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Overcoming Transition Challenges to Distance Learning

desertaire_elementary_schoolDesertaire Elementary School, (El Paso, TX). When Desertaire Elementary School received the stay at home order, transitioning to distance learning encompassed many challenges with technology. Desertaire, a culturally diverse Title I school, includes 26% of students English language learners. Many families lacked access to devices and broadband internet; meanwhile, not all teachers were familiar with digital learning pedagogies. Even in the best of circumstances, effective distance learning can be difficult to accomplish. The transition to distance learning required faculty and staff to step out of their comfort zone, learn and try new ways of teaching, while providing positive and successful experiences for students. The week before distance learning began, Desertaire faculty and staff had successfully contacted 93% of all families. Teachers established virtual labs to help students and families engage in whole group, small group, and 1:1 instruction if needed. Teachers shared newly found resources with one another, such as extensions and virtual math manipulatives. Virtual Professional Learning Communities, faculty meetings, and committee and parent meetings were held on a structured schedule. One week after distance learning began, faculty and staff had successfully contacted all but eight students. During this transition, faculty and staff experienced unplanned, swift transformation of remarkable proportions whereby success was upheld by a professional culture of flexibility, commitment, innovation, compassion, cooperative learning, and grit and growth mindset indicative of Desertaire Elementary.

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