e-Learning at Connect
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The cancellation of classes in Alberta due to the COVID – 19 pandemic means we will be moving to an online teaching and learning format upon our return from spring break on April 6, 2020. E-learning is not a new concept and there is a wealth of experience and knowledge in the delivery of distance learning programs that we can draw upon for strategies and resources. This guide will provide you with information about how Connect Charter School will introduce e-learning to our students and parents, what you can expect in the first days online, how to address questions and concerns to teachers and school administration, and what supports will be in place for students with learning challenges and complex needs. It is by no means exhaustive, and as your questions roll in we will develop a FAQ link on the school website that will provide a readily accessible source of current information.
Resource for Parents - Index
e-Learning vs Homeschool: Important Differences
Connected e-learning is NOT home schooling. Generally speaking, home schooling places the parent as the primary teacher and uses distance learning resources through a home schooling association. Home schooling is a choice parents make for a variety of reasons, whereas our current situation and the requirement to implement e-learning is a necessity and not a choice. We do not expect parents to assume the role of teacher and we cannot emphasize strongly enough that maintaining healthy family relationships is more important than curriculum. While parental support of student learning is an integral part of the school-home partnership, students will be supported by teachers and educational assistants to complete classwork and attend scheduled class sessions.
Continuity of Learning in COVID-19
Alberta Education has developed Continuity of Learning guidelines.
Students in grades 4 to 6 are expected to have a minimum of 5 hours of online instruction per week and grade 7 to 9 students are to be online for 10 hours per week. Connected e-learning provides online instructional and learning support time for students with the provision for additional small group or one to one learning support time. Teachers will share schedules weekly with the precise times of online instruction. Online sessions will be recorded for later review if needed.
Purpose and Vision of e-Learning
Our teachers will balance relationship building and good teaching through an online platform. We will focus our energies on core areas (English Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, and Science) and have a supportive model for students. While we will need to make adjustments when moving to online learning, we will do our best to uphold our charter focus areas of inquiry based learning, innovative teaching practice, technology integration, and outdoor and experiential learning. Within this framework we will also focus on developing our students as extraordinary citizens.
Mindset for e-Learning
We all understand that this is new territory and there is going to be a learning curve around this that would require us to have a growth mindset, patience, and a deep need for support and collaboration. There will be challenges and frustrations as the e-learning program evolves. We are here to provide support to your child and to you in order to reduce anxiety and stress associated with e-learning. Similarly, there will be many opportunities, ‘aha moments’, and hopefully some laughter and memorable times too. We will capture some of those positive outcomes and share them with our school community.
Parent Support through Ongoing, Virtual Meetings
Beginning the week of April 13th we will be scheduling grade level online sessions for parents to share experiences, address questions, and gain insight to improve delivery of the online program. These sessions will be facilitated by school administration and will include grade level teaching teams, EAs and Core Support Teachers. If you haven’t already done so, you may download the Zoom app at https://zoom.us.
Grade Teams, Support Teachers, and Contact Information
Connected e-learning will focus primarily on relationships, citizenship, and core academic curriculum (Math, Science, Humanities, and Health). Mrs. Brittney MacDonald, our Inclusive Practices Coordinator, will work with teachers, EAs, and parents to ensure students with Individualized Program Plans, or those requiring additional support are having their needs met within an e-learning environment. Our phys ed staff, Mr. Ferguson and Ms. Haigh, have also developed video resources to encourage students to stay active, even within their own home. In support of the e-learning program, complementary course and phys ed teachers will be reassigned to grade teams and will now be referred to as Core Support Teachers (CSTs) along with our grade specific educational assistants as follows:
Core Support Teacher
4.1 Caitlin Price
5.1 Heather Melville
6.1 Dave Bennett
7.1 Louis Cheng
8.1 Patrick Tam
9.1 Greg Neil
Staff emails can be located via their website profiles. Click on a staff member to reveal their email address. Email is the preferred method of contact at this time.
Core Support Teachers and EA’s will:
- Work in partnership to schedule drop ins for classes as scheduled.
- Help provide support to students in core classes. It is a shared responsibility to identify students that need support. This includes connection to at-risk students via phone, Zoom or Google Hangouts/Meet.
- Engage in planning and participate in online sessions to keep informed.
Note: We anticipate that once Connected e-learning achieves earth orbit and is running smoothly we will be able to start offering art, music, and creative technology within the framework of e-learning.
