Testing-Optional College Admissions and UC California Ruling

My daughter is in her senior year in high school this year and this “test optional” situation has certainly caused her, and my wife and I, some confusion. I’d been meaning to look into it further and this guest post from Matt Larriva helped me get my head around it, and prompted me to share it here. Personally, I think test optional is fine, but have to agree that simply not allowing schools to these tests at all (as California has done) is a step too far. That being said, another issue we are facing along these lines is the repeated cancellation this year of SAT testing here in Dutchess County, NY, making it increasingly difficult for my daughter to take the test at all. That is certainly unfair and I’d like to know what the College Board is doing to resolve this.
– KW

University of California Case Ruling

Recently, the University of California was ordered to stop using SAT and ACT test scores in admissions, and while the case involves students with disabilities, the judge’s ruling extends to all prospective students. While the UC system has been ordered to go test blind, ignoring test scores for admissions and scholarships completely, more schools are moving toward the testing-optional trend. What does the University of California ruling mean for the state of standardized testing for students in and outside the state?

In the case of the recent University of California case ruling, what we saw here was a legitimate complaint handled in an absurd manner. Because some students are unable to receive adequate access to test locations during COVID, the decision was made to outlaw the UC system from considering any applicant’s test scores.

The court’s intent here is clearly to level the playing field, but it is a sledgehammer when a scalpel would do for test taking standards.

It should go without saying that protected groups deserve appropriate opportunities and accommodations in order to ensure equal access to educational opportunities. To achieve this by the abrupt prohibition of the review of tests because they may favor some groups over others opens a Pandora’s box of issues.

A practical solution of requiring [that the College Board provide] suitable testing environments, as would be the case with other access constraints, would have resulted in one fewer measure of chaos in an already chaotic time. We do not have a perfect system, but in what other field does less information result in a better decision?

So, I Don’t Have to Take the ACT/SAT?

First of all, if possible, students should still be taking the ACT and SAT, even if the college admission process does not require test scores to be submitted. Schools that are test-optional don’t require students to submit their scores. They may submit their scores, but they will not be penalized in the review process if they don’t.

When considering the goals of your college application, remember that you are working to put your best foot forward and show your interest and talent in academic and extracurricular pursuits. For most cases, taking the ACT or SAT, even if your school does not require scores for the admissions process, shows that you are inline with this goal.

It also demonstrates that you are able to perform in stressful situations and have mastery over basic concepts expected of a college student. Most importantly, it proves to the admission board that you are willing to go above and beyond the minimum requirements for your commitment to education.

For a full review of the test-optional trend, check out Does ‘Testing-Optional Mean Optional for Me?

How Should I Prepare for the ACT/SAT?

While preparation for admission exams may seem expensive, there are several options, no matter your socioeconomic status. If you have limited time and resources, head to your local library and check out a test prep book. You can also find free online sources to help prepare. The SAT and ACT also offer waivers for low-income students to take the test for free. Furthermore, private tutoring and preparation groups can help boost test scores.

Many schools are making the transition to testing-optional, especially in the time of limited testing during the pandemic. Having an understanding of why submitting test scores can strengthen and benefit your application can greatly improve your chances of admission.



Here’s Why Video Content and Education are Closer Than Ever

After advocating for video as a tool in the flipped classroom for many years now, I feel like this guest post by Victor Blasco may seem a little redundant. But he covers a lot of ground here, and with the pandemic still upon us, this may be more useful and thought provoking than ever, especially for those who remain skepitcal. – KW

It’s no news that our 21st-century attention spans can’t keep up with the current education system – or maybe that the current education system can’t keep up with our short attention spans. And notice that with “current,” I’m referring to a model that stems from centuries ago!

You know what I’m talking about: a superior figure giving students lectures that usually last too long and engage too little, and pairing these lessons with a big dose of texts that, in most cases, students never get around to read entirely.

Information Technology has brought so many changes to our everyday lives that it’s simply staggering that something as vital as education remains, for the most part, essentially unchanged.

Fortunately, new resources and methods are starting to be applied in the educational arena in recent years.

One of those resources is educational video content, which has been blossoming in the academic field for a while and has undoubtedly become vital during the current pandemic.

Let’s analyze why and how videos are a great addition to any educational effort to glean how to make the most out of the medium.

Why Are Videos Important in Education?

Why using video in education? The question should rather be, “Why not?”

Video provides a multisensory experience, engaging both sight and hearing. This not only offers students a more comprehensive explanation of a subject, but it’s also more likely to grab their attention and capture their interest.

And I guess there’s no need to tell you how much students love videos: who didn’t use to get excited when the teacher brought the TV into the classroom? Considering the other options were a lecture or a text, watching an entertaining, educational video was – and still is – nothing short of refreshing.

What you may not know is that the enjoyment that comes with videos has a strong pedagogical value. That’s right: people learn and remember lessons best when they are having fun.

Moreover, when the educational piece is shared on the web or through an e-learning platform, this lesson becomes available for a huge number of people. We are still not ready to say “for everyonethere are many communities with no access to clean water, let alone to the internet – but still, online educational videos open many doors to those who wouldn’t be able to learn certain topics otherwise, and therefore, allowing them to have better job opportunities.

