Advancing Digital Equity Guide
The COVID-19 pandemic brought many technological advances to k-12 education, and beyond, including increased access to one-to-one devices, wireless internet hotspots, and widespread Learning Management Systems. These advances were due, in part, to government stimulus provided to schools in order to build the infrastructure to support teaching during the pandemic. The question remains, now that brick-and-mortar buildings are reopened, if and how will schools maintain and sustain the digital growth, once the extra fundings wears out?
But, simply “not being able to afford it” is not sufficient to eradicate technology from a school system. And, because of this, the Office of Educational Technology, a part of the Department of Education, recently published the Advancing Digital Equity for All guide, which provides recommendations to help close the digital divide and further learning that is supported by and empowered by technology.
Three Components of Access
The guide breaks access to technology into three components: availability, affordability, and adoption. Within the guide, barriers to each component are laid out, as well as strategies to help combat them. For instance, with the issue of availability, the guide references lack of continuous internet and devices for learners who are highly mobile. A strategy offered is to partner with internet providers to help provide equitable infrastructure for all. A barrier within affordability is the expense of broadband and devices. A solution offered is to provide ongoing funding from federal, state, and local governments to fund the digital programs. The final component, adoption, discusses barriers such as community buy-in and technical support for families and caregivers. The guide offers suggestions such as offering multi-lingual support and partnering with community organizations.
Key Areas for Leaders
Beyond these components, the guide discusses key areas for leaders to address to ensure all learners have equitable access. These include partnering with the public in order to develop and earn trust, provide opportunities for feedback and learn from communities that are impacted by inequitable access, have a digital equity plan that is developed with the community, ensure the public is aware of low- and no-cost broadband programs, and provide training for digital literacy and professional learning.