This weekend I was able to digitally watch a webinar from edWeb. The topic of focus was digital equity strategies for teachers. I picked this as my conference experience because I feel like as our classrooms become more and more technology focused, it is important for us to know how to make it equitable for all students. Some strategies discussed to bring equity to the forefront were: engage in honest conversations with all stakeholders, model innovation, asking questions, professional learning opportunities, and reevaluating existing practices. Now all of these are great ideas, but as a teacher with limited power how can I make sure those things are happening?
I don’t necessarily have an answer to that question, but some other points that were brought up are completely within my realm of control as a teacher. One idea was that teachers use social media to learn from other teachers all over the world. By seeing what others are doing, we are better able to bring the best opportunities in to our classrooms. It can take time while we sit around and wait for district policies to kick in, but while we are waiting we should use that time to have professional learning opportunities. Our job as teachers is to prepare our students to be ready for the future and if we want them to be ready, we also have to be ready for the future.
Some more ideas that were brought up in the webinar that I think can really close the gap in digital equity, is the idea of working together as a school district and community to provide supports for our students and their families. One support could look like homework hotspots – partnering with local community organizations to give kids a safe place with internet access to do their homework. Another way is to provide subsidized broadband to our families in need. One new idea that some rural districts have started is installing Wi-Fi on their school buses so that students with a long commute can work on their homework on their way home from school. They also talked about assembling teams where you focus on what you do well and share that with the community, the idea of “getting better together”.
One speaker in the presentation Matt Highfield talked about how their school district is taking strides to close the gap, such as community Wi-Fi maps, keeping the libraries open later, and making sure all students have equitable technology opportunities in the classroom. I think these ideas could be pretty simple to implement while making a huge difference in our students lives.
In closing the discussion ended with the idea that this gap in digital equity is more than just internet and access. We as educators also need to evaluate how we use the tools we are provided with to make sure that our students learn how to use them in the world beyond the classroom. Looking forward, we know that advancements in technology continue to be made. Our classrooms look different today than they did even 5-10 years ago. We need to be aware of the things coming and the roles they can/should play in our classrooms. Overall this conference gave me a lot to think about and I am glad that a lot of the ideas I can put into practice in my classroom today.
To watch the EdWebinar recording – https://home.edweb.net/webinar/digitalworld20190514/ To learn more about this topic check out – “Closing the Gap: Digital Equity Strategies for the K-12 Classroom” by Sarah Thomas, Nicol Howard, and Regina Schaffer