Going Virtual in a non-Virtual World

Yesterday, the school went to a soft closure involving half our students. Some of the kids were boarding the bus (to go home for 2 weeks of home learning) with the comment that they have no internet at home.

There are always ways around this if you have transportation to the public library and the public library remains open. This is still a challenge in our rural area since the library does not have regular hours.

In the short term, many of our students will once again bend over backwards to stay up to date on their assignments. Our teachers will be doing their very best to communicate through all these challenges.

In the long term, some of our families could benefit from grants like this:



Schools are doing their best to get the word out. Ironically, those without the internet don’t see the offer for internet help, therefore we’ve tried to send fliers to everyone.

Another issue is that many rural locations just do not have any access to the internet or their access is very limited. We are used to this, but when several kids in a family need internet access to get the most out of their classes, the technology hurdle becomes daunting.

Information (2 pages)
More information (FAQs) – (3 pages)

Moving Forward

Ybarra, Khan Academy founder discuss online learning strategies

Originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on May 6, 2020

Schools chief Sherri Ybarra discussed distance learning strategies with Sal Khan and other education and technology officials Wednesday.

Ybarra didn’t take any action or mandate Idaho school officials follow any particular programs or examples. But she did say it was important to share good ideas and leverage partnerships to improve teaching during the coronavirus pandemic.

“As you know, we’ve had to move to a statewide distance learning model due to Covid-19 and we’ve seen some really great, creativity, innovation and resourcefulness among our parents and our teachers and our schools leaders,” Ybarra said. “But despite all this we’ve also encountered some challenges and some obstacles as we’ve had to make this transition.”

Sal Kahn participated in an Idaho State Department of Education distance learning webinar Wednesday.


Khan is the founder of the non-profit Khan Academy that offers online lessons and reaches 20 million students a month. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Khan said technology will always be secondary to good teachers. But technology can help good teachers reach more students or do more with instruction.

“I’ve always said if I had to pick between an amazing teacher and amazing technology I would pick the amazing teacher every time,” Khan said. “But the ideal is not having to pick and having the amazing technology empower the amazing teacher.”

Ybarra and the State Board of Education are working towards buying a statewide learning management system that could push content and lessons out to students as well as share communication information and resources with families. During meetings this week, Ybarra said she wants the new system to be opt-in instead of mandated.

Ybarra also said Idaho lags behind other states and school districts when it comes to online learning management systems and stressed that it will be important and challenging to ensure all families have devices and Internet connectivity.

Here are snapshots of the online learning experiences:

Lee County, Florida:

Students were on spring break in mid-March when the governor announced they would close schools for two weeks, a closure that ended up being extended through the end of the year.

The district already had a 1:1 device ratio at the secondary level, but not the elementary. The district developed a continuity plan, reached out to families and distributed 15,000 Chromebooks over three days. Then schools allowed students to sign up for free internet offered by a local provider and the district purchased 10,000 internet hotspots, which it distributed to both students and teachers who faced connectivity gaps.

District officials also developed a plan to count attendance once a week based on assignments that are completed, Zoom meetings or other contact with students. Attendance increased to 99 percent over the past two weeks, K-5 curriculum director Bethany Quisenberry said.

“Moving to distance learning was an experience to say the least,” she said.

The district uses the iReady learning management system.

Yuma Union High School District, Arizona:

Yuma has had a 1:1 device ration for about 10 years. But officials did not invest in professional development training for educators that would have to work with the devices and platforms. That was a difficult mistake, Superintendent Gina Thompson said.

“We got the stuff without the adult learning that needed to come with it, and it’s just critical,” she said. “We’ve now such an amazing team as far as teachers for the adults. That has exponentially helped us through this particular time with Covid-19.”

Thompson said Yuma officials count themselves lucky they realized their mistake and got training in place before this year’s disruptions.

“From the time of Covid-19 and the first week of posting assignments… 100 percent of our teachers have their lesson posted,” Thompson said.

Interestingly, Yuma uses Canvas as its districtwide LMS, and does not allow schools to opt-in or opt-out, which Thompson described as the right call. “We have much more robust tracking of data,” Thompson said.

