Updated June 12, 2020

SMCOE Distance Learning Guidance Resources

Steps to Create a Distance Learning Plan

There are four steps to developing a distance learning plan. The first three steps, which focus on ensuring access, setting goals, and identifying tools, are weaved together into a plan that includes guidance for professional learning, planning lessons, and setting schedules. Learn more about each step below.

Distance Learning Steps


Step 1: Ensure Access for All | Step 2: Set Your Goals | Step 3: Get Comfortable with Your Tools | Step 4: Weaving It All Together | Additional Support

Step 1: Ensure Access for All - What Does Everyone Have?

CDE Guidelines

On March 17, 2020, the State released guidance designed to help schools, districts, and County Offices of Education adjust to the at-home learning model. This guidance addresses equity and distance learning, special education, continued meal programs, and other topics.

SMCOE Distance Learning Guidelines: Continuum Considerations

This document supports the CDE’s Distance Learning Guidelines and Continuum (see image at right or full size here). SMCOE has reframed the CDE phrase “Continuum Considerations” to “Delivery Strategies.” For each delivery strategy there is a definition, possibilities for school communities in San Mateo County, examples, and questions that districts and sites might consider as they put together a more long-term distance learning plan. 

Best Practices for Planning Digital Media Distance Learning

See Best Practices for Planning Digital Media Distance Learning document to understand current Laws and Regulations and Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) required for student data privacy.

Key Principles for a Quality Distance Learning

Designed with the teacher in mind, this webinar from the CDE covers distance learning principles which include student/teacher connection, content presentation, learning structure and sequence, collaboration opportunities, and feedback opportunities.

Step 2: Set Your Goals - What Are Your Goals?

Have an Overview

This document supports understanding all stakeholders' needs at-a-glance.

CDE Considerations to Ensure Equity and Access for All Students

Although many families have the devices and appropriate connectivity in place, the most at-risk children whom LEAs serve may not. Fortunately, because state assessments require students to be familiar with working digitally, many LEAs have already developed a framework for incorporating digital materials into every day instructional practice. LEAs should build on that work, including any pre-existing assessment of access to devices and internet connectivity for their students and in the community, as they plan to implement distance learning strategies during the physical closures of schools in response to COVID-19. (Source: CDE Distance Learning)

Students Without Digital Access or Limited Digital Access

Communicate Care Design

Publish guidelines and sample contracts for communication between teachers and families.

Provide links and assistance for getting free computers and internet at home.

Mobilize counselors, administration, parent liaisons and paraprofessionals to ensure every student is being served.

Take a trauma-informed approach.

Track the data: How many students are participating in online instruction? How many are not being reached? What types of technology are being used? What barriers exist?

Integrate home digital access into your MTSS framework.

Be specific about the educational outcomes teachers need to achieve.

Emphasize practice standards over content standards.

Create a system for teaching, lessons, and materials to be shared among teachers.

Considerations for English Language Learners

Considerations for Students with IEPs and 504s

  • CDE Special Education Guidance for COVID-19 Updated April 9, 2020
    • Accessibility addresses the needs of English learners, students with disabilities, and other students who need support in accessing content when learning remotely. 
  • CDE Distance Learning Innovations for Special Education Webinar 5-Part Series: Engaging Families

Considerations for Universal Design

Considerations for Career Technical Education

  • CDE Guidance Distance Learning: Resources for Career Technical Education (Webinar Recording)

Creating a Schedule and Structuring the Learning Day

Step 3: Get Comfortable with Your Tools - What Do I Need to Learn?

Curriculum Resources 

Antiracism and Injustice Resources

The San Mateo County Office of Education has put together a page of resources to help you talk about, understand, and fight against racism.

