Child Trafficking – Let’s Work Together to Grow Awareness

If you are a teacher, school administrator, or student age 13-18, please help us raise awareness by sharing this blog, following our campaign on TikTok, or entering the contest. One lucky student team could win $2,500!

DEADLINE TO SUBMIT YOUR PROJECT HAS BEEN EXTENDED

Child trafficking is a huge issue in the United States and around the world. There is not a country, a state or a community that has not been impacted by child trafficking. According to UNICEF, more than three quarters of the children trafficked are within their own countries. One in seven children who are reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children become victims of sexual trafficking, according to Polaris.

The Insidiousness of Child Trafficking

When it comes to child sex trafficking, victimized kids aren’t always being forcefully abducted off the streets. Instead, the perpetrator works to gain the trust of the child, manipulating them and often making promises – of acting and modeling careers or a safe place to live – that make them go with the perpetrator willingly. Not all traffickers are strangers, either – some of them are family members. Often, the only way these children escape trafficking is when someone on the outside recognizes the signs.

Signs of Child Trafficking

Not all children are exploited for sex trafficking. Many are exploited for labor as well. The signs of child labor trafficking include:

  • Fear of police or authorities
  • Inordinate amounts of time spent doing “chores” or working
  • Signs of physical or psychological trauma
  • Unwillingness to talk about their living situations
  • Limited freedom of movement
  • Limited access to medical care
  • Frequent moves

Sexual exploitation of children can be difficult to recognize, but there are signs to watch for. These include:

  • Children living in hotels (hotels and other housing are often used as brothels)
  • Frequently moving from one community to another
  • Sleeping where they work
  • Having a limited amount of clothing
  • Sexualized clothing or behavior inconsistent with their age
  • Limited movement without supervision
  • Addiction issues

Raising Awareness to Stop Child Trafficking

There are a number of agencies endeavoring to halt child trafficking. But these efforts are going to take all of us becoming more aware of the signs, asking questions, and reporting suspected trafficking. In partnership with Intouch Group, we are working with the Rotary Clubs of Kansas and Missouri to raise awareness of child trafficking, by means of a special contest aimed at inspiring high school students.

About the Students Stopping Traffic Contest

Students can work independently or in teams (no more than 6 members per team) to come up with their ideas or proposals. These “traffic stopping” ideas may be submitted  to submissions@studentsstoppingtraffic.org. Finalists will be asked to present their ideas (via video conference) to a panel of judges that will select the winning ideas. First-, second-, and third-place cash prizes will be awarded to the winning students or teams. The first-place winner will also have the opportunity to work with the award-winning advertising agency, Intouch Group, to bring their idea to life.

Students Can Play a Big Role in Increasing Awareness

Not only are we excited to see the creative efforts of the students who participate in the contest, but we’re hoping that raising awareness among our youth can make a difference. Students may be more likely to recognize the signs of child trafficking. As peers of a trafficked individual, students may more readily sense that something about the situation is off; as well, the trafficking victim may be more likely to confide in a peer than in an adult.

Teachers: We Need Your Help!

Teachers, this nationwide contest needs your help. We know it’s a busy time of year, but we would be grateful if you could share information about this contest with your students.

  • Encourage students to get involved (extra credit?).
  • Share information with students about the contest and how to enter.
  • Share this information with your colleagues.
  • Are you on TikTok? Share our campaign videos with your followers!
  • You can also share our posts about the contest on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
  • Print our poster to hang in your room. Download it here.

Let’s All Work Together to Stop Child Trafficking

In 2019, 11,500 human trafficking cases were reported in the United States; around two-thirds of those reports were for sex trafficking. As with most public health issues, awareness is the key to prevention. And the prevention of human trafficking demands everyone’s involvement as we strive to make others aware. The Students Stopping Traffic contest is open to students aged 13-18. Finalists will be asked to present their ideas to a panel of judges via video conference. More information about the contest – including FAQ’s, a scoring rubric, and resources for students – is available on the website at https://studentsstoppingtraffic.com/.

