Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Principals' Updates and Learning With Chromebooks: Using the Chromebook Camera

Hello Team Remote Families! Please see below for some brief news and notes from around the district. Also, today's blog post shares the next installment of tips and tricks to help students get the most out of their Chromebooks.

Elementary: Remote Kindergarten Supply Pick Up and School Picture Reminder

Supply Pick Up

Parents and guardians of remote kindergarten students can pick up the next round of learning supplies at your child's "home" building on Thursday, October 29th, from 3:00 - 4:00. Please be sure to check out your home building principal's blog post for details. 

School Pictures

For information about remote student "picture day", please refer to this link.

Middle Level: Virtual Planners and School Pictures

Virtual Planners for students in grades 6, 7, and 8 can be found via the links below:
School Picture Day for Remote Students
  • 5th gradeNovember 3rd, WGMS Gym, 3:00- 5:00. Note: For 5th grade fully remote students, we will distribute their CKLA Unit 3 and Unit 4 materials during the Picture Day times.
  • 6th gradeNovember 5th, WGMS Gym, 3:00 - 5:00
  • 7th and 8th grade L-Z, November 3rd, CMS, 12:00 - 3:00
  • 7th and 8th grade A-K, November 5th, CMS, 12:00 - 3:00
For picture pricing and ordering information, paper order forms will also be available on 11/3 and 11/5. Alternatively, families can go to mylifetouch.com for online ordering information under "find my picture day" and search for the school and student name. 

Be sure to check out Principal Dunham and Principal Lozier's blogs for more news specific to WGMS and CMS.
    High School: Attendance and 5 Week Reports

    WGHS Principal Ackles has shared information about accessing 5 Week Reports on SchoolTool as well as a reminder about submitting daily attendance on Operoo.

    Learning with Chromebooks: Using the Chromebook Camera

    You can use the camera on your Chromebook to take photos or videos, or edit and print photos.

    Take a photo or video with your Chromebook
    1. In the corner of your screen, select the Launcher .
    2. Open Camera . Then, on the right side, choose an option:
      • Select Photo Take photo .
      • Select Video Start recording .
      • Select Square Take photo .
    Change how photos or videos are captured
    • Change your settings: Select Settings . Change the size of the grid, the length of the timer, or the camera resolution.
    • Flip your photo from left to right: Select Mirror .
    • Use gridlines to straighten photos: Select Grid .
    • Switch between cameras: At the left, select Switch camera .
    • Tip: You can only switch cameras if you plug in an external camera or your Chromebook has 2 built-in cameras.
    • Take photos with a timer: Select Timer .

    Find or delete your photos or videos
    • Find your photos and videos: In the bottom right corner of the Camera , select the thumbnail of your most recent photo or video. To see the photo or video larger, select it.
    • Save photo or video: Photos and videos taken with the Camera can be found in the "Downloads" folder of your Files . Learn how to store your downloaded files.

    Using the Chromebook Camera Video Walkthrough

    Tuesday, October 20, 2020

    Something New for the Team Remote Blog: Links to Principals' Blogs

    Hello, Team Remote Families. Thank you for all you are doing to ensure your child's participation and success in remote learning. I wanted to take a moment to applaud your effort and draw your attention to something new on the Notes from Team Remote blog in the hope of making sure you are not excluded from any important communication that comes from your child's "home" building principal. 

    If you look on the right hand side of the screen, you will now find links to each of the building principals' blogs as well as the those from the Superintendent, Director of Fine Arts, Director of Special Education, and the WG Nurses under the heading, WG Leadership Blogs. Please be sure to check in with your "home" building principal's communiques to hear about all of the goings-on in each building. While the building principals share important information about events taking place in their buildings, oftentimes, the information they share will also apply to remote students and families as well. 

    For example, you will soon hear from your child's building principal about an upcoming survey, similar to the one you completed in August, to determine your preference for the learning modality in which your child will participate in school after the first semester concludes at the end of January: K-4 in-person/remote or 5-12 hybrid/remote. CMS Principal Lozier recently shared information on this very topic:

    District Instructional Model Survey

    Next week the District will be sending everyone an email to determine if they are considering a change in their selected instructional model for the second semester. You need to respond only if you are requesting a change. There will be a separate survey for transportation. Please be on the look out for these emails.

