In times of absenteeism and school closings, it is still imperative to continue the learning process and push forward through the curriculum. In temporary slow downs in the learning environment, there needs to be equal and opposite effort in maintaining consistency and motivation to learn in our students. However, what if the digital divide means that some students lack the technological resources at home to access remote learning material? In districts without a 1:1 program and with students that have limited internet connectivity at home, how can students stay “dialed-in” to their learning routine?
Strategies exist for under-resourced schools and students, which we will enumerate here. Many services are arising to assist households with limited data and internet connectivity. However, the broad themes that enable any of this to work are consistent communication and complete transparency. Without those, the motivation, investment, and resource requirements of students and parents will not be met.
Share Sufficient Content and Tools with Families
To prepare for extended periods of remote learning and absenteeism from a physical school environment, teachers and administrators must line up all of the content that should be covered during the estimated time of absenteeism, the delivery methods of such content, and a plan for how to enable families to disseminate that content to their children. Below, we have listed some key considerations and potential options during these situations:
School textbooks and/or workbooks
Work packets of printed out worksheets and readings
Classroom set of manipulatives for additional learning and engagement
USB drives filled with digital content, like recorded videos, PowerPoints, Word documents
Current Internet Resources Being Provided:
For those households with data restrictions and limited internet service, AT&T is offering to suspend their broadband data caps in order to help consumers who need a higher volume of at-home internet access.
For those schools without a 1:1 tablet or computer environment, EveryoneOn is an organization that provides families with low-cost and affordable computer options in their area.
Comcast is also offering an internet essentials package for low-income households.
Establish Frequent Touch Points with Parents and Students
In an extended remote learning scenario, it becomes very important to establish a consistent rapport with families and students. With the absence of physical connection and daily in-person check-ins, teachers should be very proactive in reaching all of their families on a daily/weekly basis from a remote medium. Needless to say, it is nearly impossible for one teacher to have individual touch points with each family. Therefore, group communication channels must be adopted in order to effectively capture the attention of all families. Here are some strategies to consider:
Phone conferences (via Zoom or any alternative conference bridge)
Group text messages (via WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, or Facebook Messenger)
Weekly Newsletters (via e-mail or snail mail)
Frequent Social Media updates (via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or other channels)
Establish a Progressive Approach to Content Consumption
These frequent touch points should also be driven by a transparent view of mission and vision of the classroom. Teachers should continue to build toward their learning goals—unit plans, lesson plans, exit tickets, and the like should all be closely monitored for each individual child. The only difference in a remote learning situation is that families must be more invested than usual in reporting their children’s progress. The way to capture this progress is detailed below:
Pacing: Share the days and corresponding lessons to conduct during those days. For example: on Monday of this week, students should pursue lessons 4.5 and 4.6. By the end of this week, students should have completed every exercise in chapters 4 and 5.
Milestones: Continue to share big successes with the families. As students complete lessons and notify you, make sure to mention these on your weekly conference calls or newsletters. It is imperative that families feel that progress is happening and that they are involved in a learning process together.
As remote learning solutions continue to expand across the country, low-technology solutions are still important to utilize and remember in the school resource toolkit. Especially during times of large-scale absenteeism, it becomes imperative to keep a keen-eye on the most vulnerable students and families to make sure they are receiving the highest quality education that is possible from their households.