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“Education in the digital age”: bridging schools’ digital divide in the learning of English

“Education in the digital age”: bridging schools’ digital divide in the learning of English

A project of which Aurelio Ruiz García, a member of the Department of Information and Communication Technologies, is the principal investigator, with the support of a grant for alumni by the Department of State, via the US Consulate General in Barcelona.

14.09.2020

Imatge inicial

In mid-March 2020, the outbreak of covid-19 led Spanish schools at all levels to cancel their face-to-face teaching and learning activities to provide them online until the end of the academic year in June.

In addition to the measures taken by the authorities in the fields of health and education, work aimed at reducing the digital divide has depended heavily on each school centre, on the individual skills of their staff to adapt to the new situation, and the specific means that families have provided to their children.

“In Spain, beyond the emergency caused by the pandemic, the reality is that locally available support to schools for the efficient use of tools and, more importantly, necessary, associated pedagogical reflection, is scarce. We lack, for example, the figure of ‘educational technology assistant’, which is common in the US”, explains Aurelio Ruiz, a researcher at the UPF Department of Information and Communication Technologies (DTIC).

“This situation is even more evident in schools located in vulnerable contexts, where urgent actions linked to basic needs (such as social and emotional support and even food) have the highest priority”, he adds.

Inequalities in learning due to covid-19

The learning of English is one of the areas with greatest inequalities in Barcelona, especially due to differences in extracurricular support for students. The lockdown due to covid-19 has exacerbated this inequality due to interruptions to regular classes in schools, unequal abilities for families to provide support during this period, and the continuation of learning through extracurricular activities by only some of the students.

Thanks to a grant from the Department of State International Exchange Alumni office, with the support of the US Consulate General in Barcelona, Aurelio Ruiz García is leading a project that explores the use of mobile technologies as a tool to provide support to the teaching of English in schools in Barcelona, a project specifically aimed at schools located in more disadvantaged areas, with the aim of minimizing the impact of some of the causes of such inequalities.

The project titled “Education in the digital age:  Blended English Learning in Barcelona Schools”, aims to reflect on, evaluate and practise language teaching through mobile technologies, with a special focus on the more vulnerable communities, and seeks to foster the introduction of educational technology to the English classroom, including its seamless integration in the case of periods of blended or totally virtual teaching. For this purpose, experience in blended practices will be provided to teachers by co-designing learning experiences in primary and secondary school.

The Duolingo application will be introduced as a tool to support teachers in designing blended learning using mobile tools. Duolingo is a free, multiplatform language application that guides students through a series of gamified tasks designed by applying the principles of distributed learning. Duolingo for Schools is the specific tool targeting teachers so that they can integrate it into their classes.

Reference project:

“Education in the digital age: Blended English Learning in Barcelona Schools: introducing Duolingo in vulnerable primary and secondary settings”, funded by a grant from the Department of State International Exchange Alumni office, managed with the support of the US Consulate General in Barcelona.

Principal Investigator: Aurelio Ruiz García (DTIC-UPF)

Duration: 1 September 2020 to 30 June 2021

 

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