    Another example from East Hill Principal Craig regarding supply pickup for remote students who, in normal times, attend East Hill Elementary (please note that each principal will share dates/times for supply pickup for their building's remote students--the example below is for East Hill):

    Remote Student Supply Pickup

    Kindergarten students can pick up their next unit materials at East Hill next Thursday, October 29th, from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. Please contact the office if that time does not work for you (315-487-4648). Second, Third, and Fourth grade students can pick up the materials and books for the next units between 12:00 and 3:00 on Monday, November 23rd. First grade students will be hearing about a supply pickup from your teachers soon.

    I will continue to share information unique to the Team Remote students, teachers, and families and will also continue to share some tips for students to master some of the instructional technology tools that teachers are using to help make remote learning a success. I just want to make sure you don't miss anything important from your child's "home" principal. Thank you again for all you are doing to support your child's remote learning!

    Spirit Week Continues

    Spirit Week is off to a great start for our Team Remote students! The remaining schedule is listed below if your child would like to participate:

    • Wednesday: Stuffed Animal Day for K-4 students (also Unity Day--see below)
    • Thursday: Beach Day
    • Friday: Blue & Gold Wildcat Pride Day

    Unity Day

    October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Wednesday, October 21st, is Unity Day.

    Show that you care about safe and supportive schools and communities, and make your color orange on Unity Day, Wednesday, October 21! That’s the day everyone can come together in schools, neighborhoods, communities and online to send an orange message of support, hope and unity, and show that we are united for kindness, acceptance and inclusion.

    Learn more about the National Bullying Prevention Center by clicking here.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2020

    On a More Personal Note: A Remote Teacher's Message to Families

    Hi, Team Remote Families. As we are all settling in to new routines, I wanted to share with you an email that one of our Remote Teachers, Mrs. Bingham (6th grade math and science) shared with her students' families. I think it sums up how most, if not all of the Team Remote teachers are feeling as our remote learning experiment rolls on. Read on and enjoy!

    Dear Team 6-Remote families,
    I wanted to share with you a bit of humor as well as a more personal message than my usual logistics messages. First of all, here is a photographic metaphor for teaching in this bizarre virtual environment:

    This is my laptop, showing hot melted wax dripping down the screen! 🤣 I think this picture says it all! (They wanted a closer look at the burning candle.)

    On a more serious note, I want to sincerely thank you for your patience (even if you haven’t always FELT it). We were trained to be teachers of our subject areas. At no point in our training were we trained to teach effectively through a tiny camera to kids we’ve never actually met. Not only has this already been a monumental logistical challenge, but for me personally, it’s been an enormous emotional one. I am used to being fun and funny with my students. I like to be sarcastic and snarky and silly, which in person comes across as loving and, for middle school students, sort of nerdy and funny. I love a high-energy math or science class with activity and conversation driving the pace. I really miss that banter. Through the tiny camera, with your kids whom I’ve never met in person, it’s hard to know if they FEEL a connection. I’m having to be very careful and cautious. The delay with mute and unmute makes it a bit awkward,.and it takes a much longer time remotely. But that connection is so important. It is not natural for me and is exhausting. But we are getting there! You have LOVELY children who have been kind, patient, sweet, and interested in what we are doing. They are keeping me going and keep me motivated to bring my A-game every day (which some days FEELS like my B or C-game). They have helped solve many of the technology problems for me!

    Please know that I am truly doing my very best. I am typically working from 8am-to least 11pm, often missing meals to keep working. I’m NOT complaining here - just sharing the reality. Each day is a tiny bit easier, so there is light at the end of the tunnel. My 7th grader misses her mom! I share my own reality knowing that each and every one of you is dealing with your own challenging reality. A worldwide pandemic was certainly never on my radar before last February. Yet here we are!

    In closing, I just want to say that more importantly than anything we teach our kids this year in our individual subject areas, the most important lesson we will be teaching them is how to deal with adversity. Do we crumble and fall apart and hide, or do we get up and get creative? Every day seems to bring new and unexpected challenges - but we’re laughing and we’re learning. We are forming relationships. We are learning perseverance. We are learning patience (not my strong suit). And we are learning cool science and math. If at any point you have any thoughts or questions, just shoot me an email. Stay strong, stay healthy, and stay positive. How we respond to this is how our children will respond.

