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Tips For Helping Students With Limited Internet Have Distance Learning

Schools across the nation are closing in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 and in the scramble to provide at-home learning, a major problem has risen to the forefront: millions of American students don’t have reliable access to the internet.

KQED’s MindShift community shares some strategies, tips and activities to facilitate distance learning with students who only have access to cellphones and limited data or internet.

Call Regularly.  Contacting students 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.

Suggest Free Internet Offers But Be Mindful of Limitations. Many providers are also waiving late fees for existing customers and increasing data caps for mobile hotspots. But to gain access restrictions may apply. Families will need flexibility and understanding as they research and discover what options will work for them. Offers of free internet is no guarantee that families will be able to use them.

Seek Out Hotspots But Don’t Rely On Them. More and more states are developing public Wi-Fi hotspots in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotspots 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.

Use Plain Text Instead of Attachments When Emailing. Plain text is easier to access and requires less data (therefore, less money), so consolidating lesson content into the email body using plain text rather than attaching a pdf is preferable. Whenever possible, email lesson content two to three days in advance to give students and families as much time as possible to gain access before the lesson.

Host Accessible Video Sessions But Don’t Require Attendance. Video conference calls can be an effective tool, but they require a lot of data. Encourage kids who don’t have the internet 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.

Make Transcripts Using Speech-to-Text Features. Google Docs has a feature called Voice Typing that will dictate your voice using your computer’s microphone. There are also other platforms and services like Zoom that transcribe video sessions. Whichever you choose, just make sure to review content before sharing for typos and grammatical errors.

Provide Hard Copies. Before high-speed internet, there were workbooks and handouts.

Avoid Harsh Punishments. In the upcoming months and years, students will need a lot of support. As much as possible, try to avoid harsh grades or punishments, offer several options for completing an assignment and be adaptable.

Excerpted from “14 Tips For Helping Students With Limited Internet Have Distance Learning” in MindShift. For more details and additional tips, read the full article online.

Source: MindShift | 14 Tips For Helping Students With Limited Internet Have Distance Learning, https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/55608/14-tips-for-helping-students-with-limited-internet-have-distance-learning | © 2020 KQED INC
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