5 free low-tech learning tools: Coronavirus news and tools

Closing schools and workplaces has been tough on everyone. Some families are feeling overwhelmed by too many new apps and online tools. And some families are facing an even bigger challenge of having little or no internet access during COVID-19.

To help families and teachers cope, this week’s coronavirus roundup includes low-tech ways to keep learning during the pandemic. Also included: where to find free Wi-Fi, new tools for employees who learn and think differently, and something to look forward to on Fridays.

5 free low-tech tools for families and educators

1. Snap a picture. “I have been writing my math sprints out, snapping a picture, and sending it to families,” says Lakrisha Howard, an Understood teacher fellow who teaches kindergarten in Newark, New Jersey. “I also write my students handwritten notes and snap a picture of those as well. Being creative with my animojis, texts, and other apps has helped me connect with my scholars.”

2. Keep a journal. A teacher blogged on MiddleWeb about asking her eighth graders to write diary entries or make short videos. She told her students to imagine these entries being used by future historians. What was it like to live through the 2020 pandemic? 

3. Make it personal. “I am asking students to write notes to family members or friends and help make shopping lists and a daily schedule they can use for themselves,” says Kareem Neal, an Understood teacher fellow who teaches high-schoolers with in Phoenix.

4. Download a reading packet. Have access to a printer? Or the patience to copy worksheets by hand? Families can download three weeks of free Sonday System reading lessons. These “parent empowerment packets” for grades K–5 use an Orton–Gillingham approach to teach structured literacy.

5. Do a daily mood check-in. Ask students to use an emoji to describe how they’re feeling, like a thumbs up, thumbs sideways, or thumbs down. Explore this Edutopia article for more ways to stay connected during school closures.

Wide Open School and free hotspot access for all

A new free website called Wide Open School has lots of great learning resources to help families and educators while schools are closed. Understood is proud to be part of this coalition site, which is led by Common Sense Media. Wide Open School includes tips on where to find free or low-cost Wi-Fi and computers.

Meanwhile, Comcast is offering free access to 1.5 million Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots across the country. You don’t need to be a subscriber to use these hotspots during the pandemic. Enter your zip code to find the nearest hotspot, use it to download whatever you need, and then head back home. 

Free workplace tools

Entrepreneur keeps adding to its list of free tools to help get through the pandemic. Many of these tools may be especially helpful for employees with disabilities. Here are a few recent entries:

  • Two free months of Otter for Teams, a note-taking app that can transcribe meetings in real time and includes features like tagging speakers and allowing group comments
  • 90 days of free access to Butterfly’s employee engagement surveys, which can be filled out via text, email, or other systems often used by “deskless workers”
  • Free access to FarEye’s delivery optimization software for organizations making home deliveries of essential supplies like groceries, food, and medicine
  • Trustwave’s free cybersecurity tools for remote workers

Friday fun with Dav Pilkey

Dav Pilkey is famous for creating Dog Man and Captain Underpants. The bestselling author and illustrator grew up with ADHD and dyslexia and sees his learning differences as his superpowers.

To lift kids’ spirits while schools are closed, Pilkey is reading his funny books out loud and giving lessons on how to draw his characters. Each week he’ll post a new free video on the Library of Congress website on Fridays at 8 a.m. Eastern time. Free videos and activities from previous weeks can be viewed anytime on Scholastic’s Dav Pilkey at Home site. Enjoy!

Get more coronavirus updates and tips for people who learn and think differently.

About the author

About the author

Julie Rawe is the special projects editor at Understood.