    Thank as always,
    Sue Bingham

    Before you go...

    Here is another video from last spring that went viral on Twitter and other social channels. Don't be fooled by this teacher's pleasant disposition. Her lyrics speak for all of us!

    Covid-19 Homeschool Song

    Thursday, October 8, 2020

    Learning With Chromebooks: Keyboard Shortcuts

    Hello Team Remote Families! Today's blog post is the next installment of tips and tricks to help students get the most out of their Chromebooks.

    Chromebook Keyboard Shortcuts

    Keyboard shortcuts are combinations of keyboard strokes and clicks that you can use to do things, like taking a screenshot or copy and paste text. Check out some common keyboard shortcuts below and click here to view a full list.

    Text Editing
    Select AllCtrl + a
    CopyCtrl + c
    PasteCtrl + v
    CutCtrl + x
    UndoCtrl + z
    RedoShirt + Ctrl + z
    Page & Web Browser
    Zoom inCtrl and +
    Zoom outCtrl and - (minus)
    Reset Zoom LevelCtrl + 0
    Search pageCtrl + f
    Reopen tabsCtrl + Shift + t
    Take a screenshotCtrl + 

    Split Screen Keyboard Shortcut

    There may be occasions where it would be helpful to see two windows or applications simultaneously on the Chromebook screen. In the video below, learn how to use the Alt and [ ] keys to split your Chromebook screen to view Zoom and the Chrome browser at the same time as well as how to view two different browser tabs at the same time.

    Monday, October 5, 2020

    Coming Attractions

    October 16th: Superintendent's Conference Day

    Friday, 10/16 will be a half-day for all students. Please see the half-day bell schedules for grades 5-12. Students in grades K-4 can expect a modified schedule from their teachers as well.

    October 19th - 23rd: Team Remote Spirit Week

    One thing I hear from parents and guardians about our Remote Learning experiment is that students and families want to feel like they are still part of the Wildcat Family, despite learning from home. So we decided to hold Spirit Week much the same way our in-school friends celebrate their unity and Wildcat Pride. Team Remote Spirit Week will be held during the week of October 19th. Check out the infographic below for details.

    Thursday, October 1, 2020

    What We've Been Working On

    Hello, Team Remote Families. Many of you have emailed me with some much appreciated constructive feedback about how our Remote Learning experiment is unfolding at home. Generally speaking, the comments I have received boil down to the following: Parents and students are overwhelmed with Google Classroom and Zoom!

    I meet with the Team Remote teachers weekly to address your concerns and discuss how we can be more effective to support you and the students as you work from home. It may be comforting to know that teachers are feeling overwhelmed, too! Nonetheless, we are working diligently to improve our instructional delivery. Here are some things we are currently working on:

    Google Classroom Organization

    Google Classroom was built to help teachers and students establish a workflow for digital assignments. Truth be told, it is difficult to organize content. Google Classroom allows teachers to affiliate assignments and materials with organizational "Topics." We have been working on making Topic organization more intuitive for students and families to follow as well as consolidating assignments into fewer files. We hope that this approach will help make better sense of what students are expected to do on Google Classroom.

    Google Classroom: Chrome Version vs. Android Version

    Our Chromebooks are dual-platform--they run the Chrome Operating System as well as the Android Operating System (Android is Google's mobile platform, similar to how iOS is Apple's mobile platform). There has been some confusion about which version of Google Classroom students should be using. The answer is Chrome. You may have recently noticed that the Android Google Classroom app is no longer available. Students can simply go to https://classroom.google.com to access their classes. See the video below for more.

    Synchronous Meetings

    Background Noise
    Remote learning has completely changed the audience for teachers' lessons to include not only students, but also anyone else who happens to be in the home. Background noise is easily picked up by the built-in mics on the Chromebooks as well as on microphone/speaker headsets. It would be helpful if students had a dedicated, quiet space to participate in synchronous meetings without distraction. If mics are unmuted, everyone in the class can hear background conversations (some of which are adult in nature!) taking place in your homes.

