Access and Equity: The Time For Devices is Now
When I talk about the reasons I am passionate about using technology in my classroom, I almost always list things related to pedagogy and engagement. But the reality is there is a new skills gap that has to be addressed when we talk about making students college and career ready and the only way to really address this growing divide is by ensuring students have consistent and equitable access to devices in their classrooms.
Technology integration in the classroom allows for more personalized learning, it allows students to be more connected globally, it increases collaboration and student interaction, and it prepares our students with the skills they need for the workforce, college, and beyond. A recent analysis of over 54 million employee profiles, across 350 industries determined that the ability to wrangle or navigate new technology was one of the top four types of talents aligned to employee success. Additional analysis found that 19 of the 21 most in-demand skills in job postings were technology related.
It doesn't matter which LMS you are using or whether you are a Google or a Microsoft school, at this point what matters is ensuring equitable access to devices. I know that there are plenty of us who have seen teachers who have tech and who don't use it to its full potential but that can no longer be the argument against granting students access to devices and that line of reasoning doesn't take into consideration how hard it is for teachers to learn how to best use tech when they themselves don't have consistent access to tech.
For every classroom that has an unused laptop cart, there are 50 more classrooms that have teachers who are learning and creating and growing as professionals on their own. Teachers spend their own time on Facebook and Twitter engaging in chats, sharing resources, and supporting each other in edtech. If the tech isn't in the hands of students, teachers can't help their students build those digital skills and teachers won't spend time developing their own skill set if there is no place to use it. We can't let that "one bad egg" keep devices from our students and teachers and we can't expect teachers to plan and prepare lessons that incorporate technology when the teachers have no devices to use with their students.
The real issue is for every year students are without access to devices at a school is another year gap in tech-based skills that their peers get elsewhere.
Now, I know teachers have been on picket lines across the country for basic needs for their students and so it's hard for me to write this post knowing that there are teachers out there not getting paid what they should, there are schools out there that aren't being maintained well enough to keep their students safe, there are bigger battles we need to fight right now collectively but I also worry that if decision makers keep using the bigger issues they need to tackle as an excuse for not tackling this one, students will miss out on essential skills they need to be successful in their future.
If you are a decision maker and your fear is getting devices and no one knowing how to incorporate them in meaningful ways, I get that, but then money has to also be invested in meaningful, sustainable, and effective PD and I have suggestions for that here.
I have a lot more I want to say about technology in the classroom. I have a lot more I want to say about access and equity but for now, I think it is important to remember that when teachers ask for these things they ask for their students. I don't want devices for me, I want them to support my students. I want to help them get ready for their unpredictable future. I want to prepare them for a future of work that we can't imagine yet.