By Ashley Mika Ho
“Hey, Alexa, how do you conduct Distance Learning?”
Would you believe that this was an actual question I asked our Alexa device? What would you say if I told you that Alexa had the same answer as many Hawai‘i teachers did near the end of March?
That’s what I thought.
I knew that my answer wouldn’t be found in an old college textbook or on the internet. Distance learning was a whole new concept that teachers needed to learn, and learn fast. I talked to fellow colleagues, mentors and my husband about the anxiety of the unknown. That feeling of anxiety, coupled with the frustration I felt as an educator, really took a toll on me.
That’s when innovation struck. I thought to myself, “There has to be a place for teachers to ask questions and just connect during these times.” The Hawai‘i Distance Learning Forum was created with help from the team at Blue Logic Labs and has made impactful changes throughout Hawai‘i’s education community.
With over 1,200 public, private and charter school teachers, Hawai‘i Distance Learning Forum has become a platform for teachers to connect through meaningful discussions. A grassroots effort grew from this format of collaboration called #GrowWithUs808. Powered by Hawai‘i Distance Learning Forum, your next-door teacher is sharing resources and strategies, leading discussions and engaging teachers in short sessions about topics that they care about. Alongside other educators and mentors, we were able to host a virtual conference with over 300 attendees to cultivate relationships, plant conversations and grow connections — all while rooted in education.
Inspiring, supporting and collaborating with teachers are the three main pillars we sought when we started the forum. We will continue to have these three pillars guide us as we move toward a new type of education system. It looks different, but the fundamentals of teaching are still there and living through us. It was a pivotal moment for all teachers, where frustration met innovation. We will continue to have a space for teachers to vent, gain insight, innovate, share and have a voice.
If there’s one takeaway from this experience, it’s that teachers are truly resilient. They’re doing innovative things everyday in their classrooms, working hard for Hawai‘i’s keiki, and above all else, connecting and growing with each other.
Ashley Mika Ito is a Kanoelani Elementary School second-grade teacher and co-founder of the Hawaii Distance Learning Forum for local educators to raise questions, problem solve, and share resources and ideas. The forum was launched in April and has over 1,500 teachers registered. Ashley's personal goal is to see every teaching engaged in the space to build a more collaborative and unified professional community .