Thursday, June 1, 2023

I’ve Gotten a Glimpse Into What Remote Learning Looks Like for Low-Income Students and I Don’t Like What I See

I find it hard to imagine what remote learning looks like for our low-income students. As a person who grew up in a low income neighborhood, it is even harder to imagine.  COVID-19 has given me a glimpse into what it looks like and I don’t like what I see.

First, I imagined the number of kids that do not have access to technology at home.  Then, I realized that is not the biggest problem. We could give each and every child access to technology at home; but would that result in actual learning?  When I was younger, I lived in a single parent home, oldest of three and mom worked two jobs to make sure we had all our needs met. I was still luckier than most. My only problem would have been that I would have to help my siblings while doing my work because my mother would need to go to work.

I personally knew kids that were being abused on a regular basis at home.  I will never forget the day I visited a friend and it looked like a scene in a crack house from an old nineties movie.  I grew up with kids whose parents would pawn their things during hard times in order to pay the bills. Would those kids be able to learn remotely?  I think there is value in remote learning and at this time this is all we have. Some teachers are being tasked with coming into the school in the middle of the call for “shelter in place” simply to make copies to send out to students.  Is that even safe? If they don’t make the copies would those students get any assignments. Even when they do get the assignments…are they actually learning? So, is it worth the risk?

When this is over, I implore the country to reevaluate the idea of remote learning and e-learning.  I don’t think we should get rid of it but there has to be a better way to prepare everyone for its use.  I believe some of the following should take place:

  • Remote learning days should be embedded throughout the school year once or twice a month.  School Improvement days should become remote learning half days. That would help teachers improve their digital teaching skills by working together and give students regular practice so that it is easier for them to do on their own at home.
  • Each state should ensure that all students have a device that they can use and replace any devices that are not returned.  If any state is willing to implement remote learning they should be accountable for ensuring that each school has the necessary amount of access.
  • All teachers should be required to have a technology element integrated into a lesson that is formally or informally observed each school year.  The only way to effectively assist teachers that may require more help is by knowing what they are doing and giving them the opportunity to improve before it becomes mandatory.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any way that we can make sure that students with jobs, students who must care for younger siblings and students in abusive homes can get effective use out of remote learning.  As teachers, we always express how we can’t control the things that happen at home. We can’t. And that’s why I always put so much emphasis on creating a positive learning environment in school. That is the one thing I can control. 

What do you do when you don’t even control that? 

Kiah Duncan
Kiah Duncan has been an educator since 2008.  Over the years, she has taught grades K- 5 and is now serving as an instructional interventionist for reading and math.  She is a licensed reading specialist and is currently working towards obtaining a license for educational administration.  In her journey as an educator it has always been her goal to work with our most at-risk students.  She has served in her former community of Harvey IL for the majority of her career.  She strives to continue to provide the highest level of education to our under-served youth.


  1. Although i am a german living in Germany i can relate to what you said.

    Yes, it is a problem – especially in abusive homes – to get kids to learn even “remotely. And the problem of “parents looting” their kids posessions is a common one – no matter the region.

    For myself i found me balancing “straight edge” between those worlds, was the safest route to get access to learning material and courses/teachings – let me state some details:

    + Pupils/students/teachers helped me by bending the law to the extreme: declaring necessary books i couldn’t afford (but were mandatory) as “stolen” so i either got the “stolen” or a “replacement” book through their kindness and because of their realization of my circumstances – yes, a parent does even sell your school-books when it is lucrative, despite how blatant a lie telling legends of how i got rid of them due to “being a punk” is, which was easily seen through by the more observant teachers and friends.

    + A controlled environment is necessary. Not to gain control over the student – that would imply the student is the problem – which in most cases is not, because curiosity in general is hardcoded into human beings and the force of being intrigued to learn something even grows the more you can not learn because your home disables you to do so. – So imposing a kind of “geofencing” is the right thing to do – where it in our days of global connectivity via the internet has a negative effect and means to manipulate for purposes of profit and power if applied to our networking – in the physical world it creates a safe zone. A global guideline for Internet Cafés, High Schools, Universities, social meeting spaces, youth harbours and the like should be established, so that especially those underprivileged kids “feel” what an achievement it is to “heave ye ass” into a location you are neither familiar with and where you are confronted with another reality – other then the abusive one. These places must be publically accessible and all condone to the minimal common subset, that can be applied regardless of nationality, income, social status and level of knowledge or age. – These places must not feed comfort but rigid and constant accessibility, based on Kiosk-Terminals made of rugged hardware so a spilled drink doesn’t outcast you if you have that mishap or are maybe due to abuse since child-days or physical disabilities not sensitive enough to have fine-grained control over the use of the hardware, let alone never have had the opportunity to learn how to. – Software-wise it must be based on open-source and free software exclusively, whereas using a closed-source operating-system is fine, as long as the applications themself are free of a paywall-entry barrier and under any circumstances access must be curated. Fundings for the latter – the job of the curator – have to be financed by government to prevent from depending on local sponsors and the “how we do it here”, which flaws the concept from the get go. Web ressources must be served un-geo-fenced and free of commercial offerings and porn. – All this is easily doable, once a basic mainline is established and can be taught efficiently to the curator.

    + Remote learning should be part of everyday life, at least in schools, but preferably everywhere in any field of expertise. There is nothing more economically damaging then industries/businesses that rely on the classic pyramid-scheme-hierarchy, not only allowing but essentially forcing workers into specializing and staying in place. It is long proven that that “way of doing things” is not only stupifying but essentially minimizing profit for owners as well as workers and manifests untrust, meaning eradicating any possibility to ever trust each other coworker independent of rank and status and indeed the most prominent reason for blackmarketsales of business secrets, not even speaking of unproductive behaviour, with up to 4/5th spending time on tactics instead of the work itself. – It can be prevented by open and accessible remote learning for all ages and income, social status and any type of employments, as long as it fullfils a basic subset of the mentioned criteria (to be applied globally).

    If you like to talk/philosiphize/exchange more about it, feel free to write to me directly.

    … all Best.


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