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Techquity: How Technology can Help Close the Opportunity Gap?

posted Sep 6, 2016, 1:54 PM by Mason Mason   [ updated Nov 1, 2016, 11:16 AM ]

        Students cannot learn music without instruments, they cannot learn sports without equipment, and they cannot learn to drive without a car. The same is true of learning 21st-century skills without technology. This has driven the need for techquity (a confluence of the terms technology and equity) in education, a term used to describe the educational process of leveling the playing field for all students by making technology available to transform teaching and learning.

        Techquity is especially necessary in urban and rural schools, and for minorities, such as girls, African-Americans, Latinos, and/or students of low-socioeconomic status. In recent years, tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon have been making a concerted effort to attract minorities through diversity initiatives to improve their recruitment and hiring practices; however, they need a talented pool of qualified applicants to fill those positions. Jobs like computer software engineers, cloud architects, computer system analysts, data scientists, and web developers will have more positions available in the future than qualified applicants to fill them.

        School districts like the Garland Independent School District (GISD) in Garland, Texas, are recognizing the need to close the opportunity gaps of its students through techquity. This school year, GISD is going 1:1 by rolling out iPads to every teacher and high school student (with intermediate and elementary schools following suit in subsequent years), recognizing how equal access to technology in and out of the classroom opens opportunities for learning, growth, and development vital to thriving in our technology driven world.

        In 2014, GISD created a strategic plan as part of their bond that included their Ready 1:1 Initiative. The bond passed and provided over $25 million for technology integration.  The community realized the importance of providing technology for its students. Input was gathered from all of GISD’s relevant stakeholders and they decided which device would best meet the needs of students, integrate with existing district systems, and help students personalize their education experience.

        GISD recognizes that poverty, race, and/or gender should not be hurdles its student must overcome in order to be competitive in college or advanced careers. Their techquity initiative makes their students attractive candidates for premier schools and companies and prepares the students of today for tomorrow's technology-driven world. Not having access to technology should not be a barrier minorities face to attempting to obtain future success.

        To further help students with access, GISD partnered with over 100 community partners to allow their students to have access to wi-fi after school and on weekends even if they do not have internet access at home. By paying attention to these details, they try to leave no techquity stone unturned.

        In addition, the district has partnered with numerous education companies to help students, parents, and teachers learn more about using the district's new hardware and software for teaching and learning. Teacher quality and technology instruction are not forgotten when implementing this new techquity initiative. Pedagogy comes first, each of GISD’s high schools received instructional coaches who specialize in helping teachers enhance teaching and learning with technology using models like SAMR and TPACK and embedding the ISTE Standards.

        There are lots of ways to close the opportunity gap for minorities, and techquity is a good case for our 21st-century learners. If more school districts take a proactive role in providing equity through technology integration with 1:1 access, our education system can disrupt inequity for our neediest students.