Nicol Howard
4 strategies to narrow the digital equity gap for preservice teachers

Although digital equity is not a new term, rapid advancements in technology raise new concerns for educator preparation programs like my program at the University of Redlands in California. We strive to narrow the gap between what preservice educators are taught and what forward-thinking districts expect in term of classroom technology use.

 Through a research collaboration with two of my colleagues, Stephanie Quan-Lorey, Ph.D., and Nirmla Flores, Ph.D., we sought to determine the gaps in knowledge related to tech use in education in order to bridge our digital equity gap. Our goal was to use our findings to inform future digital equity practices and equitable support strategies for university faculty, preservice educators and veteran teachers at our partner K-12 school districts. The project was funded by Academic Computing & Instructional Technology Services at the University of Redlands.

At the conclusion of our project, I realized that achieving digital equity is an ongoing practice in teacher preparation. Here are four things you can do to move toward greater equity:

Honest conversations. My honest conversations with faculty colleagues and students led me to discover that some of my preservice students were personally experiencing connectivity issues and some didn’t even own personal devices, aside from their smartphones. Additionally, students were not always witnessing technology used to accelerate innovation during their K-12 classroom observations.  

Shifting practices. After learning about my students' poor connectivity and limited access to devices, I shifted my 1:1 practice to a 2:1 (sometimes 3:1) collaborative approach when campus labs were not available. By focusing on projects that required faster internet speed during class time, students without devices or internet were offered the same opportunities to engage tech-rich activities.

Modeling innovation. Shifting assignments allowed me to model innovation for my students. Similar to what is expected in K-12 settings, I modeled the effective use of technology resulting in preservice educators innovating when designing their own lesson plans.

Re-evaluation through collaboration. I knew that K-12 technology adoptions would continue to evolve at a fast rate. Therefore, I also had honest conversations with K-12 district partners to assess how they were addressing digital inequities. Most importantly, I realized the significance of re-evaluating my own technology practices and beliefs to ensure they were up to date and aligned with the most forward-thinking K-12 districts.    

ISTE members can learn more about how to achieve digital equity in educator preparation programs by watching the recording of the ISTE Expert Webinar, “Closing the Gap: Digital Equity Strategies in Teacher Preparation.” You’ll learn and engage about how to:

  • Move beyond the honest conversation.

  • Effectively address digital inequities in teacher preparation.

  • Apply practical solutions for closing the digital equity gap in informal teacher prep settings.

Nicol R. Howard is an assistant professor and program coordinator in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of Redlands. She coauthored the book Closing the Gap: Digital Equity Strategies for Teacher Prep Programs. Nicol is also the outgoing chair for ISTE’s Digital Equity Network. 

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