Teachers unions say they’re ready to come back to schools. I’ll believe it when I see it.

coronavirus uk schools
  • The politically-powerful teachers unions say they’re ready to send their members back to work, now that the COVID pandemic is effectively over.
  • And yet as a NYC public school parent, I don’t believe my kids will have full-time, in-person, five-day-a-week learning this September.
  • Because with the teachers unions there’s always a “but” – just as there is this time.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

One of the US’ major teachers’ unions has, at long last, come around to admitting its members should be back in school, full-time, this fall. It’s a huge, albeit long-delayed, development. But as a parent of three school-aged kids, count me as still skeptical.

The shift came when American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten last Thursday gave a long-anticipated speech to members of the second-largest teachers union in the country and thousands of its local affiliates.

Weingarten said plainly: “There is no doubt: Schools must be open. In person. Five days a week.”

The fog of pandemic fear, behind which the teachers’ unions have hidden for over a year, is lifting. The miracle of the COVID vaccines have made so many questionably-effective “better safe than sorry” safety measures truly obsolete.

But as a New York City public school parent whose kids haven’t been in school in any meaningful sense since March 10, 2020 – I’ve heard these sweet-sounding words about the teachers’ unions’ commitment to “fully” reopening schools before.

Their relentless goalpost-shifting for reopening, and their gaslighting of parents with repeated claims that they have wanted to reopen schools since April 2020, have lost them the benefit of the doubt.

I’ll need to see it – full-time, in-person schooling with actual teachers in the classroom – in order to believe the teachers unions truly mean what they say this time around.

There’s always a “but”

Weingarten said all the right things in her speech, asserting that her union is “all in” on fully reopening schools. She conceded that “prolonged isolation” for young people is “harmful.” And she admitted “remote learning is not on par with in-person teaching” and “equity gaps have grown wider” as a result.

But there’s always a “but.”

The union boss said schools will need to continue to vigorously enforce social distancing, which will require schools to come up with a whole lot of additional space they don’t have. Weingarten also called for schools to reduce class size, and warned of yet-unknown risks that could complicate schools reopening or staying open next year.

And as The New York Times noted, “The devil will be in the details negotiated at bargaining tables, where local union leaders may demand additional safety measures as a precondition to a full return.”

If the past year of failed negotiations to get teachers back in schools has taught us anything, it’s that the unions get what they want without having to give much in return.

Teachers prioritized for vaccination? Done. Almost $200 billion in federal spending for COVID safety measures in schools? Done. Enormous amounts of time and resources spent on hygiene theater? Done.

The unions admitting they were wrong to hype the threat of schools becoming COVID hotspots, and thus making many Black and brown families not want to send their kids to school? Never.

We’ve seen this movie over and over again for the past 15 months

I can clearly envision the anti-reopening arguments that will begin percolating when this August rolls around:

“Too many parents don’t feel safe sending their children back into school buildings!”

“We need remote teachers to teach the remote students!”

“There aren’t enough teachers, so we’re only going to have in-person school 1.5 days a week.”

With less than four months before the next school year begins, I’m not confident that any of these concerns will be effectively hashed out in time to save kids from losing part of a third year of their education.

As vaccines proliferate in the US, the AFT and other politically-powerful teachers unions can pat themselves on the back for so successfully working the system that they keep their “essential worker” membership from going into work for the entire pandemic.

But they also should be embarrassed over the damage they’ve done.

Forget about the learning loss – which some educators say we should now refer to as “learning change” – experienced during the pandemic. The psychological tolls and stunted socialization have been devastating for children kept out of schools and away from other kids for more than a year.

And by downplaying the necessity of in-person learning for so long, they’ve recklessly undermined the value of the noble profession of teaching.

Good teachers are invaluable guides through children’s development. Pretty much all teachers work hard. The pandemic has been brutal on educators.

But teachers unions have peddled the fiction that there has simply been no reasonable compromise available to fully reopen schools many months ago. That short-sighted misstep has driven people toward private schools and out of areas with politically-powerful public school teachers unions.

There are many institutions whose pandemic comportment deserves a full accounting once we’re truly out of the COVID woods.

The intransigence of the teachers unions and the feckless government officials who bent to their will at the expense of parents and students deserves a full, independent accounting.

Denying scientific evidence in the name of members “safety” was always just a front for flexing political power.

Weingarten’s seemingly-resolute declaration that it’s time for teachers to get back into school buildings was made up of nice-sounding words, but they are only words.

I’m not holding my breath that my kids will be back in school full-time in September, because I’ve seen this movie over and over again.

Teachers unions do not deserve to be trusted on their words at this point, just their deeds.

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How to delete a Flipgrid video as an educator or student in a few simple steps

flipgrid ipad
Flipgrid video responses can be deleted or hidden after being posted.

  • You can delete a Flipgrid video as either an instructor or student in a few steps.
  • Flipgrid is an educational tool by Microsoft used to create video message boards and discussion topics for students of all ages.
  • Posted video responses appear in a grid, where they can be played by both teachers and students.
  • Visit Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Educators use Flipgrid to create message boards where students video record their answers instead of typing them out for more interactive and engaging learning. 