Looking ahead

Ybarra said she and her staff are planning to invite Idaho superintendents to discuss their distance learning strategies during an upcoming webinar.


Learning Management Systems used in the Local School

Once, I read a story:

“Intelligent Architect Story:

Urban Legend?”

“When I was in college a professor told us a story about an architect (Developer) who would build all of his buildings, but put down no sidewalks. He would just plant grass. Six months later he would come back and put sidewalks down where all the paths were worn. In this way, he assured that the walks would be where the people were mostly [sic] likely to walk. The point of the story was that we should observe how people do whatever it is we are trying to model in software and then build it to work that way, thus creating ‘user friendly’ software” (Khadaji, 2005).

This past week we were able to delve into an overview of Learning Management Systems (LMS) and explore several, highlighted as the top fifty, as well as other LMS (Barrish, 2015). I use WordPress (n.d.) which is built on open-source software, so I was immediately drawn to Moodle LMS (n.d.) which is also open-source software.

“Open-source software (OSS) is computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. Open-source software may be developed in a collaborative public manner” (Wikipedia Community, n.d.).

Moodle was created before cloud computing was popular, so it is a harder to set up than the current cloud-based systems, but should not be a problem for the tech specialist of the district. Because of this layer of complexity, I did not set up a Moodle account for myself. However, Moodle LMS is full featured and used by many schools and universities.

John Haire, the principal of Potlatch Elementary School graciously made time to meet with me and discuss educational software that the district uses. The district is served by one technical specialist and so there is coordination between the two buildings (Potlatch Elementary School and Potlatch Jr./Sr. High School).

Potlatch Elementary School uses Edmodo (n.d.), Class Dojo (n.d.), and Google Apps for Education (Google, n.d.). Additionally the Jr./Sr. High School uses SARA app (Dass, 2016) to keep parents aware of team scheduling programs and changes; and a program called FamilyLink by SchoolMaster (Tyler Technologies, 2015) whereby parents can subscribe to school announcements.

Comparison Chart of Several Programs:

Who Uses Schools, Universities, Non profit K-12 K-12 anyone
Target Customer Size 1000+
free trial students/teachers free free
Starting Price one price/user n/a
Free Trial yes always free always free
>Cloud, SaaS, Web yes yes yes yes
>installed Windows yes
>installed Mac yes yes
>Mobile – iOS yes yes yes
>Mobile – Android yes yes
>Academic/Education yes yes yes
>AICC/SCORM Compliant yes
>Asynchronous Learning yes yes
>Blended Learning yes yes
>Build In Course Authoring yes yes yes
>Certification Management yes
>Classroom Management yes yes yes yes
>Data Analysis yes yes
>CC standards integrated
>Gamification yes yes
>Gradebook yes yes yes
>K-12 yes
>Live Video Conferencing yes Google Hangout
>Mobile Learning yes yes
>Integrates with other systems yes yes
>Skills Tracking yes
>Social Learning yes yes yes yes
>Student Portal yes yes yes
>Synchronous Learning yes yes
>Testing/ Assessments yes Google Forms
>Tin Can API yes
>Progress Badges yes
>24/7 (Live Rep) yes yes
>Business Hours yes
>Online yes yes yes
>In Person yes yes  yes
>Live Online yes yes
>Webinars yes yes
>Documentation yes yes yes yes
>Student Orientation yes

Click HERE for printable PDF chart.


Class Dojo is used mainly for monitoring and enhancing classroom behavior, and as such is not an LMS, but rather an app created for a particular purpose. However, the other three (Moodle, Edmodo, Google Apps for Education) are true Learning Management Systems and have various strengths. Google Apps for Education can become Google Classroom with a school account. Google Classroom is a free LMS but may have drawbacks regarding student privacy (Kamenetz, 2015). Edmodo does well for how we use it, and though it may seem limited compared to the others, some of the features that are missing are not critical to our deployment.

Moodle seems the most secure as it can be installed on a district server. It is very configurable as well, but this may require coding and maintenance after installation that could be overly time consuming for a district with just one tech specialist. Furthermore, its target audience is 1000+ which is too large for our purposes.

