Millions of students across the country have had to make the transition to remote learning due to the ongoing global crisis, yet not all of them have reliable internet access. Given how heavily people rely on the internet these days, it seems impossible that there still remains an estimated 7 million school-age children or over 78% of households in the United States that don’t have a stable internet connection or a device that allows access to the internet, but that’s the unfortunate truth.
Although local governments are sparing no effort to help students acclimate to the new remote learning set-up, they can only do so much. Parents, educators, and communities need to work together to help students get the education they need at this crucial point in their lives. The following are a few practical strategies to support students who are having trouble continuing their studies due to this ever-increasing problem.
Supply devices to students
Conduct a survey to determine which students have or don’t have access to the internet or have a device to access the internet. Make sure the survey is done discreetly to protect their privacy. With this information, you can get an idea of how many devices you need to supply to your students. Work with your school or with nearby computer stores to provide tablets, laptops, and portable or satellite hotspot to the students who need it most.
Plan group or partner projects
Put together students who don’t have access to the internet or own electronic devices with students who do for group or partner projects. They don’t necessarily have to physically be in the same space to be able to work together. You can recommend that one student emails or calls the other student to be able to contribute and do their part.
Contact them often
Call your students every once in a while to see how they’re doing and ask them what they need. For students who actually have internet but are struggling with choppy or problematic connection or internet speed, then you can use this opportunity to help catch them up on what they missed or what they have difficulty understanding.
Put together a list of resources
Make it easy for parents and students to find public Wi-Fi spots, promotions for discounted or free internet access, and places to borrow devices by compiling a list of these resources and sharing it with them.
Distribute print materials and resources
Schedule at least one day every week when parents and students can stop by the school, or a designated location to pick up printed reading materials and worksheets as well as drop off completed worksheets. You can also allow them to use the computer lab for a limited amount of time (if need be). Another safe yet demanding option would be to personally mail them out to students and have them mail completed worksheets back. If you live in a small town with a small student population, you may even personally deliver the materials and resources to them.
Assemble a list of offline tools
Certain tools and websites provide offline access and offline features, so it’s helpful to compile a list of all of these and share them with your students. The most common example of this is the Google Docs Offline Chrome extension which includes Google Sheets, Google Docs, and Google Slides. Pocket and Canary Learning also have offline access available. Although students will still need the internet and a device to be able to use these features, it’s much more accessible than having everything be entirely online.
Create homework and assignments that don’t require the internet
Create homework and assignments that students can do even without the internet. A few examples of these include reading assignments, journaling, and worksheets. You can also print out materials and resources and have students and parents pick them up or send them directly to them, as mentioned in the previous tip.
Adjust your expectations and feedback
Don’t expect too much from your students, even the ones who have internet access. This is a trying time for everyone, particularly young people who have no control over their circumstances. It’s helpful to be more forgiving with regard to mistakes, missed work, and tardiness, especially for those without internet access and the proper devices. When it comes to evaluating students’ work, opt to give more feedback if you can and focus less on numerical grades. You can also give students more opportunities to make up for missed work or low marks.
Help your students out with these practical strategies for supporting students who don’t have internet access as well as devices to access the internet.