    "Zoom Fatigue" is real! Teachers are doing their best to make Zoom meetings as engaging as possible but are also cognizant of the pacing that is required to remain aligned with in-person classrooms and cover all of the essential content they are required to teach. At the elementary level, time is built into daily schedules for students to take periodic breaks. When students are in school, for example, many elementary teachers lead students through GoNoodle activities to get kids moving. GoNoodle uses exercise science to design activities that are healthy for the body, engaging for the attention, and beneficial to the brain in specific ways. Feel free to check out GoNoodle's website to share videos with your child so that scheduled breaks are productive. 

    Please note that students are expected to attend scheduled Zoom meetings at all grade levels. At the secondary level, we understand that there is limited time between classes. Student who attend in-person classes have three minutes for "passing time." For students learning from home, three minutes may not be enough time to leave one meeting and hop on another as Zoom can oftentimes take a long time to load. As a group, we discussed having some flexibility for students to join meetings in a timely way. It would be much appreciated if parents could help make sure students are attending live classes when they are scheduled. If you child is not attending scheduled classes, you can most likely expect a phone call from the teacher or counselor. For chronic absenteeism, you might also expect a wellness check at your home from the School Resource Officer.

    Zoom Bombing
    Like Zoom Fatigue, Zoom Bombing is real! Many of our secondary teachers have reported that students are sharing links to Zoom meetings with students who aren't enrolled in the class. Those students then assume a name of someone enrolled in the class and are immediately disruptive, usually with profanity. One strategy we discussed to remedy this concern is to require students to "authenticate" (i.e. log in) to join Zoom meetings. This will give teachers a better handle on who exactly is attending class meetings and hold disruptive students accountable. Please see the video below for how students will authenticate to join Zoom. Note: This strategy will most likely be applied to secondary classes.


    Chromebooks are an excellent affordable option for digital learning, but they incur damage relatively easily. The built-in microphone in particular seems to be problematic for some. If it is apparent that the built-in mic is damaged, your best bet for an immediate solution would be to plug in a speaker/mic headset into the Chromebook's headphones jack. I personally use Apple ear buds that came with my old phone. The mic is located on the cord directly near my mouth. For a longer-term solution, please contact the Technology Department via email and describe the issue you are experiencing. Someone from the Tech Office will reply to help you exchange the Chromebook for another. The Technology Department can be reached at wgtechhelp@westgenesee.org

    Final Note

    I just wanted add one more note to conclude. Remote Learning is hard! It is hard for you at home as you are doing your best to motivate and encourage your children and keep them on top of new routines. And it is hard for teachers who thrive on the relationships they build with students and are doing their best to learn new pedagogies to deliver effective online instruction. I am confident, however, that if we work together for the benefit of our students, this year will be a success. I want to end with a bit of humor--the video below is from last spring from a family in the UK who turned to musical theater to share their frustration with being locked down. One Day More!

    Monday, September 28, 2020

    Learning With Chromebooks: The Chromebook Touchpad

    Hello Team Remote Families! Today's blog post is the first in a series to help students get the most out of their Chromebooks.

    The Chromebook Touchpad

    Similar to tablets and smartphones, the Chromebook's touchpad recognizes "gestures" or hand movements. See the list below to learn more:

    Move the pointer: Move your finger across the touchpad

    Click: Press or tap the lower half of the touchpad.

    Right-click: Press or tap the touchpad with two fingers.

    Scroll: Place two fingers on the touchpad and move them up and down to scroll vertically, or left and right to scroll horizontally.

    Switch Between Tabs: If you have multiple browser tabs open, swipe left and right with three fingers.

    Change How Your Touchpad Works 

    You can tap your touchpad to click, or change the direction you scroll. Here's how: 
    1. At the bottom right, select the time. 
    2. Select Settings (the "gear" icon)
    3. In the "Device" section, select Touchpad (or Touchpad and mouse). 
    4. Change how your touchpad works: 
      • Turn tap-to-click on or off. 
      • Choose type of scrolling: Turn off Reverse (swipe up to move the page up). Turn on Reverse (swipe up to move the page down).