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Digital access:
Driving greater
digital equity
in schools

Author: Phil Muncaster

Digital equity is an increasingly critical goal to help improve the educational experiences of all students. As more services go online, there's a greater need to ensure students have access to and can effectively use technology. The pandemic accelerated the urgency of this task, especially in education, where challenges with remote learning left some students a bit behind while other students benefited. Now is an important time for school boards to prioritize digital inclusion for their students.

What is digital equity in education?

Achieving digital equity is about more than handing out tablets. It will require improvements in a range of areas, including:

  • Making materials accessible through technology in a variety of ways for students of all levels of ability—including neurodiverse, special needs and disabled students
  • Helping students understand how to access that technology

The pandemic shone an uncompromising light on the challenges facing educators in this regard. Remote and hybrid learning became the standard for many school districts, but digital equity, digital access and learning outcomes faced new challenges as a result. One study reveals that nearly 17 million children aged 17 or younger lack high-speed internet at home, and 3.6 million households have no computer.

However, the truth is, even if school districts get the right hardware and internet access into the homes of these students, they may still be disadvantaged by being unable to use the technology properly.

The importance of digital access and inclusion

According to the National School Boards Association (NSBA), digital inequity could lead to four serious long-term problems:

  • Low-income families might have less access to the information they need to advance their education.
  • Students with internet access may embrace new technology and progress faster when they enter college.
  • Privileged students with enhanced digital access could face fewer hurdles to completing their education.
  • Under-privileged students may need to spend more hours to complete learning objectives.

Not only is enhancing digital equity and digital access important in its own right for the above reasons, but a specific exposure to technology is increasingly crucial for young people. According to EdTech Magazine, a lack of hands-on experience using IT across multiple subjects could put K-12 students at a disadvantage in the job market.

Digital equity in schools: How educators can get proactive

There are multiple roadblocks to driving digital access and digital equity in schools. These include:

  • A lack of devices and connectivity
  • Poor parental understanding of technology
  • Assumptions among educators that students possess the necessary tech resources

However, the good news is, from Boston to San Francisco, teachers and school administrators are overcoming these challenges to make a difference and overcome the digital divide.

The priority list should include:

  • Affordable devices and connectivity for all students
  • Parental training in how to use devices
  • Cyber security and child safety capabilities
  • Professional development for educators on blending technology and instruction

Conquering the digital divide is tremendously important in helping to generate opportunities for all kinds of students as they work through their education and begin careers. Consider partnerships with technology providers who specialize in education technology solutions to improve digital access and digital equity.

See how Verizon’s education technology solutions can help educators close the digital divide across America.

  • FAQ

What does digital access mean? +

Digital access is the ability to participate fully in society with access to the right tools and technologies.

What is the digital divide? +

In education, it occurs when some students lack digital access, putting them at a disadvantage.

Why is digital inclusion important? +

It can help place students on an equal playing field for learning and excelling.