Virtual School Briefing: Friday, Jan 31

How do I contact students and parents in my classes?

This might be our most often-asked question. We have now created e-mail groups for all classes, for both students and parents.

Click this link to see a complete list of all the groups in the system (login required).

You can also use auto-complete to find the groups. Read more at this post on the EdTech Blog.

Several teachers have ask to create Teams for their classes. We’re going to work on rolling this out to all classes. In the meantime, IT will shortly turn on the ability for teachers to create their own Teams.

Canvas Announcements are also a good way to make class announcements. Both parents and students can see them, and they receive e-mail notifications with new Canvas activity.

Whether you choose to use e-mail or Canvas Announcements, tell your students explicitly how you plan to make announcements in your class. Matt’s recommendation is to use Canvas Announcements because you can easily see a historical record of them in Canvas.

How do I invite students in a class to a Teams meeting?

Until we have Teams set up for each class, you can

  1. Go to your Outlook Calendar
  2. Create a meeting
  3. Invite your class email group (see above)
  4. Set the location to Teams meeting

Each student will receive a calendar invite with a link they can click on to join the meeting. You can also add that link to your Canvas course in a relevant module.

Do I have to use Canvas?

Yes, your course must have a presence in Canvas. Since parents will check Canvas, it is important for teachers to post here. However, you can give a basic outline of the activities and direct students to complete activities in other tools like OneNote Class Notebook or Nearpod.

What about holding students accountable for work?

We anticipate that students may have trouble staying engaged. You’ll need to adapt the strategies you use F2F to be successful in an online environment. We’re very interested in your feedback about this, and are investigating how to track this systematically, so look out for feedback surveys to let us know how it’s going.

What kind of activities are permissible in virtual school – are summatives OK?

The goal is to continue instruction as normally as possible, so it’s fine to give summatives during virtual school. Consider the potential for plagiarism when designing your assessments.

If you’re in the arts or health and PE, designing authentic assessments may be a challenge. Consider the materials that students are likely to have at home and don’t assume they’ll be able to go out and buy them. Tech Ambassador Alanna suggests focusing on theory rather than applied practice, at least in the short term.

How is attendance counted?

Students are considered present during virtual school. Teachers do not need to take any action to record attendance.

If you’re interested in student engagement, the “People” section of your course will tell you when a student’s last activity in your course was.

Virtual School Briefing, Thurs. Jan 30

The Tech Ambassadors met yesterday to bring you the rest of this week’s briefings.

Can my EAL co-teacher and TA be added to my Canvas course?

Yes, you can and should add co-teachers and TAs to your Canvas course by clicking on “People” in your course’s left nav bar.


See for more detail.

I want to record myself giving instructions and post the video for students. How should I…

Use the free Screencast-o-matic, recommended by Tech Ambassadors Trish M and Dave S, or the built-in Quicktime Player app to record your screen and narration. The former lets you record video of yourself as well, which I like to add flair.

Upload the video to Microsoft Stream, which will give you a URL you can post in Canvas. Remember, most of our students do not have VPNs so you cannot post to YouTube.

Seriously, remember, most of our students do not have VPNs.

If you want to use an instructional video from YouTube, download it using the free ClipGrab application on your Mac and then upload that to Stream.

The Tech Ambassadors also like EdPuzzle for sharing videos, since it lets you both watch the video with VPN and add interactive quiz questions.

There’s no I in Teams, but there is an I in Microsoft.

In the shift to virtual school we’ve lost an essential way to collaborate with teachers and give feedback to students: face-to-face interaction. Microsoft Teams is a robust messaging and collaboration platform built-in to Office 365 so all our teachers, staff and students have accounts. You can use Teams to schedule meetings with individual or multiple other people or groups. Each invitee is sent a link that lets them enter a video chatroom. The chatroom includes a shared virtual whiteboard and meeting notes section to share your work.

Liza F figured this out and set up recurring meetings so her students having a standing drop-in video chatroom for office hours – see this video to watch how she did it (log in to O365 first).

We’ll be revisiting this topic in future briefings.

Can I just make a website where students can book a time with me?

Calendly is what you’re looking for. It links to your Outlook calendar and creates a website where students can choose times to meet with you – like when you book a haircut online in the States. The free version lets you create one page for bookings.

