51: Digital Equity and Why It Matters [interview with Ken Shelton]

Access the full blog post and show notes here.

One of the biggest issues facing the learning community today is creating diverse and equitable educational practices, tools and strategies. 

Ken Shelton has spent over 14 years working to create digital equity in our classrooms and speaking on why it matters.

His extensive work at the policy level led to his appointment as the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Education Technology Taskforce.

He is going to help us analyze the digital equity and inclusion problem to find better ways to provide a diverse and equitable educational experience.

But first...

Shoutout

Shout out to all of my friends with Northside ISD in San Antonio, specifically at Thornton Elementary and Rudder Middle Schools.

I was there recently delivering staff development instruction and we had a blast. Thank you for your time and for everything you’re doing to help our students grow.

Do you have a question or idea to share on the podcast? Leave me a message here.

Quick Tip of the Week

This week I wanted to share a Chrome extension that I almost forgot that I use because I use it so frequently. It’s called Eye Dropper and it allows you to go grab any color off of a webpage and save it to a palette. You can pull the hex code and incorporate them into your projects.

#Techquity - What Does it Mean?

The search for digital equity is multi-tiered and doesn’t stop at the need for access to devices. Techquity encompasses the entire structure and framework for creating connections in a digital space. No matter the number of devices you have, if your network is lacking, they won’t work. 

Additionally, the apps and information that each child has access to need to be uniform. This is why Ken and I are such proponents of using the Google Suite of tools. Those tools allow districts and students the opportunity to connect across platforms in a uniform way while building a tech-based knowledge infrastructure. 

Being fully connected in a digital space means having the infrastructure, the device, and the mechanisms for making those meaningful connections.

Using Techquity to Create Cross-Cultural Experiences

For too long, the information provided to our kids has been diluted and sanitized. Technology helps bring together different cultures, thoughts, and opinions. By using the Google Suite, those differences are weaved together into a vast multi-cultural community that spans districts.

The importance here is helping students to think on a level of inclusion and this is only possible when they have access to the right tools and opportunity. The internet opens up a world of knowledge and understanding that simply needs to be fostered in our kids’ minds.

Do you know what your kids are reading? What are you assigning to them? You cannot adequately assess any student’s reading comprehension if all students are reading the exact same thing. The literature we bring to our kids needs to be inclusive of different religions, cultures, and voices.

The same can be said of our STEM programs. Why are girls so under-represented in STEM programs? Because there are so few female teachers there to show them they can do it. The system, in general, needs an overhaul so that our young, impressionable minds can once again see themselves as being able to do anything they want to with representation. 

How Can You Help Bridge the Gap? 

The very first thing that educators can do to bridge the gap and create more equity in their classrooms is to become educated. So few programs include discussions of diversity and inclusion and how to create a more connected classroom. We need to make it a point to bring these concepts into our continuing education and development programs.

When you know better, you do better (thank you, Maya Angelou), and as Ken states, without a deep understanding of the effects of a lack of diversity in the curriculum, it’s hard to understand what the kids are going through. 

If you are learning something or become aware of something that you didn’t know before, drop the guilt, and work to overcome the barriers that you’ve come upon. Becoming culturally responsive means that as you learn more, you adapt and work to increase engagement and awareness. 

How Can Developmental Learning Specialists With the Techquity Issue?

While it is difficult to bring up these conversations, it is not impossible. When you leave the guilt behind and work on creating effective strategies for changing the educational culture within your school, you leave the checkbox behind. This is not a checkbox issue. This is a change that needs to be addressed from a place of sustainability.

The equity issue is not a one and done issue when it comes to creating true change. You cannot attend a workshop and come out equipped to address the issues in an ongoing fashion. Instead, this topic should be approached from multiple sides, and discussed often to enact permanent change.

You have to have an administration who is willing to tackle this issue and embrace  an ongoing conversation.

Using Technology to Level the Playing Field

When technology is used correctly, you can destroy the barriers to communication that decrease connection. We need to use technology as the catalyst to facilitate meaningful changes in continuing education and development.

What’s been most inspirational for Ken was connecting with a group of students. Even though they had graduated, he had become such a fixture in their education, that they wanted to send him a picture of their graduation. 

The only way this was possible was through technology, and it further solidified the fact that technology is the catalyst for change. It also wouldn’t be possible if the teacher were less aware of the benefits of diversity and ongoing communication with the class. 

Ken’s Advice for Getting Started with Techquity

Teachers… you need to be on social media. English teachers, reach out to the authors that you’re studying and see if they are willing to speak to the class. Math teachers, think of having interviews with influential people in the field and have your students complete assignments. The same is true for all of the other core subjects.

The question is, how can you use technology to create equity and social inclusion in your classroom? How can you gain access to knowledge that you don’t currently have? Think of the message this sends to your students. Simply having the courage to reach out to someone shows students that they do not have to leave communications behind.

Where Can You Go to Dig Deeper?  Connect with Ken Podcast Question of the Week

from Shake Up Learning Show http://shakeuplearning.libsyn.com/51-digital-equity-and-why-it-matters-interview-with-ken-sheltoninterview-with-ken-shelton
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