Today’s education doesn’t need to be limited to the walls of a classroom. It shouldn’t rely on home internet access, a community hotspot or a ride to the library. It shouldn’t be exclusive to kids who attend schools stocked with new textbooks and state-of-the-art laboratories.
Rather, U.S. students are entering a time where equity in education has the potential to be closer than ever before. Technology brings the opportunity for students to access the same plethora of information, regardless of location or status.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a trend toward one-to-one devices for students nationwide. Districts that had yet to assign devices to each student rushed to make that happen when remote learning began. Emergency funding helped fill in the gaps for districts that needed a jump-start to make big technology purchases.
Now that most students have access to devices and the internet, however, we have the opportunity to determine whether we will truly make this a transformational moment in education. If we are to take advantage of these changes, we need to continue to press for true educational equity. In some districts, that might mean building internet service contracts into every device. In others, it might call for a policy change that allows students to bring those devices home with them.
A few other strategies that districts should consider to continue improving technology equity in education:
Embrace Students as Learning Partners. For all districts, it’s critical that students are embraced as partners in learning. That means they must be trusted with devices even outside of the classroom. Ultimately, students who bring devices home with them may extend their learning day long after the final bell.
Invest in Tech Training for Educators. Another important aspect in pursuing equity comes in the form of teacher training. Strong teachers have modified their curriculum and learned how to develop successful educational programming through technology. That means utilizing learning platforms, incorporating technology in class assignments, and taking advantage of advancements to help students with learning disabilities.
Create Sustainable Technology Implementation Plans. Perhaps the most crucial element of establishing educational equity through technology is creating sustainable plans so students have continued access for years to come. It’s undeniable that today’s devices will wear down and current technology will become obsolete. That’s why administrators need to be thinking now about how to maintain a high-tech learning environment.
Long-term technology planning simply can’t wait until the end of a device lifecycle. Think of your school technology in the same way that you would your home heating system. If you wait until it stops working, you don’t have many options left. You’ll be in a position where you’re paying a premium to purchase and install a new unit simply so you can restore heat in your home.
Just as you know your roof will need to be replaced in 20 years or your cell phone in two years, it’s feasible to assume that devices purchased during the pandemic have between one and three school years left in them. Look now for ways to fund your next fleet – without needing to rely on a large grant or special funding.
Districts that successfully maintain technology are ones that stop seeing technology as a one-time purchase and start seeing it as an ongoing cost. Just like a utility bill, your technology costs should be ongoing. They might go up and down over time, but there won’t be large peaks and valleys in your costs – because they are a planned expense.
Now that we’ve introduced this high level of technology into the U.S. school system, it’s imperative that we take steps to make sure it continues. It’s simply not possible to move backward and still make progress.
The opportunity to make a difference in educational and technology equity benefits not only today’s classrooms, but the future of the students in those classrooms. The decisions that school leaders make today will ultimately determine the trajectory of education – and our ability to make it truly accessible to all – for years to come.