Five ways education technology can improve equity in the classroom

5 March 2020 | By viviedu

Educators strive to provide the best learning experience for every student. But this can be difficult when not all students arrive in the classroom with the same readiness to learn. 
Some students arrive to class hungry and tired. Others feel ill-prepared for the demands of the day. They may lack the necessary resources to succeed or experience any one of many external disadvantages. 

All educators do their best to create an equitable classroom experience so all students have an opportunity to succeed. And utilizing the right education technology can significantly help achieve this.

Here are five ways technology is helping education regain its status as the “great equalizer.

1) Equal access to devices

The digital divide is shrinking. Most Americans, according to PEW research, have a smartphone. But when it comes to accessing technology at home for educational purposes, the divide is still significant. research showed that only 54 percent of low-income Americans have a desktop or laptop at home, in contrast to 80 percent of people who fall into the middle-income category. 

This means that many American students are reliant on their smartphones for digital access. And while a smartphone can help students learn basic research strategies or comment on a classroom social media thread, it does come with considerable limitations (just try typing up an essay on a five-inch screen!). 

To ensure all students receive similar opportunities, schools are coming up with solutions to provide students with the right tools. Many provide laptops or tablets to students during lessons to bridge the digital divide. And having a class set of devices that students can access throughout the school day is an effective way to ensure students are learning the technical skills needed for the future workplace.

With Vivi’s Classroom Engagement Solution, students use their classroom device to share work, access lesson materials, communicate and provide feedback. It’s a seamless way schools can help their students build tech literacy, digital citizenship, and 21st-century skills, especially when a student doesn’t have access at home.

2) Equal access to the internet

The technological disadvantages of lower-income Americans is not limited to their hardware. There’s also a digital gap when it comes to internet access. According to another PEW research study, 35 percent of lower-income families do not have a broadband internet connection at home, and 1 in 5 students consistently struggle to finish their homework because they don’t have a reliable connection.

Not having access to reliable internet puts students at a disadvantage when it comes to succeeding in the 21st-century workplace. To help meet these needs, schools are investing in reliable and fast broadband. According to the non-profit organization Education Superhighway, most American schools now have internet access at 100 kbps. 

But there is still room to improve. Only 38 percent of U.S. schools have reached the 1Mbps per student standard recommended by the FCC. However, providing students with the bandwidth to use the internet for educational purposes ensures that more students are given equal opportunity to succeed.

3) Access to direct instruction 
A revolution has been brewing in schools across the world, and the objective is to give teachers their freedom. Freedom to roam the classroom, that is. Some call it “free-range” teaching. Others call it “teaching untethered.” No matter what you call it, the objectives of the movement are the same: create a wireless technological environment to improve instruction and facilitate a flexible learning environment.

For years, teachers struggled with the tech paradox– technology had the potential to positively affect learning outcomes for students, but, at the same time, all those wires seriously limited a teacher’s ability to check-in with their students. Not anymore.

With wireless technology, like that used with Vivi’s own Wireless Screen Mirroring system, teachers can project presentations, videos, and student work at the front of the classroom and wander the classroom to interact with students. This enables them to assess on-task behavior and engagement and provide one-on-one support to students that need it. 

Flexible learning and classroom layout helps teachers address students’ unique abilities. Students who can’t keep up with the pace of learning are not left struggling while the teacher advances. While students who are thriving and clearly understanding the material are not bored waiting for the teacher to move on. An EdSurge article notes schools that offer flexibility enable students to be met at their level and are able to progress at their pace, increasing their potential learning outcomes.

4) Socio-emotional support
In addition to the extensive research on the subject – like this study published in Education Leadership – educators know from experience that a student’s emotional state directly impacts their ability to learn. In fact, wellbeing is tied to many factors that affect learning outcomes, including motivation, attention, and memory. This correlation can be found in every learning situation and environment. But it becomes particularly significant when a student is consistently stressed or experiences challenges that are beyond the norm. 

In the last decade, policy-makers like Victoria’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) in Australia, have started to focus on building socio-emotional learning (SEL) into classroom instruction. While it’s important to teach students how to build soft skills, it’s equally important that teachers can regularly check-in with their students to assess their readiness to learn.

Vivi’s Student Feedback Tool provides teachers with a way to do this, through wellbeing polls that can be administered to students before, during, or after a lesson. Teachers can pose general questions like, “How are you feeling today” or formative assessments that ask, “How do you feel about the lesson?” that students respond to on their own devices. This quick and easy feedback tool allows educators to better support the emotional needs of their students and identify potential issues before they impact learning.

5) Personalized learning
Students do not all learn the same way, at the same rate, or with the same level of comprehension. For this reason, recent research has focused on two instructional methods to meet the unique needs of students.

Edweek states that when done right and using the right tools, differentiating instruction is a way teachers can ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to learn. Even when students have very different needs, wants, interests, and learning abilities.

Personalized learning takes this approach even further, recognizing that when a student has a more active role in their learning, they are more motivated and engaged. A recent study conducted by the Rand Corporation noted the link between personalized learning and achievement. 

Technological innovation may be single-handedly responsible for a teacher’s ability to differentiate and personal instruction, especially with increasing class sizes. For instance, Vivi’s Student Feedback Tool gives teachers a way to provide instant feedback to and from their students so that lessons can be instantly modified when students need it. Further, the Student Wellness Polls can be used to build agency, as students reflect on their performance and create personal goals for improvement. 

Not all EdTech tools have the same impact on equity in the classroom. But the right ones – the ones designed to fill gaps and meet the needs of all learners – are helping to transform the classroom into a place where students truly have an equal opportunity to succeed. Vivi is proud to be at the forefront of this change and combines classroom management tools with real-time student feedback to create student-centred learning environments that drive productivity.