With video, a lesson no longer has to be limited to the number of students that fits inside a classroom; instead, it can be available to millions of people – even from future generations – who are eager to learn.

Uses of Video Content in Education

Educational institutions can leverage video content for different purposes:

  • To present and promote the school to potential students.
  • To welcome new students and explain to them the basic rules and particularities of the institution.
  • To keep the student body updated.
  • To include as a complementary resource to lessons.
  • To introduce new concepts in a compelling way.
  • To replace lessons.

Of all these possible uses, the last item is probably the one that calls your attention the most. I know it sounds a bit… dehumanizing, like replacing a person’s job with a video. But, just like Salman Khan stated in his celebrated Ted Talk, it’s actually all the contrary.

By using short, engaging videos that can be watched at home instead of a lecture and a whiteboard, teachers can use classroom time – once the lockdown is over – to help students put into practice the concepts that the video explained, allowing them to interact with their peers and teachers.

This not only helps reinforcing theory with practice, but it also stimulates Higher-Order Thinking Skills, such as problem-solving, evaluation, and critical thinking, among others. Bringing down the common practice of memorizing a lesson by heart instead of actually learning it.

Benefits of Including Videos in Education

We have already mentioned some benefits that educational video content brings to the table, namely:

  • It piques the students’ interest.
  • Students learn best since they are enjoying themselves.
  • It makes a lesson available for a wider range of people.
  • It can give students time to interact with each other.
  • It can help incentivize Higher-Order Thinking Skills.

However, this type of educational content brings even more benefits to both students and teachers. Let’s go through them thoroughly:

Advantages for Students

  • Videos are impactful and easy to understand.

Educational video companies resort to different resources to break down a topic, such as visuals, sounds, music, and a compelling script. This makes any kind of explanation, storytelling, metaphors, analogies, and the like, be more impactful and understandable than if they were in a written text.

  • Videos are great for learning complex topics.

Since video content can boil down a subject beyond what words can describe, it’s ideal for explaining particularly complex topics – doubly so when these require visual demonstrations, such as math formulas or practical procedures.

  • Students can watch the videos at their own convenience.

Students can watch, pause, or rewatch educational videos in their own time and terms, being able to go over anything they couldn’t grasp or that they simply want to brush up.

This is excellent for those students who are embarrassed or afraid of asking questions in class. More importantly, it helps students develop auto-learning skills.

  • Videos are better suited to our short attention spans and hectic lifestyles.

Students tend to struggle with long texts, whether because they have trouble understanding them or because they don’t get around to read them.

Video comes as the perfect solution, as you can condense or segment a large amount of information in pieces of 5 to 10 minutes.

  • Videos increase their digital literacy.

Students need to access, watch, and interact with the educational videos digitally. This forces them to practice and enhance their digital skills, which are becoming more valuable every day in the job market.

Advantages for Teachers

  • Teachers can track the students’ interaction with the video.

Some video hosting platforms allow teachers to monitor if students have finished watching a particular video and how much of it they have watched. That way, educators can know how effective a video was – and how dutiful their students were.

  • Having a more motivated student body.

This is not a minor thing. Addressing a class that is keen to learn more and likely to pay attention and work is basically every teacher’s dream.

  • Video helps teachers save time (and burdens).

Remember what I have said about video content being great for those shy students who don’t dare ask questions in class? That’s also advantageous for teachers, as they don’t have to answer the same questions again and again.

  • Video provides better results.

This advantage comes as a consequence of how beneficial video is for students. Since they are more engaged with a particular topic and have learned it better, their marks and results are bound to be higher. Ultimately, this also benefits the teacher’s reputation.

Parting Thoughts

Video content is becoming one of the most beloved educational tools of both teachers and students alike. There are, however, a few detractors: people who mistakenly think that video has come to replace teachers.

On the contrary, this type of content is meant to complement their work, even to enhance it, as it brings about better results in terms of a more educated and involved student body.

The role of the teacher will definitely change once video starts dominating the educational scene, but thinking it’d disappear would be absurd. After all, video content is excellent to transmit theoretical knowledge, but it’s a limited resource when it comes to putting it into practice. Students will still need a knowledgeable figure to supervise them and help them put what they have learned through video into action.

If anything, this makes the teacher’s role more valuable, as they would be performing an indispensable task instead of providing information that can be learned through other means, giving teachers more time to stimulate Higher-Order Thinking Skills.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.” Without a doubt, we could say that video is here to teach students, but educators, are here to involve them.



6 stunning facts about Yale University

Yale is one of those colleges which is the subject of educational fantasies for many students. Considered as one of the best institutions in the world, Yale is one of the 8 Ivy League colleges in the USA.

The following are just 6 stunning facts about Yale University.


1. Name matters

Yale is named after a businessman Elihu Yale, who was the Governor of the British East India Company and considered the most overrated philanthropist of that era (no offense intended). The reason: The University had many other benefactors, most prominent among them Jeremiah Dummer, but his name did not sound appealing enough, and Yale was selected.

