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The ONE suggestion for remote education/educators in MNPS

One love

We started virtual this school year, went back to in person for a couple of months, and are now back to virtual. I have some suggestions to help students, parents, and educators alike.

These are suggestions for a workflow improvement. If you read them as attacks on teachers, that’s you man. I know everyone’s doing their best. This would fix a lot of the frustration if adopted, be remarkably easier for all involved, takes significantly less mental effort and deals with a digital class divide. It’s also free, can be done tomorrow, and takes probably zero training.

TL;DR – Place copies of all useful communication and links in one place.

One communication location / format

Currently I get notifications or have information sitting in Bloomz, Schoology, text messages, Clever, my work email, my kid’s email, calendar invites to me, calendar invites to my kids, and occasionally by text. Somehow I’ve got some info in two email accounts as well, but I think that’ just me. I’ve had teachers tell me to check Bloomz from an email, Schoology, word documents that were emailed to me a few days prior, PDF communications formatted for 8.5×11 that are next to unreadable on a cell phone.

What’s worse is I we have teachers using different methods. So Kid A I check FLVS’s landing page for the teacher and I’ve got every link I need except the announcements (which links are emailed by that teacher.) I’ve got a link on the other account that opens a word document that contains links to the principal’s morning announcement Teams meetings. They’re different every day.

One directory

Literally all of either of my child’s days could be put on one page or email that says

8am: morning announcements (click)
8:30am: Related Arts (click)

12:30pm: ELA (click or check Team Invite)

Homework for the day – ELA (click) Math (click)

As it stands now we sign into the computer, open the portal, sign into the portal, go to a teacher’s page who has a link to the document with morning announcements. After that at 8:30am one of the teacher has calendar invites that work, the other has a link called “Teams” which is for every class except related arts which historically have been rotating days.

After all the classwork is done, the parents and students have to hunt down what the homework is. This involves going into each subject and seeing what assignments are not completed. This is harder than it should be, especially if you’re dealing with a twitchy child and FLVS.

Look at what you’re sending, make sure it looks the same

I know this is hard, but teachers are dealing with parents who are on iPhones, ancient PCs, ancient Android devices that haven’t seen an update in years, Windows Phones, low bandwidth, dealing with latency issues. I had a conversation about multi-megabytes email attachments that required third party viewers just because there was a signature and a school logo involved (literally the thing should have been an email containing 800 words, but was a PDF with a bitmap of a signature and a school logo, formatted for 8.5×11)

I get a Word doc update from one of the teachers that looks great in Word viewed on a computer, but via gmail on a phone looks like someone wrote on a tablecloth with a sharpie. Fonts changed as well.

PDF as crappy as it is is better that doc, & docx (both of which I get.)

What’s better than any of that is just an email that’s nothing but text. It’s less formatted, but it’s searchable, small, and bam. Literally works on every device out there.

Minimize, take your time, send it once

Helps everyone. For one issue with a class, I’ve got 4 emails that include a screen shot, a PDF, a JPEG photo of the correct PDF that had been printed, and an addendum. All for information that could have been sent in an email in text. None of it’s searchable unless opened. All of it could have been put on one little landing page for the kids for that day.

Send it in text

Email it in text to both the parents and the child’s account – that way if the parent’s phone is dead it’s in the kid’s email. Literally every smart device out there can read an email that’s text. Everyone appreciates the effort for newsletters with schedules, pictures, formatting, but it looks like hot garbage about every third device. It will be easier on teachers, parents can search for words in the text if needed, lower data requirements, less stress for everyone. Less work for everyone.

That’s all folks

This was a suggestion for a workflow and communication improvement based on what I’ve experienced and what I’m seeing several of my parent friends experiencing. We’re over 3 months in at this point and it’s easily fixable with just putting everything in one format, one place, and in easily searchable text.

Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.