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Coping with the Digital Divide in Education

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing our educational system. Schools from all over the world had to close their doors to protect the school and community, especially the children.

But educating children can’t just stop. It must always go on. Otherwise, they would continue to suffer from the extended “summer slide.” This is the regression of learning proficiency due to long breaks from school.

Throughout history, we’ve encountered this problem in education. Some schools closed their doors due to worldwide events, such as World Wars I and II. Many children were homeschooled back then.

But there’s an aspect of this problem that we haven’t encountered before. And it’s called “the digital divide.” Since the internet is widely available in many households, schools are conducting online learning through video calls. Unfortunately, low-income households aren’t privileged with working computers and stable internet connections. Thus, the digital divide worsened.

So, as a teacher, what can you do for your students who come from marginalized communities?

Digging Deep into the Digital Divide Problem

The American youth has always been affected by the digital divide. Not everyone is always updated on Facebook and Twitter. Not everyone has access to popular streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. With online learning, the gap only widened.

Pew Research Center found that only six out of ten (or 58 percent) of middle school students get to use the internet every day to do their homework. The remaining percent don’t get to use the internet every day. Some of them don’t get to use it at all. The survey found that around 15 percent of students don’t have access to high-speed internet.

This issue exacerbates the issue of educational inequality, which is a problem that’s been existing for decades, if not centuries. The hard truth is that some children are more privileged than others and that means they have access to quality education. This also means that children from low-income households. are getting left behind.

Solutions to the Digital Divide

In response to the widening digital divide, the federal government has set aside relief funds for online learning through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Department of Education received $30.75 billion to help children all over the country access technological resources.

Schools, families, and communities received hardware, which includes laptops and mini PC devices. They also received software and access to online learning subscriptions. And, of course, their internet access was also improved.

Many nonprofit organizations also stepped up to help the school community. For example, First Book, a non-profit advocating children’s education, created solutions to the digital divide. They distributed books and other learning resources to underserved communities. They trained teachers on how to improve online teaching.

These things definitely helped schools in addressing the digital divide. But there’s more work to be done. Many students are still struggling with online learning. Teachers can do many things to help.

Reaching Out to Students

The teacher-student camaraderie was affected very much by the pandemic. Since everyone lost that daily interaction on campus, it’s harder to see how your students are doing. But your students need you now more than ever.

Therefore, you need to find the time to talk to them. You can give them a call. If it’s possible, you can even make house calls. Just always make sure to practice social distancing. This may seem unconventional and even intruding. But these are some of the ways you can go above and beyond for your students. It’s your way of letting them know that they’re not alone.

Always Provide Learning Resources

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During online classes, many of your students won’t be able to make it. But just because they’re not present during the call, that doesn’t mean that they’d be missing out on the lesson. So be sure to provide them with reading materials. Write your lectures, print them, and send them to your students.

If they do have access to the internet but with a slow connection, then email the materials in plain text so it’s easier to download.

And always record your video calls so that some students can still watch it when they can access the internet. You can even upload the sessions to a DVD or USB so they could watch it on their TV without having to use the internet.

The digital divide is a problem that’s not easily resolved. But our collective efforts will never go to waste. More children will have a better experience with online learning as the pandemic continues. We just have to keep on working to help them.

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