Conquering the Digital Divide: What’s the next hurdle?

Arguably phase one of advancing digital equity came down to providing a device for every student, and the pandemic fast-tracked these efforts. Then the pandemic revealed another digital equity hurdle: internet access. Phase two revolved around addressing connectivity issues and kids unable to do their homework, which became known as “The Homework Gap.” The Emergency Connectivity Fund (EFC), which Congress included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, provided aid to schools and libraries seeking to close the homework gap by providing home connectivity. Funds covered reasonable costs for equipment, including laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and also broadband. What’s the next step in advancing digital equity? Preparing teachers to integrate digital tools into existing curriculum in the best way possible.

Create a district technology baseline

Despite greater access to devices and connectivity, many households remain disconnected, so some students still struggle to do their homework. Before teachers can incorporate technology confidently in their classroom and for homework assignments, teachers need to know that students have all the digital resources they need. School districts can help teachers by setting standards for hardware and tech services across the board that they’ll guarantee to each student and then communicate this technology baseline to set teacher expectations.

Supporting educational innovation

Past education legislation pushed for improving teaching and learning using technology, including legislation as far back as the Educate America Act of 1994. But nothing could prepare schools for the unprecedented shift to online learning during the pandemic, and many teachers struggled with this transition. As teachers and students return to the classroom this fall, are they equipped by school administration and IT with all the support they need? On average, districts use 1,417 different EdTech tools, teachers use 148, and students use 143 tools each month, demonstrating the need to cultivate digital skills this fall (K-12 Dive).

How to support teachers

The challenge this fall will be to digitize traditional learning and help teachers use the full potential of digital tools. For example, whiteboards offer students and teachers more than just chalkboards. Teachers can integrate whiteboards with several technologies, including microscopes and video cameras, to offer interactive lessons. Here are a few considerations to better support educators:

  • Cultivate digital skills — to transition teachers from digital literacy to digital competency, look for EdTech that provides educator training
  • Explore new professional development opportunities — edWeb is an online community for educators. Members can get training on trending educational topics either in person or on demand, and earn continuing education credits for doing so. Click here to learn about edWeb.

We recommend this webinar: “Active Listening: How to Use Audio to Empower Every Student’s Learning Journey.” Headsets and headphones can help close the digital divide by enhancing communication and focus when digesting digital content or even while taking standardized tests. This webinar explores classroom audio topics, including how students struggling with reading can keep up with grade-level content if teachers use podcasts and other digital media as learning aids.  Click here to watch or listen to this webinar on demand.

Despite the plethora of EdTech to accelerate learning, all of this education innovation is null if students don’t have access to essential learning resources and teachers are not trained to help students thrive in the digital landscape. Stay tuned to our VAR Connections blog to learn more about K-12 digital equity topics.

Did you watch AVID’s webinar? Share with us your favorite takeaway in the comments below.

Sources:

https://www.k12dive.com/news/decoding-the-divide-how-covid-19-thrust-long-widening-digital-gap-into-spotlight/599987/

https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/action-center/our-issues/homework-gap-digital-divide

https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-connectivity-fund

Students used average of 143 ed tech tools in 2021-22 | K-12 Dive (k12dive.com)

https://blogs.worldbank.org/education/transforming-how-teachers-use-technology

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