Educational equity is achieved by equipping students with tools to overcome some of the pre-existing barriers that impede their ability to succeed in school and thrive. Although educational equity was a priority in many school districts prior to the events of the past year and a half, talks surrounding the initiative have amped up–of the 10 largest school districts in the United States, eight now identify equity as part of their mission statements or core values.
In early March, 15 schools in the United Kingdom reported they were made incapable of delivering online learning for students after a cyberattack forced the education trust to shut down all systems to investigate whether the cybercriminals accessed the central network infrastructure. The increased reliance on e-learning has made schools around the world an even bigger target of opportunity than before. If the technology is taken down, education can come to a complete halt. Add to this the wide prevalence of bring your own device programs for e-learning and the access from insecure home networks, and you have a perfect storm for the sector and a huge target for criminals.
As the new school year starts amid fresh uncertainty, educators are grappling with how to navigate what I’ve come to call the “And Era.” The And Era is not about going only remote or returning to purely in-person experiences, but adopting the best of both. While many schools are bringing kids back into classrooms this year, the spread of the Delta variant and other factors out of their control mean they must again be prepared to support a mix of virtual and in-person learning.
If I had one teaching tool at my disposal in a classroom besides pencils, papers, and books, it would be an educational robot. A robot is the single most engaging learning tool I’ve used with students. It appeals to children of all ages, genders, and backgrounds—and it goes beyond technology to include so many learning goals. In fact, when I was at the pre-K-8 Park School, I considered it one of the most important social-emotional learning tools I’ve used.
While the start of the 2021 school year may not be as crazy as the beginning of the 2020 school year, it would be a mistake to pretend it is just like the Fall of 2019 or earlier. As COVID-19 continues to linger across the country, educators are again demonstrating the “can do” attitude and the spirit of innovation they exhibited at the height of the pandemic.
In the face of continued uncertainty related to the pandemic, families like mine prepared for a return to school that still looked a little bit more like normal this year. For many parents, teachers and caregivers who struggled through a year of remote learning, with all of its online homework assignments and Zoom classes, this has been a major relief.
We live in a world where learning and technology are intrinsically linked, especially in the minds of our youth. But do today’s students process information differently because it comes on a digital device? Is there a correlation between technology use and plummeting literacy rates? And is the way our young people consume information negatively impacting their growth as learners?