In 2019, 16% of companies exclusively hired remote remote workers. In 2020, nobody could foresee the huge numbers of employees forced into working from home. Remote work has some clear benefits, but how do you adjust and adapt when your job is running a school full of adults and students? We’ve got more than just some bad puns for you. See if you can envision any of these tools or resources help bring your team together.
This is the become the de facto standard for collaboration these days. By now, most of you have already heard of Zoom, which has become so popular it’s practically a verb (I’m gonna Zoom into that meeting right after I Google that). There’s a bunch of options, from Zoom, GoToMeeting, trusty ole Skype, Microsoft Teams, heck, even FaceTime will do in a pinch and can support 31 other people on a call (but everyone needs an Apple device for that).
We use Zoom at AWSP, and they’ve got a bunch of great resources on their webpage now, covering topics like effective remote working, educating over zoom, and hosting virtual events. Zoom has a free plan that offers unlimited 1 to 1 meetings, hosts up to 100 participants, but the catch on the free account is a 40-minute time limit on group meetings. After 40-minutes, your meeting ends and you would have to start a new one. At least that’s how it normally works. Zoom is removing the 40-minute time limit now for K–12 schools. Zoom even has the ability to create breakout rooms.
While it’s our favorite video conferencing platform, it’s not the only one. Check out these alternatives from PC Mag (where Zoom is an editors’ choice). There are a ton of these articles out there now, but here’s a good one about the do’s and don’ts of videoconferencing from The Verge.
Email sucks. There, I said it. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still a useful tool for communication, but it’s taken on way more than it was ever designed to do. Having a great online collaboration space can provide more inclusion, transparency, and accountability than trying to manage group conversations, tasks, and files through email. Our tool of choice at AWSP is Basecamp. It includes a company HQ and then you can create new “Basecamps” by team (groups of people doing similar work) or by project (work that crosses teams). Each HQ, project, or team includes these functions:
- Campfires/chat , which we use for announcements, quick updates, sharing links…things that are conversational and won’t likely be important by the next day.
- Message board, which we use instead of email for interoffice communication. It’s so much easier to follow the discussion, find files, add quick replies, and you never have to worry about wondering if you forgot to CC all the right people (as long as they have access to the project)
- To-dos, which are very powerful. You can create lists, grouped items in lists, assign them to team members, set due dates, set notifications for who to notify when the task is done, attach files, leave notes, and discuss each item in a to-do list.
- Schedule, which we use to, wait for it…schedule events. Things given due dates in to-do lists show up here automatically.
- Automatic Check-ins, which we use to keep Gina and Scott (along with other staff not in our building every day) up to date with what’s going on. We get a question at the end of every day asking what we worked on, as one example. These automatic questions are a great way to check-in on the wellbeing, concerns, and needs of your staff.
- Docs and files can be used to upload, you guess it, docs and files. You can also link to online files like a Google Doc so you can keep all your working files in one place.
- Email forward can be turned on in any project. You can forward any email to Basecamp, so even that communication outside Basecamp can be put into the project so everything is truly in one place.
The great thing about Basecamp is how it improves communication and transparency because if you’re on a project or team, everyone is included in all communication. That said, sometimes you just need some one to one communication. That’s where Pings come in, which are Basecamp’s version of text messaging essential. You can ping and individual or a group of people. Each project, team, or HQ has its own activity feed, so it’s easy to get caught up on what’s been done and what you might have missed.
While we love Basecamp and found it indispensable even before we were all sent home to serve you, there are lots of other great communication, collaboration, and project management tools. Things like Slack, asana, Trello, and even GSuite from Google. Check out this list here to see if something is right for you and your team. And here’s one more list of Basecamp alternatives. Basecamp has always offered free accounts for teachers for classroom work (and my guess is they’re not going to limit just classroom work now). When it comes to remote work, they wrote the book…literally.
A while ago, we switched our phone systems to RingCentral. Think of it like a phone system without phones. At our office, we still have our traditional desk phones, but as we’ve moved to remote work for the time being, most of us are answering your calls on an app on our computer or cell phone. The supports you have for communication right now are going to look very different from district to district, but right now RingCentral is providing their services for free to K–12 schools (and health care). I know a lot of you have systems in place like Remind for communication with your staff and community, so I won’t go on here.
My blog post turned into peeling back the curtain a little bit for how we’ve set ourselves up to keep serving you disruption free during this crazy time, but I hope you’re able to find something in here helpful. We’ll keep sharing tools, tips, and tricks as this thing continues, and some advice and guidance on what you should be doing with them.
In the meantime, take a deep breath and focus on yourself and your family. You need to take care of yourself before you can be your best self for others, and one things for sure, you’ll still be needed. Let’s all make the best of our weekend. Maybe we’ll see you back here Monday with another blog post (and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook).