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10 Strategies for Increasing Digital Access and Equity

The printing press revolutionized the globe, igniting a worldwide renaissance in learning, art, and science while also uprooting previous power systems. The transformation from print to digital is having an even greater impact. It has transformed communication, democratized learning, and created new markets in two decades rather than two centuries.

We now use digital platforms to live, study, work, and play. Digital platforms account for five of the top ten corporations (Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft). Most of us smoothly go from a conversation screen to a production screen to a sharing screen, and we frequently utilize many screens at the same time.

Even in low-income regions, tremendous progress has been accomplished in K-12 education in this nation over the last 20 years. Most schools have high-speed Internet access, one or two devices per student, and practices that have begun to tailor student instruction.

However, there are still obstacles to overcome in the early stages of establishing new customized learning models. In the digital learning age, these ten techniques encourage excellence and fairness in primary and secondary schools. The first five are the fundamentals of accessibility, whereas the second five are the fundamentals of quality.

digital access

1. Encourage the Use of One-to-one Technology at Home.

The combination of low-cost devices (particularly Chromebooks) and open educational materials has made providing digital access to excellent instructional resources less expensive than purchasing textbooks. It also supports mixed and on-the-go learning approaches. Here are a few intriguing facts:

  • Maine is the only state that provides secondary students with 1:1 take-home technology. School districts are in charge of everything else.
  • Mooresville Graded School District, in Charlotte, North Carolina, was a 1:1 pioneer, demonstrating that it was possible to supply every student with a full-function laptop in a low-spending district (compared to other North Carolina districts).
  • Beginning in 2012, the cities of Council Bluffs, Iowa; Leyden, Illinois; and Richland, Wisconsin Two South Carolina schools were among the first to adopt Chromebooks.

Some districts have established a user charge of $25-$50 for take-home computers to cover insurance, which can generally be paid in installments for individuals who want financial support. On request, some districts may reimburse the costs for low-income families.

  • The move from textbooks to digital teaching materials, particularly free resources, is made feasible with full 1:1 access. Several school districts have formed alliances with open educational materials, including:
  • Some districts have established a user charge of $25-$50 for take-home computers to cover insurance, which can generally be paid in installments for individuals who want financial support. On request, some districts may reimburse the costs for low-income families.
  • The move from textbooks to digital teaching materials, particularly free resources, is made feasible with full 1:1 access. Several school districts have formed alliances with open educational materials, including:

Because of safety concerns, some 1:1 schools and districts are hesitant to allow kids to bring gadgets home, especially if the children wear distinctive uniforms and wander in risky locations. As a result of this tough decision, home and community connection options are under increased strain.

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2. Encourage the use of community broadband.

To promote expanded learning opportunities and complete digital equity, home connectivity is critical. School districts may supply a connected device (tablet or laptop with hotspot) to kids without home access in a limited number of circumstances, but doing so at scale soon becomes cost-prohibitive.

Community collaborations, which include low-cost broadband services (about $10 per month) and supporting and mapping community Wi-Fi hotspots, are the most prevalent efforts to increase home access.

Taking advantage of the city’s density, the Santa Ana school system worked to improve home internet connection by increasing school signal strength to cover surrounding apartment units and increasing access to Wi-Fi hotspots in collaboration with the city.

When that isn’t enough, students can borrow filtered wifi hotspots for home use from school libraries. Multiple pupils are frequently served by a single hotspot.

According to David Haglund, deputy superintendent of Santa Ana, home access is improving as households discover new methods to connect to the internet. “According to a recent technology survey conducted in Santa Ana, 85 percent of families have access to the internet at home.

The hotspots are an approach we employ to solve for the remaining 15%.” In addition, the district is in discussions with the city on a citywide broadband program.

The Huntsville City Schools in Alabama have installed Wi-Fi on buses with long journey times. In addition to additional study time, the district saw a significant reduction in disciplinary issues on the Wi-Fi-enabled buses.

