Virtual learning especially challenging for English language learners

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Virtual learning has presented its fair share of challenges for both students and teachers alike, especially for students who speak English as their second language.

Regina Akot came to the United States from Sudan. She has five children in the Albany City School District. Three of them are able to attend school in-person, but her 14-year-old and 16-year old are learning online.

“The children who are learning online, they are having a hard time. Sometimes they don’t understand,” said Akot.

Her children are among some 100 other students who are learning online through the Albany International Center, which is a specialized program through the district for immigrant and refugee students. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, instruction for students grades seven through 12 is fully remote.

Akot said, with English as their second language, virtual learning has been especially challenging for them.

“They say they want to be back in-person. That’s what they want,” said Akot.

Akot said, at times, it’s difficult for her children to understand their teachers between the language barrier and instances of poor internet connection.

“Ya know with the computer, sometimes the voice, you can hear some voice, like a robot voice,” said Akot.

She said it’s also hard for her children to follow along because when they’re in person, they’re better able to ask questions and clarify things before moving ahead in the lesson.

“In school, like last year, because they were there with the teacher, they ask questions and they understand,” said Akot.

Tom Giglio, the district’s Director for English as a New Language (ENL) and Refugee Services, said they’re constantly working with families in order to understand the challenges and come up with solutions to help students succeed during these unprecedented times. There are roughly 1,000 ENL learners district-wide. The students in grades 7-12 at the AIC are learning online due to the district’s pandemic-related budget reductions.

“Our English language learners remain a priority for us, and we’re continuing to work on that each day, cultivating relationships, figuring out how we can do better with technology, how we can continue to do better with instruction. We take feedback from parents and community members very seriously and we’re excited to continue to work no matter what challenges get thrown at us,” said Giglio.

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