Xenophobia and Racism

Asynchronous Professional Learning that Supports Distance Learning


Learning Management Systems How to Do It What We Like

SeesawSeesaw logo

Professional Development with Seesaw

Getting Started with Seesaw in K-2 (2-hour recorded webinar)

Good for Pre-K-3rd
Student driven digital portfolios and simple parent communication.
(FERPA, COPPA) Privacy Evaluation

CanvasCanvas logo

Canvas K-12 tips
5 Things to Easily Get Your Canvas Class Going
Conferences, Group Work, Assignments and Feedback
Good for grades 9th-Adult
Store resources in an accessible way for your students and parents. In addition to being a resource repository, Canvas allows you to assess your students, provide collaborative experiences, and provides data and feedback.
Embedded accessibility tools: Text can be read aloud to students. Picture glossary available to support English Learners. Line reader helps students track text.
Privacy Evaluation

Google Classrooms (GC)Google Classrooms logo

GC Help Support
GC Training Videos
GC Cheat Sheet for Teachers
GC Cheat Sheet for Students

Good for K-12
Educators can create classes, distribute assignments, send feedback, and see everything in one place. Classroom also seamlessly integrates with other Google tools like Google Docs and Drive.
(FERPA, COPPA) Privacy Evaluation


Recording Tools How to Do It What We Like

LoomLoom logo

Guide to Using Loom for Education
Getting Started
How Are Other Teachers Using Loom?

Video length longer than five minutes.
Download, embed, or share link.
Desktop version allows for better sound and video quality.
Educational institutions can use Loom Pro for free, forever.

ScreencastifyScreencastify logo

Initial Setup
Editing, Saving & Sharing, and other Tips & Tricks
Screencastify for Remote Learning (12:23 video)
Use the webcam so students can see your face

Saves videos, up to five minutes, to your Google drive.
Easy to share on Google Classroom.
You can draw and annotate on the screen.


Student Engagement Tools How to Do It What We Like

FlipgridFlipgrid logo

Getting started with Flipgrid (slides with videos) Allows students to discuss on their own time.
Supports equity of voice and student weight time, especially beneficial for English Learners.
Students don’t need to create accounts.
Privacy Evaluation: Need Parental Consent

PadletPadlet logo

Getting Started with Padlet
10 Classroom Uses for Padlet
Padlet Backpack for Schools (Paid)
Allows you to easily create and collaborate on group projects,
exchange notes, provide feedback, book reviews, backchannel chat, and save your unique ideas to a sharable site.
Privacy Evaluation: Need Parental Consent


Content How to Do It What We Like

NearpodNearpod logo

Nearpod 101 (just add your first name to sign in and access.) Allows K-12 teachers to present interactive lessons, quizzes, and virtual reality-based activities to their students.
Privacy Evaluation

Pear DeckPear Deck logo

Pear Deck webinars & training videos Presentation platform that allows teachers to collect and save student responses in a live session in order to gauge student comprehension.
Pear Deck requires both student and teacher accounts to use social login via Google.
Privacy Evaluation


Virtual Meetings How to Do It What We Like

Google MeetGoogle Meet logo

Google Meet Training videos and guides
Set Up Meet for Distance Learning
Video conferencing platform that is tied to districts’ Google Suite accounts. Can be set up to only allow district-based accounts to participate.

Zoom - For the classroom & staffZoom logo

Cheat sheet for teaching on Zoom

Beginner’s Tutorial (11:14 video)

How to Avoid ZoomBombing - Please be careful where you post links to your class Zoom meetings, as there are people scanning social media for meetings to join and “bomb” with racist and antisemitic language along with explicit images.

Simple to use, currently offering free “paid” accounts to teachers for Spring. There are many concerns about Zoom’s security (encryption, sharing information to Facebook, and data use). (Privacy Policy for K-12)


Accessibility Tools to Support Distance Learning How to Do It What We Like

Accessible Educational MaterialsNational Center on Accessible Educational Materials

National Center on Accessible Educational Materials: Resources for Access and Distance Education
  • Creating Quality & Accessible Video
  • Creating Accessible Documents and Presentations
  • Supporting Zoom Accessibility
Leaders in Universal Design for Learning, CAST truly considers what is necessary for all students to access learning.

Chromebook AccessibilityZoom logo

Chromebook Accessibility Tools for Distance Learning
  • Supporting students who are low vision
  • Helping students read and understand text
  • Guiding students with writing challenges or mobility impairment
  • Some of these tools may need to be enabled in the GSuite Admin Console

Turn on Chromebook accessibility features

Chromebooks, like Windows & Mac computers, provide accessibility tools to support students and teachers. 

