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Lack of Broadband and Devices Hobbles America's Remote Learning

Published by Slashdot on Sun, 13 Sep 2020

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: Fifty-eight years after Roger Ebert reported on the PLATO system's potential to deliver online learning to homebound students in a 1962 News-Gazette article, Bloomberg Technology's Emily Chang takes a look at the nationwide struggle to shift to remote learning, interviewing McKinsey Education Practice Manager Emma Dorn, Khan Academy founder Sal Khan, and former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. For the long-term, all three seem hopeful that EdTech and "anywhere learning" will ultimately help promote mastery-based learning and equity, but expressed fears that remote learning will actually exacerbate achievement gaps in the short-term due to issues stemming from a lack of preparedness, broadband and device access, school resources, and support at home. "Ninety percent of high-income students are logging into remote learning where only sixty percent of low-income students are," lamented Dorn, who called the current situation a "vast education experiment" and warned that lost learning could lead to an annual GDP loss of $270 billion. Khan also warned that an education catastrophe is not far off: "The reality is in the coming year, middle class children, upper middle class children are probably going to do fine, they're going to be engaged, there might even be some silver linings where their parents are getting more engaged than ever, finding them extra supports. While I would say 20 or 30 percent of the population is going to be a really difficult scenario." Also concerned about the "COVID Slide" and learning loss for the most vulnerable and marginal was Duncan ("There's a small percent of children who I think will actually learn better in this situation, but there are many, many children who are falling behind"). However, Duncan expressed higher hopes for "anywhere learning" in the long-term. "The idea of kids just learning, you know, in a bricks and mortar building nine months out of the year, you know, five days a week, six hours a day, that doesn't make sense. Kids have to be able to learn anything they want, anytime, anywhere. Find their passion, find their genius... "We have to make access to devices and to broadband to the internet as ubiquitous as water and electricity and we have to really empower kids. We have to fund. We should have done this, you know, five years ago or ten years ago, but now we have to do it."Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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