Leveling the Playing Field: Education Equity

The pandemic has affected us all, from school districts to educators to those of us who serve the education industry. And without a doubt, students have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. But the impact was uneven. A large study has confirmed that which most educators have probably noted anecdotally: marginalized students and impoverished students were impacted far more severely by losing access to the classroom.

Key Findings: Addressing the Digital Divide

Oxford University Press (OUP) published a report, Addressing the Deepening Digital Divide, which “captures the views of 1,557 school and English-language teachers from 92 countries.” One of the key findings was that across the globe, “limited digital skills” are virtually as significant of a problem as is the lack of physical access to technology.

According to the report, 68% of students had poor digital access – either no access to internet or to an internet-abled device. But 56% of the teachers surveyed reported that a lack of digital competency was a barrier for themselves and students.  And 58% of disadvantaged students received less support at home, in part because their parents also lacked the digital competency to provide support.

The Future of Education Requires Digital Competency and Digital Equity

Those students who lack both the means to access digital devices and learn how to effectively use them for education are being left behind. If we truly want to advance education in ways that prepare students not just for the future workplace but to adequately function in an increasingly digital world, we must focus on improving digital skills while addressing equity issues.

  • Broadband should be like any other utility and delivered seamlessly to every home
  • Schools should work to provide approved devices to every child
  • Schools should work with their communities to offer adult education programs to help improve parents’ digital skills
  • Education policies should be overhauled in recognition of the new realities of teaching and learning

OUP Recommendations

The world of education continues to undergo significant digital transformation, and yet so many learners are being left behind because of the digital divide. As our research shows, it isn’t just about ensuring people have access to the relevant devices, or improving connectivity; unless we fill skills gaps and make sure teachers, learners, and parents know how to use digital tools effectively, the digital divide will only continue to grow. ~ Nigel Portwood, CEO, Oxford University Press.

With a call for immediate action from governments around the world, OUP has appealed for:

  • A greater focus on independent learning
  • Building digital competency skills
  • Targeting resources at both ends of the digital divide

Read the full OUP report here.

Cybersecurity and Your School

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Most people may assume that the effort in increasing awareness is primarily for the benefit of businesses. While businesses absolutely need to do their part to minimize cyber risk, school districts shoulder as much, if not more, responsibility for maintaining strong cybersecurity. It’s more than just a compliance issue – it’s a matter of doing everything possible to protect student data.

Resources for Improving Cybersecurity in your School

The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, CISA, provides a number of resources for schools. There is also guidance for parents, to help them teach their children to be more cybersecure, with additional resources for schools to assist parents, including:

Add Social Media and Cyber Safety to Your Curriculum

Schools have the opportunity to help improve cybersecurity by educating students to be cyber smart from the start. By teaching students how to protect their own identities online, how to use social media platforms responsibly, and how to be more cyber secure as individuals – using passwords, 2FA, VPNs, and more – we can make sure the next generation stays one step ahead of hackers and cyber criminals.

Cyber.org offers this great video on social media safety that can help get you started, as well as this downloadable fact sheet (PDF).

Make Sure Your Cybersecurity Is Up to Speed in Your School

One of the best ways to ensure that your student data remains protected is to manage how personally identifiable information (PII) is shared. Lumen Touch’s Bright PASSPORT™ provides districts with a library of approved apps that have been properly vetted to meet the required security standards. Learn more.

Does Your School Need a Cybersecurity Audit?

In order to begin making improvements to your cybersecurity strategy, you need to know where your weaknesses are. That’s why Lumen Touch is offering a brand new service for schools: Bright LITE™.  Our customized service offering provides individuals and organizations with the information and education to efficiently evaluate both the risks and opportunities they face. 

To learn more about how Lumen Touch can help your school remain cyber secure, get in touch.

Health and Safety – the Key Focus of the 2021-2022 School Year

No matter where your school district is in the US, there is little doubt that you’re dealing with overwhelming levels of stress. The challenges seem to come from all points: cyber criminals are targeting schools; teachers, entering their third year of dealing with COVID-19 in the classroom, are quitting in droves; and administrators and school IT leaders are being forced to cope with rapidly changing mandates and community needs. All of these challenges and more must be met without compromising student data security or HIPAA. Our health tracking solution Bright CARE™ can help.