2. 2000 courses

Yes, that was not a typo. Yale University offers nearly 2000 undergraduate courses in various fields and streams. Most of its faculty is dedicated to teaching undergraduate students.

3. Safer than a bank

There is a structure at Yale University which is so secure and safe that in case of a fire, people in it will have only 30 seconds to get out before the structure will suck out all oxygen, release a lethal, but fire suppressing gas, and will immediately fall into an underground vault. And no, it’s not a bank. It’s the Yale Library which has more than 15 million books.

4. They trained monkeys to use money

In 2005, a duo from Yale successfully trained seven Capuchin monkeys to use money. The monkeys actually used the knowledge to buy something for themselves. Now, that’s something!

5. Producer of the powerful

Till now, Yale has produced 5 US presidents, 52 Nobel Laureates, 19 US Supreme Court Justices, and 13 living billionaires. Not to say hundreds of members of the US Congress and high-level diplomats.

6. They have their match

The rivalry between Harvard and Yale is one of the most cherished and legendary rivalries in the world. It all began with a football game in 1875 and the rivalry continues as every year, a football match takes place between the teams of both institutions.

Hope you enjoyed learning the 6 stunning facts about Yale University!

Do you dream of studying at Yale? Make sure you’ve got the best help possible as you work on those applications. Connect with one of our expert counsellors to guide you through the process.  

Book a session with an Expert Counsellor

Also read: The Girl Who Chased Her Stanford Dreams


5 Ideas to Keep Engaged and Learning During The Coronavirus Lockdown

The Corona Virus pandemic has resulted in the majority of students being displaced from schools. The parents’ worries right now are: What will children be doing all day? Many are now scrambling to find ways to engage their kids at home. Students are used to following a routine, so for parents to make everything fall into place, they have to create a blueprint for each day.

Your aim as a parent or guardian is to keep them busy and learning as you attend to other tasks. Child development experts, home school parents, and teachers agree that creating a daily routine helps not only kids but parents too feel less stressed in the midst of anxiety and uncertainty.

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Creating a schedule on what your kids need to work on to keep them busy doesn’t mean that you’ve to turn your home into a kindergarten classroom rather, adding a bit of structure to the days. This can entail many fun and simple activities that can help students practice academic skills in a more creative way.  Though not every method works for all parents, each parent, mostly those who spend all day with their kids, needs to try several methods and see which works best for their kids. The ideas below can help you keep your students busy so that you may never run dry of ideas.

1. Create A Daily Schedule

Jot down what your kids will be doing each day. You can use cardboard, blank printer paper or whiteboard to prepare what’s needed to be done each day. Alternatively, you can print an online calendar template and modify it to fit your needs. Engage your kids and decide what they will be doing at what particular time.

2. Start With Their Daily Routine

While creating the daily schedule, begin with their school routine and use it as a framework: You can ask yourself the following questions:

  1. At what time do they have breakfast?
  2. When is recess?
  3. When assigned school tasks, what time do they work best

4. Dedicate time for play.

Once you’ve broken down the time for activities like studies and food, you can now fill the rest of the day easily. Consider scheduling enough playtime for your kids. Child-led play is very important for the kids as it enhances their creativity, imagination and invention skills. In your schedule, have at least 10-20 minute blocks of time dedicated child-led play depending on the age and play development of your child.

Ensure that your kids have nice toys and limit adult involvement. Accept play invitations from your kids but don’t feel guilty when you skip some as they need to play independently though supervised.

You can also set up a Jigsaw station where you set up jigsaws, lego sets, and sticklebricks, place on a table and leave your kids to play alone. This type of activity helps to improve their concentration.

A “Jigsaw Station” (Image Source: Simon Roberts/ThankFullyTrue)

4. Keep them Academically Active

There are many online resources that you can use to help your kids learn at home. Projects by Scholastic Learn at home are a great learning center. This digital learning hub provides around three hours of learning each day of up to four weeks.

Blue sky kids is a session that has been designed to help your kids attain their goals by providing a range of topics including coding, video editing, biology, physics and also anatomy.

The amazing educational resource is also a great Facebook group where kids can get resources for learning.

5. Introduce them to 3D modeling 

3D printing technology helps to improve the creativity of the kids. They will learn how to bring their ideas to life and apply what they have learned in the classroom in real life. 3D technology helps to combine problem-solving skills with innovation and creativity though it has the capacity to support all disciplines. 3D modeling gives kids hands-on experience and it takes academic learning from theory to practical based.

SelfCAD is one of the 3D modeling tools that you can introduce your kids to in order to learn 3D modeling.

There are also many steps by step tutorials that can help them get started quite easily. You can begin with the latest tutorials on 3D CAD Homeschooling and they are really helpful.

Bunny Model designed in SelfCAD. (Source: SelfCAD)

The above is a great point to begin from. Though there are days when one won’t be able to come up with new ideas to keep your kids busy. This time you can leave them to watch educational videos, or you can also tour them on museums, national icons, and parks at the comfort of your home through Google Arts & Culture.