Email is the preferred means of communicating with your child’s teacher and support team. All communication should initially be directed to the homeroom teacher and copy other teachers, support staff, and school leadership as deemed appropriate. You may also contact the leadership team at:
There is no office staff in the school and therefore calls and messages left on the main number may not be retrieved in a timely manner.
Online Class Configuration and Scheduling
In order to make online classes more manageable for staff and engaging for students, each class will be divided into two groups of 13 students for the purpose of “synchronous” (virtual face-to-face over Zoom or Google Hangout/Meet), online classes. Teachers are developing a schedule of online classes that will be shared with parents and students by April 5th.
Expected Online Behaviour and Conduct
We anticipate that initially there will be a fairly high degree of engagement in the e-learning program by students. It is quite likely that over time we may see some of that engagement diminish, and some students may choose not to attend online sessions or complete assignments. Teachers and support staff will be the first line of support for you to discuss concerns regarding behaviour or non-compliance with the expectation to participate in e-learning. The school’s leadership team will be available to support students by intervening to determine the cause of disengagement and help get them reconnected to learning. This may include a phone call to a parent with a follow up call to speak to the student (essentially an e-learning version of coming to the office for a chat).
To reiterate: we do not expect parents to absorb the brunt of a student’s poor choices or their inability to self-regulate to the degree necessary for them to find success in an e-learning environment.
We must all use effective home-school communication and recognize that we are placing students in an unfamiliar learning environment that can be extremely difficult for some to find the focus, motivation, and resilience to engage in learning. This will be a topic we will cover in our first Zoom sessions for parents (see Parent Support).
Learning Management Systems (e-Learning Platforms)
Our staff is working to maintain consistency by using the same Learning Management Systems currently in use for each grade. Parents will be able to log in as you have been to see completed student work and assignments or projects in progress.
In addition, grade teams will be using either Zoom or Google Hangouts/Meet as the interactive platform for sharing information with the class, teaching new concepts, and most importantly maintaining relationships with students. Teachers will let you know which platform they will use for synchronous, interactive sessions.
A school-wide Google Classroom (Community Hub) has been created for administration to share information, check-in with students, and provide a forum for all of us to be connected as a school community.
Teachers will provide details of how student learning will be assessed and there will be a final report card in June.
Learning Support Resources
Our library technician, Suzanne Veteikis, will provide support to teachers and students with digital resources and supplementary materials to enhance student learning. Resource development and distribution will be an evolving component of the e-learning program and students will receive frequent updates about available resources
Empowered Technology Use
Please revisit the four principles of Empowered Use, to which your child read and agreed at the start of the year. It is important that any questions or clarification of any of these principles is communicated to your child’s homeroom teacher as soon as possible.
Empowered Technology Use Agreement
- I am empowered to use my technology to benefit my learning, the learning of my peers, and the betterment of my learning community. I recognize trust has been placed in me to use my technology positively.
- I will be careful and respectful. I recognize my actions create both a physical and digital footprint, and for my own safety and the safety of others, I will think about my actions before proceeding.
- I will be smart and be safe. If I feel unsafe or upset, I will check-in with an adult – be it a teacher, parent, education assistant, or other member of my learning community.
- I take full responsibility for my actions. I am committed to taking care of my technology and my digital footprint. I recognize my school will coach me through my actions, including on the internet.
An e-learning program is dependent on the use of functional, stable devices that are used responsibly by all users. Prior to the cancellation of classes, students took their devices home. We chose not to disable student devices over the break so they would have a means of staying in touch with friends during extended periods of isolation – but it is important that devices remain supervised, and screen time is regulated.
Please ensure you have access to your child’s device and are aware of all the apps downloaded. Regular checks of the device will not only ensure alignment with the Empowered Use Policy, but will open up opportunities for discussion with your child about the benefits and limitations of technology in learning and life.
If you have questions or concerns that arise from monitoring your child’s device, you should contact the homeroom teacher who will then bring in the admin team or educational technologist to assist as required. Please do not ignore or turn a blind eye to online indiscretions or incidents of cyberbullying. We absolutely MUST be working together to ensure online safety and ethical digital citizenship among our students.
Parents may elect, only after consultation with their child’s homeroom teacher, to implement the Screen Time app on your child’s device. Information and instructions for Screen Time can be found here: https://support.apple.com/en-ca/HT208982.
