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ELEVATE: Connecting a Community


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Press Release State Seal  

Steffie Corcoran
Director of Communications
(405) 522-5324, c: (405) 312-9558
steffie.corcoran@sde.ok.gov

Carrie Burkhart
Assistant Director of Communications
(405) 521-3371, c: (405) 760-7881
carrie.burkhart@sde.ok.gov

Erin Corbin
Communications Specialist
(405) 521-3375
erin.corbin@sde.ok.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 
Distance learning

Warner first-grader Ragan Hubler uses her boosted home internet connection to complete digital learning while her school building is closed for COVID-19 precautions.

ELEVATE: Connecting a Community

Warner boosts distance learning by bridging digital divide

WARNER, OK. (May 1, 2020) -- When Oklahoma school buildings closed after spring break due to COVID-19 precautions, first-grader Ragan Hubler was still connected to her teacher through an internet hot spot at home. But when both her parents found out they would be working from home too, the Hublers knew they were in a bind because of their limited internet capacity.  

“It’s probably sad to say,”said Ragan’s mother, Sarah Hubler, “but with me and her dad both working from home, that would take precedence over her getting to do her learning during the day. She would have had to do it at alternate times so that we could work and not lose our jobs.”  

But thanks to Connect the Children, a pilot program created through a partnership between Cross Telephone and Warner Public Schools, Ragan, like nearly all Warner students, is now completing her lessons online. 

Cross

As Warner educators crafted their distance learning plan in the two weeks after spring break, Cross raced to lay lines and install modems in homes previously isolated by the digital divide, all at zero cost to families. The company connected nearly 200 households as distance learning began and boosted service to families who had an existing connection.  

Warner, located 20 miles south of Muskogee, serves about 800 students in its rural community. Before the project, only 50% of Warner students had reliable internet at home. Now, 95% are learning online. 

Warner Superintendent David Vinson said that although teachers had only days to prepare for distance learning, they’re adapting quickly and have been able to use online platforms to tap into a level of student engagement that has surpassed their expectations.  

“We have a community of teachers who are 100% on board with digital learning and working hard every day to educate students,” Vinson said. “Within the first four days of digital instruction at home, our algebra students did over 11,000 math problems and logged 128 hours of math work. We’re a small district, so that’s a lot of time and a lot of math problems that were accomplished in a short period of time through a teacher who had never used a digital platform in her entire career.” 

Vinson said student engagement is about 95% with its new distance learning program, and if students are lagging, educators reach out by phone to encourage them. 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said achieving connectivity for all has been a lingering problem in Oklahoma. 

“Nearly one in four Oklahoma students doesn't have a broadband connection at home, and that’s an inequity that impacts learning,” she said. “We are grateful for the partnerships that businesses and other organizations have built with schools to step in and provide that connectivity – but it can't just be one district at a time. This has to be a statewide response, and it must be a priority for Oklahoma right now.” 

Hofmeister stressed the need for state and federal resources to provide for devices for all students as well as sustainable internet connectivity that endures beyond safer-at-home orders. 

The lack of connectivity affects all education, not just K-12. It is clear through discussions with our state leaders that there is strong common ground in the desire to achieve 100% connectivity in our state, opening up education opportunities for all Oklahomans,” she said. 

Warner’s vision to keep digital learning at the forefront of its education model was crucial to the program’s success. The district will require students to use their home internet connections to complete lessons weekly when they return to school in the fall.  

Vinson wants both teachers and students to continue to build skills and familiarity with online learning platforms and integrate them with classroom work. 

“This cooperation we have with Cross is not going to stop at the end of this pandemic,” he said. “If we’re ever faced with having to flip the switch in the future, we will be seamless to go from a brick-and-mortar classroom setting to a solid platform of education at home that is set and ready to go.”  

Annette Price is communications and constituent services specialist at the Oklahoma State Department of Education. 

Pictured above: Cross Telephone equipped nearly 200 Warner student homes with internet service within two weeks to prepare for distance learning.

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Last updated on May 1, 2020