What Is Bright CARE?

Bright CARE is a comprehensive student health and medical record management system developed by Lumen™ Touch. For schools that would benefit, this system can be implemented as a standalone application. However, any school using our Bright STUDENT™ district and student management system automatically has access to Bright CARE as well.  Bright CARE is the only total electronic medical record platform that tracks medical, dental, and behavioral health for students, from early childhood through graduation, giving administrators and health staff immediate and historical data in a safe and secure manner. In addition to the new features added to help manage pandemic-related compliance, health, and safety needs, additional features include comprehensive record management with condition tracking, automated Medicaid billing, and immunization tracking.

Bright CARE COVID-19 Management

Last year, Lumen Touch quickly adapted Bright CARE to meet the needs of our community, allowing districts to safely monitor and track the health of their students and staff without compromising personal privacy. Using student badges, tracking and tracing information is collected privately.

Schools are now able to:

  • Track temperatures
  • Conduct contact tracing
  • Manage COVID-19 testing
  • Monitor social distancing
  • Report information securely to the CDC and local health departments
  • Run reports on immunizations and track compliance
  • Prepare and analyze district-wide vaccination summaries

Teachers are tired and scared. Schools are working to find ways to keep them safer in and out of the classroom. Tracking and managing the health of students is a critical method for improving the health and safety of your entire school.

Don’t Take Our Word for It – Discover How Bright CARE Is Helping New Haven Public Schools

As the Director of School Based Health Centers (SBHCs) and school Dental Clinics for our large urban district, about five years ago we were in great need for a reliable, HIPAA compliant and customizable data management program to collect, manage and report our visit data that was also affordable. The existing student information system for the district was not HIPAA compliant, nor capable of collecting or reporting the type of data that was required by both our state funders nor for local partners and stakeholders.

We were so fortunate to be introduced to Lumen Touch LLC, who were not only willing to work with us, as a small network of schools with School Based Health Clinics (17), but they dedicated a developer and staff to work closely with us over the next several years to customize a program that met all our needs AND within our restricted budget!  They are incredibly professional, responsive to any and all requests and have remarkable expertise in producing a user-friendly program for districts of any size.

Though we utilize only a portion of what Lumen Touch can offer, their Bright CARE Health and Wellness Management system, I hope that we will be able to incorporate more of their student information programs in the future.  They have created a one-stop integrated system that ties all areas of student data into one place so that all data (health, academic, social-emotional, IEPs, attendance, etc.) can be collected, pulled, organized, tracked and reported efficiently and accurately to create a comprehensive student profile that is also HIPAA compliant.

We are so grateful to Lumen Touch for their dedication and expertise in helping our district build a tailored program for health data that enables us to meet all data requirement and so much more. I highly recommend any district to consider a partnership with Lumen Touch.

Sue Peters, APRN, MPH, RN, New Haven Public Schools

All of us at Lumen Touch know how difficult this year has been so far for teachers, students, administrators, and IT leaders. We are committed to doing our part to help make you feel more supported and more capable of caring for your students and your staff.

If managing health and safety has become a challenge for your school, please reach out to sales@lumentouch.com.

The Future of Teaching

Every day, we see stories about teachers who are hanging on by a thread, and we hear stories from teachers who can confirm the same and who are, worse yet, actively seeking other opportunities and will leave their careers in education. It’s not that they don’t want to be teachers, but the challenges of these past few years – on top of the many other pressures teachers face in the classrooms – have become insurmountable for some. We need to look at both how to better support educators and reduce attrition as well as look at how the education system can change to accommodate the drop in availability.

Teacher Shortages Are Growing

Throughout the country, the number of people entering the teaching profession is dropping significantly. According to the National Center for Education, education majors accounted for more than 10% of the degree candidates in 1990-1991. That number fell to 4.2% in the 2018-2019 school year. The pandemic has reduced those numbers even further. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are teacher shortages in nearly every state for nearly every subject. A quickly generated report on general math resulted in a nine page list of teacher shortages from Wyoming to Puerto Rico.

