams.