Dive Brief:

  • The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative on Monday announced $5 million in COVID-19 Response Grants to provide professional development around culturally responsive distance learning grounded in equity, inclusivity and scientific knowledge around learning and development, as well as to expand broadband access for underserved students.
  • Three grants ranging from $250,000 to $275,000 each will support professional development, while five grants ranging from $75,000 to $200,000 each will help expand broadband solutions.
  • The grants build on the previous $1.6 million the organization gave in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education to support the implementation of ed tech. 

Dive Insight:

The need for professional development on online learning has soared with so many educators suddenly needing to adapt to remote learning models and the related technology amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

On April 6, the U.S. Department of Education announced states could apply for flexibility in using funds from parts of Title I, II, III, IV and V of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. These funds can now be used for professional development around online learning and the technology infrastructure to support it.

Regular remote PD sessions are part of the current “normal” for many districts. As educators transform curricula to fit online sessions, consistent ongoing professional learning is critical, said Richard Sniscak, superintendent of Pennsylvania’s Parkland School District, recently told Education Dive. Where technology was previously used to support and enhance education, it is now the mode of delivery.

Likewise, Los Angeles Unified School District held a three-day PD series on how educators can work with existing digital tools to deliver online learning to students. In some cases, education trainers are going through existing PD material and converting it into virtual sessions.

But some rural areas still lack connectivity. Chester County Schools in Tennessee, for example, has areas where there is no high-speed internet access or even phone service. There, the local high-speed internet provider only serves residents in the city limits, and a lack of towers means even hotspots won’t work for remote areas. Navigating those hurdles could remain a concern beyond the current crisis.

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