Virtual Learning Tips for Parents

This fall, going back to school isn't likely to look like the normal that any of us expect. While we may acknowledge that "normal" is not the safest option at the moment, trying to figure out how to best prepare our kids (and our selves!) for virtual learning can be a challenge. Here are some tips for parents to make virtual learning the best experience for everyone:

1. Establish a routine

Having a routine will make it easier for your kids to get back into the swing of things, and will help make the eventual transition back to the classroom easier. It's not necessary to copy the schedule they would have in the classroom, but having at least some structure will help. Keep a designated start time, and break for lunch and snacks at the same time every day. 

This also means things like making sure they get dressed every day (or only allowing pajamas on designated days) and making sure they have a healthy breakfast first. This will help them to establish the difference between being at home and being "at school" which will help them focus on their learning and tasks better. 

2. Set up a designated workspace 

Just like a designated routine helps students focus, so does having a designated place to work will help your learners focus on their work, too. This can be simply a desk or work surface in a different room from toys and other distractions. Talk with your kid(s) and see what kind of work area they would like. If you have more than one student at home, discuss with them whether or not they want to work in the same area or in different spaces.

Getting your kid(s) involved in the setup might help them to get more excited about what going "back to school." Just like picking school supplies like pencils and notebooks and pencil cases, if your budget allows, allow your kid(s) to pick decorations or accessories for the area, such as a new chair or pencil holder for the desk space.

3. Keep open communication with your child(ren)'s teachers

It will be important for you and your child(ren)'s teacher to have open communication channels with each other to ensure your child(ren)'s success. Make sure you know what assignments are due when, and how to reach the teacher if your learner has a question about the material or how to complete an assignment. 

4. Try to stay positive

Kids often reflect the attitudes and emotions they see in their parents, so it's important to your child's success to make sure they see you keeping a positive attitude about the temporary virtual learning. Every family will have their own challenges to face with regard to virtual learning, and each school/school district and teacher has their own challenges to navigate. While everyone wants a return to the normal and the familiar, we must also learn to adapt to changes. When kids see their parents and caregivers staying positive and adjust to changing situations, it helps the kids to learn how to do that as well. 

5. Be patient -with everyone

This isn't the back to school that anyone anticipated this fall, but it is the one we have. Many schools, teachers, families, and kids are adjusting to new routines and requirements. Don't expect everyone to get it right the first - or even the second - time. Be patient with everyone - including yourself - as we all navigate the changes and find which routines and environments work best for us. 

For more information on this topic, here's some resources we like:

Smart Futures info for Parents is an online career planning and career portfolio platform that many school districts and charter schools in Pennsylvania use to 1) meet the new requirements for Career Readiness Indicators that are part of the Future Ready PA Index, 2) integrate career education and social emotional learning curriculum to our students from grades K through grades 12, and 3) provide each student a personalize career plan and portfolio upon graduation.

Future Ready PA Index has prompted school districts and charter schools to meaningfully engage students to develop skills needed to become “Future Ready” workers in the 21st century. Districts  purchase an annual subscription that assures all students are engaged in an ongoing process to develop a concrete and personalized plan for their future.

Background: Pennsylvania is the first state in the U.S. to provide a solid framework for career
education benchmarks and mandate its delivery for all students throughout K-12. is
a part of our district’s plan to satisfy the career readiness indicators within the Future Ready PA Index
and to comply with federal accountability requirements. is directly aligned to
Pennsylvania's Academic Standards for Career Education and Work, and the requirement to establish
an online career plan and career portfolio. is portable. All work that students do travels with them should they leave the district and their plan and portfolio follows the student after

The Solution: Smart Futures has engaged with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to guide the development of, an online career planning and portfolio platform built specifically to help schools fully implement the Future Ready PA Index benchmarks into their classrooms. Unlike other off-the-shelf solutions, uses the Pennsylvania
Academic Standards for Career Education and Work as its curriculum blueprint.

How Parents Can Help: Ask your student(s) to login to and show you their completed work and progress towards their plan and portfolio. Check out completed activities within each of the 4 grade bands: K-3, 4-5, 6-8 and 9-12. You will see interesting insights about “Who Am I” as well as “I CAN” statements that summarize the ways your student is being empowered by Future Ready PA. Review the career plan which documents the students’ interests in careers, career clusters, programs and majors and post-secondary schools and colleges. And help to expose them to career pathway experiences that they can document in their career portfolio.

New Gradebook now available

What good is having students complete their Career Education activities without being able to easily track and review their progress?

The new Gradebook feature makes it easy for teachers to track students' work in ACTIVITIES (including reflections), SKILLS completion, and PORTFOLIO items (uploads).

Thanks to Boyertown SD for asking for it and then putting a team together to help us design the Gradebook. It has become a favorite tool in the teacher admin application.

Free Online Future Ready Courses Now Available in the SKILLS section!

While we've been working remotely too, it hasn't stopped us from partnering with another great non-profit to bring more valuable Future Ready resources into our SKILLS section. is the trusted platform for global online learning with free courses from some of the the world's most respected colleges and learning providers. Smart Futures has worked with edX to identify courses specifically related to both the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Career Education and Work and the Pennsylvania Career Ready SEL Standards.

