Why Is Digital Equity Necessary for Social-Emotional Learning?
Digital equity supports social-emotional learning because there is no true SEL without equity. An important piece to remember when talking about digital equity is that equity doesn’t mean everyone is treated the same; equity means that everyone gets what they need in order to thrive. Equity also means that districts are unconditionally loving and supporting all of their students and providing, to the extent they are able, all the opportunities students need to succeed. If districts are not able to provide this in-house, they are seeking the knowledge and opportunities to bring this to their faculty and staff.
As it relates to academics, SEL is most effective when educators evaluate their lessons and the technology used to teach them. K–12 IT leaders should look at the different types of tech resources and the different types of media they want students to use and ask whether any of those could unintentionally harm learners.
For example, if a teacher shares a resource on the demographics of a neighborhood, city or school in class, it’s worth diving into why those demographics are the way that they are. Have there been concerns with redlining, financial gatekeeping or population migration in the area? This may influence the demographics of the area, which should be explored with students as they research and discuss this topic. This can be another area where educational technology can be extremely helpful: Students can do a deep dive into researching the factors that have impacted this.
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The districts providing resources should ensure that the tools and media represent their students and what they want to portray to their students. At the same time, when investing in these resources, district leaders should consider what they want students to learn from having these tools and media available and whether they will help learners articulate what happened in a given class. This is an opportunity where professional development from the administrative level can be particularly helpful. District leaders can give teachers the training and opportunities to learn about different types of tools so that teachers, coaches and students can use them during the school year.
How Can Schools Make Progress Toward Digital Equity?
Because SEL is so dependent on digital equity, schools must first find a solution for any inequities before providing appropriate SEL. Digital equity is a complex and multifaceted topic, but it boils down to student experiences. K–12 leaders must aim to provide the best and most equitable experiences to their students.
Giving computers to children is not going to solve all their problems. In many cases, internet access and bandwidth are issues preventing students from using technology and learning in meaningful ways. If students cannot utilize the technology they have, there is not equity.
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Another element necessary for digital equity is training. The importance of professional development for the educators using the resources can be lost when districts aim to incorporate new technology. When educators aren’t trained to appropriately use new technologies, one of two outcomes is likely to occur.
In some instances, educators become frustrated when they don’t understand how to operate resources. When they struggle to log in or can’t figure out how to use assignment tools, rather than expending the additional time and energy to learn, they may choose not to use that technology.