Understanding the Effect Social Media Can Have on Developing Brains

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As the events of 2020 continue to unfold, daily life is changing in unprecedented ways. Overarching shelter-in-place and social distancing orders have left the bulk of American families with plenty of free time — too much free time, many would argue. For our children longing for social interaction outside of the immediate family, social media may seem like the perfect escape from boredom and isolation.

As such, young people and their parents, for that matter, around the world are turning to various apps and social media platforms en masse for emotional support and social connection in the wake of a global pandemic. Those bored and isolated teens and tweens continue to rely on their traditional favorite platforms, notably Snapchat and Instagram. In fact, studies conducted before COVID-19 hit show that 75% of teens use those two platforms, both of which allow users to share images and short videos.

But our increased reliance on technology and social media may not be good for our children’s’ mental health or developing brains, despite the platforms’ crucial function of providing human connection when real-world channels are unavailable. Social media and technology have become an undeniable part of children’s lives, and are even more ubiquitous in 2020. Thus, in these challenging times, how can parents and educators help young people to balance the good aspects of social media with the negative effects, especially where mental health is concerned?

Positive Aspects of Social Media

Interestingly, the COVID-19 epidemic has become an unlikely experiment in the viability of social media as a replacement for tangible human connections. For many of us, social media has suddenly become a crucial lifeline and a reminder of what once was. Educators may be able to stay connected to students via social media platforms, even providing them with mental health and learning resources with help from instructional technology.

Social media may also serve as an outlet for creativity, which is crucial during times of social isolation when young people aren’t able to express themselves in a physical classroom space. In this way, social media may even benefit the developing brain, rather than stifling it. In fact, the American Institute of Economic Research (AIER) recently published a study on the connection between TikTok and human creativity.

Among social media platforms, TikTok is the new kid on the block, but it’s already immensely popular among young people and has even launched musical and dance careers. Users can create short, fun videos and share them far and wide with TikTok’s more than 800 million global users. According to AIER, TikTok “reveals the untapped creativity of the human mind.” In this way, the platform allows young people to freely express themselves without fear of online trolls or unkind comments that can negatively impact self-esteem.

The Negative Effects of Social Media Overuse

Of course, social media isn’t all about human connection and self-expression. There’s also a dark side to technology, most notably in the realm of mental health. And we can learn a lot about the ways in which social media impacts brain health from millennials, sometimes called the “burnout generation.”

Millennials are considered the first generation to grow up in a world saturated with technology and the internet. And they seem to be paying the price for that constant connectivity. According to Fiscal Tiger, millennials are “struggling with mental health in greater numbers than older generations,” notably depression. Social media seems to be at the crux of the issue, as millennials are particularly susceptible to its negative elements, including the concept known as FOMO, or fear of missing out.

While it sounds arbitrary, FOMO can be a serious matter for young people longing for social connection or who desperately want to fit in. The idea that one is missing out on important events or life milestones can negatively impact self-esteem, fueling anxiety and depression. FOMO can effectively snowball into something more serious, and that negativity can be difficult for young people to break free from.

Mental Health Warning Signs

Unfortunately, it can be more difficult to recognize the signs of poor mental health during times of mandatory social isolation. Seclusion ultimately affects everyone, no matter our age, and not in a positive way. Depression and anxiety are common symptoms of continued isolation, and no amount of social media and online connections are necessarily going to improve the situation.

Yet parents, educators, and caregivers should be aware of the warning signs of depression, whether it’s related to the overuse of social media, social distancing, or an underlying mental health condition. Continued depression and anxiety can wreak havoc on the developing brain, effectively masquerading as the new normal and severely impacting cognitive function.

It’s important to note that depression related to temporary events, such as social isolation, is typically fleeting and less serious than clinical depression. Either way, depressed young people may exhibit symptoms including insomnia, irritability, persistent sadness, and the loss of interest in daily activities. And a constant reliance on social media can compound those symptoms, most notably when cyberbullying enters the picture.

Final Thoughts

Social media and technology are an undeniable part of our children’s lives. While social media does indeed have positive aspects, its overuse can be detrimental to the mental health of young people. Educators should be on the lookout for mental health warning signs, and work to highlight the positive role that technology and screen time can play in our daily lives.


The Pandemic Educator – Retooling Education (Weekly Live Webcast, Resources, Guest Appearance)

Tips for taking your instructional show online and reflections from our experience at The College of Westchester

On Friday, April 17th it was my pleasure to be a guest on my friend David Mahaley’s new weekly webcast delivered on LearningRevolution is a daily online education conference site that educators can sign up for free. Every day they offer multiple different live sessions online.

David and I have known each other since back in 2012 when, as Head of School for the Franklin Academy in Wake Forest, North Carolina, he envisioned and facilitated a 1-to-1 iPad program starting in the high school there, which in turn led to running the TLIPAD annual conference for several years (this was really the first national conference series focused on using the iPad in education).

Today David is busy helping to develop online learning and courses for various businesses and education institutions, and he runs his own consulting company, Edtech Solutions.

With the onset of this challenging situation we find ourselves in worldwide, David wanted to share his knowledge and experience and help educators with the transition so many have had to quickly make to taking their instructional show online. His weekly webcast takes place at 1 PM EST every Friday afternoon (sign up for all of the LearningRevolution webcasts here).