Coachella Valley Unified Schools in California equips pupils with a mobile device and “parks buses in isolated rural regions to give connectivity for students and families without internet coverage,” according to superintendent Daryl Adams.

digital access

3. Encourage people to bring their own devices.

Because the great majority of secondary school students already carry their devices to school, most districts have lifted their phone prohibitions and now enable instructors to select when and how students can use phones in class.

You must bring your device. A three-screen day, with a mobile device, a production device, and a huge sharing/editing screen, should be employed to establish a high-access environment.

A school district’s commitment to 1:1 access is not replaced by BYOD. Rather, it complements this commitment by allowing students to have a three-screen day with additional learning opportunities.

digital access

4. Encourage the use of digital literacy

Jan Rashid, assistant superintendent of Des Plaines School District 62, a Chicago suburb, states that “digital learning is mission-critical because digital literacy and digital cooperation do not come easily.” “Using Facebook or Snapchat is not the same as writing digitally.”

The district implements a digital literacy program to educate children for middle school, high school, college, and beyond. Students have access to the content 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so they may work in class, at home, or on the bus.

Santa Ana no longer prohibits pupils from using cell phones and instead encourages them to bring their devices and connect to their network. While some administrators are concerned, Haglund believes that locked-down networks are similar to training young people to drive on a Disney amusement park ride.

Instead, he believes that children should be taught how to be good digital citizens.

Common Sense Media offers a free complete program that teaches children how to think critically, act securely online, and engage responsibly.

digital access

5. Use the Internet

Smartphone penetration rates are quite high in districts serving diverse and low-income communities. The SchoolWires mobile application is used by Highline Public Schools in Seattle to communicate with parents and exchange assignments, contacts, and calendar events.

digital access

6. Adopt a broader set of objectives

Community talks about what graduates should know and be able to accomplish was held by Houston ISD and Marion City Schools in Ohio. It’s dubbed Redefining Ready by AASA.

These districts developed a graduation profile that included wider goals such as growth mindset, teamwork, and critical thinking in addition to standard measurements. The NGLC MyWays outcome framework adds job success skills and “wayfinding” or navigational and decision-making abilities to districts receiving Next Generation Learning Challenges funds.

7. Encourage high-quality individualized learning.

It’s difficult to create a mixed and individualized learning environment. In-house professionals assist school staff make sound judgments about designing, implementing, or adapting a learning model in districts like Washington, D.C. NewClassrooms has collaborated with several D.C. schools, while Summit Public Schools’ individualized learning approach has been embraced by others.

Over 100 school districts around the country have partnered with the charity New Tech Network to take advantage of their customized project-based learning approach, platform, and support services.

8. Encourage students to have access to a diverse range of educational opportunities.

To expand access and student learning opportunities, Houston ISD employs a digital curriculum to enable ten alternative deployment types. Online study with a remote tutor opens up a wider range of electives and global languages.

Blended learning allows for more individualized attention and promotes customized credit rehabilitation strategies. Advanced Placement classes, as well as vocational and technical education, are supported by digital curricula.

9. Encourage the professional development of teachers

Teachers, like students, should be able to participate in a blended, customized, and competency-based learning experience. In Fulton County, Georgia, 400 Vanguard Teachers were chosen and trained, roughly four per school.

These educators offer assistance and facilitate discussions about innovative learning paradigms. When schools were ready to transfer, they got technical assistance tailored to their plans—a terrific example of supporting teacher leadership and offering the correct professional development at the right time.

10. Encourage parental guidance

As the digital gap narrows, a new division to be concerned about is the quality of screen time and learning and guidance. Technology is a multiplier that may either accelerate or stifle the development of 21st-century abilities (or even dangerous).

To guarantee that all kids have access to high-quality formal and informal learning opportunities, districts should encourage strong parent communication (No. 5) and education.

It’s time to advocate for comprehensive digital equity, which includes take-home technology, engaging learning models, high-quality learning opportunities, and well-supported teachers and parents.

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