Distance Learning infrastructure project funded by USDA Rural Development

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Publication Name: Collaborative for Educational Services
Article Date: July 18, 2016
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Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today announced $23.4 million in grants to support 81 Distance Learning and Telemedicine projects in 32 states across the nation. Massachusetts’ Collaborative for Educational Services (CES) was awarded $337,356 for a distance learning hub in Northampton. The hub will enable distance learning services for 23 field sites across Massachusetts and Maine.

The Collaborative for Educational Services (www.collaborative.org) is a non-profit educational services agency based in Northampton MA. Since 1974, CES has worked with K-12 schools and districts, and early childhood educators, to help them assess and improve their programs; and also trains teachers and school and district leaders to help them obtain licensure, increase their skills and develop expertise. CES also develops and provides alternative learning programs for student who are challenged by traditional settings. The field sites across the two states work to improve their school services, instruction and schoolwide achievement.

“Education is the ticket to a bright future and this funding will strengthen the work that Collaborative for Educational Services is already doing in Northampton and across Massachusetts,” Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) said of the project, “Our communities are strongest when everyone has the opportunity to get an education that will help them find good jobs and rewarding careers. I am grateful to Secretary Vilsack for recognizing the great work happening right here in Massachusetts and I look forward to seeing the incredible difference this grant will make in the lives of so many families.”

Angela Burke, Director of Technology at CES commented, “This project leverages a telemedicine infrastructure to deliver distance learning technology that builds on the CES and regional history of collaboration, and offers integrated technology in the classroom to develop students’ 21st century skills in rural communities across five counties; as well as providing new access for teacher development, licensing and endorsement. The project has the potential to change the educational direction and open doors otherwise not available for the rural community residents involved.”

This grant will be used to purchase video conference equipment for real-time, synchronous lecture, learning, and educational collaboration; to serve 22 K-12 public school sites in Franklin, Hampshire, Penobscot, Washington counties, and one tribal site in Aroostook County.

The Distance learning and Telemedicine program helps rural communities acquire technologies to connect teachers and medical providers with other professionals and other needed expertise that would be too far to access otherwise. This program taps into modern telecommunications and technology to improve education and healthcare which are two imperative factors for economic and community development.

USDA Rural Development has provided $213 million for 634 DLT projects in rural areas nationwide since 2009. USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, which administers the DLT program, also offers infrastructure programs that bring broadband, safe drinking water and improved wastewater treatment facilities to rural communities.

Since 2009, USDA Rural Development (@USDARD) has helped bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses; invested $31.3 billion in 963 electric projects that have financed more than 185,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines serving 4.6 million rural residents; helped 1.1 million rural residents buy homes; and funded nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities. USDA also has invested $11 billion to start or expand 103,000 rural businesses. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/results.

For more information about the Distance Learning for Teachers and Students project, contact Angela Burke, Chief Technology Officer, Collaborative for Educational Services, at aburke@collaborative.org, or 413-588-7050.

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