In this episode of The Pandemic Educator, David explains his four part approach to being able to deliver a high quality remote teaching experience, and then we explore some of what I have experienced as we quickly moved to fully remote teaching at The College of Westchester. I provide the recorded session below, and then summarize some key takeaways from the discussion.

4 Points of Emphasis when it comes to taking your instructional show online

David does a great job of identifying and briefly exploring four key considerations that all educators will want to work through as the move to remote teaching. Here is late April as I write this, many educators have already had to tackle some of these things, but many are also likely to not have considered a few of them and how they might help them with this new, challenging approach to teaching.

1. Home Base – This just refers to the idea that you need to select the primary platform from which you will delivery resources to students (in many cases, your school will have identified this for you already). In higher education, this is typically an LMS (Learning Management System), whereas in K-12, platforms like Google Classroom and Edmodo are popular. There are also myriad web page hosting platforms used by schools, which are focused more on proving simple resource pages for teachers to use. In cases where educators have no school-determined platform, they may be whipping up their own using web sites like Weebly. Most teachers are likely to have already figured this part out by now.

2. Learning Library – Here we consider how we can best organize resources thatwe wish to catalogue for our own use and reference. I frequently here educators and users in general complain about the challenge of organizing the many web links that they wish to store and have access to. The basic bookmark structure in browsers is not always very efficient (and of course, this is browser dependent). There are many tools for doing this sort of thing (I’m a fan of Trello, for example). David suggests the use of Google Keep (jump to around 9:00 in the video to check this out further).

3. Connecting Through Media – This is an area that is likely still ripe for exploration by any educators. There are many forms of media available to supplement or compliment the content you are delivering, and the ways in which students review and apply the knowledge they should be acquiring. Slide decks, videos, podcasts, and other rich media can provide engaging means by which students can learn more about a topic. David recommends exploring Steve Covello’s Teaching With Rich Media, a free online book, to explore and understand this at a deeper level.

4. Communication – Lastly, David emphasized the importance of effective communication with students and their families during this unusual situation. Tips include providing a weekly overview, make it clear what needs to be completed and when, and focus on timely responses and contact (explore the video for more).

Key Takeaways from my experience as an online educator and administrator

In the second portion of this episode, David and I discuss some of the things that I have experienced in my role at The College of Westchester, both from a teacher’s perspective and from an administrator’s perspective. The college was very proactive from the start as things began to be concerning in the first week of March (I wrote a piece about this here).

After a little dialogue about EmergingEdTech, we explored these questions:

• What had to be done to quickly move your faculty and students to an exclusively online format?
• What are some of the most important activities leaders in education can do to support their staff, students, and extended learning communities (families)?
• How can the flipped learning format be used effectively…to produce quality learning results and high student engagement [while remote teaching]?
• What advice would you give to instructors as they work to take their instructional show online?

To the latter question, a few key points I emphasized were:

Presence – One of the most essential aspects of successful online instruction is instructor presence. You need to be seen and be present for your students. In the case of moving to remote teaching, one of the simplest ways to accomplish this is to conduct synchronous video meetings with tools like Zoom (and, although some students may have issues attending, there is a lot to be said for doing this during the time slot that you would have taught regularly).
Feedback – Student need feedback on their work! I have often been frustrated to learn that my kids were not getting feedback on work, or when I hear this from other students. How did I do on the assignment? Why did I get a C? What can I have done better?
Let them know their grades – This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Students should have a sense of where they stand in a class. My daughter’s high school provided 5 week (i.e. mid-quarter) grade ranges and comments – that’s awesome. On the flip side, I’ve heard students say half way through the term that they have no idea what their grades are. Teachers make absolutely sure that students know how to access their grades, and what their approximate grade range is, it multiple points throughout a term (and no, I’m not necessarily a huge fan of traditional grading, but if we have to use it, they are more useful and meaningful when students are readily aware of them).
Flexibility/understanding – I don’t know about the students you work with, but my school is located in Westchester County, just north of NYC, and many of our students come from socioeconomically challenging circumstances. Many also work in the healthcare field. Suffice it to say that many of them are facing serious difficulties as a result of themselves or family members losing their jobs or being sick, quarantined, or worse. It is a very rough time for many of them. What do you know about what your students are going through? Be understanding and realize that you may not know what they are dealing with.

Hopefully some of the ideas and resources in this article and video can help you make the most of this ‘new normal’. Our students deserve the best we can do to support them. Thanks and stay well.



Top Tech Skills You Can Learn During Quarantine

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This is a great opportunity for students, especially as some head into slower summer months soon. This is also a good opportunity for those who may have been occupationally displaced due to the pandemic.

Practicing social distancing means spending all of your time at home, but this doesn’t have to be an excuse for you to be unproductive. Turn that frown upside down by making a positive experience out of these troubling times. We suggest you take charge of the situation and use it to pick up a few new skills that could help boost your career opportunities.

It goes without saying that the tech market is a continuously growing industry that is constantly looking for qualified employees. So why not use all these free hours to learn tech-related skills?

