What learning looks like and how it is delivered has changed forever. The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the inequitable access to technology and broadband, particularly for students who have been traditionally marginalized. $122 billion of unprecedented federal funding is now available to school districts, providing an opportunity to make significant strides in closing the Digital Learning Gap—but only if we think differently about how schools use technology to meet the needs of every learner.
While expanding access to technology and broadband alone will not improve teaching and learning, our new K-12 Leaders’ Guide to Successful Technology Integration shares lessons learned from several Digital Promise initiatives, including seven years of implementing the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) program. This initiative provides devices with monthly data plans to every student and teacher in hundreds of under-resourced middle and high schools nationwide, as well as professional development for educators on how to leverage the technology in their classrooms in meaningful ways.
Based on our experience with nearly 60 districts participating in VILS, we have found that our most successful schools have these six key elements in place to establish and sustain a culture of powerful learning with technology:
- A strong district and school leadership team
- A clear, inclusive, and easily accessible transformation plan
- Ongoing, embedded professional learning opportunities for teachers
- Always-available technology and broadband access
- Support for parents and caregivers
- Equity as a mindset
Schools and districts must think differently about how having access to technology can advance learning, regardless of place, race, time, or path. In a recent survey from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), IT leaders highlighted digital equity as their most pressing issue, with 97 percent of respondents saying their concerns regarding students’ home access to devices and the internet for remote learning increased since the pandemic began. Digital inclusion means meeting the challenge to serve each student with equity as a pervasive mindset.
Districts can benefit from our lessons learned and plan to create equity-focused school cultures that sustain the integration of technology for every learner. Equipping teachers with the tools and skills they need to effectively leverage technology through timely and relevant, ongoing professional learning opportunities will set them up for success. Smart use of this once-in-a-generation opportunity will allow us to reimagine the equitable delivery of education and develop new systems, and to make good on the promise of technology to meet the needs of learners so they are prepared to succeed in school, work, and life.
Explore our new K-12 Leaders’ Guide to Successful Technology Integration to learn more about these six elements of success.