This free, website-based platform works by letting teachers create tiled “grids.”

Teachers pose discussion questions and students’ video replies appear in a grid display below. Flipgrid is useful for teachers who want to emulate in-person conversations from a distance, but also without the pressure of a live classroom. 

If you’re a teacher or student who has posted a video to Flipgrid, but would like to re-do it, deleting a video question or response is easy.

How to delete a Flipgrid video if you’re an educator

Teachers can create a free Flipgrid account here. Once you’ve created an account and posted your first video, you’ll be able to hide or delete it. You can also delete responses from your students if they reach out for help.

1. Log in to your educator account here.

2. Visit your discussions page.

How to delete a Flipgrid Video 1
Open the desired group.

3. Select the group and topic of the video you’d like to delete.

How to delete a Flipgrid Video 2
Choose the topic.

4. Find your video under “Responses.”

5. To hide it, click on the Active button and select “Hide Response” in the dropdown menu. 

How to delete a Flipgrid Video 3
Select the action you wish to perform in the dropdown menu.

6. To delete it, click “Actions” and select “Delete Response” in the dropdown menu.

7. Check the box next to “I want to permanently delete the Response(s).”

How to delete a Flipgrid Video 4
Click the Delete button.

8. Click “Delete.” You’ve deleted your response.

How to delete a Flipgrid video if you’re a student

After posting a response to your instructor’s video, you can hide or delete it.

1. Visit my.flipgrid.com.

2. Log-in or click “Request access by email.” This way, you’ll have access to every video you’ve posted using this email account.

3. If requesting access by email, you’ll receive an email link from Flipgrid to deactivate your video.

How to delete a Flipgrid Video 5.PNG
Click “View in MyFlipgrid.”

4. Click “Actions” and select “Delete this video” or “Hide this video” in the dropdown menu.

How to delete a Flipgrid Video 6.PNG
Select your desired action from the dropdown menu.

5. Check the box next to “I want to permanently delete the Response(s).”

6. Click “Delete.” You’ve deleted your response. 

How to delete a Flipgrid Video 7.PNG
Click the Delete button after checking the box above.

7. For assistance, contact your teacher.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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Homeless parents’ lawsuit forcing New York City to provide WiFi for 114,000 homeless students will head to trial

homeless outside shelter in LA/coronavirus
  • A federal judge advanced a lawsuit to expedite the roll-out of WiFi to homeless shelters across the city.
  • There are more than 114,000 homeless students in New York City. 
  • The class-action suit was filed on behalf of homeless students across the city who have been unable to access the internet in homeless shelters during periods of remote learning this year. 
  • The city provided students with iPads with unlimited cellular data, but many students have had trouble getting proper cell service. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A lawsuit aimed at forcing New York City to provide WiFi for students in homeless shelters is moving forward to trial.

US District Judge Alison Nathan ruled last week that the class-action suit brought by homeless parents and the Coalition of the Homeless would proceed to expedited discovery in preparation for a trial.

“Without internet connectivity, homeless students are deprived of the means to attend classes,” Nathan wrote in the opinion that accompanied the decision. “And because homeless children who lack internet access and reside in New York City shelters cannot attend school for as long as that deprivation exists, the City bears a duty, under the statute, to furnish them with the means necessary for them to attend school.” 

Some homeless students are still unable to access the internet from a shelter more than nine months since Mayor Bill de Blasio first announced remote learning on March 15, 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. New York City schools have approximately 114,000 homeless students according to an Advocates for Children report cited by the judge.

The city’s original plan was to provide iPads with unlimited cellular data to students without access to WiFi, first partnering with T-Mobile. After students weren’t able to access T-Mobile service in many shelters, the city switched to Verizon, but some students continued to be unable to connect to school. 

On October 26, 2020 Mayor de Blasio announced that the city would install WiFi in all shelters, but officials cautioned this wouldn’t be complete until the summer of 2021. 

“It should come as no surprise that the City lacked any real legal basis to prevent this lawsuit from proceeding,” said Susan Horwitz, supervising attorney of the education law project at the Legal Aid Society, wrote in a press release.

“Despite months of pushing the City to address the root cause of the problem, City Hall continues to advance ineffective solutions while families in shelters suffer. We look forward to seeing all shelters equipped with working WiFi, far in advance of the city’s stated goal of summer 2021.” 

City officials said they are working to get Wifi to students in shelters.

“The court’s decision indicates that the city has worked hard to provide internet connectivity to the plaintiffs and is continuing to do so,” Paolucci, the spokesperson of New York City’s Law Department, wrote to Law & Crime.

Paolucci has not yet responded to Insider’s request for comment. 

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What is Blackboard? Everything you need to know about the online learning platform

Hybrid-learning classroom
Blackboard is an increasingly common platform for online learning.

