A literacy expert weighs in on what can be done about it.
GUEST COLUMN | by Alison Ryan
Over the past few years, parents and educators have suspected that pandemic-related learning loss would be serious, but a recent National Assessment of Educational Progress report underscored just how dire the situation is. The report states that in just two years, the pandemic erased two decades of academic growth.
Using data that has tracked academic progress for kids from the 1970s to the present, the report analyzes scores from the early part of 2020 before school closures swept the nation, as well as the winter of 2022. Math performance dropped for the first time, and reading scores experienced the largest drop in three decades.
‘It’s a daunting challenge, but teachers and parents can help kids overcome pandemic learning losses.’
Students who were already struggling sustained the largest learning declines, widening existing disparities in education. As a new academic year gets underway, many children who need extra help to catch up are entering schools beset by teacher shortages and larger class sizes. It’s a daunting challenge, but teachers and parents can help kids overcome pandemic learning losses. Here’s a closer look at some of the ways edtech can help.
4 Ways to Use Tech to Overcome Learning Loss
Use edtech as a resource to augment in-class instruction. The sudden pivot to virtual-only and hybrid learning under emergency conditions was difficult for kids, parents, and educators. Most schools weren’t set up for all-virtual teaching in the spring of 2020, so schools were playing catch-up. Kids and teachers had varying levels of experience with virtual classrooms at the outset, and many initially lacked the technology resources they needed for virtual learning, so classes fell behind. However, educators and students have gained more experience over the last few years, so it’s important to recognize that technology is now part of the solution. For most students, it won’t replace in-class instruction, but edtech is a resource that can help educators, parents and children regain lost ground.
Access assessments to personalize learning. Online learning platforms can offer teachers and parents opportunities to personalize learning for their students. In elementary school classrooms, students typically have a wide range of ability levels, so educators tend to teach to the middle. This is particularly true in overcrowded classrooms where the ability range may be even wider. An online learning platform that offers assessments can empower parents and teachers to provide instruction that is tailored to individual students, enabling those with more advanced skills to tackle more challenging material while giving teachers time to assist students who need extra instruction to catch up with peers. With the right online platform, edtech can serve as a virtual teacher working with smaller groups at their specific levels.
Use benchmarks to help parents monitor progress. Online platforms that offer placement tests can help teachers assess children’s current learning levels and monitor progress going forward, but these features are also useful for parents who are looking for ways to help their kids achieve age-level skills if they’ve fallen behind and develop new skills so they can excel in the weeks and months ahead. When parents and teachers find an online platform that offers benchmarking assessments and tools to monitor learning progress (such as features that enable parents and teachers to track completed modules, books read, etc.), it can strengthen the teamwork between parents and teachers, and children will benefit from their collaboration.
Recognize gamification’s power as a motivating tool. Kids love video games — gaming is a regular part of most children’s lives. Edtech that incorporates game elements like interactive characters and the ability to earn rewards can capitalize on children’s enthusiasm for video games to support classroom work. There’s evidence that gamification elements can motivate kids and keep them on task, transforming lessons that may have been perceived as a chore into a fun experience. Many educators and workplaces already recognize gamification’s utility as a motivating tool, and parents can also use interactive online platforms with gamification elements to encourage kids who are acquiring early reading and math skills by making learning fun.
Incredible Resilience, Resourcefulness
The National Assessment of Educational Progress report confirmed fears that learning loss due to the pandemic is profound, but educators and parents have shown incredible resilience and creativity over the past few challenging years. Teachers and parents can use edtech resources at home to help children overcome learning loss and get ready to take on new material.
For reading in particular, the more material parents can encourage their children to read, the better for kids’ fluency and decoding skills. Parents who collaborate with teachers to make learning fun can inspire children to become passionate about learning, and that’s the key to making up for learning losses — and for future academic success.
Alison Ryan is a Literacy Expert at Reading Eggs, a leading online reading program that helps children learn to read with hundreds of online reading lessons, phonics games and books for ages 2–13.