COVID has cast a dark cloud on education, but there are some silver linings

By Mary Burns, Education Development Center

With large-scale school shutdowns, the ensuing lack of academic and social supports for students, and the move to remote learning, COVID-19 has been an educational catastrophe for many students. Yet, as in many crises, the education community has responded with resilience and imagination about how we can emerge from the pandemic with a more equitable and high-quality education system.  Remote learning in particular has provided opportunities for rethinking instructional design, focusing on student wellbeing, addressing inequity, and embracing and experimenting with educational technology in ways that can be applied to the post-COVID classroom. These “silver linings,” upon which we can and should build, are discussed below.

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What About Students Who Do Not Have Access to the Tools that Are Needed for Online Learning?

By Katharine Davies Samway

If we have a computer, regular access to the Internet, and a cell phone with unlimited calls and texts, we may forget that our students may not have the same access to these tools, which are essential for online learning.  In some cases, schools surveyed their students about their technological needs before the schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.  In other cases, teachers have had to use time during the school closure to identify students’ needs. 

Teachers I’ve interviewed comment on the importance of surveying students and families in order to determine which technological tools they have access to.  At Laura Alvarez’s K-8 two-way immersion bilingual school, teachers polled their students by phone, text, and email about their access to a computer and the Internet (as well as their access to everyday necessities, such as food).  Alvarez estimated that she spent one-third of her time in the two weeks before spring break calling, texting, and emailing students and their families.  She learned that most have some Internet access via a smartphone, but none of her 8th grade students had solid access to the Internet.  A couple of her students had a cousin or aunt who had a computer, and some had computers at home, but weren’t sure how well they worked.  Recently, the school has been distributing Chromebooks to students who do not have access to computers, using social distancing when doing so.

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Teaching in the Time of Corona: Supporting Newcomer Students During School Closures

By Laura Alvarez, author, teacher, researcher, and professional development provider

As educators, we currently face an unprecedented challenge: continuing to provide rich learning opportunities when our physical school sites are closed. While most schools are going online, many students do not have internet access or computers at home. These inequities threaten to further exacerbate equity gaps for our students who have historically not been well-served by U.S. schools and who must rely on our educational institutions, including recently arrived immigrant students, or newcomers.

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