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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