Though tech is a requirement for today’s students, it’s not a universal luxury. The recent spotlight on tech equity has brought the issue to the forefront of public discourse, opening up an important conversation about the need for new policies.
The pandemic has only brought more attention to the growing disparity among students. Though many had access to digital resources through their school’s library, these tools disappeared when they were asked to learn from home.
An EdWeek Research Center survey helped contextualize the issue. Only 62% of education leaders in districts with poverty rates below 25% said everyone who needed home internet access had it. In those where poverty rates exceeded 75%, the rate of access was 31%.
How can district and school leaders manage the digital divide, and how does tech equity reflect a larger systemic issue?
Understanding the Hurdles Ahead
It’s difficult to argue that technology has made a negative impact on education. However, its absence presents a clear issue — one that continues to increase in proportion to the country’s poverty levels.
Almost 30 million low-income students currently depend on their school for breakfast or lunch. These same children are expected to have digital resources that fall outside their family’s budget, already strained by a pandemic economy.
With these factors at play, tech equity may seem ambitious. Parents may be engaged with other problems, and students don’t have the means to amend their situation. Furthermore, districts are contending with internal challenges.
Educators are planning to build on hard lessons from full-time remote learning, and any gaps in that strategy will soon become clear. Is total online schooling an effective teaching strategy? Will the deficit in tech equity compound into something larger?
Fortunately, there are strategies that offer a potential solution.