Digital Equity

We’re getting on our soapbox today, Kid President-style, so please forgive and indulge us.

We travel all across America working with teachers, schools, and districts. We literally go from sea to shining sea!

We see the technology scene in all its glory … and sadness. The glory is that there are many districts that have powered up. Many issue a digital device to every student. There are powerful Internet backbones to support the work. The sadness is that, unfortunately, there are still many districts in which the teacher is lucky to have one device. And in some cases, the teacher has to provide that!

Digital inequity. We ALL need to work on it. With every professional chance we get, we need to positively advocate for all students to have access to high-speed Internet via a digital device.

But in the meantime, digital inequity cannot be an excuse for not integrating technology in some way! There may be ways you haven’t even considered …

A teacher with one laptop and a cell phone can do so much to design engaging work and resources for students. With one laptop and a cell phone (you don’t even need Internet), you can create stunning videos that affirm the good work and things your students are doing. Go ahead, take out your cell phone and, over the course of a week, take pictures or short video clips of your students doing good work in school and out of school. Got students on a school sports team? Click. Band concert this week? Click! Click! Is that Sally solving a difficult math problem? Click! There’s Johnny helping a classmate with a science problem. Click! Click! Wow, Tommy just defused an argument before it became really bad news. Click! Now send them all to your laptop, throw them into a movie program, add some background music, and play it at the end of the week. Watch your students’ eyes light up. We at the Schlechty Center call that Affirmation.

Are you starting a PBL next month? Create an anchor video to kickstart the work. Make it yourself. Get in it yourself. Get your students in it.

As you move forward with this work, make a plan to expand.

For a thousand bucks, you can get five devices. Chromebooks and refurbished iPads can all be had for $200 each. So work on the money. Pull out all the stops. Tell your students’ parents that you are creating a class piggy bank to save a thousand dollars to buy five devices. Apply at DonorsChoose.org. Apply for every state or local source you can find. (You never know when Stephen Colbert  … ) Tell your students’ parents that the best Christmas present they can give you is a donation to the class piggy bank. Hold a bake sale. Hold a car wash. As the Kid President says, “You got air coming through your nose.  You got a heartbeat.” YOU CAN DO IT!

When those five devices arrive, a whole new world will open up—Internet or no Internet. Working in teams of four, your kids can create awesome videos. Acting out a scene from Shakespeare? Camera, Action, Take One! Science investigation? Camera, Action, Take One! Field trip? Camera, Action, Take One!

We call this a form of Product Focus, and it is a powerful heuristic device for designing engaging schoolwork.

Still no Internet? It’s time for a field trip. Design some awesome work that turns kids loose to explore and create the content you need them to learn. And if they do the work over lunch at McDonald’s (free Internet), they will probably love you for it!

Finally, take care of yourself. Get the professional development you need to do all this. If a good conference is not in the budget, get help online. The Internet is full of awesome tutorials to get you in the game. You can get a lot right here at the Engagement Connection.

As all this grows, someone will take notice. And you, the trailblazing teacher, will have used engagement to blaze a trail to digital equity. And the Kid President will say you have shown others how to “get on the path to awesome.”

Stepping down from the soapbox now. Let us know what you think about these ideas.

The Engagement People

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