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REL Pacific

Is this a time of opportunity?

REL Pacific
Christina Tydeman
October 13, 2020

Teacher pointing to a globe in an online teaching environment

Our lives have become increasingly connected to distant places and people, but the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a period of physical isolation that is leaving the entire world with more questions than answers. However, the Pacific region may be better situated than other regions to overcome this challenge. Our reality has always been thousands of small land masses and a magnificent ocean that connects us. Living in the region brings a very tangible understanding to the concepts of distance. The ability to effectively transfer knowledge and skills to individuals across great distances is especially appealing to our region. The potential to keep learners—whether they're school-aged students or adults—at home in their communities while they gain knowledge and skills offers tantalizing opportunities to sustain even our most remote communities. Distance learning is not just about bringing information into the Pacific: it also is an avenue to share our knowledge of the Pacific with others who don't have the good fortune to live here.

Is the tide in our favor?

The travel between islands has slowed to a dribble and supply chains have become less reliable, but we've increased the ease of working remotely as virtual meetings have become the norm. Preventative measures that a few months ago were considered temporary now seem likely to continue into our foreseeable future. Implementing a high-quality distance learning program has become fundamental, so educators and school leaders are re-envisioning instructional delivery to establish effective distance learning programs in record time. As new installations of fiber optic cables spread throughout Pacific, the capacity to offer virtual learning is greater than it has ever been, and there seems to be no better time than now to turn possibilities into realities.

Over the past seven months, we've worked to develop resources and provide information to our stakeholders on a variety of distance learning topics. We've produced videos on distance learning strategies for at-home learning and on taking advantage of teachable moments. We've developed infographics on creating take-home packets to support distance learning; including student and family voice in learning; and helping teens with their reading skills across content areas. We've presented webinars on reading across the content areas and adapting professional learning to a virtual environment. We've written blogs about staying connected during the pandemic; culturally responsive leading and learning; teacher wellbeing; and supporting positive at-home behaviors among elementary students. Through it all, we've watched with admiration as our friends and colleagues across the Pacific region jurisdictions have adapted to this new normal, and have been honored to continue to support your work through coachings and trainings.

But how will we know if our voyage is on the right course? A year or two from now, when the immediate crisis has passed, will we have the information we need to determine which parts of the distance learning programs developed in the Pacific region are effective? In the midst of all of the challenges we're currently facing, we have a unique opportunity to anticipate what we will need in coming years to answer these questions and to well position ourselves to collect these data from early implementation onward.

Stay tuned for the second part of this two-part blog, where we'll discuss the exciting longitudinal data system work underway in the region and consider how we can leverage these systems to collect data on our current efforts.