A collaborative project based at New Mexico State University to help provide resources to students and teachers for online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic recently received $463,000 from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER).

The project, New Mexico: ConnectED Communities Collaborative (NM-C3) involves partners in the NMSU College of Education, STEM Outreach Center and Mathematically Connected Communities, as well as the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; NMSU Cooperative Extension Service; and school districts in southern New Mexico. The project also involves the New Mexico Public Education Department, Cooperative Education Services, Ngage New Mexico, and Families & Youth, Inc., of New Mexico.

The idea for NM-C3 was rooted in the need for support for students struggling with remote learning since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The project also provides support with parents and caregivers, as well as teachers migrating to online and remote learning systems.

Support consists of online workshops, tech support for parents and teachers, and hotlines to support parents and caregivers during the day and evening. Project partners will also create text-based and video-based tutorials made available on YouTube and social media, and community workshops to provide face-to-face support with limited participants.

“The efforts will support about 600 educators and 1,000 parents and caregivers who support learning for more than 12,000 students.” said Wanda Bulger-Tamez, director of the STEM Outreach Center at NMSU and the project’s principal investigator. “NM-C3 will draw on expertise and resources of partners so as not to reinvent the wheel, but leverage resources and expertise to serve school communities.”

The project not only addresses technical support, but pedagogical and emotional support as well.

“It was important for us to provide assistance to families, caregivers and educators that reached beyond what is being done virtually in the classroom,” said Christopher Aiken, assistant professor in the NMSU Department of Kinesiology and Dance and project co-principal investigator.

Lisa Matthews, co-author of the project, said the pandemic caught many in New Mexico, including teachers and students, off guard. Students were sent home in March and have stayed home while teachers and caregivers continue to find ways to support the educational needs of students, many of whom don’t have sufficient access to technology.

“The partners will create a suite of learning experiences that support the school community in becoming confident and flexible in supporting engaged learning for children in technology-based learning environments,” Bulger-Tamez said.

The project launched this fall and is expected to continue through summer 2022.

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