Educators say their spring experience gave insights to improve remote learning in the coming months.
Getting students to participate during a spring of remote learning wasn’t easy for Lacoochee Elementary fourth-grade teacher Tracy Taggert.
Some of them didn’t have computers or, if they did, couldn’t figure out how to use them. Printers to make copies of assignments were a luxury for many.
Several had no internet access, or spotty cell phone data at best. One of Taggert’s students at the rural northeastern Pasco County school could connect only when at her aunt’s house, which generally lasted an hour at 8 p.m.
Then there were the children for whom school was not the priority, as their families struggled to make ends meet. Others were embarrassed to get on a video conference for any number of reasons, ranging from what might be happening behind them to simply being shy.
“We would use every means possible” to get the children engaged, Taggert said, listing phone calls, parking lot meetings and home visits among them.
She recalled offering a lesson on fractions while shopping in Walmart, and contacting a child’s neighbors and cousins in an effort to locate the student. Even with all that, Taggert said, the fourth-grade team had regular communication with just over half the group.
Their experience begs the question: Can a summer program that depends largely on the same methods reach the children who didn’t participate in the spring?
“The world is kind of caught between ongoing social distancing and quarantine measures — which make it really hard to operate a summer program — and the limitations of digital learning,” said Matthew Boulay, chief executive of the National Summer Learning Association. “It’s a really difficult, challenging time.”