As schools press forward into the academic year, many educators are now more prepared for remote learning. Teachers have used the past couple months to get creative with lesson planning, brush up on their technical skills and navigating devices, and ensure that all their lessons—once previously planned for in-person—all translate well over the screen.
But, this all assumes one thing: access to technology. What if some of those students don’t have access to devices or the Internet in the first place?
The conveniences that many of us often take for granted—of the Internet, smartphones, computers, iPads—are not guaranteed for every student, especially in lower-income or under-resourced areas. For these students, remote learning will be much more difficult. And while many districts and schools have been able to make great strides to close the digital divide over the summer, some are still navigating challenges to provide equitable access to learning.
The following is a list of published articles from sites that offer recommendations on how to ensure all students are able to continue learning. (We’ve provided links to the articles, as well as a short summary of their more noteworthy suggestions.)
- Teach for All suggests starting first with constant communication, especially with the parents or guardians. Text messages / SMS, phone calls, or other streams of communication are vital to ensuring the students’ health, safety, and basic food needs are being met. Furthermore, this pandemic could be an opportunity to get local community leaders involved, who might have the resources and ability to distribute educational materials to kids in their areas.
- We Are Teachers recommends a varied range of activities and assignments such as hosting a “life-skills class, health class, cooking, or even sewing.” In terms of homework or assignments, going back to analog might be the key. Having printed worksheets and books delivered to students might allow them to stay on-track even as districts continue to solve issues around access to internet/devices.
- EdSurge has outlined some “outside-the-box” ideas, such as partnerships between some schools/districts and local TV stations. These have resulted in local programs and episodes of documentaries that allow for remote learning. In another example, they noted how an international school in Vietnam has been sending “take-home boxes” with Play-Doh to help kids develop fine motor and crafting skills.
- Learning Policy Institute produced a comprehensive report proposing a framework that can serve as the foundation for equitable and authentic learning. As one of its 10 policy recommendations, it provides specific guidance around how we could approach closing the digital divide in order to strengthen distance and blended learning. Features significant research, as well as state and local examples.
Equitable access continues to be a significant challenge, and many districts are still working ensure all students continue learning throughout the year. Start by sending surveys to gauge the circumstances and situations for every student and household. Then, schools and districts can take advantage of their networks within the community, as well as make the most of whatever resources are at their disposal.
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