Eileen Belastock, CETL
1:1 does not ensure digital equity

In our rural Massachusetts district, great things are happening. We’ve rolled out a 1:1 Chromebook program, established monthly faculty-driven tech camps and established our district online presence with a learning management system partnership.

In just a short 18 months, we went from having limited edtech resources to becoming a forward-thinking technology-rich district.

We did this because we wanted our students to be equipped with the skills outlined in the Empowered Learner standard of the ISTE Standards for Students. That is, we wanted our students to be able to "leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences."

We recognized that although we’ve made great gains, if we want to transform the way all students and teachers engage and learn in an online educational environment, we needed to address the elephant in the room: digital equity.  

This gray beast led us to ask a crucial question: “Does putting devices in students’ hands mean that access to technology is also in students’ hands?”

Using the CoSN Digital Equity Toolkit, we developed a comprehensive digital plan that involved determining:

Need: While socioeconomic conditions are usually the primary reasons that students and their families struggle with out-of-school connectivity, there are other reasons digital inequality is prevalent in our district. Using surveys, focus groups and student interviews, we were also able to assess all possible factors, such as household income, family dynamics and locations of residences within the district.

Access: After assessing the available Wi-Fi options in the district, it was important to determine how our students in all our needs categories could access Wi-Fi outside of school. Researching and collaborating with local providers, community groups or other entities is helping our district provide Wi-Fi to all of our students and their families.

Educational impact: Incorporating instructional technology into our classrooms became an educational challenge for our students who didn’t have access to their education outside of the school day. It was important to us that our digital equity plan focused on providing Wi-Fi for educational use, so through teacher surveys and classroom observations, we were able to determine what educational access students would need outside of the classroom.

Financing: While we obtained the necessary funding for the initial Wi-Fi connectivity initiative, it was important that we also considered other financial factors that would affect our yearly technology budget. These factors includes staffing, professional development, data plans and increased demand for the out-of-school connectivity.

ISTE members can learn more about how to ensure a 1:1 program is equitable by watching the recording of the ISTE Expert Webinar, “Digital Equity and 1:1 Programs.” You’ll learn about:  

  • Challenges students face when they are not able to access their education.

  • District strategies to create a sense of urgency in the community.

  • Instructional practices in the classroom that ensure that all student have equitable access to the curriculum.

  • Using the ISTE Standards for Education Leaders as a blueprint for moving toward digital equity.

Eileen Belastock, CETL is the director of academic technology at Mount Greylock Regional School District in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is a MassCUE Board member, a METAA Board treasurer and an ISTE PLN leader.


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