Virtual School Briefing, Wed. Jan 29

Although the virtual school plan was developed by a team of faculty and administrators three years ago, the current situation is the first time we’ve activated it. We anticipate bumps along the way since it’s an untested system, and we know that with your feedback we can make it better. That’s why, in the interests of agility and transparency, I’ll be publishing regular virtual school briefings based on questions and feedback from the community. These briefings will be used to make clarifications, share emerging best practices, and adjust course. Here’s what has come up since yesterday:

Wait, what day is it?

Tuesday is a Day 1. Make sure you’ve added the Day Rotation Calendar to your Outlook by following these instructions.

Get in the (right time) zone

If you’re logging in to Office 365 on the web, make sure your time zone is right. Go to Settings > General > Language and time and check if the time zone matches your physical location.

If this is wrong, your scheduled meetings with others won’t show up correctly.

Remember, regardless of where you are, work hours follow the school’s regular class times, in the China Standard Time zone.

Tools for online discussions

Jodi T and her CPT asked about tools to help students have asynchronous and live discussions.

Is there a way our kids can “meet” virtually? We were planning to do lit circles when we got back from break. The concept would lend itself pretty well to an online lesson world if we had a forum that the kids could log into and talk to each other.

The Tech Ambassadors and I will address this repeatedly over the coming days, but if you want to get ahead, three good choices are:

  1. Canvas’ “Discussions” feature for written forum discussions
  2. FlipGrid for asynchronous video discussion
  3. Microsoft Teams for live group discussions that can be recorded, too!

Virtual School Plan Activated

I’m sure many of you have questions about the virtual school plan. The plan has been activated in response to school closure mandated by the government due to precautions about the Wuhan corona virus. Please refer to the essential outline and links to further information below.

  • The full plan, FAQs, and two sample online lessons developed by Chelsea and Greg are available in this Virtual School Resources Canvas course.
  • In the current scenario, teachers deliver instruction asynchronously by creating online lessons in Canvas, one lesson per course every two days. Teachers need not teach live (synchronous) classes.
  • Teachers should be online in Teams for virtual office hours with students during the time when they would otherwise be teaching a class. For example, if you would normally teach blocks A, B and D then you need to be available online during those times.
  • A modified communications protocol is in effect. All faculty and staff should be online using Teams during virtual office hours. All students and teachers should install Teams by downloading the client from Additionally,
    • Teachers may communicate with students using e-mail and Canvas. To have a live video/text/audio chat session, use Teams.
    • Teachers may communicate with colleagues asynchronously via e-mail. To have a live video/text/audio chat session, use Teams.
  • Expect hiccups big and small, and reach out for help and questions when you need it!
    • Email or send a Teams message to Hanson, Aracelis or Matt for policy questions
    • Email or send a Teams message Matt and/or the Tech Ambassadors for “how do I use technology to teach?” questions. The Tech Ambassadors email address is
    • Email the IT helpdesk at for “my technology isn’t working” questions
    • Training on variety of online instruction topics will be available no later than Monday. The trainings will be given live via webinar and recordings will be posted online for your review.

WeChat Blocking MS Forms and Sway (Updated)

Update: WeChat and Microsoft resolved this issue on Monday, Jan 13.

WeChat’s browser appear to be blocking both Microsoft Forms and Microsoft Sway. Forms and Sway are both accessible in China; it is WeChat in particular that is blocking them. This will affect you if you use Forms with a QR code to collect event registration sign-ups – users will be blocked from the sign-up when they scan the code.

Unfortunately, there’s not a good workaround except to avoid using QR codes for event registration. Instead, make a short link. You need to use a Chinese service because Western shortlink services like are blocked. Use the Chinese website This will prompt people to open a web browser, type in the URL, and the page will then load correctly in their web browser.

WARNING – do not email links created using because they may be marked as spam. Instead, email the original link.

How can a student with two Es and a P have a P overall?

How can a student with three standards scores of E, E, and P end up with P as an overall grade? PowerSchool calculates grades based on the scores of the underlying assignments. See the PowerPoint below for an explanation, and use this grade calculator spreadsheet (download it to your computer before opening) to input a student’s individual assignment standard scores to see how this translates into overall standards scores and the overall course grade.

Saturday Certificate Session 03 coming February 8, 2020

The third #issedu Saturday Certificate Session is coming up in a month on Saturday, February 8 at the Level 5 in Shekou! SCS is a chance to work through self-paced modules and achieve a certificate to boost your skills and your resume. To date, over 100 ISS faculty and staff have attended. This time around you’ll have a choice between a Microsoft Innovative Educator and an Apple Teacher certificate – start a new one or continue work you started in a previous session. Lunch is provided; free registration is required by Wednesday, February 5 at 4pm.

