Jefferson Parish’s Online Transition Plan with Google Tools

Jefferson Parish Public Schools logo on map

Our company has worked alongside Jefferson Parish Public Schools, the largest school district in Louisiana, located in New Orleans and surrounding areas, with approximately 50,000 students, for over a year now, and we were proud they thought of us when they wondered how to get teachers working online quickly during the crisis. Kamala Baker, Director of Instructional Technology, is used to dealing with crises (she helped schools recover from Hurricane Katrina), so she knows that doing a project rapidly at a large scale is rarely possible without outside support

Of course, at friEdTech we were anxious to help the roughly 4,000 instructional staff members create a method to use Google tools to continue instruction online. Jenna Chiasson, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, brought requirements to the table that helped provide a vision for the project. 

  1. Free Google tools the district had already implemented would be used for the project.
  2. All teachers must be addressed during the next calendar week.
  3. Curriculum & Instruction staff would also need support as they would be building lessons for teachers to use.
  4. Principals would need to understand the project and know enough about Google Classroom to “observe” teachers digitally during the time of crisis.

Using these goals, we worked together to build a series of experiences that would satisfy the goals.

With these targets set, we outlined a series of webinars and Google Classrooms with interactive experiences. By the end of week one, we estimate we spoke to over 4,000 educators live through our webinars. We really wanted to do more than just give out directions, so we challenged ourselves to provide templates that would help teachers focus on gaining skills they could use to build their own interactive assignments; skills that would be beneficial after the emergency was over.

As usual, JPPS educators stepped up ready to learn. Our biggest challenge became getting individual questions answered so that workflows were not interrupted. When teachers had the opportunity to participate in our asynchronous friEdOnline course Classroom in 5 they were able to have several questions answered in addition to having a complete guide to reference as they worked in their own Google Classrooms building their skills.

 As our part of the project nears an end, we’re left in awe of the inspiring attitude the educators of this district brought to the work at hand. We can only hope that we mirrored their resilience and willingness to grow and learn as the teachers of teachers.

We’ve been asked why we think teachers were so pleased with our professional development events, and here’s what we’ve gleaned. It’s what we did, and you can do it, too.

  • Admit we’re all learning. There are no “experts” right now. Make mistakes and own them, especially if you’re on camera.
  • Use music and graphics to set the mood. If you can make things more interesting that way, why not?
  • Have enough “hands on deck” to address the questions and comments and keep a lively discussion going during the learning events. We found these numbers successful: With less than 50 people, we could stay on top of everything with 2 Learning Guides and could have even made it work with 1, but with over 50, we needed 2, with over 100, we needed 3, and with our largest groups (up to 400), we called in the reinforcements and had 3 presenters who took turns moderating and talking and one person just to answer questions for a total of 4 people on our end.
  • Use a service to present that does not allow the attention to be taken away from the presenters and their screens and demonstrations. We would have LOVED to have been able to speak to people real-time, but more voices are distracting and not the best for learning in this mode.
  • Make sure you have a way for people to “talk” to you during the event. Use people’s names when you answer their questions.
  • Ideally, provide a way to ask questions anonymously.
  • Ask your colleagues questions that you might actually know the answer to but that you know address common misconceptions if your audience doesn’t think of them first.
  • Provide an agenda early in the webinar or meeting so everyone will know what’s coming.
  • Share any messages that you know everyone is wondering about first so that everyone can focus on the learning.
  • When you’re working with large, varied groups, instead of providing “activities,” or subject-specific examples, provide templates with little or no subject area specific information so that you can work on skills instead of content.
  • Provide additional materials such as online courses or resources they can reference when the training is over.

If your school or district needs help with how to teach effectively online, please let us know! We have free learning opportunities, custom webinars, online courses, and cohort courses that WILL help educators gain confidence with online teaching during the crisis and beyond!

Email us, or call or text: 936-228-9902.

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Amy Mayer, nationally known speaker and Google professional development guru, got her start in education as an English and Foreign Language teacher. Since that time, she’s served as a district level director of multiple varieties and now is the CEO of friEdTech, a Google & Microsoft partner company serving districts across the United States. Amy is passionate about student (and teacher) engagement and equity in education.

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