Online coding bootcamps, for instance, take between 3 to 12 weeks to complete, so we can say that you managed to go through all courses during the quarantine period. In this guide, we’ll show you some of the best tech skills to learn and how you can do so.

Data Science

Data science is one of the fastest-growing fields in the tech industry and today most companies rely on data scientists to make smart business decisions. So why not try learning about data science and expand your career opportunities? Let us demonstrate how data science really works under the hood.

A data scientist is able to analyze a business problem based on the company’s databases and come up with ideas to approach this challenge and predict possible scenarios. This is also made possible through a process called data acquisition, where a data scientist gathers and scrapes information from different sources such as web services, online repositories, and databases.

Once this step is completed, the scientist prepares or cleans the data to make it more easily understandable. Then he or she will analyze the results and communicate them to the company’s team via a process called data visualization. 

All these steps are helpful for a company to identify potential errors and to come up with an effective business decision. Companies all over the world leverage from having a data analyst or data scientist to optimize their performance. Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies are using data science to have a better understanding of genetic reactions. This helps them to have discoveries that could change the quality of life of many people in the world. 

Data science opens up the possibilities of various roles such as data analysts, machine learning engineers, data engineers, and deep data engineers. At this point you may be wondering, how much does a data scientist earn? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a data scientist can earn from $95,000 to $185,000 a year. This positions it as one of the highest-paying jobs in the tech industry.

If you’re wondering where you can learn these skills, there are several data science bootcamps that will accelerate your career in the field. Flatiron School is one of the most popular ones. It offers a 15 weeks bootcamp where you’ll learn all the skills needed to stay ahead in the data science field. 

Software Engineering

Software engineering is everything involved in the conception of the desired software. A software engineer is someone who writes and tracks the performance of code, besides other multiple tasks involved in the development process. To create software products, developers do research, make prototypes, design and modify existing code, so this is a profession that covers a lot of ground in the tech industry.  Most of today’s companies require the help of software developers for their commercial products.

Did you know that 70% of the time you spend on your phone is spent on apps? This illustrates the importance for companies to have their own well-integrated software. Having such software allows them to take their operations to the next level in terms of customer loyalty. So we can say that learning this new skill will open up the possibility to work in almost any type of company. Besides, this profession also has one of the highest tech salaries. A software engineer can earn from $105,000 to $120,000 a year.

Where can you learn this tech skill? Thinkful has a 7-month bootcamp where you can learn all skills needed to work in a software developer position. Thinkful is currently using a remote model due to the current situation, so you can easily take advantage of this while exercising movement control.

Mobile Development

Everybody uses mobile apps. When you’re on your phone, you spend most of the time on your preferred apps. Having a mobile app is very lucrative for companies since they can improve customer loyalty. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of mobile development is expected to grow 21%. Since this is a very in-demand skill we could easily assume that it has a good salary (and it does)—an iOS developer can make up to $155,000 a year. 

What is mobile development all about? It is the process of creating mobile apps for devices powered by iOS. iOS developers work with two coding languages which are Objective-C or Swift. Objective-C was the first language people used to mobile programming, but it was very hard to use at first, so Apple came up with an easier and more intuitive language called Swift. While the latter now ranks higher in popularity, it’s still good to know and understand Objective-C. 

But how do you become a mobile developer in quarantine? Lambda School offers one of the most complete iOS development bootcamps, and you’ll have the option to either pay upfront or pay the entire course after you’re hired. 

Web Development

Web development is not only an in-demand skill in the tech industry, but it is also a crucial position in every company. If your company doesn’t establish a social presence,  your brand might never occupy a space in your customers’ minds. So every company, organization or institution must have a well organized and attractive website where visitors can come to look at their products or services. That’s why it is so important for them to have a highly-skilled web developer.

Web development is the process of creating, designing and maintaining a website. A website developer works with programming code to ensure the website’s functionality based on the client’s requirements. 

This process includes writing markups and coding. Web developers can specialize in two areas—front end and back end development. Front end developers deal with all the process of designing the visual aspects of the website, while back end developers work with servers integration. Both of them are equally important for the optimum performance of a website. Some of the most common programming languages for web development are CSS, HTML, and Java.

Where can you learn this skill? General Assembly is one of the leading institutions in terms of web development, and they’re currently working completely remotely to ensure the students’ safety due to the current situation. General Assembly also offers a top-notch specialization in front end development, for those of you who already have some web development knowledge and enjoy working with front end development. 


Don’t let this stay-at-home period stop you from improving yourself. These are some of the skills you can learn from the comfort of your own home. The goal is to invest all your time into something that will help you take your career to the next level. Most of these schools we suggested offer remote lessons. Grab this chance to upskill and use it later to build a profitable and successful career.


The Fundamental Five: A Framework for Improving Communication Processes

Over the past weeks, we’ve been talking with school and district leaders as they continue to navigate these new challenges we’re all facing. As students adapt to a new way of learning, it’s important to recognize that the pressure to succeed remains, now amplified without their usual means of support. In addition, parents are struggling to understand the best way to support their children and are desperately seeking guidance and structure from the educators leading this change.

