Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
It’s a remote type of learning – literally.
With a click of a television remote, families across the state can tune into “school,” starting Monday.
Educational lessons for K-5 students, which were prepared by Albuquerque Public Schools, are being broadcast on New Mexico PBS stations across New Mexico.
“APS @Home” is an initiative to keep students’ skills fresh while the district and state shift instruction out of the classroom. New Mexico Secretary of Education Ryan Stewart announced that schools would be closed for the rest of the academic year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and districts will have to create plans to keep teaching students from afar.
While “APS @Home” isn’t required schooling, executive producer Joseph Escobedo said the idea is for the segments to keep students engaged.
“What we’re trying to do is basically provide maintenance instruction. It’s not focused on the standards and to really move them forward. It’s to maintain the knowledge they have,” Escobedo said.
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will be primarily for language arts; Tuesdays and Thursdays will focus on math and science.
A full schedule of the televised classes can be found at www.aps.edu. A roughly one-hour time slot is dedicated for the different age groups.
Madelyn Serna Marmol, APS associate superintendent, said the television program will be part of the districts’ state-mandated distance learning plan, which will unfold in the coming weeks.
On Friday, she said the district has finished its continuous learning strategy, and it was presented to principals.
APS spokeswoman Johanna King said this week the district will focus on teacher training and getting technology to families who need it. Required instruction will start the week of April 13 for all students, according to the district.
Much bigger classroom
Escobedo said the district came up with the idea to televise lessons as an extension of school closures loomed.
“We understand that not all students have access to technology nor to internet – or to both at the same time. We know that 98% of households can be reached through a New Mexico PBS station,” he said.
That’s where Kathy Wolfe James and other educators come in.
Working as a teacher support specialist for the district, Wolfe James is one of the program’s educators who was filmed for the small screen, teaching kids math games and English language arts.
Wolfe James, an elementary teacher for six years, said it was nerve-racking to know that her classroom was much bigger than before, spanning the district and the state.
“You have to get used to and really think about how this message will sound to a variety of students, a very diverse group in their living rooms or wherever they are, to make sure the message is heard,” she said.
Filming lessons for TV wasn’t something Wolfe James ever thought she would be doing, but she said it has helped her grow as an educator to think about learning in a new way.
It was a challenge to create a lesson plan that would suit such a big group of students, but she said there were also parts of teaching that transferred easily to TV, such as creating activities kids can do at home.
Lynda Torres, who is also an APS teacher support specialist and a teacher for 26 years, said it wasn’t the same teaching without the students.
“What you’re missing is the actual response and interaction from the kids,” she said.
Still, Torres was glad to know that the program could provide stability and comfort for children while they have to stay out of the classroom.
“I’ve enjoyed it very, very much. It’s been a great opportunity to use my skills and to support an effort during a time when we have a lot of stress and anxiety,” she said.
From chalkboards to TV screens
Escobedo said the show is filmed in APS’ Berna Facio Professional Development Center, which had the cameras and other technology needed.
Sanitizing and social distancing procedures were put in place and a minimal number of staff members film the show. As of now, the district is planning to have content for April and May, he said.
After some editing, a hard drive is passed off to the local PBS station, which will air the program from 8 a.m. to noon on weekdays on Channel 5.1. Sister stations will simulcast it, too.
New Mexico PBS is co-licensed by APS and the University of New Mexico.
The segments will also be uploaded and archived on YouTube as they air.
Students who have questions can leave a comment on YouTube or email APSdistancelearning@gmail.com.
“It’s really moving towards that space of anytime, anywhere, whenever-I-want learning,” Escobedo said. “And it’s where the education world is going, or part of it.”