Apr 18 2024

Schools Must Focus on Narrowing Digital Divides

While providing students with access to digital tools is important, educators must also find solutions for the digital use and the digital design divides.

Concern about digital equity in schools hit its zenith during the pandemic. However, its importance certainly has not declined. Recently, the topic received renewed attention in the 2024 update to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Educational Technology Plan, which underscores its continued importance.

The plan delves deeply into shrinking three types of digital inequity: the digital use divide, the digital design divide and the digital access divide.

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Equity Models in K–12 for Start with Thoughtful Planning

Many K–12 schools already have digital equity baked into their technology efforts. In California’s Mt. Diablo Unified School District, technology leaders aim to narrow the digital access divide by ensuring students and educators have equitable access to educational technology. Centralizing their tech purchases was a key first step (see “Why More K–12 Schools are Modernizing Their IT Procurement Process”). “I see it as an equity initiative,” says Robert Sidford, the district’s director of technology and innovation. “Every student needs equal access, and the only way to ensure that is through centralized purchasing.”

DISCOVER: Three keys for creating digital transformation in K–12.

As part of its commitment to narrowing the digital use divide, Sumner County Schools in Middle Tennessee officially went one-to-one last year (see “Network Upgrades Enhance the Educational Experience, Tech Leaders Say“). Leaders are not only providing students with technology to enhance their learning but also supporting the new device density with a network upgrade. “We wanted to make sure that all of our energies are dedicated toward the student experience and setting our students up to succeed,” explains Chris Brown, assistant director of schools for information services.

The digital design divide — how educators use technology to design learning experiences — can be extremely challenging to bridge. However, teachers and technology leaders at Fresno Unified School District are making a valiant effort (See “High-Touch Learning for the Modern Classroom”). After installing Promethean digital whiteboards in its classrooms, the district provided instructors with comprehensive professional development to improve their use of the tool.

“It isn’t just a shiny TV in the classroom. This is a teaching tool that enables high-quality instruction,” says Don Soyinthisane, the district’s executive director of IT.

RELATED: Determine what your K–12 district needs in an interactive display.

Today’s educators recognize how integral technology is to learning, which means closing the many digital divides must be a high priority. And while that may take time, it is not impossible. Take note of what other schools are doing and review the National Ed Tech Plan for ideas to get started.

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