Teaching K-12 Online – part 2

This week when schools were abruptly shut down due to Covid-19, our school rallied with teacher training. I was invited to do some of the training sessions. We determined that my focus would be Digital Assessments, Explain Everything and Workflow. Over the weekend I worked on putting presentations together for my colleagues. Our plan was to offer Google Hangout sessions (the platform our school has selected for video conferencing) to all the teachers. Each presenter would record the session for future accessibility.

Digital Assessments

The guidelines our school has been given are that we are to provide a minimum of 2 hours of learning across all subjects in grades 7-12. We need to coordinate as a team so that we don’t overload our students and we are to consider this supplemental instruction. Additionally we are not grading work. Still, we must asses that they are learning and doing as we enter this new world of virtual learning.

There are A LOT of apps out there and programs. Most of them are opening up for free right now. Still, even when free this is a labyrinth to navigate and what you are able to do will vary greatly by district. I found a lot of promising things for my math students that will ultimately not work due to our tech, bandwidth for signing up for new things and other roadblocks. I struggle with graciously accepting a no answer. It is so tempting to say “but please please please” the way I did when I wanted a sleepover when I was a kid (that almost always worked with my mom). Instead, I’m working on graciously accepting the no answers and finding another way. At the time of this presentation I was still waiting to hear about answers, most of which turned out to be dead ends.

A big thank you to SlidesCarnival for their beautiful templates. This website makes it so easy to create Google Slides presentations while only needing to focus on your content.

The Digital Assessments Slides Presentation


  • I’m going to use Explain Everything to teach the kids. Unfortunately every student doesn’t have the clamshell style Chromebook so the app won’t work for all students. As such, I won’t be able to use this app for capturing student work. Kami is another promising app that I mention in the presentation but it doesn’t look like that will work for us either.
  • We are able to use the NYS Questar app for capturing work. Thankfully we’ve used that before in my Math 8 classes so we have some experience. Many thanks to Justin from TST BOCES for offering MS Math teachers a use case for this in our fall training.
  • The students will do a lot of work with taking pictures of their math work and attaching it into the assignment in Google Classroom. This low tech option will be fine. I’ve used a couple of fun assignments to make sure they can take pictures and insert them into documents. For our assignments they used pictures of their workspace, pets and the paper math materials we have at home.
  • I will use a site called DeltaMath a lot! It is self checking and the students are used to it. I remain forever grateful to my son’s Algebra 2 teacher for exposing him to it. When he was in Algebra 2 last year he came home to share telling me, “mom you should definitely be using this with your students!”

Explain Everything

This platform is near and dear to my heart. I love it as much as I love Trello (I love Trello so much my kids tell me I should work for them)! I’ve barely scratched the surface with what this program offers, but I know it will help me immensely as we move into virtual education. I use it with an iPad and I admit that I didn’t love my attempts on the Chromebook. The videos I posted here are short and I had to remove one of them for posting here because it contained content I purchased on Teachers Pay Teachers and cannot be shared on the open web because of posting rules.

Explain Everything is just a program that works instantly. It is easy to use at whatever level you need. This fall my son enrolled in 2 independent study courses at his school and wanted to do virtual presentations. I mentioned he could try using it. He literally just opened it up, had me show him a couple quick things and had his presentation complete. That said, I’m an Apple girl. When I started to try to show people on the Chromebook, I wasn’t immediately in love. I haven’t discerned if this is because I haven’t embraced the Chromebook or because it is better for Apple. It is probably a mix of both. There are other options out there if you struggle with this. But, for my purposes this works and I am following my own advice of sticking with something once you start. It is so tempting to look around and see what else there is, but really once it works for you just stick with it. If this turns out to not be your program, find another one!

My advice if you are using Explain Everything for virtual teaching is to start with the whiteboard and learn as you go. Putting something up there is better than nothing. This week as we kicked off virtual learning I collected all the questions and put up an FAQ video for them with answers to their questions. It was as simple as creating the document, opening it in Explain Everything and then talking over it and underlining as I went.

The Explain Everything Slides document


The Workflow Slides document


I think the most important thing for your workflow is just creating a plan and sticking to it. If you work in a team you also have to be flexible with your teammates’ schedules, work desires for the students and more. Some quick tips.

  • Focus on promoting community as you transition to virtual classrooms
  • Create reasonable deadlines and stick to them
  • Support student questions with office hours or some other method
  • Continue to evolve by finding new methods, platforms etc


Last year my school district offered a class called JumpStart. It exposed us to a slew of different tech things. A self-paced class with a deadline attached, it proved to be a really good experience for me. There were different modules. Some I really identified with and jumped into head first and others didn’t resonate with me. The Hyperdoc module was something that I felt would be really useful in my classroom, especially as we transitioned to 1:1 devices. This is only our first FULL year with 1:1 devices in my middle school. They were rolled out in the spring of 2019.

A Hyperdoc is essentially a document with links in it. You can make it beautiful, you can choose to make it complex or you can keep it simple. There are free templates everywhere for them. My presentation has links to some of those templates as well as a few examples.

The Hyperdoc Slides document


  • Keep it simple
  • For online learning post your Hyperdoc in Google classroom or other platform and have the students write directly into the document and submit. This may be a different workflow than what you would use in the classroom.
  • The Hyperdoc is a great place to mix up resources. Videos and links coexist nicely in a really organized fashion.
  • Have fun with it! It is a chance to use color, design etc to catch student attention.

In the 3 days that I’ve had the opportunity to work virtually with students I’ve already learned a lot. We’ve communicated A LOT in Google classroom, I have figured out how to do a fair amount with Google hangouts and screen sharing. I think I have sorted out a workflow plan for creating a live class that is also recorded and I’m ready to really jump into all of this next week. Look for a 3rd post about Teaching K-12 online after we have a couple of days of these things under our belts.

A big thank you goes out to my students for helping troubleshoot as I try different things in our office hours each day. Yesterday they patiently put up with mic feedback as I tried to set up two devices using Google Hangouts. I wanted to log in as myself on my iPad and share my screen, pulling up Explain Everything. This worked, but on a device I can only see my screen making me blind to who is in the virtual room. While technically functional this feels unsettling. My brilliant plan was to join as myself on my computer and mute that mic. That way I’d have a view of the people in the room there. But, even with that mic muted it created mic feedback that was not going to work. Ultimately I joined as my son from the Chromebook and it worked BEAUTIFULLY. As luck would have it, right after I got that set up a student with a question joined so we spent the next 10 minutes doing problems in real time. I’m excited to continue to play with this! My goal is to offer a live class, record it and post it. This way if the live opportunity appeals to a student the choice is there, but the recorded opportunity of real class is also available. One of my daughter’s college professors is planning to do things this way as well starting Monday (using Zoom) so I’ll be learning from her experience as it gets started!