Here at the Instructure Center for Leadership and Learning, we have been consulting with countless school leaders and our own internal experts to learn more about how we can support educators as they strive to find common ground. Ultimately, we realized a successful transition to learning from home begins with a desire to make learning personal for each student.

To aid in this transition, we took the most prevalent student concerns and narrowed them down to five questions, which we call the Fundamental Five. This simple framework serves as the foundation for improving communication processes—wherever and however learning happens.

The “Fundamental Five”

1. What am I supposed to do?

With a shift to learning at home, parents and students are feeling particularly stressed about how to structure their days. Sending or posting a detailed schedule of each day’s activities, assignments, and readings with clear directions, expectations, and submission requirements will help keep both students and parents on track. If you are using online resources that require a student login, don’t forget to include easy-access to login information.

2. When is it due?

Many schools are struggling to determine how to get resources to students and are finding it even more difficult to collect student work. Many districts are opting out on collecting assignments and are choosing to focus on an extended continuous learning model. If you are going to apply due dates to assignments, it’s important to make sure there is clarity around when work should be completed and how students should turn their work in to teachers.

3. How did I do?

Providing feedback to students while they are learning from home can be challenging,  but it is even more important now that you are apart. When you provide students feedback on assignments, graded or not, you are communicating to them that the learning process will continue and that you acknowledge their effort. Grades are inevitable. Feedback is personal.

4. Can you help me?

There are parents sitting with their children right now wishing you could step in to provide the support their child needs. We know that communication methods will vary greatly from school to school, but having a clear method for connecting with your students and parents is key.

5. What more can I do?

Like it or not, students are still worried about their grades. The transition to learning at home is likely to create additional stress and uncertainty around grading practices as students adjust to the new normal. Creating additional and alternative opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding and show that they are meeting expectations is essential to alleviating stress.


Students and parents will continue to face many trials that don’t fall into your sphere of influence, but they are depending on you now more than ever to provide clarity and consistency around the work that needs to be done. As the need for remote learning continues, opportunities will arise to learn and adapt as a community, as we are all committed to ensuring the success of our students. On behalf of the Instructure family, we’d like to thank you for the work you are doing to support teachers, parents, and students. We are honored to support you.



Changes to the Administration of SAT’s Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

A few months back, the College Board announced that the administration of the SAT tests was being significantly altered to to the COVID-19 pandemic. I recently connected with Sara Roberts, a tutor for Math Nation, who seemed well informed about these changes. I asked her if she would write up a quick overview of these changes for our readers and she kindly did so. – KW

What will the adjusted SAT consist of? How will it be different from the normal SAT?

Due to COVID-19, the College Board cancelled the March, May and June SAT Administrations. Fall administrations are currently set for August 29th, September 26th, October 3rd, November 7th, and December 5th. Students can get early access to register for August, September, and October if they are already registered for the June administration or are in the high school graduating class of 2021 and do not have an SAT score yet. The College Board is also working to expand testing centers in the fall so that every student who wants to take the SAT can.

How can students learn more about this?

Students can stay up to date on the latest changes with the SAT on the College Board Website ( Currently, College Board has alerts regarding cancelled administrations of the SAT as well as helpful articles for everything from ‘interpreting your scores’ to ‘what to expect on test day’. Additionally, Math Nation is always posting up-to-date information as we receive it. If there are any changes, Math Nation will provide materials for students (such as videos and practice problems) to use to prepare and practice for the test.

What do you suggest students do differently to prepare for this different version of the SAT?

Students should continue to prepare for their SAT as they normally would during this time. Communication from the College Board has been that they are, “preparing to significantly expand our capacity for students to take the SAT once schools reopen.” The College Board has also said that they are prepared to administer a digital exam in case school does not reopen in the fall. The digital, remote version of the SAT would measure the same student-preparedness for college as the paper-based test. Since there is still no official word on a remote, digital version of the SAT, using both paper-based and digital study resources will best prepare students to take the exam in the fall.

How can students stay on track and continue to prepare for the SAT?

There are many great resources to prepare for the SAT and sometimes it can be hard to chose which option is best. It is helpful to chose a platform such as Math Nation which incorporates multiple avenues for learning. Math Nation has study guides, engaging videos with on-screen teachers, and digital practice problems that give students immediate feedback. Even with the best resources, studying for the SAT will only be effective with a plan, and study plans are not one size fits all. After students figure out how long they have to study (1 month, 3 months, etc), they should spend time researching a plan that best fits their lifestyle and SAT goals. The most important part of creating a SAT study plan is sticking to it! The more consistent students are in their studies the easier it will be to stay on track and not get overwhelmed as the test date approaches. Additionally, we want to remind students who studied for the spring or June SAT that got rescheduled to not get discouraged. The time and effort they spent studying will l pay off for them when they are able to take their rescheduled SAT.



