I have recently read Blended Learning in Action, A Practical Guide toward sustainable change. This in an incredible book, and I highly recommend it for the modern virtual teacher. While the Pandemic of 2020 was never anticipated, the move to blended or virtual instruction has been on the horizon for years. Now, mostly due to the Pandemic and the requirement to teach virtually, teachers are taking a more active stance in their need to be “developed” in virtual instruction techniques and best practices.
Authors Caitlin Tucker, Tiffany Wycoff, and Jason Green describe an incredibly simple, yet brilliant professional development approach. They call this experience the CHOMP framework: Collaboration, Hands-on Learning, Ongoing Experiences, Mindset Shifts, and Personalization.
Collaboration is all about the relationship and making meaningful connections! Developing fellowships or professional learning circles are great ways to begin learning new skills and strategies. Find yourself like-minded people, and get busy asking questions.
Hands-on learning brings much relief from the standard sit-and-get professional development. Not only is this a painful way for teachers to learn, it’s also cost-prohibitive. In addition, use of gamification is extremely helpful in leading folks to new understanding. Teachers typically love to play games and compete (in a healthy way of course!). I personally have used alludo as a great platform to provide gamified learning to educational professionals. Check it out: alludolearning.com
Ongoing professional learning is beneficial as it allows for time to digest, apply and reflect on the application of learning. By incrementally providing awareness of skills or strategies, and then promptly providing time for a teacher to implement the newly learned content, a teacher is able to “chunk” their learning into bite size pieces. (There sure is a lot eating metaphors going on here. Am I hungry?)
Mindset Shifts are sometimes more difficult. Many times educators are asked to implement an initiative or top-down mandate without ever understanding the “why” behind it. When there is clear understanding of why the new learning is important and relative, we will go a lot further and a lot quicker.
Finally, personalization is key! Especially in the year 2020, we are understanding more than ever that “different strokes for different folks” also apply to our learners, young and old. With technological advances, we are able to offer choice, differentiation, pace, and modality in multiple ways to reach the exact same learning target. Teachers deserve the flexibility to have their preferred learning styles as much as our students do!
So, when you are thinking of launching your next professional development, just remember that teachers are CHOMPING at the bit to learn in a better way.
Tucker, C. R., Wycoff, T., & Green, J. T. (2017). Blended learning in action: A practical guide toward sustainable change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, a SAGE company.
The term “Digital Divide” was first coined in the mid-nineties, and generally refers to a gap between the haves and have-nots regarding binary internet access, which is now known as first-level digital divide. The digital divide is actually more complex. The varying levels of internet skills and use is called second-level digital divide, and the varying outcomes of internet use is known as third-level digital divide (Scheerder, et. al., 2017). (More on this in another post!)
According to BROADBANDNOW, the largest database of broadband providers, the state of New Mexico ranks 49th in the nation when it comes to broadband coverage. (Broadbandnow, n.d.) According to Census data in 2016, only 73.7 percent of New Mexico household had broadband connections. The U.S. average was 81.4 percent, and Washington state led the nation at 87.4 percent. Coincidentally enough, bottom rank status is also given to New Mexico, for multiple years in a row, for education and child well-being. Also, another related ranking is the poverty level. New Mexico’s poverty rate is above 19%. The nation’s average poverty rate is a little above 13%.
New Mexico is described as a “tri-culture” due to the settlement of the state, in the 1800’s, which comprised of Hispanic, Native American and White cultures. Hispanic and Native American cultural influences can be readily seen all over the Land of Enchantment. Among the evidence of the rich cultural artifacts are our Native American Reservations. There are 23 Reservations and Pueblos in New Mexico. The largest is the Navajo Nation, which has a population of more than 65,000 people (Hollis, 2018). The Navajo Reservation occupies Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. One third of the Navajo Nation lives in New Mexico in the counties: Cibola, McKinley, San Juan, and Socorro. Cibola county has 23.2% broadband coverage, McKinely: 39.6%, San Juan: 71% and Socorro: 5.7%. In contrast, the wealthiest county in New Mexico, Los Alamos, has 98.9% broadband coverage. The New Mexico counties where the Navajo Nation resides, on average, have 34% broadband coverage.
According to results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 4th grade Native American students in New Mexico scored significantly below 4th graders of New Mexico. In a state where generally, education is ranked at the bottom of the nation, our Native American students appear to do even worse. At what point does the lack of broadband access become so problematic that we now consider it oppressive? When we can easily correlate poverty, ethnicity, and poor education quality with the lack of broadband access, we know there is a deeper problem, something to the root of social injustice.
I am not the only person to notice.
In 2020, after announcing an inter-governmental agreement with the Pueblo of Cochiti to fund $2.9 million for broadband internet access, Governor Lujan Grisham stated, “It’s past time to end the digital divide that separates communities in New Mexico and across the country into haves and have-nots. The current world health crisis has made it clearer than ever that high-speed internet is no longer a luxury; it is essential to the health, welfare and education of our people, and I look forward to seeing more partnerships like this with more rural New Mexico communities.” (2020)
The Federal Government also decided to act in the name of the 2020 Pandemic.
In April 2020, US Senators from New Mexico, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, along with 44 colleagues, introduced a House Bill called, Emergency Educational Connections Act. This legislation is aimed at ensuring all K-12 Students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic. (2020). This act would provide support to schools and libraries to purchase Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices to students and staff. Heinrich stated, “Now more than ever, as many schools remained closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, internet access is vital for students to continue their education. Closing the digital divide and connecting students with online resources and assistance will be key to ensuring their academic success. I am proud to support this effort in the Senate and will continue to fight for long-term federal investments in broadband infrastructure in rural communities and Indian Country to ensure that every student in New Mexico has access to the internet” (Onsurez, 2020).
Below is a capture of the last time this bill was addressed in the House of Representatives.