Mental Wellness, Anxiety, and Emotional Well-being
Student supports include first the health and wellbeing (mental and physical) and then curricular outcomes. As is the case at Connect on an ordinary day, a well-rounded education includes physical, social, emotional, and academic learning experiences. Give your children time to play, explore, interact (even if virtually) with friends, talk with trusted adults, and within the parameters defined by Alberta Health Services, stay connected to activities they enjoy.
It goes without saying that we are living in very stressful times. The longer COVID-19 remains a fixture for us, the greater the likelihood of anxiety, fear, and emotional dysregulation becoming factors for children and adults. It is vitally important to have a safety net in case the emotional toll becomes too great and begins to adversely affect your family. If you have a benefit plan or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), track down the contact information and keep it handy. Due to current cuts to education funding we have very limited resources to support individual or family counselling expenses. Please contact Dr. Butterfield at email@example.com to discuss any support that might be available if you are in need.
One option for accessing private psychological support or counselling services is through Dr. Brent Macdonald at 403-229-3455 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Following is an overview of the services provided by Dr. Macdonald and his team:
Dr. Brent Macdonald and his team at Macdonald Psychology Group has been consulting on an ongoing basis with the Connect Charter School community for the past few years and has a strong working relationship with the school’s staff and students. Through the pandemic crisis, he and his team will be providing support to members of the CCS community in a number of areas, including:
- Counselling – Dr. Macdonald and his team are seeing students using video therapy. Counsellors are offering both hour and ½ hour sessions as needed both to students and parents. We work extensively with students with complex learning needs including Learning Disabilities, ADHD, ASD, anxiety, giftedness, among others.
- Learning Strategies – Macdonald Psychology groups also employs Learning Strategists to support students with their learning in relation to getting started on tasks, scheduling time to complete them, and the process of getting those tasks completed in a timely and with as little frustration as possible. Again, hour and ½ hour sessions are available and are offered via video. Working with a Learning Strategist can be very helpful for parents who are working from home, managing multiple children, or who may feel a bit overwhelmed by the New Normal of multiple roles colliding all at once. Our Learning Strategists are carefully selected and matched with students to ensure the best fit possible.
- Consultation – Dr. Macdonald and his team are happy to have video session with parents who may need some more general support on managing the complex demands associated with our New Normal or physical distancing, online learning, and keeping kids development in all areas on track (including social, academic, physical, and emotional development).
To get a sense of Dr. Macdonald and his work, or to contact Dr. Macdonald directly, please go to complexlearners.com
Note that some costs may be covered by your extended health care plan and, in light of the current financial reality, Dr. Macdonald is also offering deferred payments and payment plans as necessary.
Dr. Macdonald has also been working with Global Calgary on a series on Mental Wellness in the Time of COVID-19, which will air every Monday on Global Calgary Moring at 8:10 AM. The first interview is available here.
Other Mental Wellness Resources:
- Shannon Mitchell-Flek, Registered Psychologist – 403-615-7421, or email@example.com
- Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, or text “CONNECT” to 686868
- Calgary Distress Centre – 403-266-HELP (4357)
Independent Learning Resources
It is important to build in a variety of activities in your child’s schedule, including mental breaks tasks which let your child “shift gears” into different types of learning. As some examples of independent learning, your child might:
- Use Overdrive (eBook sign out and reading)
- Use Khan Academy (please note that the curricular standards are not Alberta standards)
- Sign up for Code Breaks (Code.org) – meaningful coding challenges sent to your inbox, and some live guest speakers (no previous experience required)
- Use GeoGuessr – Use and build geographic awareness to find places on a map
- Check out Scholastic Learn at Home – weekly, day-by-day cross-curricular challenges focused on engaging and active reading
- Finally, don’t forget to unplug daily! Physical activity, reading a book, working on a puzzle, or helping out around the house are great examples.
Reminders and Advice for Students
- Take care of yourself and others
- Stay active – physical activity is an important part of getting through this
- Do what you can, don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is a difficult time and we recognize learning is more challenging when you’re away from school. There are many staff members available to help you; your teachers will share with you how you can access help online for learning, emotional support, and tech support
- Check your device at regularly scheduled intervals for class information (SeeSaw,Google Classroom etc))
- Check your device at regularly scheduled intervals for School-Wide information (Google Classroom Community Hub))
- Ensure proper use of resources, by using good “netiquette” (i.e. not spamming chats, etc.). Stick to seeking information from trusted and reliable sources to limit the spread of misinformation.
- Ensure that you are cleaning your device regularly with a disinfectant wipe and drying thoroughly as it is a touch point for germs.