Response to digital exclusion in public school system for students and educators
The Toronto Foundation created and funded a distance learning program for high schools that service populations with limited or no access to the internet. In two short weeks, a dial-in phone learning system was set up that connected 500 students with their teachers. The goal was to continue preparing these students for their matriculation exams that will take place in July 2020.
The response was designed to continue providing uninterrupted remedial instruction to high school students when the Israeli school system closed down for 8 weeks. Instruction was provided by a telephone service that linked each small group of students to their teacher.
Our goal was to help students living in insular communities with limited or no digital access to continue their studies at a critical juncture of the school year when they are preparing for the matriculation exams. We also provided online training to the teachers to enable them to more effectively provide instruction in this unfamiliar phone mode. Similar to the student population, the teachers have limited internet access or familiarity with online learning.
Without this system, the students would have struggled to pass the matriculation exams which could have had a long term negative impact on their ability to pursue higher education and gainful employment.
Specific issues addressed and anticipated impact
The anticipated impact is threefold:
1- Students, who are primarily from low socio-economic backgrounds and who struggle academically, will successfully complete their matriculation exams. Success will prevent students from dropping out of high school and will hopefully gain them entry into higher education
2- More extensive teacher training can be provided to the educators who are now less threatened by and more comfortable with online learning.
3- On a national scale, the public school systems will be better able to provide educational services to all populations with limited internet access.