For more than six years, we’ve worked to close the homework gap, ensuring that all students have equitable access to the internet and technology for powerful learning opportunities outside of the classroom, augmenting what is available in school.
With physical schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, effectively all learning has turned into homework. While some districts have the infrastructure in place to move quickly, others are starting from scratch or struggling to ensure all of their students have access to devices or the internet.
When it became clear COVID-19 would dramatically impact the public education system, we quickly assessed how we could provide value, drawing on our years of expertise with digital learning. Our first priority was making sure our Digital Promise team was safe, healthy, and supported. We’re deeply fortunate to be able to continue our work remotely, which makes our mission and responsibility to serve as a source of guidance that much more important.
Next, we began building and curating an Online Learning Resources Library, a place where educators can find materials based on type, grade level, and subject. All included resources are free and meet student privacy criteria. We also assembled a FAQ Page to help answer questions from educators and parents on a wide range of concerns, including internet access, devices, and training.
Additionally, we joined valuable coalitions of organizations and corporations offering tools, guides, and strategies like Learning Keeps Going and Tech for Learners. To help ensure all learners have access to appropriate resources, we partnered with other organizations to form an alliance, Educating All Learners, dedicated to supporting equity for complex learners. As part of this effort, we launched a curated set of resources to help parents and teachers support learners with disabilities. This database includes tips for finding accessibility features on devices and suggestions of what to look for in edtech products designed for learners with different needs.
We also created a free workspace on the Learner Variability Navigator that parents can use to help ease the transition to homeschooling. Included are strategies for literacy and math that support both academic and social-emotional learning.
As the initial urgency to launch a digital learning program passes, districts will shift to ensuring they are prepared for the fall semester and considering longer-term questions such as, how can educators be prepared to best support their students if schools again close? What worked well and where do we need to focus? How can we best assess our technology needs? What is the most timely and appropriate professional development to provide our teachers?
To support this next phase, we will be publishing a Digital Learning Playbook, amplifying voices of experts through a series of virtual events, and convening a technical advisory group. We will also provide vignettes of digital special education programs as well as first-person stories from educators and parents engaging their students in powerful learning at home, so others can learn from their experiences.
We have long recognized that internet access should be considered a basic right, much like water and electricity. Today, more than ever, it is imperative that students are connected to the internet, have access to powerful learning experiences, and continue to feel connected to their teachers and peers. As so many work to make that happen, we’ll be here to continue to support every learner.
Visit our Online Learning page to access continually updated exemplars and resources for educators and parents.