Digital Equity: Understanding the Gaps and How to Close Them

Throughout the pandemic, the digital equity gap became quite visible as school districts transitioned from in-person to remote and to hybrid learning models. A child could not join in a class discussion on Zoom if they didn’t have a quality internet connection and a device to connect with. This posed serious challenges to ensuring access to quality education for all students. It also goes beyond access to learning today. In an article by Ari Flemming in, she identifies digital equity as a significant issue that can lead to disadvantages down the road as well: When students lack devices, they also lose valuable opportunities to hone the critical thinking and analytical skills inherent to technology use. Consequently, they are disadvantaged when entering some of the fastest-growing job markets, such as data analytics and AI specialist fields. At eScholar, we have always supported using data to close equity gaps, such as access to programs, transportation, high-quality teachers, and more. We’re proud to announce a new data domain to the eScholar CDW to support agencies trying to create more digital equity: Student Digital Resources. With this new domain, our eScholar CDW customers can collect, integrate and analyze data related to:
  • Digital devices
  • Device access
  • Internet access in residence
  • Internet access type in residence
  • Internet performance
Some of our customers already have plans to put this domain to use. For example, the New York State Department of Education will use this domain to support the NYSED Digital Equity Data reports. In the Spring and Fall of 2020, NYSED required schools to report information on access to devices and the internet in the homes of both students and teachers. Those reports are available here. New Mexico Public Education Department will also be using this new domain soon. Many states and districts are looking to close the digital divide and create cultures of digital equity. Especially with ESSER and other stimulus funds, states and districts have some additional resources to address this. This effort requires understanding where the gaps are and who is affected. This information will enable leaders, including legislators, administrators, and educators, to make decisions on policies and programs that can help promote digital equity. Drop us a line here if you’re interested in using data to achieve digital equity or have other suggestions!

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