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How Can Technology Mitigate Inequity In Education Systems?

How Can Technology Mitigate Inequity In Education Systems?
Summary: Educators worldwide have gained immense interest in adopting technology to improve teaching and equity in education. Fortunately, the sector is in the process of inculcating a culture of change, a better understanding of problems, and figuring out tools that can enable equality.

EdTech Paves The Way For Digital Equity

Illnesses, loss, and financial constraints are circumstances amid which millions of students worldwide have had to continue with their education for almost two years now. Educators, school admin, and districts put in heroic efforts to develop remote learning strategies almost overnight. But there have been profound challenges. For starters, inequality in education has become very apparent during the pandemic.

For instance, rural and poverty-stricken school districts failed to maintain one-on-one contact and regular check-ins by teachers. The gaps in access to online education and digital devices became apparent, as did ethnic disparities in access to education. Over 40% of African American students and 30% of Hispanic students in the U.S. K-12 education system did not receive any online instruction during the lockdowns, as compared to 10% of white students. This means that students of color faced 6–12 months of learning losses, compared to 4–8 months for white students.

Is Technology Exacerbating Education Inequity?

Digital learning is supposed to create opportunities for all, not just a few. However, there exists a digital divide worldwide. For instance, 40% of rural African American citizens don’t have broadband access at home compared to 23% of white Americans in the same areas [1]. Financial constraints also inhibit tech adoption. Around 24% of adults with household incomes lower than $30,000 annually don’t possess a smartphone [2].

A focus on investments in digital infrastructure and improvements in digital access can remove these disparities based on income, geography, and ethnicity. This requires much more than distributing free devices to the needy. Rather, families need to be able to access broadband internet in order to be able to use devices in productive ways. Also required are the right technology tools to mitigate this inequality.

Technology Can Solve This Crisis

Advances in technology have brought highly robust EdTech tools to enhance the educational experience, ensure high engagement levels among students, and improve academic outcomes. These tools can also help ensure equity in education [3].

1. Personalized Learning Can Close Learning Gaps

Research shows that the impact of the pandemic on K-12 learning has been huge, leading to profound learning loss. Students, on average, were five months behind in math and four months behind in reading when the 2020–21 school year concluded [4]. Educational technology can bring in a high degree of personalization and an approach that adapts learning experiences to a student’s strengths and weaknesses. Since each student’s interests and learning progress are taken into consideration, engagement levels are higher, which leads to positive outcomes.

In addition, a robust digital learning platform allows students to progress at their own pace to master learning objectives, very unlike the traditional classroom setting. It is, therefore, more effective in narrowing learning gaps. Formative assessments become easy to administer and grade, which then help teachers understand how a student is placed academically. This can ensure personalized learning paths and support from teachers. Learning analytics provide further valuable information related to absenteeism, consistent low grades, and more so that educators can take corrective action in time.

2. Online Tools That Can Also Be Accessed Offline

Blended learning holds the promise of driving a greater understanding of academic concepts through a project-based learning approach. The idea is to integrate traditional classroom teaching with digital tools and augment the teaching methods. The teacher creates and/or curates materials online that students go through and interact with before coming to class. After that, the precious in-person time can be used to highlight difficult concepts and engage in personalized learning.

However, we cannot ignore the fact that a significant percentage of students are underserved in terms of digital connectivity. This is why there is a need for tools that can be accessed offline as well. For instance, inclusivity can be enhanced with access to downloadable content, which can then be used offline. There could be syncing of features like note-taking, bookmarking, and highlighting whenever the user is next online. This can help classrooms address the digital divide among students.

3. Facilitating Active Learning Methodologies

Active learning or hands-on learning means that the students’ inputs are considered when it comes to tech adoption in the classroom. Students can learn from each other while trying out different learning methods, making learning a fun process. This can make learning both personalized and accessible.

A teacher’s role becomes that of a guide, rather than an instructor. They can offer support whenever required and be open to adaptation. Instead of teacher-fronted classes, learners have access to tools that help them research solutions for real-world issues, simulate scenarios, and design prototypes. With the help of video editing, animation, and presentation software, they can become proficient in future job roles. It thereby increases the overall quality of education.

4. Technological Tools For Better Teaching Practices

Technology can help teachers be as effective as possible, complementing their pedagogical skills and knowledge. It can also be instrumental in coaching and mentoring them, even in low-income areas. For instance, a pilot run in South Africa revealed that teachers who received virtual coaching through tablets could improve student learning as effectively as those who received in-person mentoring [5]. With greater EdTech adoption, the future of education looks bright.


[1] Digital Divide in the US: Nearly 40% of Rural Black Americans Have No Internet at Home

[2] Digital divide persists even as Americans with lower incomes make gains in tech adoption

[3] Why Digital Equity & Social-Emotional Learning are Important in 2021

[4] COVID-19 and education: The lingering effects of unfinished learning

[5] How to improve teaching practice? An experimental comparison of centralized training and in-classroom coaching