In an effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19, schools across the globe have been closed.
They transitioned from traditional teaching to remote teaching, but there’s a big giant issue: millions of students either don’t have reliable access to internet or a device that can go on the internet.
This sudden global movement to shift classrooms online is new but less or no access to internet is not new. Afore, this emergency learning or online learning, whatever you call it, came into light there were huge number of individuals who did not have such facilities but we had this notion that “everyone has internet facility.” There are roughly only 14 percent school-age children — approximately 7 million —live in homes without internet access, besides the fact that 99 percent of schools across the country (U.S) have enough bandwidth to support digital learning in the classroom and can scale their networks when needed, according to a 2019 Education Superhighway report.
Plus, a recent survey of superintendents conducted by The School Superintendents Association shows that 81 percent individuals said that the lack of internet access hinders them from transitioning to a fully online learning environment, making it the top barrier.
However, districts around the globe are trying their best to reach to their students in one or another form and helping them to have a hassle-free remote learning experience. To help you further, we have curated few of the ways recommended by experts to help you support children with no or less access to internet while learning remotely:
Provide Devices to Students
Post worldwide school closure many parents requested for a device to participate in remote learning. This request had been accepted in New York. There 175,000 devices were distributed by public schools - which may include laptops, tablets, or iPads and more will be delivered by the end of April. So one obvious way is that you may help your students by distributing devices for better remote learning experience, if the budget allows.
Make Calls Regularly
In the course of remote learning and social distancing (especially) students may feel isolated or lonely. Contacting them as often as you can — by email, comments on their work or phone — can make a huge difference, especially for those students without internet access. Students with low retention capacity may find it difficult to understand any lesson or have doubts , your frequent calls will help build a good teacher-student relationship and help them communicate over the doubts easily.
Suggest Free Internet Offers
Several internet providers like Spectrum and Comcast are giving students free WiFi for the next couple of months. Some are also waiving late fees for existing customers and increasing data caps but with some restrictions. For example, to qualify for Comcast Internet Essentials program, which provides affordable Internet ($9.95/month) families must fit in these criteria:
- Eligible for public assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program.
- No outstanding debt to Comcast that is less than a year old.
- Live in an area where Comcast Internet service is available.
So, teachers can suggest students or their parent these offers. Also, encourage them to be a new customer of the internet providers.
Seek out Public free Wi-Fi or hotspot:
Furthermore, many states across the globe are developing public Wi-Fi hotspots in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, a school district in southern Illinois has developed a creative approach by equipping several school buses with Wi-Fi to serve as hotspots throughout the community. The bus drivers park the bus near local parks between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. every Monday to Friday.
Besides these, several state governments has come up with free public Wi-Fi facility. These can be particularly effective for downloading large files that students can work on at home, but may not be reliable or feasible for long periods and it may get them exposed to cyber-attacks. Educators need to make their students aware of online safety, beforehand.
Tune In to Your Local Broadcast Station
Some districts have tied up with local PBS stations to create remote-learning opportunities through T.V. programs. For example, In India, Doordarshan (DD), Bihar, in collaboration with Bihar Education Project (BEP), has decided to start virtual teaching for students of class 9 and 10, goes the same for other states in the world ,Maryland, Louisiana, New York, Arizona and more.
Host Accessible Video Sessions (without making attendance a compulsion)
Hosting video conference calls can be an effective tool, but they require a lot of data and it may be challenging for a student who either have low or no internet connectivity. In such case, encourage kids with these issues to call in for audio and be sure to describe what’s happening on the screen so that students calling in can still feel included. Also, find alternative ways to check in and email summaries or transcripts after video sessions if possible. Avoid necessitating attendance as well.
Encourage Parents to Take Advantage of Community Resources
Compile a list of places that have free Wi-Fi and free computer borrowing possibilities in your community and make the list available to parents. Encourage them to visit these spots at desirable time and situation in order to provide their children with more exposure to technology; most importantly to help in their learning.
Design Assignments or Work That Doesn’t Require Internet
Of course, most students know internet access is desirable, but not all can gain access to it. Therefore, try designing assignments or work that they can do without internet .It will also help eradicate the inequality among students with internet and without internet.
Prepare a List of Tools with Offline Access
Several tools like G suite- Google Chromebooks or Google Offline docs extension, Canary Learning, Pocket etc. gives access to their learning resources without internet .To enable offline access to Gsuite – go to Apps > G Suite > Gmail > User settings > Scroll to Gmail web offline > Check the Enable Gmail web offline box > Click on Save option.
So, you may compile a list of offline tools to help students refer to it for their learning purpose.
Is lack of Internet access to your students a ‘major concern’ for you too? If yes! How are you addressing this issue? How are you teaching them remotely?
Do let us know in the comment box.