With E-learning, School Districts are Building the Foundation for Better Learning Outcomes


When Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered schools closed throughout the state in response to the coronavirus pandemic, sending home millions of students to learn remotely, Cicero School District 99 was ready. The K-8 district of 14,000 students, southwest of Chicago, was already five years into its mission, driven by Superintendent Rudy Hernandez, of changing the way it delivers education through technology in the classroom and beyond. Cicero 99 has embraced one-to-one learning, putting computing devices in the hands of all its students. It adopted Google Classroom and the Schoology online learning management system as foundational education tools. And it charted a professional development path for its staff that included Google Educator certification, with nearly 300 teachers certified at Level 1 or 2 so far. When Cicero 99 students and teachers began sheltering at home, they were ready to continue their studies.

“Our students are fortunate because prior to coronavirus, that’s how they’d been learning,” said Cao Mac, Cicero 99 Chief Information Officer, who worked with partners like LG to create a classroom digital learning framework. “They’re still learning in the same manner because we’ve had that infrastructure in place. Our teachers have been doing this for the last five years, so now we’re 100-percent remote learning and we’re still seeing our students connected and engaged with our teachers.”

K-12 school districts and service providers throughout the country have stepped up heroically to try and facilitate remote learning during the pandemic. By late March, New York City had distributed 175,000 laptops, Apple iPads and Chromebooks to students so they could study from home. Montgomery County, Md., Public Schools set up drive-through distribution days for students needing mobile devices to participate in the county’s new Continuity of Learning initiative. Online conferencing company Zoom gave schools free access to its platform and lifting time restrictions for its basic accounts. Google and Microsoft have also offered free access to their collaboration platforms. And internet service providers such as Comcast are addressing the digital divide by offering free connectivity to low-income families.

To be sure, the current crisis has focused schools’ attention on enabling e-learning. When the pandemic subsides, districts that haven’t already will likely take a closer look at e-learning and the skills and solutions that make it possible.  A study by Deloitte found that educators, students and parents want more and better access to e-learning. Not only does e-learning allow education to continue in times of disruption, whether due to a public health crisis or natural disaster, it creates new opportunities for students and teachers to improve learning outcomes.

During the sea change in U.S. education in the spring of 2020, our education experts reached out to administrators, teachers and parents. Here are a few things school districts will be considering as they explore e-learning — now and in the future:

E-Learning is Based on New Ways of Delivering Education

At Cicero 99, every classroom has an interactive screen, connected to the district’s online learning resources. Students are able to wirelessly “cast” what they’re seeing on their one-to-one devices to the classroom display in order to share ideas with teachers and classmates. Cicero 99’s Sherlock School even has an immersive video wall from LG that lets groups of students experience the subjects they’re learning about. Yes, today’s generation of students is already digitally savvy, but experience using technology for education can help ease the transition to e-learning. “Our transition has really been seamless not just for our staff, but also for students, because they’ve been learning in a 21st-century learning environment,” said Mac.

E-learning Takes Multiple Forms, Requires Support

When students are learning from home, part of the experience is necessarily asynchronous. They log into a platform like Canvas, Google Classroom or Schoology to complete assignments, look for resources, post questions to teachers and more. In addition, now, through the widespread availability of video technology, they can engage in real time with classmates and teachers using Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Educators need training with such tools — not only how to use them but how to use them effectively — and districts need support staff in place to troubleshoot systems quickly if they malfunction. If there are technical difficulties in the classroom, the class can usually continue; but when a virtual classroom has a glitch, learning gets put on hold.

Access is Critical

School districts have spent years implementing one-to-one learning. Even prior to the coronavirus outbreak, schools made tens of millions of mobile devices available to students. But the device is just one component; Internet access — especially now, when learning is 100-percent online — is equally important. And not every student has access. It’s estimated that 98 percent of U.S. schools have high-speed broadband to support e-learning in their buildings, but millions of students don’t have the access they need to work from home. Districts can work with internet service providers to help facilitate free or affordable connections. Others, like Cicero 99, offer portable WiFi hotspots with their students’ one-to-one devices. Regardless of how students and teachers connect, to the extent e-learning takes place over their networks, districts also need to ensure they have the robust infrastructure needed to deliver increasingly multimedia-rich materials from their learning management systems to students.

Security is Equally Critical

And when students and teachers take advantage of e-learning, it’s incumbent on schools to make data privacy and security a top priority. Especially in challenging times, when schools can expect to see an increase in online scams, phishing attempts and other potential cyberattacks, it’s important to have procedures and policies in place that protect students and district networks. Technology such as content filtering, single sign-on authentication and mobile device management can help school districts maintain trusted connections between one-to-one devices and online learning systems. School districts need to work with solution providers to maximize the security settings on their platforms and teach students and facility to be aware of cyberthreats and how to protect themselves online.

When schools get back to normal, it will likely be the “new normal” people talk about. E-learning will help the nation’s school districts though the current crisis, and it will also lay the foundation to tap into new classroom technology opportunities, while at the same time enhancing learning outcomes 365 days a year.

“As a district, we have all the key components to ensure that, pedagogically, we’ve changed our mindset on leveraging technology tools in the classroom. We’re seeing the benefits today,” said Cicero 99’s Cao Mac. “The online enrichment exercises and activities students used to do in class, they’re now doing from home.”