The district seems to be doing well with what it has been given regarding budget and student security. Like paths intelligently created in the Architect Story, teachers, administrators, and students are discovering what works for us regarding educational technology. Teachers are serving our students with innovative techniques. They teach digital natives to exercise Digital Citizenship. Teachers are enjoying technical applications for the classroom as they leverage higher order learning facilitated by the readily available information found on the web.

[Disclaimer: This information was researched with time constraints imposed by an assignment deadline. If you find that I have left out important information, please LEAVE A REPLY below so that it can be corrected.]


Barrish, J. (2015, June 3). Best LMS (Learning Management System) software: 2015 reviews of the most popular systems. Retrieved from Capterra: http://www.capterra.com/learning-management-system-software/#infographic

Barrish, J., & Capterra. (2015, June 3). Moodle vs. Edmodo: Best LMS (Learning Management System) software. Retrieved from Capterra: http://www.capterra.com/learning-management-system-software/#infographic

ClassDojo. (n.d.). ClassDojo: Happier students, happier classrooms! Retrieved from ClassDojo: https://www.classdojo.com/

Dass, R. (2016). SARA. Retrieved from iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sara/id903509669?mt=8

Edmodo. (n.d.). Welcome to Edmodo: The safest and easiest way for educators to connect and collaborate with students, parents, and each other. Retrieved from Edmodo: https://www.edmodo.com/

Google. (n.d.). Google for Education. Retrieved from Google: https://www.google.com/edu/

Kamenetz, A. (2015, December 8). Google hit with a student privacy complaint. Retrieved from NPRed: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/12/08/458460509/google-hit-with-a-student-privacy-complaint

Khadaji [screen name]. (2005, May 25). Intelligent architect story: Urban legend? Retrieved from Straight Dope Message Board: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-318296.html

Mattina, K. (2014, October 8). Google Classroom vs Edmodo. Retrieved from The Tech Lady: http://thetechlady-km.blogspot.com/2014/10/google-classroom-vs-edmodo.html

Moodle. (n.d.). Moodle; Community driven, globally supported. Retrieved from Moodle: https://moodle.org/

Tyler Technologies. (2015, January). Schoolmaster FamilyLink; Family Web Portal. Retrieved from Schoolmaster: http://www.schoolmaster.com/pdfs/FamilyLink.pdf

Wikipedia Community. (n.d.). Open-Source Software. Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_software

WordPress. (n.d.). WordPress. Retrieved from WordPress.org: https://wordpress.org/

Save Time with Buffer App

Please be forewarned that the audio lags on this screen-capture and so audio finishes before the references and end of the video. I think it’s still useful, but let me know in the comments. Thanks.

EDCI-568 – Buffer App for Social Media from Jean Millheim on Vimeo.

During my reading, I noticed that there is an emphasis on Professional Learning Networks or Personal Learning Networks (PLN) as I like to call them. An article posted on 21 Things 4 Teachers (Professional learning networks: Using technology to enhance professional learning networks, n.d.), highlighted ways that technology is assisting PLN. I was intrigued to see that one of the paragraphs was about using social media to enhance your PLN.

I have a Twitter account as well as a profile on LinkedIn. I like to have a LinkedIn profile so that when people want to know what my interest and skills are, they can go there and see what I’m about. LinkedIn has more of a professional aspect than Facebook, so I make sure that anything I post there is especially pertinent to my interests and professional development.

The Twitter account has been a lot of fun these past three weeks. I used it mainly for business before this class and had heard that teachers should not get involved in social media. I was expecting to have to delete it at some point, so was pleasantly surprised to learn that social media can be helpful to educators.

The one thing we know is that social media can draw you in and take all of your time. You get instant feedback in many cases, so it seems like a new friend who loves all the same things you do. Eventually, you realize that this is a virtual friend, and they are very needy! You can be on social media any time of the day or night and observe people posting, requesting, chatting, etc. So to incorporate a little more sanity to my day, I use a social media manager.

