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When the ‘Pivot’ Becomes the Practice: responding to online / remote / blended instruction and learning needs

Two Calgary Learns projects

In 2020, Calgary Learns brought together a small group of adult foundational learning practitioners in a initiative project called the Pivot to Remote Learning Community of Practice. Our final report has some very good information and recommendations for organizations and practitioners who have shifted to online/remote/blended learning.

This project evolved into the Digital Divide Project, which is profiled in our newsletters and on the CALP portal. Watch for opportunities to respond to this project.

The Digital Divide Project has two goals:

  • To research and understand the learning barriers that adult Albertans have faced as a result of the shift to remote learning.
  • To capture and share the best delivery practices for remote learning that have been developed right here in our provincial CALP community.

Calgary Learns has posted many tips and recommendations through our newsletters. We continue to invite practitioners to send us requests for information and/or recommendations for delivery. Your experience and wisdom over the past year is what has kept the field of adult literacy and foundational learning vital, adaptive, learner centered, responsive, creative and supported.

Teaching Tips using Zoom

Are you there?

So you have moved your classroom online. You were able to teach your learners how to access and log into zoom (if not, here is an easy how-to-guide). Now you are ready to teach, but … the only thing you see are black screens, with maybe a name, as they have turned their camera off.

Know that the reason some people turn their video off is because they are in their home and there might be lots of activity happening around them. Also, there is something called zoom-fatigue.

But as a teacher, you don’t know … Are they there? Is anybody listening? Here are a few tips that might be helpful:

Profile picture:

Ask the participants to add a picture to their profile so you can see their wonderful faces. Here’s how: (note that if you would like to show people how to do it that your share screen doesn’t show your zoom screen, so better to prepare screenshots in advance and save them as images)

Before you get started, either take a picture of yourself with your computer camera or make sure you have a picture saved on your computer.

  1. Go to (if you are not logged in, it will ask you to do this first)
  2. Click on “change” under the profile image
  3. Click on the “Upload” button to upload a new photo.
  4. Select the photo file from your computer.
  5. Once your photo is uploaded, you can move the square mask so the photo is centered and the zoom level is correct.
  6. Click “Save” to finish.

Engage your learners:

Assign roles: ask one of your learners to monitor the chat and one to help their peers with technology issues. That way, you can focus on teaching, and you’ll give students some extra digital skills practice

Be interactive: don’t just talk, but ask questions, play little videos, do a demonstration, play a game.

Chat: rather than just listening, ask them to write their answers in the chat box

Screen annotations: if you are using a powerpoint or have text on the share screen with them, use annotations to bring their focus to an area on the screen

Polling: allows you to create single choice or multiple choice polling questions. You gather the responses from your learners. You have the ability to download a report of polling afterwards.

Non-verbal feedback: Activate the non-verbal feedback feature for your meetings to allow students to communicate with the teaching staff without interrupting the meeting. Routinely check in with students to address any non-verbal feedback. This feature also allows you to manage verbal feedback, as you can instruct students to use the “raise hand” feature to indicate when they would like to speak. Remember to keep the students muted until you call on them to avoid extraneous background noise.


ABC Life Literacy resources and tools

Zoom tips from the community – fighting zoom fatigue

During our weekly community consultations, several people have asked questions for which they are looking for answers. There is often wonderful suggestions shared from the participants in the “room” .

This week we heard some great tips on how to help fight zoom fatigue:

  1. Turn off the view of yourself:
    This is different from turning your video off (which helps with zoom fatigue as well). Others will still be able to see you, but you won’t see yourself, which takes, for example,  the “oh, look at my hair” stress away.Here’s how: right click on your video and once the menu appears, select “hide myself”.  (more in-depth tutorial here).
  2. Select speaker view:
    Looking at the gallery of all the different cameras is exhausting. It might be an option to select “speaker view” so you only see the person that is speaking. This will allow you to focus on the person presenting. Note: this is not interesting when there is a lot back-and forward, as it might make you dizzy. Here’s how you switch:

And, thanks so much to a community partner who recently shared this interesting article with us: An Era of Change: Remote Engagement, Multi-tasking, and Camera Policies

Remote Delivery Options for Service Providers

With many service providers currently facing cancellation of in-person program delivery, and office closures, we have had a few requests for tech resources for alternate remote delivery options.  We understand that for some programs this may not be an option, and that for some learner’s computer literacy and access to computers may prevent the utilization of remote delivery.  For those who may find remote delivery appropriate for their learner groups we have compiled a short list of alternate program delivery methods.

