With massive adjustments being foisted upon educators and students across the area, many of the traditional modes of learning have shifted dramatically at every grade level for both public and private schools. Still, as educators and institutions continue to learn how to adapt across the nation as well as in the Tri-Corner region, the advancement of early childhood knowledge remains the most important objective despite the massive closures. As the days wane and the prospect of end of year ceremonies seems more fanciful than hopeful opportunity, even large media outlets have extended resources dedicated to the now rapidly growing field of virtual learning. The New York Times for example, is working with communications giant Verizon to provide high school students with a three-month free digital subscription from April 6 to July 6 including unlimited access to articles, videos from the Times website and in the New York Times app. With the modern parent already increasingly turning to the Internet for excellent learning programs suitable for children as young as toddlers, some of the nations top-rated virtual learning institutions are putting their best foot forward to keep kids connected to the world, even as they learn remotely.

“As a parent, my boys both use Google Classroom, which is an easy way for them to complete and submit their work.” says Kristina Proper, whose role as both a parent and an educator for the Taconic Hills School District has undergone a drastic change in just the last month. Kristina has used this time to reflect on her experience from two unique perspectives while utilizing the innovations in virtual classrooms, “I use Google classroom to assign all of my work. Google Classroom is amazing, I’ve been using it for five years. I can access a student’s work at any time of day, see their progress while they’re working to help support them and I can comment on work as a way to provide feedback.” As the result of a collaborative effort with educators nationwide, Google has created a streamlined, easy-to-use tool that helps teachers manage coursework. The titular Google Classroom allows educators to create classes, distribute assignments, grade and send feedback, and see everything in one place.

The popular app Zoom is also adapting its format for virtual learning and recently removed the forty-minute time limit on its Basic free account for K-12 schools affected by the COVID-19. “Obviously Zoom has made my life easier as far as being a teacher,” says Proper. “I’m able to teach via Zoom, and record my Zoom session to post later for those students not able to join at the scheduled time.” Zoom’s virtual tutoring, advising, career counseling, office hours, study hall, and mentoring effectively gives students an interactive virtual experience that furthers their opportunities to learn beyond the classroom.

ASAP! The popular Connecticut-based social profit organization often recognized for its premiere quality and innovative arts education year round by offering literary, performing, visual, and culinary programs for pre-k through adults is presenting a Virtual Learning Series on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Students and parents can now experience ASAP!’s live and recorded free sessions that include movement, visual art, math, theatre, music, cooking, science and engineering. These virtual sessions are produced for all ages and offer a way for communities to stay connected. ASAP!’s Virtual Learning Series also seeks participation in live question and answer sessions with artists, and encourages everyone to share their videos, photos, and drawings for a chance to have their work featured on ASAP!’s social media platforms. “Empathy is the ASAP! 2020 theme,” ASAP! representatives announced via a press release, “and ASAP’s team continues to incorporate the empathy theme in everything they do, including the Virtual Learning Series. Now more than ever, ASAP! is supporting professional teaching artists that will inspire everyone to make the world a better, kinder, and more loving place.”

Of course, the brick and mortar local schools have not faded into the digital background. As Kristina attests, “Taconic Hills has set up a schedule in the junior and senior high schools to help teachers and the students have a schedule that they can follow. This schedule is different from our normal school day schedule in order to help prevent feelings of being overwhelmed on the part of both teachers and students.” In this new age of virtual learning born by necessity, the often scathing critique of parents using the computer or tablet as a babysitter, has adapted, as knowledge always does, into a desire to help kids become tech-savvy from an early age and take full advantage of having our area’s best educators at their fingertips.

For more information on ASAP! And their new learning programs, visit www.asapct.org.
Or check out their social sites on Instagram: asap_arts, Facebook: ASAPfortheArts, Twitter: ASAP_Arts_CT and subscribe to their YouTube channel ASAP Arts to participate in virtual sessions!