The one I’m going to talk about today is Buffer App (Buffer.com, 2016). I have found that this interface is much more intuitive than other social media managers that I have used. I have been using the free Buffer App account. There is a paid version with many more features — which is entirely worth the price — but we’ll talk about the free features today.

When you post to Twitter, you might feel like you are standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon and talking to the world. All of your wit is going out into the ether and falling down a black hole. At least on Facebook you can have a conversation. I liken Facebook to chatting over the backyard fence. If there’s something you want everyone to know, you write it on the wall of your house; visible to the world. If you want to have a conversation, that is visible to some, but not all, you set up privacy options. If you want to slip someone a note, you do it through the Facebook Messenger.

Twitter, on the other hand, is like walking down the school hallway and saying “hi” to everyone as you pass. Maybe you’ll tell your history professor that you are reading “The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood” (Gleick, 2012). “Let me check that out,” s/he says, and that’s the end of the conversation. Folks seem less engaged, so my aim on Twitter is to post things that I’ve found interesting so that when others follow my posts, they will get content that is worth their time. I never post just to say I did it. The twist is: “If you have nothing worthwhile to say, say nothing at all.” However, with your PLN in place, you will find plenty worth sharing.

Buffer allows me to integrate three social networking accounts, which I’ve done. They allow me to set a schedule. I’ve decided that twice a day six days a week is enough for me. Now when I sit down and start reading about things that interest me, I can put them in my Buffer queue right then, but know that they will trickle out a couple a day during the week. I am therefore freed from having to check my social media accounts every day. What a big time saver!

I can also cross-post if I want to, highlight the same article in my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, for example. My Twitter and LinkedIn audiences seem different to me. Sometimes my Twitter audience seems just to be gauging what they can sell me while my LinkedIn audience seems more dignified and interested in me professionally. If I find an article I want to save for later, I’ll “pin” it to a Pinterest board,– but that’s a subject for another day.

Be proactive about getting content that has not been shared a million times. I subscribe to some newsfeeds that are a little bit off the edge, but whose writers consistently find little-read news stories. Another tactic is to search your topic in Google, but navigate to the 3rd or 4th page. Being on the first page of Google is an exacting art, and the competition is fierce. There are many worthy stories buried in the beyond. When I decide to share an article I make sure that I have read it thoroughly. Make sure you agree with the author’s conclusions (or lack thereof). It’s as easy as cutting and pasting the URL into your Buffer App. Buffer will automatically schedule your posts into the program grid you have created.

Buffer will shorten the URL. I like to include a headline because the “buf.ly” will not be descriptive. I add an appropriate headline (sometimes from the article itself) and any other handles or hashtags I want to include. Then click “Add to Queue” and you are set. As I continue to study throughout the week, I can add a bit more to my Buffer. There are apps for your phone and extensions for your browser. Since I share my iPhone and my computer with a six-year-old, I have not installed these. Instead, I choose to log in every time I want to use the Buffer App.

During the week as people “favorite” or “retweet” my content, I can look into their profiles and find like-minded professionals who may post articles and insights that will help me grow. Here is a short video link (same as above) about this blog post via screen capture software (Cattura Video, 2016): vimeo.com/163884175/d876dbcf47

Please note, that the video begins to lag at some point. The video continues through to the last screen that says “The End” even though the audio has decided to end early!


21 Things 4 Teachers. (n.d.). Professional learning networks: Using technology to enhance professional learning networks. Retrieved from 21 Things 4 Teachers: http://www.21things4teachers.net/21-things/pln/

Buffer.com. (2016, April 22). Buffer: A better way to share on social media. Retrieved from Buffer: https://buffer.com/

Cattura Video. (2016, April 22). cattura. Retrieved from catturavideo: http://www.catturavideo.com/

Hootsuite. (2016, April 22). Hootsuite: Get serious about social. Retrieved from Hootsuite: https://hootsuite.com/

Millheim, J. (2016, April 22). @cabincricktweet. Retrieved from Twitter: https://twitter.com/cabincricktweet

Millheim, J. (2016, April 22). J Millheim [profile]. Retrieved from LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/j-millheim-87723640