Educational Technology Serves Equity When Used with Purpose
During my time as a classroom teacher, principal, and superintendent, I devoted myself professionally and emotionally to leading and supporting a vision of educational equity that many of my peers share. This vision is to create the best conditions that can lead to equitable learning outcomes and to provide all students with the appropriate resources they need to learn, regardless of race, gender, income and other factors.
I was fortunate to lead teams that shared my passion for achieving educational equity, but I also felt humiliated by the challenges presented along the way. Advocating for changes that sweep away the foundations of long-term institutions, policies, and practices can quickly begin to feel like a battle up, no matter how much educators work for the cause.
As I ventured into new roles and collaborated with policy makers, edtech developers, teacher educators, and thought leaders, my focus and enthusiasm for this vision expanded. I met new educators, witnessed the progress they were making collectively in areas that improved students’ experiences, and the struggle that sometimes seemed so daunting began to feel much more achievable from a new perspective. . With ongoing collaboration and learning, I have gained a renewed understanding of what it takes to achieve our goals and remain committed to educational equity.
And while each district faces unique challenges and circumstances in terms of educational equity, I believe there are some key components that can drive any equity initiative across the district.
A united vision
District leaders need to start with a shared vision of what equity is like in their communities, one that includes a thorough understanding of student needs, stakeholder collaboration, and deep immersion in the landscape. where students work, including school policies or cultural factors. which influence students ’experiences. District leaders should also have a good understanding of the biggest barriers to student success, the greatest resources or assets available to overcome those barriers, and the most effective ways to measure progress.
Access to new technologies and educational resources
We have seen incredible progress by the districts over the last few years in this area. Schools understand the importance of broadband Internet and are exploring ways to ensure that the new digital programs being introduced in their schools work in a safe and seamless manner. But despite the progress, there is still work to be done: according to Future Ready Schools, 21 million American students still do not have the broadband capacity needed for digital learning. Students affected by the lack of digital access to school are the ones most in need. In addition, many students affected by poverty do not have the ability to connect to the Internet at home, and therefore have fewer opportunities to use technology to learn or to support homework and study after school.
Support and dissemination to the community
In addition to supporting new blended learning models in the classroom, where students are expected to engage with technology and learning outside the walls of the school, there are other opportunities. Access, among other factors of equity, can be strengthened through community participation. Districts can establish partnerships with companies, organizations, and youth centers that play an important role in the lives of students and work with them to expand broadband access or provide additional secure learning spaces. Parental involvement is also critical to achieving equity goals: In an age when our classrooms are increasingly diverse and students come from different cultural backgrounds, districts need to work harder than ever to get these parents engage with their learning community in a meaningful way.
Technology on purpose in the hands of talented teachers
Perhaps the most promising move toward educational equity is the introduction of technology into the classroom. Personalization is more scalable than ever, advanced adaptive technologies meet the needs of students in real time, and information about student data provides educators with a deep understanding of student progress. But just as technology presents exciting opportunities, so too do complications.
We know that technology alone is not enough to fight inequality. The technology we introduce in the classroom can only move the needle of equity when used on purpose; that is, the integration and implementation of technology is as important as the quality of the technology itself. Researchers are seeing an emerging trend in which schools in poverty use technology less effectively than richer schools, even when the technology used in each school is the same. Educators need the support of their districts, strong, continuous professional development, and a clearly defined vision for personalized learning to leverage technology for the purpose of empowering each student. Frames such as the SAMR model or different understanding of personalized learning can serve as a solid foundation for preparing educators to succeed in a digital space.
To have an impact in any of these areas will require several levels of multifunctional teamwork, creative problem solving, and perseverance that will challenge each and every one of us. But of all the educators I have met over the years who have dedicated their lives to educational equity, I know that we are able to make our vision a reality. We have to.