Chapter 8: COVID and learning
In Ohio alone there have been over 305,000 Covid-19 cases and 5,742 deaths reported. With the increasing severity of the 2020 pandemic everyone’s lives have been turned upside down. COVID-19 has caused stores, restaurants, and schools to close indefinitely due to cases around the country continuing to fluctuate. Although businesses and people have been affected by this demanding issue, the world of education has been critically impacted. While the pandemic has quickly escalated, so has the idea of remote learning. The transition to remote learning due to COVID-19 is intellectually harmful for the education of elementary age children. Many people can arguably agree that online learning is not suitable for young children and is not a fitting environment for children’s minds to be stimulated and grow.
In James Gee’s article, “What is Literacy?” he discusses what he calls identity kits or discourses. A discourse is any situation where reading or speaking is involved and can also involve your nationality, career, gender, and hobbies. He continues by explaining what primary and secondary discourses are. A primary discourse is how you interact with people, places, or things familiar to you so, for example how you act at home would be considered your primary discourse (18). A secondary discourse is how you interact with people, places, and things that are not familiar to you, like outside of your home for instance (18). This relates to the new world of education that is remote learning because once school was seen as a child’s secondary discourse, but quickly intertwined with their primary discourse at home. This abrupt transition could be jarring for some children and may have harmful effects on today’s youth.
The first article to examine this issue is Tarnell D. Hobbs’ and Lee Hawkins’ , “The Results are in for Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work”. This article discusses the very issue with remote learning, it is simply not effective and the issues surrounding it began to appear almost immediately. Some students were without devices or internet access, teachers were not equipped to teach remotely, or students just wouldn’t attend their online courses. The superintendent of the Los Angeles School District, Austin Beutner, says “We all know there is no substitute for learning in a school setting, and many students are struggling and falling far behind where they should be” (1). Many children are experiencing a large learning gap now that remote learning is established, some learning gaps may not be recoverable especially for young children. According to prior research, “students nationwide will return to school in the fall with roughly 70% of learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year, and less than 50% in math, according to projections by NWEA” (2).
Hobbs and Hawkins briefly discuss the common misconception that because this generation is “tech savvy” (2) that they will automatically prosper in this new world of education, but that is not the case. “Being a digital consumer and a digital learner are two different things,” Janella Hinds, a Brooklyn Public Service High School teacher, says. There is a large difference between what students do on their devices for fun and how they use their devices to learn. The correlation between the two is simply nonexistent.
Between birth to 5 years old are the most crucial moments for child development. During this time period children have the opportunity to grow and develop neurologically, emotionally, socially, and physically. As young children, they are unable to learn through books and quizzes, instead they learn through play and meaningful social interactions. Most children, if not all, go through these vital phases of development at school. Here, students have the chance to interact with peers to create and strengthen those four areas of development. Without this predominant foundation children may be permanently suppressed during future development. For these very reasons in person schooling, particularly elementary in person learning is important.
This importance is discussed by Susan P. Walker and others in the article, “Inequality in early childhood: risk and protective factors for early child development”. The foundation of brain development is created early in life through meaningful interactions and influenced genetically, biologically, an psychosocially (2). Learning opportunities that facilitate early cognitive development include caregiver activities and materials that promote age-appropriate language and problem solving skills (6). These type of helpful learning opportunities are not supported by remote learning walker says. Remote learning simply lacks a multitude of early leaning opportunities and neccesary caregiver-child interactions that then contributes many of the children falling behind since remote learning was introduced.
With children at home on a twenty-four hour basis this leaves an open door for parents to participate in their child’s education more than ever before. Keeping this in mind, Walker discusses how remote learning and the presence of parents involved in their learning can be helpful. Considering that positive emotionality, sensitivity, and attentiveness towards the child can nourish their cognitive development, the presence of parents in their child’s education can help them prosper if anything (6). Furthermore, Walker analyzed many studies done in China, India, South Africa, and Bangladesh that had shown interventions between mother and child resulted in stimulated cognitive development and overall a positive foundation for the child to stive in (6-7)
The final two articles that discuss the impact of remote learning on our youth are Abby R. Masonbrink’s and Emily Hurley’s “Advocating for Children During the Covid-19 School Closure” and Datonye Briggs’ “Covid-19: The Effect of Lockdown on Children’s Remote Learning Experience”. These two articles touch on a hidden factor of remote learning that people tend to pay no mind to, the impact on the less fortunate youth. Masonbrink opens by stating, “the impact of COVID-19 unfolds, pandemic-related trauma and economic instability will disproportionately impact children in poverty, who most heavily rely on school-based services for nutritional, physical, and mental health needs” (1). “… nutrition programs that serve over 35 million children living in poverty daily” (2). She continues to focus on the fact that sometimes a school lunch may be the only source of food or the only meal a child has every day. The school nurse and teacher everyday general wellness checks may be the only source of welfare for children in need. Masonbrink stresses this because it has become a stressful issue now that remote learning has been introduced. In addition to the wellbeing of children in poverty, many questions may arise about technology in order to do remote learning. If a child’s family cannot afford food or healthcare, what makes you think they can afford a computer or even internet connection to follow through with this new world of education. Furthermore, Masonbrink discusses the issue of a potential education gap for the the young generation being taught via remote learning (1). This gap could cause lower test scores and lower educational sustainment. Masonbrink also mentions with the unforeseen school closings there is no additional help offered to students with disabilities including time with specialized educators and unique learning environments suitable for these types of students (2).
Similarly, Datonye Briggs discusses some of the same issues that arise with online learning and children in poverty in his article, “Covid-19: The Effect of Lockdown on Children’s Remote Learning Experience.” He discusses how many families in Nigeria are affected by remote learning because school made food and all aspects of education accessible and how this may be the cause of an educational gap (43). In addition to the poverty issue in Nigeria Briggs also discusses some of the general issues that follow remote learning such as the lack of ongoing learning activity (49). In person schooling offers roughly 6 hours of educational time, with online learning students tend to get distracted easier, lectures and interpersonal teaching is lost, all learning is through video or reading there is no actual learning activity taking place. Because there is no ongoing learning activity there is also no engagement. Without the personal connections and meaningful lesson students find no interest in material or school at all Briggs says (50). Education via computer is less entertaining and motivating for children because of their short attention span. The skill to obtain a long attention span has not been developed yet, therefore, remote learning isn’t stimulating enough for kids (50)
Remote learning is the growing new world of education. Although it may be convenient and helpful for some, it is our youth that are going to suffer the most from the lifelong impacts it has. Online education is not a fit choice for young, developing children because it is not stimulating nor beneficial mentally, socially, or emotionally for children and these are the basic building blocks of a child’s young life. School is the main foundation of a child’s schooling career and life. Not only is the transition to remote learning harmful developmentally, it is further weighing down our unfortunate youth and putting them in harm’s way, it is creating a detrimental education gap, and is not supporting students with disabilities. Although remote learning may seem necessary in these critical times, our youth’s wellbeing and education should come first.
Gee, James Paul. “What is literacy.” Negotiating academic literacies: Teaching and learning across languages and cultures (1998): 51-59.
Tawnell D. Hobbs, Lee Hawkins. “The Results are in for Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work” (2020)
Susan P. Walker et al. “Inequality in early childhood: risk and protective factors for early child development.” Risk and protective factors for early child development (2011)
Abbey R. Masonbrink et al. “Advocating for Children During the Covid-19 School Closures.” (2020)
Datonye Briggs. “Covid-19: The Effect of Lockdown on Children’s Remote Learning Experience.” (2020)