Educators are preparing for the upcoming academic year following a spring in which remote learning became the norm. It’s uncertain whether that will continue this fall, but what’s clear is that hearing from peers who have mastered the sudden shift can be a powerful source of inspiration and ideas.

There is much to learn from Duval County Public Schools’ experience with remote learning. Educating a diverse population of 130,000 students in the Jacksonville area, Duval is often celebrated as a leader for increasing student achievement across subjects and student groups, personalizing learning, and supporting teachers.

Barbara Holzapfel, General Manager, Microsoft Education, recently joined district leaders for a conversation about Duval’s experience these past few months and what lies ahead.

Watch the clips from the interview below and hear Dr. Diana Greene, Duval’s Superintendent, share advice on building a strategic remote learning plan anchored in strong digital tools like Microsoft Teams, engaging stakeholders, and supporting teachers through professional learning opportunities. Dr. Greene was joined by Kathy Hart, Duval’s Director of Technology Innovation, and Jim Culbert, the district’s Chief Information Officer.

Prepare for and embrace change

As schools begin to develop and refine remote or hybrid learning paths, Microsoft Education has free resources to help you along this journey.

When asked what tips they’d like to share with other school system leaders, the Duval team recommended embracing—rather than fearing—change, while investing time and resources on a strong plan for going to remote or hybrid learning.

“Develop a comprehensive plan,” advises Dr. Greene. “This will not happen overnight. We were able to transition overnight because of the foundation that was set, the decision to utilize Microsoft Teams.”

Readiness is critical, including equitable access to devices

School leaders, like those in Duval who successfully shifted to remote teaching and learning, say they can rest a little easier now, knowing they are ready to move instruction to a remote or hybrid environment whenever the need arises.

“The thing that I really like is knowing that we have the ability to shift on a dime now to online learning, if it requires, for any situation,” Jim Culbert said.

But Duval leaders caution that, despite efforts to ensure all students had devices and hotspots this spring, inequities remain and must be addressed in Florida and globally.

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Support meaningful professional learning opportunities for teachers

Duval has been using Microsoft Education resources systemwide for about five years. Three years ago, Kathy Hart led a major push to support educators in getting training through Microsoft Innovative Educator Programs. As teachers receive certifications, they go on to help other teachers in acquiring the skills and knowledge they need to weave new tech tools into their practice. The effort has paid off in numerous ways, including recently when some Duval teachers sought support from their peers in leveraging resources to aid remote learning.

Learn more about the Microsoft Innovative Educator Programs. In addition, you can find a specific learning path on the Microsoft Educator Center focused on using Teams and other free remote learning resources.

Communicate and collaborate with Teams

Easy access to Microsoft Office 365 Education, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and now Teams, helps educators streamline lesson planning and support the needs of all learners. Students and educators at eligible institutions can sign up for free by simply using their valid school email address.

In a large district like Duval, it can be challenging to consistently and effectively collaborate and communicate with all stakeholders. But Dr. Greene says the school system has accomplished so much in this area during this period of remote learning through the use of Microsoft Teams, which supports small and large group video conversations, collaborative work, and more.

We hope you can draw lessons from Duval’s experience and that you find the resources we’ve shared, and will continue to share, helpful. To hear more about Duval’s remote learning journey, check out the full interview full video with the district’s leadership team on YouTube.

Stay in touch and let us know if you’d like to hear more conversations like this one with Duval’s leaders and how else we might support you and your community. Follow us on Twitter at @MicrosoftEDU for daily news, tips, and educator stories.