  • Blackboard Learn is a highly customizable online learning application that allows users to take or host online courses.
  • Students and teachers can interact using assignments, video conferencing, discussion groups, tests, and more in Blackboard Learn and its upgraded version, Ultra.
  • Blackboard’s mobile apps and accessibility tools allow students to participate remotely and flexibly in classes. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Blackboard is a customizable online learning tool that can replace or supplement traditional face-to-face classes for a school or any other classroom structure. Many conventional classroom functions have equivalents in Blackboard Learn, allowing students and teachers to emulate just about every physical classroom experience element. 

In a fully online format, the teacher might assign all materials to the students digitally, communicate outside of class using online tools, and have students discuss and collaborate online. But in a hybrid model, the class might meet in person only a few times a week and use Blackboard activities that students complete outside the course. Finally, in a web-enhanced model, the classes may be face-to-face, but instructors may post supporting materials like syllabus, assignments, or optional discussions online. 

Here’s what else you should know about Blackboard. 

Blackboard’s features and tools

Blackboard is host to many virtual and digital learning tools, but all revolve around its core component: courses. 

Courses, which instructors can only start, are accessible through the “Home” section of a student’s Blackboard account under “My Courses.” Classes are supplemented by various tools, focusing on several critical areas of the classroom experience: content, interaction and discussion, and announcements and scheduling. 

Courses & Content

Instructors can post content, including files, text, images, audio, and video, in their courses. That content can then be organized using learning modules, folders, or lesson plans. To help students navigate their course content, instructors can post a syllabus with descriptions of the course materials, assignments, grading expectations, and more in a section of the course menu or elsewhere within a course. 

Other content that you’ll likely see includes surveys, tests, and assignments. Instructors can customize grading for and assign grades to submissions. Students can view assignment and class grades by navigating to the “My Grades” section in the dropdown menu by their name. Meanwhile, surveys and tests are highly customizable and may be multiple-choice, timed, or written. While tests are graded, surveys are not. Surveys may instead be used to poll students or assess their knowledge and are marked as complete or incomplete. 

Announcements & Calendars

Blackboard offers several ways for students and teachers to stay on track throughout their class. Instructors can post announcements on changes to a syllabus, due dates, exam schedules, and more. Notifications may appear on the “Home” page of a student’s Blackboard account for their institution or within specific classes. Instructors and students can also keep track of important dates through the calendar tool, combining course, individual, and institutional schedules.

Interaction & Discussion

Instructors can set up discussion boards within their classes, with both students and educators can start new discussion threads and reply to an original prompt. Students in a class can also send direct messages to one another by clicking “Messages” in their course menu.

Instructors may set up groups of students within their class to complete group projects, have discussions, or share work. In addition to sharing files and having group-specific conversations, this feature lets users create shared journals. These are a way for students to interact privately with their instructor. Instructors create journal topics within the journal topic page, and students respond with entries that can be graded. 

There’s also a video-conferencing feature of the platform called Blackboard Collaborate, which allows for virtual discussions in group sessions or one-on-one meetings.

Additional Blackboard features

Blackboard has some other features that help students and instructors stay connected, whether with Blackboard Ultra, the mobile apps, or the accessibility toolkit. Here’s what you should know about them. 

Ultra

Blackboard Ultra is a cloud-based service like Google Workspace (formerly GSuite) or Dropbox, rather than a downloaded or installed software. It’s an updated version of the original Blackboard that institutions can access if they opt for SaaS (“Software As A Service”) deployment. 

Blackboard Ultra’s updated user interface and workflow include a responsive design that works on any device. It also features an “activity stream” that allows students to see updates from all their classes together in an organized list rather than class-by-class. Ultra’s calendar gathers due dates from all courses and offers a grades page that features all your performance together without navigating to each class. 

If you’re unsure if you have the Ultra or Original version of Blackboard, look at your browser window’s left panel after log in. If your name is shown in the left-hand menu, you’re using Ultra. If it’s in the top right, you’re using Original. 

Mobile apps

Blackboard’s apps, including Blackboard and Blackboard Instructor, are iOS 11+ and Android 5+ compatible mobile tools that work with both Original and Ultra interfaces. Once downloaded, the app will ask you to find your institution and log in with your Blackboard Learn login information. 

Accessibility tools 

To optimize accessibility on Blackboard, instructors can design content for students with visual, hearing, learning, and mobility-based disabilities in mind. 

Blackboard Learn is compatible with screen readers, and pages are designed to follow a common structure to allow quick navigation. Others can enable high-contrast styles on the login page of Blackboard Learn to match their computer configuration. Students who use keyboard navigation will find commonly used web formatting, while those who rely on key commands to navigate through pages can access them in the Quick Links tool or through hitting Shift+Alt+L. 

Instructors can caption all media types that they upload so that students can read information instead of listening. To reduce visual clutter and increase executive function, users can collapse menus or set up Blackboard Learn to send notifications and reminders. Instructors can also design tests with accommodations for extra time, varying visual displays, or more attempts. 

The Blackboard App also offers built-in accessibility features, like VoiceOver navigation, zoom for enlarged visuals, color filters, navigation through Bluetooth switch hardware, AssistiveTouch in iOS, and Switch Access for external devices in Android. 

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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