Guam must overcome ‘concrete’ challenges to achieve student connectivity

For schools in Guam, the key to student engagement is connectivity.

That’s according to Neil Rochelle, the project lead for Enhancing Education Through Technology at the Guam Department of Education, who discussed the impact of increased broadband and Wi-Fi access in schools during a recent interview with EdScoop TV.

“In order for kids to get engaged in digital learning, they’re going to need to be able to connect,” said Rochelle, crediting enhanced connectivity for the U.S. territory’s recent improvements in classroom participation and students’ enthusiasm for personalized learning.

Guam is much larger than many people realize, Rochelle noted. The island is home to 41 schools and approximately 32,000 students. And, because of its tropical climate, Guam’s schools face a unique challenge when trying to expand internet access to students.

All of the schools on the island are made of concrete to defend the buildings from typhoons, Rochelle said. This architecture, however, makes it difficult for schools to create access points.

“In Guam, we’re challenged with that concrete, and it is almost necessary to be putting access points in every classroom,” said Rochelle. “That’s an expensive endeavor that takes time.”

In the coming year, Rochelle and his team hope to resolve this issue while also taking on another major initiative: professional development and job preparedness for educators.

Despite ongoing efforts to provide professional development opportunities, 48 percent of Guam’s teachers still rate themselves as either “beginning” or “novice” in annual surveys, said Rochelle, who also noted that the role of a teacher is too important to allow on-the-job training.

“Honestly, I don’t feel that our teachers are coming out [of college] prepared for what the digital world is like today for students,” said Rochelle.

In addition to these initiatives, Rochelle said that he and his team are paying close attention to issues like general access and the homework gap — two topics critical for ensuring student connectivity and engagement.