The current courses are targeted to high school students and adults. We are working on identifying courses for younger students. Courses fit into 3 categories: Career Ready, Information Technology, and Test Prep (AP test prep). Examples of current courses include:

  • Teamwork and Collaboration from Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Becoming an Entrepreneur from Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Understanding Technology from Harvard University
  • AP Physics from Rice University

These courses can be used by teachers to provide high quality, dynamic Future Ready content within their classrooms. For example, a rural district with little access to IT resources in their area could offer an Introduction to Computers course using Harvard's famous CS50 Understanding Technology course for content and highly engaging instruction.

Students can audit classes for free. For a small fee, students or their parents can opt for the paid Verified track and receive a certificate from the university or provider that they can upload to their portfolio or LinkedIn profile. Note: Students will be asked to create a separate edX account the first time they begin a class.

Courses will be available in the SKILLS section next week.

Pittsburgh-based nonprofit donates its popular online service to Pennsylvania schools so students can generate mandated career readiness artifacts from home

Press Release. 3-19-2020

PITTSBURGH, PA. In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forcing school closures, Smart Futures, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit technology company, is inviting Pennsylvania school districts and charter schools not currently subscribed to their service to utilize their career planning and portfolio platform at no charge for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year. The platform allows students to build mandated career readiness artifacts from their homes while schools are closed due to the pandemic.

The artifacts are a requirement of a new mandate called Future Ready PA that has made Pennsylvania the first state in the United States to require that each student develop a K-12 career plan and portfolio. offers online activities that are aligned to the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Career Education and Work for each grade band (K-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-11).  These activities make it easy for students with access to a computer, tablet, or cell phone to create artifacts that comply with Future Ready PA career readiness indicators. Furthermore, these artifacts are portable between schools and districts.  The resulting plan and portfolio will carry with the student after graduation. Tools for simplifying the audit visit and PIMS file creation are also provided.

“We created to help schools be in compliance with this career readiness mandate,” says David Mosey, Smart Futures Executive Director. “Now the challenge posed by the Corona Virus has opened the door to getting more schools the help they need.  Beginning this process now will make it easier for districts and charters to move forward once the pandemic is over.”

To take advantage of this offer or to learn more, a district or charter school representative should email to express interest in moving forward.  Smart Futures will send out a startup kit and invitation to a Zoom Meeting for an overview and the onboarding process required to get students started quickly. 

For more information, contact:
David J Mosey
Executive Director, Smart Futures
Phone:  412-288-3900 Launches a SKILLS Micro Credentialing Center Focusing on Math and 11 Digital Literacy Skills from Northstar Learning

We are very happy to launch the new SKILLS center, a micro-credentialing and badging resource for students grades K-adult. The new SKILLS canter offers your students the opportunity to earn Future Ready skills badges in topics that are critical for career success.

We have launched the 2019-20 SKILLS center with some amazing resources:

Future Ready Math -- An easy to use, diagnostic badging system for the applied math needed for careers. Students can earn badge levels for 1-5, can upgrade their level as they progress through school, and can access remediation through Khan Academy.

Digital Literacy -- Smart Futures has partnered with NorthStar Digital Literacy to seamlessly integrate their career ready badges into classrooms throughout Pennsylvania. Available badges include:
  • Basic Computer Skills
  • Internet Basics
  • Using E-mail
  • Windows 10
  • Mac OS
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Social Media
  • Information Literacy
  • Career Search Skills
  • Your Digital Footprint
These badges are great additions to your online portfolio and show the world you have the skills needed to thrive in a modern workplace. Helps 100 Districts and Charters Exceed Future Ready PA Performance Measures

An affordable subscription reduces stress for teachers and counselors
and provides Future Ready Badges for students
Fact: Pennsylvania is the first state in the U.S. to provide a solid framework for career education benchmarks and mandate its delivery for all students throughout K-12. While Future Ready PA Index is game-changing for championing relevant education in the classroom, many public and charter schools are looking for an effective, user-friendly system to help them comply with federal accountability requirements in 2019 and beyond.
Solution: Smart Futures has engaged with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to guide the development of, an online career planning and portfolio platform built specifically to help schools fully implement the Future Ready PA Index benchmarks into their classrooms. Unlike other off-the-shelf solutions, uses the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Career Education and Work as its curriculum blueprint.

Smart Futures consults regularly with the Bureau of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction to make sure the platform is aligned to fully support the goals of the Future Ready PA Index and to satisfy the Department's compliance and reporting requirements. To keep the curriculum vibrant and relevant, Smart Futures partners with Carnegie Mellon University and other local colleges and universities whose students participate in the ongoing development of its online activities.

To its subscribers, is an affordable, drop-in Future Ready (339/ESSA/I.D.E.A.) solution that provides a k-12 curriculum aligned to all 23 elements across the four strands of the Career Education and Work Standards that leads to artifact creation, data collection, student badging, and PIMS monitoring and reporting.  The platform is currently being used by districts and charter schools across Pennsylvania through an annual subscription.
The Opportunity: It's not too late to generate substantial artifact evidence for the summer, 2019 reporting period. has additional capacity to offer subscriptions to school districts and charter schools, particularly those in danger of not meeting this year's reporting benchmarks. Visit or contact David at to schedule a virtual tour.

Be prepared for 2019 reporting --