The COVID-19 pandemic required us to address how technology could be used to deliver equitable educational opportunities for all students, particularly students who have traditionally been marginalized when it comes to the digital learning gap, such as those who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and People of Color (BILPOC); English Language Learners or from immigrant families; those who are experiencing poverty; those who live in a rural setting; and those with learning differences. There are three parts to the Digital Learning Gap: technology and access, participation, and powerful use. Technology alone will not improve teaching and learning, but with this guide, districts can benefit from our lessons learned and plan to create equity-focused school cultures that sustain the integration of 1:1 technology, support teachers in leveraging technology, and help ensure that students have powerful learning experiences so that they can become lifelong, confident learners with the tools they need to succeed in school, work, and life.
Since 2014, Digital Promise, in partnership with Verizon, has designed and implemented the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) program, one of the largest national digital inclusion programs. Part of Citizen Verizon, Verizon’s responsible business plan, the program supports nearly 400 Title I middle and high schools with 1:1 technology, internet access, IT support, and professional development (PD) for educators on how to leverage the technology in their classrooms in meaningful ways. Based on our experience, we have found that our most successful schools and districts have six key elements in place to establish and sustain a culture of Powerful Learning that leverages technology; Digital Promise promotes Powerful Learning as a promising approach to giving students the skills they need for post-secondary success. These six elements are validated by our research and experience at Digital Promise with VILS, as well as other initiatives, such as the Dynamic Learning Project.
The most successful schools have these six key elements in place to establish and sustain a culture of powerful learning that leverages technology.
A cross-functional leadership team sets a clear vision for the school, its culture, and what teaching and learning look like before putting technology in classrooms.
A strong transformation plan unifies the vision for technology integration and device maintenance with the school improvement plan or goals for the year.
Ongoing professional development supports effective teacher use of technology through the use of instructional technology coaches, teams of teacher leaders, or other systems of support.
To close the digital learning gap, we must make sure that students have access to technology and high-speed internet outside of school.
Schools that support family engagement in boosting student at-home digital use can expect better outcomes.
Learner-informed knowledge is a prerequisite for integrating technology in an inclusive way so that students from all communities can effectively use it to achieve their goals.