Remote learning creates opportunities but reveals digital divide for students

Most teachers had just days to move from the classroom to an entirely remote, often digital, way of teaching. It’s something New Jersey’s Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet says is a testament to the adaptability of the state’s educators.

“Our educators have been very innovative in the creation of some of their lessons, whether it’s pen and paper, your traditional packets that you take home when a student is sick, versus Zoom, or versus the virtual world,” Repollet said.

There’s a disparity between kids who have access to technology, kids who have access to internet and kids who don’t.

“There is a digital divide. We know that,” Repollet said. “We will not know until we get out of this and we assess our kids and see exactly where we are.”

That divide is why the state is working with NJTV to reach the tens of thousands of kids without access to technology, according to Repollet.

The partnership, which includes the NJEA, bypasses internet by bringing educational programs to any student with a TV in the house, in all 21 counties of the state.

That’s how Bill Smith cut his digital teaching chops, creating a homemade studio in his basement. He walked us through the types of lessons he’s planning.

“So this was a virtual field trip where I took them through many stops along New Jersey’s Underground Railroad,” he said. “And really make this lesson come to life. So I was aware of a couple programs that I might use, like Google Earth and I use an editing program call Screencast-o-matic,” said Smith, a social studies teacher in the Southern Regional School District.

Bill said he’s already thinking about how he can use the techniques he’s developed here at home, when he finally gets back in the classroom.