Supporting Teachers More Effectively

Teacher turnover is damaging to students. According to research by Eric A. Hanushek, Steven G. Rivkin, and Jeffrey C. Schiman, the following impacts occur:

  • Teacher turnover negatively affects achievement despite adverse selection of leavers.
  • Experience loss and grade reassignment account for the negative turnover effects.
  • Negative turnover effects are concentrated in lower-achievement schools.

Reducing teacher attrition, then, has a direct impact on student success.

There are a number of ways we can support our teachers more effectively:

Invest in educators. Increase salaries and offer additional pay when they’re forced to manage both in-class and online students. Pay off their student loans. Cover the costs of all of their supplies; don’t make them beg the internet community to “clear the lists.”

Listen to educators. Listen to your teachers – at the school level, the district level, the state level, and the federal level. Put teachers on the committees that make decisions about policy, health, safety, and, yes, curriculum.

Provide tools for educators. Invest in technology that makes it easier for teachers to do their jobs. This means that at the state and national levels, governments need to free their budgets to invest in equity – broadband for every household, for example. At the district level, districts need to invest in smart technology that makes it easier for teachers to manage not just their teaching responsibilities but all of the other tasks they have, such as SPED reporting and SEL.

Addressing the Tech Skills Gap

There’s a huge tech skills gap. Our partners at Global Grid for Learning have identified some of the risks of not addressing this gap and the threat it represents to our economic stability:

  • Our ability to compete globally could be threatened.
  • Ransomware and phishing attacks are growing more sophisticated, resulting in the need for technically capable workers to thwart the threats to our schools, infrastructures, and businesses.
  • As AI, AR, and VR become commonplace in retail, education, healthcare, and other industries, the demand for technically proficient workers will continue to grow.

Radically Alter the Education System

It’s time for an academic overhaul. We’ve been using the same basic education system for more than a century, and we’re not keeping up. Larry Ferlazzo explores this in his two-part series on Futures Thinking. We need to change how we assess, what we teach, and how we prepare students for the workforce of the future. Lumen™ Touch is at the forefront of the education revolution. What do you want to see for the future of teaching?

KC-Area Organizations Launch Student Competition to Combat Child Trafficking

Call for Entries Now Open Asking Students to Take Action Against Trafficking

Kansas City-area Rotary clubs have partnered with local organizations Intouch Group and Lumen Touch to spread awareness about child trafficking. Together, the organizations have launched a contest, “Students Stopping Trafficking,” which aims to inspire Kansas City-area high school students to create a compelling awareness campaign or idea to combat the trafficking and targeting of peers in their own communities. Ideas could include an advertising campaign, a live event, a social media campaign, or something more.

In 2019, 11,500 human trafficking cases were reported in the United States; around two-thirds of those reports were for sex trafficking. As with most public health issues, awareness is key to the prevention of human trafficking. “I’ve been asked, ‘Is trafficking really a public health issue?’ It absolutely is,” said Intouch Group Chief Creative Officer Susan Perlbachs. “And it’s not just me saying so. The Administration for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, considers it a public health concern affecting entire communities.”

­The contest unites three organizations that share a passion for technology, educating young people, and advocating on behalf of public health issues. “Trafficking is becoming more severe with the help of technology, and as a technology organization focused on students, we want to help bring awareness and support our community in eliminating student trafficking,” said Audrey Mathis, Chief Operations Officer at Lumen Touch.

Three cash prizes will be awarded to the first-, second-, and third-place winners — each given to the students’ schools — and students who submit the first-place selection will then work with Intouch Group, a healthcare advertising agency, to bring their idea to life.

The contest is open to students aged 13-18, living in Kansas or Missouri. Entries are due by October 1, 2021, and finalists will be asked to present their ideas to a panel of judges via video conference. More information about the contest – including FAQ’s, a scoring rubric, and resources for students – is available on the website at https://studentsstoppingtraffic.com/.

Assessments, Learning Loss, and the Future of Learning

A lot of people in the education industry are talking about how the pandemic fundamentally changed education, simply because it was being delivered through a different medium.

We disagree.