G Suite AccessibilityZoom logo

G Suite User Guide to Accessibility
  • Google Classroom
  • Google Meet
  • Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Drawings, Sites, Gmail, Calendar
As most districts utilize Google Suite tools, it is important that teachers consider the ways to allow all students in their class to access the materials.


Communication Apps Getting Started What it is and What We Like

Class DojoClass Dojo logo

Class Dojo Set-Up and Tutorial

Class Dojo | Setup and Beginners | For Parents

Connecting Students and Assigning Activities on Class Dojo

ClassDojo para Estudiantes y Padres video # 1

Elementary School Communication Tool: Teachers, students and families through communication features, such as a feed for photos and videos from the school day, and messaging that can be translated into more than 35 languages. Create a positive culture, give students voice, and share moments with families.

Privacy Evaluation

ParentSquareParent Square logo

What is ParentSquare?

ParentSquare Video Tutorials

Teachers - Getting Started

K-12 District and School Communication Tool: School administrators and teachers can post polls and use two-way messaging via the web, email, and text messages. Schools can enable other add-ons, including fund drives, archives, a registration app, volunteer hours, and an alumni database. Simply check a box to automatically include translated content in 100 languages.

Privacy Evaluation

RemindRemind logo

How to Use Remind

Getting Started for Parents (English)

Getting Started for Parents (Spanish)

Remind Video Tutorials

Remind Resources

Teachers, administrators, and other educators use the app to send notices about assignments, push out last-minute updates about trips or sports games, and provide timely information about school closures and other emergency events. Offers two-way messaging and message translation in 90 languages.

Privacy Evaluation

TalkingPointsTalkingPoints logo

Getting Started With Talking Points - Webinar

TalkingPoints Webinar Series & How-To Videos

Talking Points for Families

School-wide and classroom-wide messages, so all the staff in the school can communicate with families in their primary languages, two-way messaging, translates messages from English to 100+ languages; Free for teachers and Title I Schools

Privacy Evaluation: Need parental consent

SMCOE Professional Development Calendar

Professional Learning and Development

Step 4: Weaving It All Together - What Is the Plan?

The SMCOE Distance Learning Guidance: Instructional Design Considerations document provides an overview for instructional design, and provides some recommendations for how teachers and instructional leaders might approach re-designing instruction for distance learning. Educators can use this document as a starting point to self assess current strategies, and as a planning tool for determining next steps in designing high-quality distance learning.  

Environmental Literacy Distance Learning Resources and Exemplars

  • K-5 Distance Learning Enrichment: Virtual Field Trips and Activities with Community Partners: These resources are high quality standards aligned supplemental activities that have been custom designed by local Community Based Partners (CBPs) who usually offer field trips and in-classroom programs. Resources are catalogued according to themes from the One Planet Living framework, and provide suggested children’s books. To find the resources visit the ELSI Distance Learning Website or use the following links for each grade level: Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th.

  • 6-12th Grade Independent Solutionary Project Based Learning: This student-centered learning experience provides students with the opportunity to analyze real-world environmental and social justice issues, and develop solutions that seek to mitigate these problems. This style of unit is ideal for distance learning in ELA, Science Social Studies, Math, Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA), and Health, because students will be working mostly independently from the instructor; however, the instructor supports as a facilitator of students learning, and a coach. Here is a video overview of how to teach this type of unit, as well as a take-and-teach guide for teachers in this framework (also includes student handouts, examples, and teaching strategies). 

  • K-12 Field Research and 6-12 WebQuests Research Activities: Field Research are hands-on activities that help students collect data and observations for environmental topics. WebQuests are a self-directed online research tool that helps learners construct their own learning. Ideas for curriculum integration include: assigning field research or WebQuests as different weekly themes, or design a longer unit around one specific topic. Find field research and WebQuest activities at: tinyurl.com/ELSI-DistanceLearning-2020. Watch webinar videos for a quick training on how to use field research and WebQuests 

General Information:

Email: info@smcoe.org

Phone: (650) 802-5515