Tech in the Toilet: Tech for Co-Teaching (Andrea Honigsfeld Edition)

In this edition of Tech in the Toilet we celebrate Andrea Honigsfeld’s visit to campus with a rundown of tools that support co-teaching.

After objectives, materials, roles, and responsibilities have been established, each teacher completes various lesson planning tasks such as scaffolding activities, differentiating materials and assessments, finding alternative resources, creating learning centers/stations, and so on.

To support this framework, co-teaching teams must first establish how they are going to communicate and how they are going to secure and organize the materials and resources needed for the co-planning process. (Dove & Honigsfeld, 2018, p. 39)


Use your Microsoft Team’s Sharepoint Site to Secure & Organize Materials

Sharepoint Site is a powerful function of Office 365 that provides a web-based collaboration and sharing platform. Every staff member is able to access it through the school email account. Setting it up to work takes almost no effort at all – you can simply create a folder and then share it with the recipient’s email.

How does it work? 

  • Centralizes collaborative work
  • Provides a record of collaboration
  • Easily share and save resources
  • Useful location for storing lesson plans for future, sharing or in case of sub
  • An efficient method of collecting, saving and sharing student work/projects
  • Ensures continuity of materials – files are not lost when a team member moves on

How do you access it?

Office 365 Waffle > Sharepoint > choose your site


OR Office 365 Waffle > Teams > Choose your team > Files


OR Office 365 > OneDrive > select your team in the left nav bar menu


Use Microsoft Teams’ Chat Feature to Communicate

As part of Office 365, Teams’ Chat is an instant-messaging platform that also integrates with Outlook Calendar, Planner, and Sharepoint/OneDrive. It’s the “one ring to rule them all.” 

How does it work?

You can use CHANNELS within the team to chat about topics. For example, most conversations might be in the “General” channel. You can create channels for specific events. For instance, a channel for the course fair you are planning. The Grade 9 team might also have its own channel to talk about lesson planning and reflection. Each channel has a folder where you can store files.

How does it help?

If  your team agrees to use Teams for online communication:

-Three key advantages over e-mail: it’s informal, it’s threaded, and it’s easy to see the conversation history.

-Easy to share images and documents – you don’t run into attachment limits

-Includes voice and video chat features for those rainy days when you don’t want to go across campus for a meeting

How do you access it?

Office 365 Waffle > Teams > Choose your team


Use Microsoft Planner to Track Various Lesson Planning Tasks

Microsoft Planner is a to-do list function for your team in Office 365. Each team has a planner board where you can add cards for different tasks that need to be completed. Each card can be assigned to a team member and include a due date, checklists, links, attachments, and comments. 

How does it help?

  • After collaboration meetings, add the action items to Planner so you get reminders of when they’re due.
  • Use the “Group by Progress” view to see what your team members are currently working on and what hasn’t been started
  • Helps prevent “I need an update on this task RIGHT NOW” syndrome – it should be in planner once your team is in the habit of using it.

How do you access it?

Office 365 Waffle > Planner 

Use SeeSaw as a Portfolio to Manage Student Work Arising from the Co-Planning Process

Seesaw is a web / App-based online portfolio. Teachers can create assignments and students can reply using a variety of methods, including video, drawing, photo upload, and typing. Students can see their peers’ work and provide feedback. Parents can also be added so they can view student work.

How does it help?

When using SeeSaw or other websites to collect student work, make sure to give access to all co-teachers. This allows all members of a collaborative team to see student work and give feedback in real-time.  Especially with language, it is helpful to get teachers with different expertise to give feedback to students. 

How do you access it?

Go to to sign up!  

Use Microsoft OneNote as a Shared Team Notebook to Record Team Norms, Objectives, Materials, Roles, and Responsibilities

Microsoft OneNote is the collaborative notebook function of Office 365. It can be used on web pages or with an app; also it can be used personally or collaboratively as a notebook sharing platform. Create a new notebook or share an existing one. The user can create new sections for different subjects or tasks. This is shareable within working groups, student groups, peer review, and more.

How does it help?

  • Collaboratively share work, ideas, and up to date information.
  • Dictate ideas without typing, no need to write notes.
  • Set group norms and easily have a reference for them.
  • Record keeping in one unified location.
  • Add file links, photos, or instructions to your notes easily

How do you access it?

Office 365 Waffle > One Note