If the means by which we expect students to learn is not allowed to change, then change doesn’t happen just because we vary the medium through which education is delivered. In fact, most educators, often bound by the curriculum requirements of their districts, are still teaching the same subjects in the same way with the same assessments. Just because they’re doing it online instead of in person doesn’t mean anything has fundamentally changed – and fundamental changes to education are what we really need.

We Need to Stop Focusing on Failure

If a student is excelling in music and art while failing math and science, then that doesn’t mean they’re failing as a student. It means they demonstrate exceptional skill in areas that can lead to innovation. In order to foster the true passion and talent in every student, we need to make a fundamental change in how we assess success. This point has been brought to bear on how we evaluate learning loss as a result of the pandemic. Dr. Yong Zhao explains during an interview with Dr. Wendy Oliver, published on EdisonLearning:

The pandemic has created a very unhappy environment for a lot of children. They’re isolated, they’re not going to school, and they’re not talking to friends. But at the same time, we probably should pay attention to see how they have grown. Human beings learn from experiences. These experiences have changed our children in different ways. Perhaps now they are better at handling adverse situations. They are now better at making friends online, which is essential in today’s life. Maybe your children are becoming more independent in learning? These are the types of things he stresses we really need to focus on.

Right Now, We Assess Failure and Focus on Failure

From early on in our students’ educational journeys, we focus on measuring failure. We conduct spelling and math tests and mark what they get wrong. We focus on how far beneath the average they are and we assume that wherever they are at that moment academically is where they will remain. This places an undue burden on the students and the teachers when they are forced to approach education in this way. Instead, we should be focused on the successes and strengths students have. When we focus on successes and strengths and take the time to understand a student’s passions and interests, we can find ways to improve their subject matter expertise by teaching through their passions.

Every Student Deserves to Have an IEP

Right now, the only students who qualify for an IEP (Individualized Education Program) are those students who have a disability that is recognized by the federal government. But shouldn’t every student have an individualized learning plan that is customized to meet their needs and help them achieve the best outcome?

We must be particularly cautious as we come out of the pandemic, as there is a push to assess students and determine what they’ve lost by learning from home. Brian Moon explores this in terms of the unbounded concern over learning loss. He points out that part of the problem stems from education focusing on the wrong question: “How do we help students perform better on standardized tests?” By doing this, we are forcing teachers to teach to the test and focus on teaching what students need to know to pass tests instead of engaging their minds.

Moon suggests a new question: “How do we use assessment to accelerate, deepen, and showcase individual student learning?”

How Do We Use Assessment to Accelerate, Deepen, and Showcase Individual Student Learning?

That is the question that needs to be explored as we redefine education in the twenty-first century. But in doing so, let’s focus on Moon’s point:

We need not categorize students as deficient in order to justify improving the efficiency, depth, and meaning of their learning experiences. Assessment scores are finite, but learning is limitless. When we center student growth – rather than points or percentiles – as the goal of education, we expand the possibilities for how schools can provide value.

The Future of Learning

The future of learning should be individualized. Assessments should not be used to penalize students but rather to help encourage learning. And what students learn should be modernized and revolutionized so that the students moving through the education system today are prepared to live, work, and engage in the society of tomorrow. Learn more about how Lumen Touch is contributing to the future of learning.

Student Data Privacy Tips

As school resumes around the country, student data privacy becomes a primary concern for all administrators and IT leaders. Protecting student data is certainly a top priority, but managing how and where student data is collected, shared, and disseminated can be extremely difficult. It’s easy to overlook federal and regional mandates, easier still to overlook parent and student rights when it comes to data sharing.

So, the question is: How can we make it easy for school districts to protect student data?

The easier it is to protect their data, the more likely it is that schools will be capable of doing so to a degree above and beyond basic compliance. It’s not that schools are negligent or lazy about protecting student data; it’s that there are so many other responsibilities resting on the shoulders of education leaders that it all becomes overwhelming. As student data privacy is so technical in nature, it can often be something that is overlooked without anyone even realizing it.

