3 Ways to Use Your Existing Resources for Distance Learning

If we have a few basic tools, we already have the resources we need to provide students with quality distance learning opportunities. So we can end the resource scramble. Click through to see how—there’s a video and a cheat sheet to help!

Distance learning has caught us off-guard, and even if our schools are 1:1, we've found ourselves unprepared for this. It has us scrambling. In my last two posts, I offered advice to simplify and then to organize distance learning.

This week, I want to discuss why we don't need to scramble for resources. be sure to check out the video at the bottom of this post along with this accompanying CHEAT SHEET for additional help.

If we have a few basic tools, we already have the resources we need to provide students with quality distance learning opportunities. So we can end the resource scramble.

The second part of the equation is more complicated. Not every student has the basic tools they need for an ideal digital/distance learning experience. We have students with no WiFi, students who need one on one support, and students who are the primary care-givers for younger siblings and cousins while their parents work. But we can work around some of these obstacles. So here are...

3 Ways to Use Existing Resources for Distance Learning

1. Print to PDF to Grab the Pages You Need

Many of us have giant resources in PDF format complete with answer keys. These are not ideal to assign digitally. If you've ever tried to separate the pages into smaller documents, you may have found that the document is password protected. That's an immediate roadblock.

But it doesn't have to be with the Print to PDF option. Here's how it works:

1.Open Your PDF.
2. Figure out which page you need, and then click “File.”
3. Select “Print.”
4. Select “Microsoft PDF.”
5. Select “Print.”
***Be sure to name your PDF and save it to a location where you can easily find it.***

If we have a few basic tools, we already have the resources we need to provide students with quality distance learning opportunities. So we can end the resource scramble. Click through to see how—there’s a video and a cheat sheet to help!
Grab the Cheat Sheet, and watch the video at the end of this post!

2. Turn a Paper Worksheet into a Digital Assignment

If you have a scanner, simply scan the document to PDF or an image. If you don't have a scanner, never fear. Simply use the camera on your phone to take a clear, well-lit image. With a scanner app, you can convert it to PDF and email it to yourself. Check out the app store for a good free one.

I like to grab the image from my phone, insert it into the background of a Google Slide, and overlay the areas where students are supposed to write with text boxes. Here's how it works:

1. Either take a picture or a screenshot of your worksheet.
2. Resize your Google slide by going to “File,” selecting “Page Set-up,” “Custom,” and 8.5 x 11 or whatever size your slide needs to be.
3. Go to the tool bar and select “Background.” Select “Choose Image,” upload your image to the background, and then click “Done.”
4. Go to “Insert” in the toolbar to add textboxes for the students to type in, or to add shapes to obscure flat hyperlinks.
5. Make the shapes clickable by clicking on the outside of the shape, selecting the hyperlink icon in the toolbar, and then pasting the hyperlink address in the pop-up box.

If we have a few basic tools, we already have the resources we need to provide students with quality distance learning opportunities. So we can end the resource scramble. Click through to see how—there’s a video and a cheat sheet to help!
Grab the Cheat Sheet, and watch the video at the end of this post!

You can also load the image onto your Google Drive, right click, and open as a Google Doc. Docs even extracts the text for you so that students can have a text reader read the document to them--a great option for differentiation.

3. Use Screencastify to Record Your Lesson and Directions

If you have a lesson already that requires direct instruction, need to demonstrate a skill, or need to teach more complicated directions, Screencastify is a great tool. There are time limits on the free version, but the premium version (no time-limits) is free for teachers during the quarantine.

You can pull up a presentation that you already have and record yourself teaching it. You can also use a virtual whiteboard, such as the free one at Classroom Screen, to demonstrate skills. Here's how to use Screencastify:

1. Head to the Chrome Web Store and search “Screencastify.” Select “Add to Chrome” and follow the prompts.
2. Click on the Screencastify extension in your browser. Turn on your microphone and/or your camera (if you want to show your face). You can also click on the menu to access your recordings and your account. Hit “Stop Sharing” when you are finished recording.
3. Rename your video and share it with the Screencastify Link, by email, on social media, in Google Classroom, or download it to your computer as an MP4 or a Gif.

If we have a few basic tools, we already have the resources we need to provide students with quality distance learning opportunities. So we can end the resource scramble. Click through to see how—there’s a video and a cheat sheet to help!
Grab the Cheat Sheet, and watch the video at the end of this post!

And Remember to be Creative with How Students Submit Work

If we have a few basic tools, we already have the resources we need to provide students with quality distance learning opportunities. So we can end the resource scramble. Click through to see how—there’s a video and a cheat sheet to help!So 1-3 were the easy tips--the stuff on our end. This last tip is for collecting work from students, app, add-on, extension), and we certainly can't blame them for not having WiFi or access to the technology or home support they need to complete our assignments. But we can be flexible with how we accept assignments.
which can be tricky. We can't (and shouldn't) blame students for not understanding how to use a new digital resource that they didn't use before (
  • They don't understand how to use Dochub or Kami (add-ons for annotating PDFs in Google) to type on the PDFs you assign. Let them create a doc and type their answers onto that. OR let them write their responses (on blank paper if they don't have access to a printer), take a picture, and submit the image.We understand the technology at my house, but my son has taken this option frequently simply because he learns best by actually writing things down on paper.
  • They don't have WiFi, but they can access assignments periodically via email (using their data or a parent's work account). Allow them to take pictures of their work and submit to you via Remind texts (it's secure and free) or email. If it's an assignment they can answer orally, schedule a call if you are able.
  • They don't have access to any technology. Speak with an administrator to determine your school's pick-up, drop-off policies. If you can do this, print assignments and leave them for the student to pick-up. Have them return assignments in the same way. If this is not possible, speak with an administrator to devise a plan for this/these students. Don't go it alone.
Grab the Cheat Sheet!

Be sure to leave a comment to let me know if this post helped and how you are handling distance learning.

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