the distance school is accentuating the social gap.
In the second week of March, Spain went from having a carefree environment regarding the advance of the coronavirus, in which football matches open to the public were played and mass demonstrations were held, to decreeing a state of alarm on Saturday the 14th. A radical change in just a few days that caught the whole country on foot, and also schools, which had to improvise distance learning strategies to save an indefinite period whose end is increasingly distant.
The main strategy to continue is the sending of homework, which must be returned to the teacher once completed, or the lectures published on video for the students to follow from their homes, as well as video calls or the exchange of messages. to resolve doubts. The problem is that not all these students have the same means to follow the rhythm of the online course. Some, in fact, don’t even have a start.
Post-PC by force
Lorena Sánchez is a music teacher in a public school in the province of Toledo. At first, his center proposed not to advance in content and to limit himself to having the students review what they had seen in class previously. When the situation began to have signs of lengthening, they had to continue with the routine to comply with the planning, but online.
“It is being very complicated because it has been a form of teaching for which we were not prepared. We have had to adapt to the situation at times ”. At its center, the students did not have technological devices provided by the school, as did other educational centers. “Here families have to manage as best they can with the devices they have at home, many only have their mobile phones”Says Lorena.
Confinement has allowed us to discover a reality: that of adolescents who do not have a laptop at home and do all their work with their mobile
Javier Penalva, who in addition to being a collaborator at SamaGame also works as a Secondary and Baccalaureate teacher in Murcia, has perceived the same. “I have come across all possible situations, from very old computers with Windows versions no longer supported, to work laptops owned by parents that they had to share with siblings. Other students have told me that the PC at home had not been turned on for months or years, and that now they have found that it does not work or that it causes too many problems ”.
The era of the smartphone has left the home computer forgotten in many homes where it is no longer needed for employment by any member of the family. Something that began to be seen even before the confinement, since as Penalva explains, “I have even found 2nd year high school students who do not have a computer at home. They deliver their work directly done with the mobile, from an infographic made with Canva or Genially to research work done in Google Docs, without touching a PC ”. Throughout the post-PC era.
Alberto Copado, an English teacher in Puertollano (Ciudad Real), has also seen this phenomenon: “It is surprising that the kids doing all this from their mobile phones, with a normalito they can follow the course if they feel like it, although it is not. ideal”. However, it has also seen cases in which not even that option is viable: “Some do not have a mobile phone and not a laptop, which is usually the most desirable. Either they have to share a laptop among several siblings, or they don’t even have a laptop at home. They find many difficulties to access the platforms that we prepare ”.
Faced with the difficulties of students to follow the line of the course, the solutions come from the teachers themselves in a private capacity, without a common strategy
Initiatives to solve these difficulties often come from the teachers themselves as they consider appropriate in each case, without a common guideline. Lorena telephones her students without connection, from her personal telephone, to try to convey the programming of each area to them. Olga, a primary school teacher in a Murcian school, has come to prepare a specific homework notebook for a student without any computer equipment. Now you are waiting for someone in your family to come by your house to pick you up.
At other times, the administration also tries to bridge these distances. The council (town hall) of Cerceda, in A Coruña, is studying ways to lend a tablet or laptop to students in their schools who do not have enough equipment to follow the classes remotely. In some cases, it even pays for the Internet connection to vulnerable families who cannot afford this expense, as it already does with other basic services, such as electricity or water supply.
Raquel Veira, a teacher in this municipality, says that of the around one hundred students she attends, there are only two in this extreme situation. With the rest, between the resources of his virtual classroom and group video calls with Zoom, “we are working well,” he explains. Especially with secondary school students, since primary school students have less autonomy and depend more on their families. Some follow the course, others remain outside waiting for the administration to intervene.
Families on, families off
Added to the lack of technological equipment is another inequality, which causes the differences between those who have family members who can assist them with access to digital tools, and those who cannot. This is often related to the above, there is a certain correlation between families in vulnerable situations and families with less digital skills. Some see a serious problem in what to do with the children, having to keep going to work, to think about having technological assistance.
Families capable or unable to help their children with digital skills also make a difference at times like this
Alberto explains that this difference is also very appreciable. “These days we are clearly seeing which children can have that support or that reinforcement from their families, and who cannot. Who is aware of them and who, for whatever reason, no. And we cannot do all the work for them. teachers, that reinforcement is important. “
Miguel Costa directs the Madrid headquarters of the ‘Empieza por Educar’ program, a foundation that tries to reduce educational inequalities between children from different social strata. “We see families that are not going to be able to support their children due to their more limited level of knowledge, especially after certain courses. The greatest tragedy for teachers comes when they see that there are students who want to but cannot follow their classes, that can’t connect. “
Pedro Alarcón, director of a concerted school in the form of a teaching cooperative in Malaga, believes that this situation has exposed many shortcomings in the educational system. “Many of my students are not in contact with digital reality. We see that they do not even know how to attach a file to an email, or generate a PDF document. They are basic processes that sound like Chinese to them. “In other families, this is the daily bread.
When they go back to the classrooms
This gap, which is gradually opening between students from different social classes with forced distance education, will become larger as more time passes until students return to the classroom. Some are already thinking not only about how to deal with this situation, but also about what consequences this confinement will have once normality is restored.
Andrés Conde directs the NGO Save the Children, and explains that one of the consequences that he considers that this confinement will have on the most vulnerable families: it will be the interruption of the educational process, since a percentage of them do not have a computer at home or connection to the network, and the educational level of their parents does not allow them to compensate for the situation.
Economic inequality and digital skills can cause profound educational inequality in weeks without face-to-face classes
“After the elderly, children will be the most affected group, since childhood can be left out of the public focus due to the low prevalence of this epidemic. If we do not take measures, This will accentuate child poverty and school failure in the most vulnerable groups“The NGO is focusing its efforts on ensuring connectivity, devices and educational content for these vulnerable children, as well as on guiding foster parents during confinement or on providing material aid.
For Miguel, this panorama on the horizon will force him to take action. “It will be necessary to make the evaluation of this course more flexible, allow certain situations to be individualized and leave the faculty to evaluate with certain criteria. And it will be necessary to generate compensation mechanisms for the most disadvantaged students, starting this summer. We must think not only in this crisis, but in what will come next. ” If the present is uncertain, the future even more. And if it is for everyone, for those who are left behind and do not even have their digital skills developed, it can paint even worse.