School has either started or will start soon for thousands of students across the region. For most students, classes will be held at home in front of a computer screen with teachers who will continue to teach from their classrooms. The kitchen or dining room tables will replace desks, breakfast and lunch will be served from the same place as dinner, and recess, hopefully, will be limited to after school hours and not while class is in session.
It sounds all so simple here, but parents, students and teachers are stressing out about this new normal for teaching and learning, required for safety reasons, due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, school supplies lists are circulating; guidelines for virtual school attire have been sent, while demands for laptop computers are getting harder to fulfill.
COVID-19 is pulling the covers from the inequities in America that have existed for too long, especially in education. Access to technology is a prime example, with research and the Census, revealing that African Americans are less likely to say they own a computer in their home than whites. According to a year-old Pew Research Center survey, “Roughly eight-in-ten whites (82 percent) report owning a desktop or laptop computer, compared with 58 percent of Blacks and 57 percent of Hispanics. There are also substantial racial and ethnic differences in broadband adoption, with whites being more likely than either Blacks or Hispanics to report having a broadband connection at home.”
So, it drives one to ask, to what degree have Black children been disadvantaged by not having access to a computer in their home? And if a computer will be necessary to fulfill this semester’s academic requirements and resources are provided to ensure every student has access to a computer, what impact will that access have on leveling the educational playing field for Black children? If students use their computers for classroom instruction and are taught its value as a tool to learn so much more, the sky is the limit for what all children, especially Black children, can learn. Couple with parental engagement in subjects they are most familiar with, including history — family and neighborhood history — civics, English, math, or science taught while cooking, planting, listening to good music, or reading the local newspaper.
There’s a lot to learn in that little piece of technology. If used correctly, it may help to level the educational playing field for Black children.