Online Learning and Reducing Digital Divide during School Shutdown

Kennelly School staff share read-along videos online

One strategy to continue student learning outside of schools during the COVID-19 public health crisis is to share free online learning resources. The CHER team compiled this list below, with a special focus on those created by Hartford-area schools, organizations, and volunteers. We encourage you to share this link with others, and contact us if you have additional suggestions to offer, especially those created here in Hartford.

Let’s be clear: sharing links is a great start, but not the only step we must take to address educational disparities that existed long before this public health crisis, and will intensify during the length of this public school shutdown. Read CT Mirror reporter Jacqueline Rabe Thomas’s story on how the digital divide continues to grow as some of Connecticut’s richer school districts and families have shifted to online learning, which is not yet possible for many poorer school districts and families. Contact the CHER team if you can expand online access to Hartford-area families (by donating computers, helping people connect to internet services, etc.) or have other creative strategies to offer. In addition, we are sharing, though not necessarily endorsing, these special offers by internet service providers to low-income families during the Covid crisis:

  • Xfinity WiFi Public Hotspots: now open to everyone. See link for map of coverage in your area.
  • Internet Essentials from Comcast: New Internet Essentials customers will receive two free months of Internet service, which is available to all qualified low-income households, afterwards $9.95/month plus tax. Check for availability in your area.
  • Cox Connect2Complete service for qualified lower-income families: first month free, then $9.95 per month, free wifi modem, free installation, no deposits. Check for availability in your area.
  • Frontier Lifeline Discount program for qualified lower-income families. Check availability in your area.
  • non-profit organization with tool to find low-cost internet and affordable computers in your area.

Free online learning resources created in the Hartford area:

  • Hartford’s Kennelly School Twitter account features their nightly 7:30pm read-aloud, where staff read a book to children on live video, which is also recorded and made available online. If other people in Hartford wish to create more family-friendly read-aloud videos, please feel free to contact CHER to help circulate them.
  • Active City, a Hartford non-profit dedicated to increasing access to affordable youth athletic programs, is creating sports and exercise videos on Facebook and YouTube for kids and families.
  • Hartford Sweat is also offering exercise and meditation online on Facebook.
  • The researchIT CT service from CT State Library & local public libraries “allows Connecticut library cardholders to search thousands of databases, magazines, journals, newspapers, and catalogs. Signing in may require your library card number.” Resources are organized by topic and audience, including K-12 learners, college students, and adults. Learn more on this Hartford Public Library resources page.
  • Hartford Public Schools created this set of digital learning packets, organized by grade level. Would anyone like to volunteer their time (and their photocopier) to print out packets to distribute to students, perhaps through the HPS Student Meal Pickup locations around the city? Contact CHER if you’re willing to help.

Additional free learning resources from other locations:

  • Check out this Internet Archive blog post about open-access digitized educational resources. See special sections on Children’s Literature, #1000 Black Girl Books, and more.
  • From all over, The Big List of Children’s Book Authors Doing Online Read Alouds & Activities
  • From The Spanish Experiment,  Well-known children’s stories translated into Spanish and spoken by a native Spanish speaker. Read along in Spanish or English.
  • Outside of Hartford, Wendy MacNaughton (@wendymac on Instagram) offers live drawing classes at 1pm Eastern time, geared towards kids but good for everyone. Also, Mo Willems, the artist-in-residence at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, offers live “drawing doodles” during lunchtime.
  • JSTOR is providing expanded open access on more of its journals and e-books. These are mostly academic books and articles that might be best used by adults and high school students working on research projects or papers.