Building Community
Building Community

When educators design and create new schools, and live next gen learning themselves, they take the lead in growing next gen learning across the nation. Other educators don’t simply follow and adopt; next gen learning depends on personal and community agency—the will to own the change, fueled by the desire to learn from and with others. Networks and policy play important roles in enabling grassroots approaches to change.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, how do we ensure that learning moves forward for all learners, especially students with disabilities?

Like many other public schools, Brooklyn LAB is working out how to best support our students through the COVID-19 school closure. We are looking for quality and relevant solutions to ensure learning keeps going for all, especially for students with disabilities.

Of the 55 million students in the U.S., one in five have learning and attention issues, and these students face more hardship under the school closure. During this time, these students lose some of the things they need the most: connection with peers and trusted adults; stable routines; and access to resources schools provide, including food, nurse and optical care, counseling services, and physical activity. The pandemic has revealed the many ways public schools strengthen the fabric of community life and provide a safety net to our most vulnerable students, and we must find a way to continue this support.

(Courtesy of Brooklyn LAB)

Educators Collaborating to Support Complex Learners Virtually

While there are hundreds of resources to support complex learners, educators need a simple, curated set of best-in-class tools and a platform to connect with others to navigate the challenges of remote operations.

To meet this need, Brooklyn LAB joined as a founding partner of the Educating All Learners Alliance, which has launched, a digital hub that provides two main services: 1) tools and resources for school networks to navigate remote learning and community support, and 2) a platform to organize discussions, community webinars, and connections among educators. Through the hub—which includes both tools for instruction and support practices such as online teletherapy and tips for accessible technology—the alliance aims to advance the learning and well-being of young people who learn differently in the context of remote learning.

Other founding partners of the alliance include the National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, International Society of Technology in Education, and InnovateEDU's Data Whiz community. The alliance membership has grown to include a wider circle of organizations, including Understood, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, WestEd, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), The Arc, National Down Syndrome Congress, Council for Exceptional Children, National Disability Rights Network, Learning Disabilities Association of America, Autism Society, Consortium for School Networking, State Educational Technology Directors Association, Alliance for Excellent Education, and the National Association of School Psychologists.

Getting Started: Some of Brooklyn LAB’s Favorite Resources

The Resource Library has dozens of resources. To give you a sense of how you could use these resources, we asked five Brooklyn LAB educators to select a resource and describe why they recommend it.

High school biology and chemistry teacher Quanaysha Ash recommends the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute article, “Supporting Students with Disabilities in K-12 Online and Blending Learning,” which provides instructional guidance for people living with different disabilities, from autism to visual impairment. It can also be shared with parents.

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and eLuma Online Therapy’s Best Practices for Educating Online provides an overview of best practices for starting online learning with students who learn differently. Algebra teacher Jeckesan Mejia says this resource helps him “check off all of the boxes to ensure an engaging, supportive, and equitable learning environment.”

The Digital Promise and the Learner Variability Project’s Special Education App List offers a curated list of applications designed for complex learners. Special education coordinator Kelly Diaz says the variety of apps allows for a personalized approach. “The resource's list of apps allows educators and students to reach and teach multiple learners; it redefines modern models of inclusion,” she says.

The EALA members page allows members to connect with others around shared strategies. Middle school math teacher David Boone believes such connections help “ease the anxiety of transitioning to online learning.”

The COVID-19 resources curated by the School Social Work Association of America provide current and topical information for supporting students, families, and staff. “It has assisted in allowing me to provide grief and loss resources, helpful tips from transitioning from office to tele-therapy, as well as additional mental health resources,” says senior social worker Lora Grieco. “It also highlights the important role of professional self-care for school personnel as they provide support to grieving students and families.”

teacher in small group instruction

Before school buildings closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Brooklyn LAB teacher worked directly with students in a small group instructional setting. (Courtesy of Brooklyn LAB)

How Innovative Public Schools Can Help Advance Equity and Inclusion

We are proud of our association with the Next Generation Learning Challenges community, which is making sure that “moments of deeply profound, engaging, life-changing learning” are accessible to all students. is a community tool—one that reminds us we’re not facing these challenges alone.

This is an effort for educators, by educators. Here are some ways you can participate and contribute:

Search the resource library. Our experts have curated a list of credible and practical resources paired with examples from the field of schools and teachers adapting ways of meeting student needs. Use the search function to find a resource or example quickly. If we are missing something you need, let us know.

Submit a resource. We know how much ingenuity is out there. Submit a resource and our experts will review it for posting. Propose a “Voice from the Field” bright spot or case study that spotlights inspiring work.

Join the member community. Create a log-in and post discussion questions, participate in the discussion, share a bright spot, or write a blog post.

Contribute to a forum. You can use the forums to connect with your peers and discuss successes and challenges. Our national experts will also join the conversation.

Attend a webinar. Every week, we will have three webinars or office hours for you to ask experts direct questions and get the information you need.

Sign up for updates.

If you or other members of your school have questions, experiences, inspirational stories, or resources to share, we encourage you to contribute to this community. You can also feel free to just read and listen. We encourage you to join our community at

Photo at top courtesy of Brooklyn LAB.

Eric Tucker & Erin Mote headshots

Eric Tucker and Erin Mote

Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools

Eric Tucker is a co-founder and the executive director of Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools.

Erin Mote is a co-founder of Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools and the executive director of InnovateEDU.