Student Data Security Problems

Unknown App Usage – One of the biggest challenges associated with protecting student data is in how to control who has access to the data and who has the ability to share it. For example, a teacher might sign up to use an app in the classroom and share student data necessary to use the app. But if that app has not been vetted and approved by the school, then the entire school may be at risk of a data breach should the app have security flaws that go undetected because the administration never knew that the app was in use.

Rogue Apps – Even when the use of an app is approved by the school, districts must be able to track each vendor. It’s not easy to track vendors, let alone understand what they do with the student data they obtain, how they store that data, and whether or not they share it with others. And what happens if the app is no longer in use? Does the provider have suitable data destruction policies?

Federal and State Compliance Requirements – Schools must adhere to specific guidance requirements to comply with federal, state, and local regulations. While these regulatory mandates are the least restrictive in terms of protecting student data, they cannot be ignored.

Best Practices for Student Data Privacy

Managing the safety and privacy of student data requires ongoing monitoring and comprehensive, district-wide policies concerning who can share what information with whom. Depending on the contract with your edtech vendor, your data may be left at risk long after students leave your school. These best practices can help to ensure that your schools are doing all they can to protect student data:

1) Establish student data privacy policies to which all employees in the district must adhere. This should include restrictions on independently sourced apps and edtech solutions, specific permission requirements to share student data, and a system for managing vendors and vendor data privacy policies.

2) Communicate clearly with parents. Under FERPA, schools are allowed to share the following data without direct permission: a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and attendance dates. However, parents are allowed to opt out of that. Most schools do not make a concerted effort to communicate parent rights in this area, which can cause aggravation and mistrust. Clear communication policies should be in place that instruct parents about their rights to restrict the data that is shared about their students. Schools should also make it easy for parents to communicate the desire to opt-out.

3) Develop a cybersecurity strategy that protects your students, teachers, and school from the barrage of cyberattacks that have escalated in the last few years. Firewalls, layers of security, regular monitoring, and off-site back up should all be the norm, as should the training of all employees, to help them recognize cyber threats.

4) Hold vendors to strict security standards and vet them carefully. You should be willing to forego working with an edtech vendor that can’t demonstrate the ability to protect student data. Your policies should ensure that the least amount of student roster data required is provided for any app the district implements, and the policy should restrict or prevent third parties from having direct access to your data without strict oversight.

5) Partner with Lumen™ Touch to meet your student data privacy needs. Bright PASSPORT governs how schools share personally identifiable information (PII), such as student roster data. Rather than allow teachers or school districts to implement apps for their classrooms, Bright PASSPORT provides districts with a library of approved apps that have been properly vetted to meet the required security standards. Learn more.

Does Your School Need a Cybersecurity Audit?

In order to know where you need to make improvements to your cybersecurity strategy, you need to know where your weaknesses are. That’s why Lumen Touch is offering a brand new service for schools: Bright LITE

Our customized service offering provides individuals and organizations with the information and education to efficiently evaluate both the risks and opportunities they face. 

Let Lumen Touch help you be more secure with Bright PASSPORT and Bright LITE. To learn more, get in touch.

Download the Bright LITE brochure (PDF)

How to Support Teachers as We Return to the Classroom

July has come to an end, and in August virtually all educators begin thinking about the coming school year as they develop lesson plans and prepare their classrooms. This school year in particular, there are many challenges facing teachers, not the least of which is a teacher shortage in many areas. Given these challenges, what can we do to make returning to the classroom easier?

How Administrators Can Support Teachers

Obviously, one of the best ways to better support teachers is to increase salaries wherever possible. When educators are not burdened with financial stress, they are better able to focus on the most important job they hold. But beyond allotting bigger salaries, administrators can demonstrate support by:

  • Providing teachers with the tools and technology they need in the classroom
  • Listening seriously to their ideas about how to improve education, safety, and the learning environment – and implementing any ideas you can
  • Ensuring they have a safe workplace
  • Saving teachers time by giving them a powerful learning management system that manages curriculum, instruction, assessment, and grading

How School IT Leaders Can Support Teachers

Most schools were already integrating more technology into the curriculum, but that certainly escalated during the height of the pandemic. IT leaders were responsible for making sure students had the equipment they needed, and for providing tech support for students, parents, and teachers throughout the school year.