Also, the following link was recently reposted on the CALP portal with some advice to consider when delivering learning online:

Synchronous Tools

Asynchronous Tools

  • Audacity
  • Camtasia
  • ESL Library
    • Paid subscription service. The basic plan is for printable lessons, but if you already have access to a paid Standard account, they are currently offering a free upgrade to Plus during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The extra features allow you to project a class activity live, which students can access on a cell phone, tablet, or computer.
  • Flipgrid
    • A social learning platform that allows students to respond to a discussion topic or questions. Learners can then respond to each other in a discussion format.
  • Google Forms
    • Create surveys or quizzes that are compatible on multiple devices. Easily integrates into Google accounts, and results can be downloaded and compiled.
  • Moodle
    • Moodle is a free, online Learning Management system enabling educators to create their own private website filled with dynamic courses that extend learning, anytime, anywhere.
  • Padlet
    • An online platform for compiling ideas and responses. Learners can post from all devices when given a link. Learners do not need an account to participate.
  • Socrative
    • You can create quizzes for free and give the students a link to your “classroom.” Students can easily access the site from a cell phone or other device with internet. The instructor can choose when to launch and activity and the length of time it will be active. Following completion, the results can be downloaded as an Excel document.
  • TypeForm
    • A free trial allows you to create 3 surveys/quizzes for up to 100 participants each. You can start with one of their free templates and send a link to learners (compatible with computer, tablet, and cell phones)

How to troubleshoot a learner’s computer…

“Help, I can’t figure out how to use the program?”

This could be a message you receive by email or phone. When you check what they see, it’s sometimes not the same as what you have in front of you. It’s hard to walk somebody through the various steps this way. It’s like giving directions with a blindfold on. Here are a few tips on how to make it easier:


Ask the learners to take a picture of their screen and text or email it to you. This way you can see what they are seeing as you walk them through it on the phone.

Picture Taken by their phone:

Screenshot: Depending on your keyboard, you may use the Windows Logo Key  + PrtScn button as a shortcut for print screen. If your device does not have the PrtScn button, you may use Fn + Windows logo key  + Space Bar to take a screenshot. To locate your screenshots, open File Explorer from the taskbar. On the side navigation pane, select the Pictures folder, and select Screenshots.

Snipping tool / Snip & Sketch: this is a great tool to take screenshots from an open window. You can select any portion of this open window. Once you “snip it” you can just “paste” (ctrl + V) it in an email.

Various methods + screenshots:

Online help without downloading any extra software

This will give you access to their computer. You can walk them through the procedure as you show them the steps remotely.

If you both have Windows 10, use Quick Assist

If one or both of you have Windows 7 or 8, use Windows Remote Assistance

Step by step + screenshots:

Online help by downloading software

This might initially be harder as you have to “blindly” guide a person through the process first, but once it’s set up, it’s easy to use.

Chrome Remote Desktop: free. You both need Google Chrome installed on your computer. Then you need to install the app.

TeamViewer: free. Can be used on Windows and Mac.

Various methods + screenshots:

An Open-Source Resource: Ways to Transfer In-Person Activities and High Leverage Practices to Remote Instruction

Click link to open resource in PDF: Ways to Transfer In-Person Activities and High leverage Practices to Remote Instruction

(Developed by Jayme Adelson-Goldstein (Lighthearted Learning) Contributors: Lori Howard and Sylvia Ramirez)

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