Why schools still need a remote option to mitigate COVID-19 | The TechTank Podcast

People wait in line for back to school COVID test

COVID cases are on the rise again – this time hitting K-12 students, especially those who are unvaccinated, under 12, and back in the classroom. Before the start of the new school year, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona shared that “[s]tudents belong in the classroom” as more buildings were encouraged to fully open. But over the last two weeks, more than 500,000 new COVID-19 cases have been reported among students, accounting for 29% of all cases reported nationwide. Students below the age of 12 are still not eligible for vaccinations and are at greater risk of hospitalization and the infection of other unvaccinated family members.

The larger questions are: will schools be ready to shift to a remote option if the virus continues to ravage student populations, teachers, and their families? Have we learned any lessons from the first-round of school closures, especially strategies for making digital access more universally available to historically disadvantaged communities? For students without reliable access to the internet, they will once again be left behind and at risk of suffering even greater learning losses. But to achieve even greater digital equity, educators and administrators must be convinced of the power of connectivity as a supplement to traditional learning.

In the latest TechTank podcast episode, co-host Nicol Turner Lee is by Jon Valant, Senior Fellow in Governance Studies and Director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, Amina Fazlullah, Director of Equity Policy for Common Sense Media, and Alejandro Roark, Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership. They delve into these and other issues related to ensuring that no child is left offline.

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TechTank is a biweekly podcast from The Brookings Institution exploring the most consequential technology issues of our time. From artificial intelligence and racial bias in algorithms, to Big Tech, the future of work, and the digital divide, TechTank takes abstract ideas and makes them accessible. Moderators Dr. Nicol Turner Lee and Darrell West speak with leading technology experts and policymakers to share new data, ideas, and policy solutions to address the challenges of our new digital world.