For most districts, going into the new school year, the focus will shift toward ensuring that classrooms are ready for teachers and students. As more schools convert to smart classrooms, technology – and the experts who make sure the IT infrastructure stays up and running – become more crucial, to ensure the best possible educational experience. As SEL (social-emotional learning) becomes more prevalent in every school, IT leaders can play a much more important role.

How Parents Can Support Teachers

Aaron Cardwell, who was a teacher at Rocketship Public Schools and recently started a position as Assistant Principal at Success Academy Charter Schools, shared advice that went viral on Facebook about how parents of kindergarten and first-grade students can help, as their children begin the school year. He emphasized the focus on practical skills. Read his post here. Parents can also support teachers by:

  • Providing the requested supplies – and sending extra if possible
  • Filling out and returning all forms (a lot of this can now be done online through a parent portal)
  • Responding to and communicating with teachers when parental involvement is needed
  • Supporting their efforts in the classroom by ensuring that their children do their homework each day and come to school prepared to learn
  • Being active in the PTA and in the community, advocating for education equity and support

How the Community Can Support Teachers

There are so many ways the community can support teachers, including getting involved in the school board, attending school district meetings, advocating for the changes that teachers need, and voting “yes” on budget increases in those communities where voter approval is necessary for district funding. However, we know that teachers often spend far more each year on school supplies than their tax-deductible $250, so one thing we can all do to support teachers is to #clearthelist. This is a movement started on social media to help teachers obtain the supplies they need for their classrooms. Another organization, Donors Choose, connects communities and corporate donors with teachers who need project funding. It’s a great way to support education.

A well-educated society is the backbone of an economically strong, socially engaged country – and teachers are a pillar of that society. Our teachers have always been heroes but in most cases have gone unrecognized. The pandemic focused a spotlight on the education system and the value of the teacher versus the institution. It is our hope that everyone will support teachers more fervently going forward.

Are Virtual Classrooms the Future of Learning?

Students may be returning to the classroom in the fall, but technology has certainly changed not just our ability to deliver instruction but also the innovation surrounding effective education. Virtual classrooms will not go away. The possibilities are limitless! Here are some great examples of how technology is creating optimal learning experiences:

UCI Professor Goes Virtual

Grown tired of Zoom, Christina Lopes, a professor at University of California, Irvine (UCI), developed a virtual space for her students to obtain hands-on experience in her course, How Computers Work. According to a Newswise article, she helped to create a new program called OpenSimulator. Instead of sitting in a classroom learning from a textbook, students are able to see the code come to life.

Virtual Innovation Is Disrupting Every Industry

From virtual meetings, where the CEO of a company appears as a hologram in various locations around the world, to tradeshows where buyers are able to examine virtual versions of the equipment they are interested in buying, virtual and augmented reality are changing how we perceive the world and how we interact with one another. Virtual environments are enhancing virtually every industry, and education is no exception. Virtual classrooms can help educators meet the needs of more students. What started as a way to reach students when schools closed during the pandemic has revolutionized education in a way that can hopefully continue even as students return to the classroom.

Virtual Classrooms Help Bring Education into the Future

We know that a radical revolution in education is necessary in order to prepare students for the future of work. Teaching to the test and basing student advancement on their ability to regurgitate facts is no longer enough to prepare students for the workforce of the future. Virtual classrooms allow students to accelerate their tech skills, improve their soft skills, and learn how to leverage technology for their benefit.

Virtual Learning and Classrooms Can Co-Exist

No matter how students receive instruction, educators are paramount to the overall success and progress a student makes. Virtual classrooms may never fully replace in-person instruction. But virtual classrooms can be used to enhance the in-classroom experience, by allowing students to pursue individualized and customized areas of learning, thereby giving every student the opportunity to have a richer education. Virtual classrooms can also allow two teachers from different districts, states, or even countries to collaborate to deliver a richer, more diverse curriculum.

Virtual education is not the enemy of the classroom – it is an enhancement to it. And for students who have difficulty being in school every day, either due to illness, disability, or the circumstances of their home life, it can bring additional equity to your district.