Edtech and Equity

What is the Role of Edtech in Creating Student Equity?

The critical topics of equity and inclusion have surfaced on panels and in community discussions from Silicon Valley to local school district meetings.

Exploring the myriad ways in which edtech can serve to help (or hinder) student equity in K-12 education is emerging as a greater priority for those involved on both the academic and corporate sides of the fence. (See EdSurge’s The Missing IDEAs in Edtech? Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access and What is Education Journalism’s Role in Solving Equity Issues? for thought-provoking views on the current landscape and its key players.)

Earlier this week, the 2016 iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium kicked off in the Lone Star State, bringing with it thousands of educators, administrators, policymakers, and researchers from across the country—many of whom gathered to discuss and expand upon their own efforts toward achieving student equity.

With ‘Innovation for Equity + Redefining Success’ as its theme, this year’s event tackled topics including connectivity, competency-based education, and Open Educational Resources as a means to bridging tech equity and access gaps. One session, which focused on whole-school readiness, called for school leaders to take a 30,000-foot view, questioning the ways in which personalized learning might actually cause inequities to persist. The session also presented a framework for schools to assess their approaches to examining equity practices. 

Yet another session featured school designers from NGLC’s progressive network, who have explored how next gen learning practices—that is, methods that are student-centered, personalized, competency-based, blended, experiential—have shown initial positive impact in helping students of color and those from lower socioeconomic groups to develop a robust set of 21st-century competencies. 

The conversation is much more nuanced than a narrow focus on, for example, average test scores as signposts toward progress, or to solving only a single layer of logistical challenges, such as which students are exposed to specific technologies outside of the classroom vs. those who are not. The exchanges and lessons learned from those involved on the front lines of student equity—whether they involve English language learners, students with disabilities, students of color, or those from low-income backgrounds—are the voices that are perhaps most valuable in shaping 21st century equity initiatives.

In this vein, iNACOL released its latest report, Meeting The Every Student Succeeds Act’s Promise: State Policy to Support Personalized Learning, documenting how the new federal K-12 education law grants states more power in implementing personalized, student-centered learning models, while offering greater flexibility for those schools that need to redefine student success goals based on the needs of their respective populations.

What role is edtech playing in establishing student equity in your school district? In what ways do you see the two intersecting? Share your thoughts with the NGLC community in the comments section below.

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