An inquiry into learner support for early childhood migrant students : project SMART's home-based summer distance learning program
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Learner support as a known quantity essential to student success in distance learning courses has existed and has been studied over the past 30+ years. However, there still exists a paucity of studies focusing on learner support for students in the lower grades. In this study, Project SMART’s (Summer Migrants Access Resources Through Technology) satellite distance learning program focused on migrant families in the Rio Grande Valley who had young children (Pre-K through Second Grade) and who migrated either before or after Project SMART’s summer program. In the home-based model, students in early childhood classes received Project SMART instruction in the home via T.V. In the Valley, the T.V. station downlinked and then rebroadcast the program for each grade-level, prekindergarten through twelfth grade, within a thirty-minute timeframe. The local districts in the area trained paraprofessional facilitators to go to the homes and follow up on instruction with parents as well as students. Experienced facilitators, many of them former migrants themselves, took lesson supplies for each gradelevel to the homes and supported T.V. instruction in English or Spanish. Qualitative methods were used to gather data (observations, field notes, interviews) of migrant families, facilitators, and T.V. teachers. After careful analysis of the data, a possible model of learner support for early education distance learners emerged. It is that model that is proposed in the conclusions. The implications are that distance learning programs received in the homes of bilingual and migrant early learners force us to reconsider the role of the teacher, the teacher aid (facilitator), and even the role of the parent. It forces us to reconsider even the definition of "classroom." A synergistic learner support system becomes critical to student success, and in a Vygotskian sense, culture and language gain increased importance to the process of learning for young children who are culturally and linguistically unique.