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.

Before You Develop a Teaching & Learning Plan

  • Become familiar with & follow your district’s guidelines, or Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) and laws and regulations for:
    • Student access to online learning
    • Programs and platforms used by teacher
    • Check your district's Acceptable Use Agreement (AUA). Here is an example of an AUA.
  • Ensure all students have access to either asynchronous or synchronous learning
  • Plan digital literacy unit: safety & norms for distance learning
  • Set up a space for teaching and online learning
    • Organize materials within that space
    • Create a list of materials that students will need in their distance learning space

Step 2: Set Your Goals - What Do You Need to Achieve?

Students without Digital Access or Limited Digital Access

Communicate Care Design

Plan a simple and clear schedule for consistent communication, including student, teacher, and parent responsibilities.

Check in about access to digital equipment and platforms often. Update the communication plan as needed.

Persist with different modes of communication at different times of the day. Work as a team: counselors, administration, parent liaisons and paraprofessionals can help. There is no one-size-fits-all solution! Don’t give up!

Take a trauma-informed approach.

Practice cultural humility.

Think about how you would respond to:

  • I have a smartphone but a limited data plan
  • I can’t download apps on my phone
  • I have a Chromebook but no wifi
  • Our internet keeps going down
  • My brother and I have to share the computer
  • I have to watch my siblings during the day

Choose activities that do not depend on digital platforms.

K-5 Send home printed materials, utilize educational television, provide family discussion prompts

6-12 Provide digital/non-digital resources, allow students to demonstrate their knowledge digitally/non-digitally: phone call, parent email, Google Forms on smartphones.

Considerations for English Learners

Considerations for Students with IEPs or 504s

 Considerations for Universal Design

 Considerations for Career Technical Education

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

 Social-Emotional Learning

Two Links to Help You to Learn More about Setting Goals

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

Learn Your Tools


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 antisemetic 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?

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.

SMCOE Distance Learning Guidance: Instructional Design Considerations

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.

Most schools will need to offer a blend of offline and online learning, both which may include elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning opportunities. Strategies will need to be flexible depending on accessibility to devices and the internet. Additionally, strategies will likely change, both in the short- and long-terms, due to unforeseen circumstances.


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

Contact Information:

Email: info@smcoe.org

Phone: (650) 802-5515