YEP has always been concerned with the well-being of vulnerable populations. We’ve always prioritized working with isolated seniors, newcomers struggling to learn English, and children and youth with behavioural issues and / or at risk of dropping out of school.

This time, another challenge has presented itself. Over the past month weeks, eLearning has become the norm for all students across the country. But for many students in the neighbourhoods we work, eLearning is simply not possible. Many do not have computers, tablets or smartphones at home. In one school we work with in Regent Park, roughly 50 students live in local shelters. Only a few days ago did the province of Ontario finally strike a deal to provide low-income students with iPad devices to support with eLearning.

We’ve distributed technology to those in need

We joined hands with a few organizations, led by our wonderful partner The Daniels Corporation, to support these students during this difficult situation. Rogers Communications donated 20 tablets with data, Beanfield Technologies donated $10,000 to purchase tablets and chromebooks, BestBuy offered deeply discounted devices, and we also made available over a dozen of our own tablets and laptops available for loan to students in and around Regent Park.

However, while eLearning is the new reality for students, it is important to remember that the jury is still out on its effectiveness. The province of Ontario is only requiring a few hours of teacher-based instruction each week. While there are many other eLearning sites students can use to fill the teaching void, those sites have no live instructor to confirm that content is understood, or to answer clarifying questions. Studies say that within three days, kids will forget roughly 40% of what they learned. But, at YEP, we know that by getting kids to teach others the things they’re learning, they’ll better retain that knowledge.

Young people are learning to teach parents at home

With classroom-based activities on pause, we’ve shifted efforts towards encouraging young people to teach their parents at home, with a current focus on teaching technology skills. We’ve launched a new site, Teach a Parent, aimed at keeping kids actively teaching and to alleviate the boredom that their technology-deficient parents are likely experiencing (and to help them be able to carry out work activities from home, if applicable). The site is regularly updated with new content based on student feedback.