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  • Writer's pictureTheresa Capra

Remote Learning: a Tale of Two Cities

Updated: Aug 8, 2020

15 weeks after the nation was thrust into the realm of remote learning, evidence of its impact, as well as personal reviews, are rolling in. So how does it stack up? Well, it depends on which side of the tracks you reside: a tale of two cities. #theresacapra #remotelearning #covid19

Schools moved remote for a couple of weeks in March due to Covid-19. A couple of weeks quickly became a month. Then, in short-order, it became painfully clear that salvaging a traditional school year was impossible.

Some people have enjoyed this pause from the hectic life of dragging kids out of bed early in the morning, fighting about homework, stressing about grades and assessments--all upon the backdrop of a countdown to summer vacation.

Many college students delighted in the thought that Alice Cooper was indeed correct--School's out Forever. In the aftermath, news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal have reported that remote learning was a failure. However, we must resist the temptation to paint the experience with a broad brush ignoring MAJOR differences. In fact, remote learning is better understood as a Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."


Coronavirus; it was the best of times.

A much needed reset. Many affluent families generally enjoyed the pause from hectic life. White-collar workers stayed home and spent extra time with their children. They have fast-paced Internet, multiple computers, smartphones, tablets, televisions, etc. Yes, at times, it’s a nuisance-- “do your work and get off Roblox,” but in affluent districts most teachers already had robust Google Classrooms, Zoom, and other tools to enhance traditional learning thus making the transition to remote almost seamless.

And while it may seem that students are losing out on weeks of grade-level curriculum, think about everything else they’ve gained, and will gain, over the summer with the cancellations of camps that curate every activity for them.

For example, my 10-year old daughter has been watching me research and write more --she’s now working on a book. She also developed a website, learned about shading techniques with graphite pencils, and learned how to blend various paints by watching YouTube videos. She started a book club with a friend and makes unique Harry Potter potions with another through Face Time.

We adopted a kitten and my son and daughter researched all about how to raise her. My 7th grade son, who is not very fond of school, says he loves learning at his own pace, has been embarking on 11 mile bicycle rides with friends, and experiencing fewer meltdowns because of school (fewer ). If you have your health, quarantine has been far from a catastrophe.

Coronavirus; it was the worst of times.

An understatement for low-income families. Not only was it a bad experience, it will exacerbate achievement gaps. Low-income families are less likely to have Internet and proper equipment to access technology. In addition, families categorized by low socioeconomic status usually hold multiple jobs making it difficult to be hands-on with education, never mind during a pandemic while they're ‘essential’ workers but their children are exclusively learning from home.

An article by Richard Rothstein, a distinguished fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, as well as the June 2020 report from the Wall Street Journal, discuss this dichotomy further --from worksheets in low-income districts to Shakespeare for grandchildren. What would Charles Dickens say about all of this if he were alive today?

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