As schools across Ohio remained closed because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, districts have turned to technology and remote learning to continue educating students.

For students in the Groveport Madison school district, their touchstone is Google Classroom, a free application that works on a variety of devices to streamline sharing educational content between teachers and students.

"Google Classroom is our most-used learning management system," said D. Jana Alig, the district's director of teaching and learning.

At the beginning of each school day, students log on to Google Classroom to find a list of daily lessons and assignments. According to Alig, these can come in a variety of different formats, including online tutorials, written content and recorded instructions by teachers. Students are then able to work at their own pace to complete assignments, quizzes and tests throughout the day. Instructors' guidelines vary according to subject and specific assignments.. Each teacher decides on a study plan and work on certain projects may carry over across several days, Alig said.

While recorded content does have a place in the district's current curriculum, there still is ample room for direct interaction between students and teachers. According to Alig, teachers also offer live teaching sessions, chat sessions and office hours, during which their phone lines are open to parents and students.

The district is using an array of other digital learning applications. Alig said two of the most important are Edulastic and Newsela.

Newsela provides content that aligns with state standards and is specifically formatted for students of different learning levels. It compiles news articles, primary-sources documents and other written material for a range of subjects that fit into specific course and grade curriculum, Alig said.

"It's all curated for us," she said, "and Newsela checks in with us every few weeks, so if there's something that isn't working, or areas teachers need more help in, they're able to take care of that."

She said Newsela can adjust content for different reading levels, altering sentence structure and depth of word choice, allowing students of all reading levels to engage with the same material.

"When you wonder how the teachers are teaching their content areas without running back and forth to the school buildings, this is one of our platforms allowing them to do that," Superintendent Garilee Ogden said.

Groveport Madison schools also are using a digital assessment platform called Edulastic to make sure students stay on track and master state standards. It provides technology-assisted assessments such as quizzes, tests and assignments using such things as graphics and interactive maps. It also stores and tracks all the data.

"Edulastic can be tracked at the student, grade and school levels, so teachers can really get a feel for where everyone is," Alig said.

One hurdle districts face with online learning is how to give at-risk and special-needs students the attention they deserve. According to Jeff Warner, the district's director of communications, Groveport Madison schools offer specialized help for these students using an array of digital platforms.

"The intervention specialist and/or therapist that works with each at-risk student provides targeted intervention services, instruction and support through multiple formats," he said.

"Many utilize Google Classroom, district email, Google Hangouts, Remind, Class Dojo, as well as other digital programming resources to monitor student progress, identify weaknesses requiring further help and to communicate with parents."

Although Gov. Mike DeWine has not mandated that school districts take remote attendance, Groveport Madison schools are doing so. According to Alig, after three days without contact from a student, the district implements its Well Child Worksheet, which aims to make sure students are safe.

Since spring break, Groveport Madison students have read or listened to more than 12,000 books and completed nearly 10,000 quizzes online, according to information from the district.

In January and February, 57 Google Hangouts took place in the district's system, compared to more than 17,000 between March 5 and April 8.

Ogden said the remote-learning programs put in place after schools were ordered closed have been operating without major hitches, and that's due to the efforts of the district's teachers.

"Our teachers have worked very hard to learn all of this and coordinate with our kids so that we're able to link these lessons to Google Classroom," she said.

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