Vikki Katz: One Thing We Must Do Now
April 7, 2020
What is one thing you believe must be done now to improve how children and families are faring during the current crisis, specifically as it relates to the media and technology in their lives?
Learn the ABCDs of equitable remote learning.
We have just jumped into a national experiment for students from kindergarten through law school. In order for remote learning not to compound a public health crisis with an educational crisis, we need to center digital inequality in our efforts to keep kids learning.
I led the first national survey of digital inequality in lower-income families, and it is clear that being “under-connected” is not randomly distributed. The students who will have the hardest time learning online are those least likely to have a parent who can help them when they get stuck.
So what should educators do? Address digital equity challenges related to Assistance, Broadband Connectivity, and Devices (ABCD):
- Students need meaningful access to Assistance to adjust to new learning environments. Schools must prioritize having knowledgeable teachers virtually available to troubleshoot tech issues. This is the challenge schools are least likely to address, and it may be the most important of all.
- Students need high-speed, consistent Broadband Connectivity. Schools must send students home with mobile hotspots or ensure that families benefit from subsidized offerings many ISPs are making available during this crisis.
- And, students need Devices. Schools must loan devices to students as they loan textbooks. With whole families suddenly working and learning from home, sharing devices is simply not feasible if everyone is to keep up.
When we emerge from this period, we will view digital inequality through a new lens: High-quality, consistent connectivity will be a necessity, not a luxury. Until we get there, the ABCDs will help prevent remote learning from becoming an equity crisis all its own.
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