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Teachers discuss teaching students who lack internet

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R.A.C.E. Matters SLO hosted a live webinar on May 17 to talk about the challenges children of color are facing while distance-learning during the public health crisis and how teachers are working to aid them.

The panelists consisted of K-12 teachers, a Cal Poly professor, and a SLO County school board trustee. Most speakers said student participation is high but a few students don't regularly attend virtual sessions or turn in assignments. They attribute the lack of interaction to possibly having to go to work with mom and dad if child care is not an option, not having a quiet place to work in at home, and a lack of internet access.

According to recent data by the United States Department of Commerce, approximately 14 percent of U.S. families with children between the ages of 6 and 11 live in homes with no internet service.

The report also stated that there are disparities in children's at-home internet access based on factors like race. Currently 88 percent of white and Asian American school-aged children lived in households with internet service; 81 percent of African American and 83 percent of Hispanic children have online access at home as well. Approximately 86 percent of children living in urban households have the service compared to 82 percent of their rural counterparts.

During the webinar, Amber Williams, an assistant professor of psychology and child development at Cal Poly, said she chose her teaching style for "equity reasons," based on her students' accessibility to online platforms.

Williams went with asynchronous teaching, allowing students to log on to view their assignments and her lectures at their discretion. Synchronous teaching, however, involves students logging in to virtual classrooms live with their peers.

"I have been reading up and listening to lectures on how to support students in online learning, and one of the things they were saying is, particularly for low-income students, internet access might not be consistent and so being able to log on simultaneously with other students may not be possible for everyone," she said.

The inability to be online with the rest of the class could result in students falling behind or missing out on graded participation.

Williams said some teachers are implementing both teaching styles in their curriculum so she advises that they have a generous policy of grading participation and have multiple sessions.

San Luis Coastal Unified School District bilingual counselor Karla Robles said the district provided their students with Chromebooks and a hotspot.

"We realized that many of the student didn't have internet at home, and we've also created tutorials for students and their parents in Spanish and English to help them access Zoom or Google Classroom," she said.

Juan Olivarria, a SLO County Board of Education trustee, said the students that are having a tough time distance-learning are English learners.

"When we come back, we're going to have to do things a lot differently to help them get caught up," he said. Δ

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