The Digital Divide: The Challenges of Remote Learning and 5 Ways Parents Can Solve It

The Digital Divide: The Challenges of Remote Learning and 5 Ways Parents Can Solve It

Written by:
Carlos Freytes
Jun 14, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us a great deal about ourselves. We know now, more than we did a year ago, that global calamities have the potential to exacerbate already existing inequities in all of our systems. Our educational systems are no exception, as we’ve watched remote learning shine a spotlight on the digital divide.

The Move to Virtual Learning Was Harder On Some

For many families, the move to remote learning or hybrid learning was an annoyance. Students accustomed to the classroom environment now had to deal with choppy Zoom meetings or last-minute link changes while parents had to learn to do their jobs from home with the added inconvenience of working around their children’s schedules. The strain on home WiFi networks only added to the myriad points of stress and frustration felt from having to shelter in place and withdraw from public life.

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But for some families, the move to remote learning was nothing short of catastrophe. Families without internet access struggled to keep up with lesson plans. Children who relied on the public school system for one or two meals a day suddenly had a new hurdle to overcome just to stay fed. Households with one computer – or fewer – had to scramble to find enough screens for everyone to work. For some students, remote learning presented obstacles so difficult to overcome that many simply couldn’t. Every teacher worries that their at-risk students will one day slip through the cracks. Covid turned those cracks into canyons.

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The digital divide is just one more arena where Covid has not only shone a spotlight on an already existing problem, but also blown it out to new proportions. Students of schools in affluent suburbs switched to a virtual learning paradigm with much fewer speedbumps than students in low-income, inner-city schools. Many of the students from the latter have now essentially lost an entire school year, and some will never catch up.

5 Ways Parents Can Solve The Challenges of Remote Learning

#1 – Keep In Touch With Your Children’s Teachers

We’re used to dropping the kids off at school and trusting that the teacher can take it from there.  Anyone who’s had to deal with the shift to virtual learning has their own stories of misunderstood homework instructions or suddenly having to become a junior expert on Common Core Math. 

Simply keeping an open line of communication with your children’s teachers can be so helpful in managing through the confusion. Even in the era of community isolation, it takes a village to raise a child and letting your child’s teacher know that you understand this is tough on them too, will make the solutions you co-create all the more seamless.

#2 – Look For An Assist From the Community

Chicago is full of wonderful organizations geared toward supplementing students’ educations through the arts. The Yocalli Arts Reach, a youth initiative from the National Museum of Mexican Art, offers free programming focused on art, music and literature. They offer great opportunities such as radio training and their mural program, which has been involved in over 50 murals since 1997! 

Check out 8 Amazing BIPOC-Led Chicago Education and Arts Orgs on our blog for more information.

#3 – Explore Public Art In Chicago!

As the weather gets warmer, it’s the perfect time to take your kids on a history lesson through the city. There’s plenty of public art waiting for you at every turn in this city, and it’s great for getting kids back into art, history, and more! 

Take a walk through the Mile Of Murals in Rogers Park to check out a diverse array of street art and murals lining the Metra tracks. Check out the sculptures in Millenium Park, and splash around in the Crown Fountains, perfect for when the weather gets balmy. Stroll through the Pilsen neighborhood, and keep an eye out for sculptures, screenprinting, and murals, often focused on Chicano or Latinx identity and history in the neighborhood. 

You can even take advantage of free admission days in some of Chicago’s world-class art museums, check out music or art festivals, or free concerts at the Millenium Park Concert Shell, keeping Covid-19 restrictions in mind! 

For public art suggestions around the US, check out this list of 13 Of the Best Free Outdoors Art Experiences For Kids

#4 – DIY Art Projects

It didn’t take a pandemic for art education to be deprioritized from the curriculum. However, the trends already at work before Covid-19 took on a new dimension vis-a-vis art education. Already drained, chipped away at, and broken up, any arts education still standing became even more disconnected by virtue of at-home learning. Arts class should be hands on, highly visual, and tactile. Without the ability to work on art projects together in class or check out works of physical art on field trips, it’s harder to reach students learning online. 

And as we’ve written about in our 11 Rock Solid Statistics That Prove How Vital Art Education Is For Kids Academic & Social Achievement article, art education is important in all areas of education and development. Keep kids on track with DIY Art Projects that you and your family can do together, and help replace that all important hands-on experience of an art class. 

In the early days of the pandemic, IPaintMyMind made a list of Quick And Cool DIY Art Projects To Do At Home. The list includes 27 art activities, posted by Abby Shukei at The Art of Education featuring everything from fun drawing prompts to DIY paper clay. Even as we’re venturing outside more than we did a year ago, this list is as relevant as ever. 

#5 – Talk to Your Child

This has been a year of turmoil and confusion. Children crave stability, and this year has been anything but stable. Many children are bottling up their frustrations over how the past year has gone, and they may not even know they’re doing it. We underestimate how much pressure kids put on themselves. It’s important to talk to your child. Let them know that this year has been a mess for everyone. Reassure them that they’re trying their best, and that you’re proud of how well they’ve handled it this far.

It’s also important to ask your kids what you could do to support them or help them. Young students often know what they need, and starting an open dialogue can help them feel more comfortable asking for assistance, letting you know when they’re overwhelmed, or just letting you in generally. 

We Got This

There are no easy solutions to this problem, but there are certainly strategies we can take to ease the burden on students. Bridging the digital divide will require outside-the-box thinking and, in some cases, total paradigm shifts from past systems. 

As stated before, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us about ourselves. While it has revealed to us the worst facets of our society, it has also proven that we are capable of solving even the biggest problems when we work together.

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Written by:
Carlos Freytes
Jun 14, 2021

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