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Building the Bridge Podcast

We've launched a podcast series "Building the Bridge” featuring our very own Dr. Wendy Oliver. In this series, Dr. Oliver addresses how to best navigate through this unique time in education and how to do so successfully! Listen to past episodes and learn more about the podcast and Dr. Oliver herself below.

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14 Elements of Digital Learning Communication Plans

As we enter the school year and engage in remote and digital learning, it’s critical to talk about a Digital Learning Communication Plan. The three prongs of the Digital Communication Plan include communications and policies at the district level, the school level and the classroom level. This is part one of a two-part post which includes information for a Digital Learning Communication Plan at the district and school levels. Part two will dive down deeper to include the classroom level. 

In the arena of online learning, our intention is to motivate and inspire students and provide them with current resources. It’s essential to communicate different pieces of information to parents and caregivers to ensure they are getting the information they need. 

The whole system can be viewed as an umbrella. If you think of the school district as the community, that’s the overarching umbrella. Underneath the district umbrella is the schoolwide plan, and below that is the classroom plan. As we go further into each one of those tiers, the plan becomes more detailed. Each tier includes different levels of information so that students can be more successful, and it’s important that stakeholders at each level are familiar with the overall plan.

District-Level Digital Communication Plan 

The following is a list of some key points to include in your district-level plan:

Name of program - Establish the name of your program so each stakeholder is referring to the plan the same way. It’s also necessary to identify the plan. Is it a hybrid plan? Is it a blended model? Don’t assume that everybody knows what that means. Clearly identify the name of the plan and what type of model you are working with.

Types of devices - Are you offering one-to-one with Chromebooks? What is a Chromebook? Are you using iPads in the younger grades? If so, why? This is the kind of information that needs to be represented in your digital learning plan. These plans need to be public facing. Everybody needs to understand exactly what you’re doing and why. Use language that the general public can understand. Ask someone to edit your plan who is not in education or in the edtech community. 

Acceptable use policy - Your acceptable use policy is a districtwide policy designed to be shared with parents and at the school level. Teachers will also want to share this at the classroom level. The ability for teachers to make reference to the districtwide acceptable use policy puts everybody on the same page. This way parents will not get overwhelmed and say “oh, there’s three of these?” when it’s really the same document. It’s important for all stakeholders to know there is an acceptable use policy and where to find it. 

Anti-bullying policy - One significant thing to consider is that when students have the anonymity of a computer, bullying increases. This seems to be especially prominent in social media. Does your acceptable use policy address bullying? How do you handle discipline? Is that a districtwide policy? If it’s a school-based policy, it would go in the school’s digital learning plan. 

Insurance requirements - What about your insurance? This may not be applicable to everyone. Assuming that you’re handing out devices, are the students responsible financially in any way for these devices? Is the student expected to pay a certain amount of money if they don’t return their device? What about water damage? Parents need to know this before their students accept it. 

Acceptable Devices - What if I already have a device at home that works better than the Chromebook that was issued? Can I use that device to access the program the school is using? That information needs to be explained explicitly. These are all things that need to be stated to protect you and to protect the families. 

Access and equality - What are you doing for students who do not have internet access at home? Are you working with a partner in the community to send out hotspots? Are you working to send home paper copies? What is your process for this? Make this a dynamic plan because that’s going to change day by day, given this situation. 

FAQs - Include an FAQ document because parents are going to have a lot of questions. They’re new to this, too. Address it as a big picture plan and omit instructional strategies as this will occur at the classroom level. Be sure to provide the policies and general information that they need to know, but not the procedures. This is where you work with your IT Directors and operations people to provide general necessary information. 

It’s helpful to include each of these key points at the district level as it sets a guideline for questions and issues that may arise at the school level.  

School-Level Digital Communication Plan

We are further in the weeds now and we’re talking to stakeholders at a different level. The following points identify the stakeholders and address issues that are school specific and how administrators can support teachers. 

Stakeholders - At this point our stakeholders are the families, and as administrators and teachers we are primarily talking to the parents and caregivers. One important thing to remember is caregivers can also be grandparents. While one grandparent may be technically savvy, another grandparent may not even have an email address. The same may be the case for a child. You don’t really know the level of technical literacy that the stakeholders have. That’s something to keep in mind as you design these plans. 

Internet Safety Policy - If students are going to be logging in, what is our policy to keep them safe?  Consult with the district level IT department about internet safety and post the internet safety policy. Do parents have to sign a document and return it to the school? Or, when they log in to the computer, do they automatically accept the terms?

Discipline - What is your school level discipline? Or is that handled at the district level? If it’s a district-wide anti-bullying policy, be sure to link to it from the school level. It’s a good idea to document that policy everywhere. 

Technical Requirements - Include technical requirements on the school level learning plan.  What is specifically required for the software programs you’re going to have the students use? Include the names of the software programs. If you’re not allowing students to use personal devices, you will need to state that information. 

Virtual Schooling - Are you allowing any student to be 100% enrolled in a virtual school that’s sponsored by the district? If so, include that information on the school level plan and the district level plan. Are they going to be allowed to participate in sports, or use the library if they do virtual school?  In some states, or some districts, students have the option of participating in district level virtual school or taking virtual courses with their school. Meaning, if they participate in the district level virtual school, they don’t participate in extracurricular activities, but they can take the online classes and the district still gets the FTE. Or, if they participate in the school only online, then they can participate in extracurricular activities at the school. It’s a difference in where they’re enrolled and what school number they’re counted under. Those are some things to consider, depending on how you have organized it in your district. That will differentiate where you will want to list the documentation.  Because truly, depending on how you define this issue, it makes your stakeholder relationships different, whether at the district level or at the school level.

Resource Accessibility - This will be found at the school level and at the classroom level. If I have a student or a child with an IEP, where am I going to find those resources? Where am I going to find what I need if I’m working from home and I’m using digital curriculum? All of those resources should be identified at the school level.

To get much more support for creating a digital learning plan, visit EdisonLearning’s digital learning solutions.

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