Here is how the response is shaping up—plus our recommended online resources.
The knock-on impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been wide-ranging and far-reaching, touching everything from economies to health systems and social norms in every corner of the globe. Some of its most significant impacts have been in the area of education.
As of mid-April, more than 1.6 billion children and youth in 188 countries—91.3 per cent of the world’s student population—had been affected by school closures. This situation is unprecedented in the history of education—and many school systems, teachers, students and parents were tossed into it without the planning or technology to make it work properly.
The international context
Countries are racing to come up with distance learning solutions, with early offerings ranging from educational radio and TV to virtual classrooms. But as schools around the world roll out tech-based solutions, it’s apparent that the children already most at risk are the ones likely to fall further behind.
UNESCO has responded by launching the COVID-19 Global Education Coalition to help countries reach at-risk children and youth. It is also monitoring school closures, developing distance learning solutions and recommendations, and has come up with other responses, including technical assistance, international partnerships and regional responses in areas like Latin America and the Asia Pacific.
Canadian online resources
Meanwhile, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO has been exploring how to support students in Canada. A key tool will be our new Teacher’s Toolkit, which has activities and resources for students of all ages under themes like human rights, global citizenship, sustainable development, climate action and reconciliation. It was originally produced for the UNESCO Schools Network, but contains ideas and resources that all teachers and parents can use.
Some provincial and territorial ministries of education have also introduced online learning portals. For example, Ontario launched a Learn from Home website with resources for elementary and secondary students, and Quebec launched a similar platform called Open School. Meanwhile, CBC has made Curio.ca, its subscription-based site, accessible to all Canadians. It offers worksheets, hands-on activities and teacher guides for K to 12. Feel free to also explore CBC Kids where you can access games, videos, activities, quirky quizzes and fun facts.
We don’t believe online learning can ever replace teachers and schools. Distance learning is challenging without adult support, and not all parents are positioned to help children navigate web-based resources. But for those who would like to explore, here are some experiences we recommend.
Developing digital skills
- Kids Code Jeunesse has coding webinars. Sign up at its Virtual Code Club.
- TakingITGlobal has learning experiences students can access at their own pace.
- Code to Learn @ Home provides live coding sessions plus recorded sessions for those wanting to learn at their own pace.
- Create to Learn @ Home is offers dozens of free tutorials by First Nations, Métis and Inuit media makers. These cover creative and digital skills from making video games to acting and entrepreneurship.
Keeping up with literacy and numeracy
- Media Smarts has excellent resources to support digital and media literacy, and recently published special information about social media and screen time during the pandemic.
- Concordia University’s Learning Toolkit Plus (LTK+) helps young children learn by promoting literacy, numeracy and self-regulation.
- Ingenium is sharing online resources to do #scienceathome.
- Kids Boost Immunity (KBI) offers lesson plans and resources linked to health and science, and recently launched a Teacher Centre.
- Take the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Little Inventors Mission: Protect Our Oceans challenge to celebrate the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Or plunge into virtual reality with the Ocean School.
- STEM Fellowship has online courses about data analytics, statistics and scientific communication.
- Let’s Talk Science has cool experiments to do at home.
- Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants brings science, exploration and adventure into your home through virtual speakers and field trips.
Exploring culture and land
- Historica Canada offers resources on Canada’s history and being Canadian. See its Learning Tools for Educators.
- Canadian Geographic Education has an online classroom with activities, videos, hangouts and more.
- Parents and kids can explore the National Film Board’s educational content for free.
- Wapikoni, which works with Indigenous communities, is making its 1,200+ works available.
- Connected North @ Home provides learning experiences and virtual tours featuring museums, science centres, aquariums, artists and cultural institutions for all ages, with a free Apple TV app for TV access.
Taking it outdoors
- Learning for a Sustainable Future is curating a weekly collection of accessible, interactive, and engaging outdoor activities on their page Learning Inside Out.
- Explore your own backyard with ideas from Nature Canada.
- Learn about Canada’s biosphere reserves or fill your backpack with activities from the Georgian Bay Biosphere Lessons-in-a-backpack.
Online learning will never replace real teachers—but it may help fill some gaps until life returns to normal.