Tech Struggles During COVID-19 Hurting Students’ Ability to Learn, Educators Say

By Alyson Klein — September 24, 2020 1 min read
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Educators have big concerns about how unequal internet access is hurting students’ ability to learn, as millions switch to virtual education in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report released Thursday by the RAND Corporation, a research organization.

Teachers say they have difficulty reaching all their students in the online environment, that many are not completing their work, and that it is tough to hold kids accountable. What’s more, teachers who work with a high percentage of students in poverty say that their kids were less likely to have a reliable internet connection at home.

Here’s a look at some key findings from the survey:

•31 percent of teachers said they had problems providing remote instruction. They were unsure of how to teach new content, provide feedback, work with students one-on-one, and check for understanding.

•27 percent said they had trouble dealing with families, including coping with challenges kids may be having at home and concerns around families’ capacity to help students learn online.

•20 percent they had problems with technology, including students’ lack of access to internet, devices, or students’ and families’ issues with using technology.

•78 percent of teachers said their districts provided students with devices, but only 45 percent said they supplied kids with Wi-Fi hotspots.

The findings also confirmed growing concerns that remote and hybrid learning under COVID-19 is contributing to educational equity problems. Just 30 percent of teachers who work in schools where 75 to 100 percent of kids qualify for free-and-reduced-price lunches reported that nearly all of their students had home internet access, compared with 83 percent of educators who work in schools where 25 percent or fewer students are living in poverty.

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So what should be done about these findings? RAND suggests policymakers work to provide every student with access to the internet and support teachers in working through problems with student connectivity, especially in high-poverty and rural districts.

The survey was conducted in May and June 2020 to a nationally representative sample of teachers and school leaders who are part of the RAND Corporation American Educator Panels and to state-representative samples of teachers in 12 states.

Image: Getty

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.