New group aims to help support online learning

FAVE will offer support in handling internet connectivity problems, new computer setup, and more.

A new volunteer effort, dubbed FAVE (Family Ambassadors for Virtual Education) has sprung up in the past month, aimed at helping islanders navigate the complexities of virtual education.

The group, working in partnership with Vashon Island School District and the Emergency Operations Center, is headed by islanders Danny Powers and Chris Peloquin, who both have experience in distance learning design and implementation.

Spreading the word primarily on Facebook and word of mouth, the group offers support for both English and Spanish-speaking families in handling the thorny problems of internet connectivity, new computer setup, device configuration, general tech questions and more.

Powers, who moved to Vashon last December, has a background as a designer and developer of online courses and has also trained instructors in new technologies and online facilitation. Most recently, he has worked at Oregon State University and UC Irvine.

He’s put that career experience to use in recent works, not only founding FAVE but also volunteering to lead all-staff professional development sessions for the school district, and daily hour-long sessions that are optional for teachers.

The optional sessions, called “E-Learning Happy Hour” have focused on different tools, techniques and ideas for online learning.

Powers said he approached the school district about a month ago, offering his services simply because he saw a need.

“I just know that people are anxious and need a lot of help — both families and teachers,” he said, adding that FAVE is being built to work as a bilingual crowd-sourced solution. Seven islanders are currently involved in the group, with four of them being Spanish speakers.

According to Powers, VISD has been very supportive of FAVE as the school year gets underway at Chautauqua Elementary, McMurray Middle School and Vashon High School.

The idea for the group came, he said, came during a phone conversation he and Peloquin had with VISD administrators in early August.

“We were discussing the needs of teachers to move their classes online, and how to train parents to help kids use the new class systems,” he said. “I suggested an outreach effort made up of other parents to help with that training. Since then, it has increased in scope to other technology needs, fundraising for tech for low-income families, and equity-in-translation.”

Powers said that he has recently been talking to John Stanton, VISD director of technology, about FAVE backing up the VISD help-desk for after-hours support for families’ tech issues. He’s also designed a bilingual virtual reality tour of McMurray Middle School, available at tinyurl.com/yy99e3vd.

Another push for FAVE, he said, is to source donors to help sponsor families to cover the costs of internet installations and monthly service fees.

So far, technical help is available to families through email, but Powers said he would not be opposed to arranging socially distant house calls to set up equipment and walk families through e-learning platforms or setup.

FAVE, he said, is meant to provide nimble, quick help to families and the school district, and is still evolving on a daily basis.

“This is at the ground level — finding those necessary contacts, finding the baseline technology needs as required by the district, working with VISD to not undermine or undercut their own mandates and capabilities, and basically figuring out where the help is most needed,” he said.

To reach Powers to find technology support for online education, write to favevashon@gmail.com.


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