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How to Save STEAM During COVID-19 With CARES Act Funds

Districts have had to transition students in and out of the classroom during the 2020-21 school year and equity has prevailed as a top concern with remote and hybrid instruction models.  Even with several viable COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, there are still many uncertainties when it comes to the immediate future of education, and educators will likely be battling the “COVID slide” in core subject areas for some time.

The NWEA’s recent brief on academic achievement during the pandemic revealed students have indeed lost ground in math, though overall losses in both math and reading were less severe than expected. As leaders weigh ongoing concerns about how to make up for these learning losses, and how to protect student and teacher mental health in the process, effective use of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds can mean the difference between success and failure. Below, we’ll dig into some resources for understanding and maximizing the impact of your CARES Act funds.

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CARES Act 101

As part of the CARES Act, which also allocated $14 billion to higher education, Congress appropriated a total of $13.2 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. ESSER dollars are distributed to State Education Authorities based on each state’s proportionate share of Title I-A funding from 2019. They can be spent on a wide range of solutions and activities that support COVID-19 response efforts, including:

  • educational technology, 
  • summer learning programs, 
  • sanitation supplies, 
  • mental health services and supports, 
  • and much more. 

If you’d like to dig deeper, the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s website provides a great breakdown of ESSER Funds and related FAQs. 

How Districts Plan to Use CARES Act Funds

DC-based education consultants at EAB conducted interviews with 55 districts across 25 states to paint a picture of how they intend to use their CARES Act dollars. Not surprisingly, purchasing edtech–hardware, software, and connectivity solutions–was a top priority for the majority of those districts. 

According to EAB’s guidance, school leaders will be most successful if they balance immediate and ongoing needs with their edtech investments. The most impactful solutions will: 

  • Improve accessibility of differentiated instruction and support services during both in-person and remote learning
  • Simplify the complex array new processes, procedures, and platforms necessary to operate a flexible school district

Enter Ozobot. The Ozobot 1:1 Program provides for flexible instruction across remote, in-person, and hybrid learning formats and meets CARES Act ESSER guidelines. With a backpack-friendly robotics pack for every student and remote-friendly lessons for teachers, Ozobot can quickly transition in and out of the classroom, making it a reliable solution for digital learning that balances near- and long-term needs.

Hands-On Engagement, Anywhere

With 2 Ways to Code–without screens with patented Color Codes and on screens with OzoBlockly visual programming–Ozobot makes it easy to engage students in hands-on lessons. In a 2020 audience survey, 95% of users reported increased student engagement with Ozobot. In a distance learning setting, Ozobot lessons are an effective way to engage students beyond screens. Plus, the platform is fully integrated with Google Classroom, meaning educators can sync classes and grades and students can log in with existing Google credentials.

All Subjects & All Learning Styles

Ozobot lessons integrate coding and computer science into all subjects, including core subjects and the arts (STEAM, not STEM). In fact, 74% of Ozobot users use the bots to teach core subjects like math, English Language Arts, and science. Interested educators can create a free Ozobot Classroom account to explore 100s of standards-aligned lessons for these subjects, SEL, and more. 

The 2 Ways to Code also make Ozobot easy for all teachers and engaging for students with different learning styles. In a Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders study, researchers found promising evidence of the effectiveness of teaching students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and severe problem behavior with Ozobot. 

If you’ve got other CARES Act ideas and resources to share, let us know in the comments below. For more details on CARES Act funds, samples of successful grants, and other ways to create your Ozobot STEAM Program, download our free Funding & Grants Tool.

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