As school districts look ahead to post-pandemic classrooms, they must also continue to invest in refining digital and hybrid learning experiences. Despite its challenges, remote learning is here to stay.
The Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools has implemented and advocated for equitable access to technologies to close the digital learning gap since its inception in 2011.
The Digital Equity Checklist is a new resource designed to support district leaders in delivering powerful, equitable digital learning experiences to every student, with a directed focus on historically marginalized students. It covers systems, structures, and supports that are required to ensure that all students are technically and equitably equipped to navigate, succeed, and thrive in an increasingly digital world.
Last year’s abrupt transition to remote learning impacted all levels of K-12 education. Unsurprisingly, results from Digital Promise’s recent national survey, “Learning in the 21st Century: How the American Public, Parents, and Teachers View K-12 Teaching and Learning in the Pandemic,” indicate the pandemic has disrupted students’ academic progress and impacted their mental health and well-being.
However, many students—particularly students of color—have thrived in virtual learning environments, in part due to less instances of daily racism in classrooms. According to a National Parents Union Survey in October 2020, 45 percent of parents of K-12 students would opt to keep their children fully online if given the opportunity.
This reality has compelled districts like Rowan-Salisbury Schools (North Carolina) to develop permanent virtual academies. The school system, which already offered an online learning academy for grades 9-12 prior to the pandemic, moved to develop an option for younger grades. Summit K-8 Virtual Academy offers students and families with a personalized approach to learning in a flexible environment.
For students and families who may not be comfortable returning to the classroom or who simply excelled in remote conditions, Lakota Local Schools (Ohio) offers a student-centered, virtual curriculum. The Virtual Learning Option program encourages teachers to be creative and develop multiple modalities for lessons and allows students to progress through modules at their own pace. This individualized approach has the potential to inform the traditional classroom setting and improve learning for all students.
The Digital Equity Checklist is largely informed by how League of Innovative Schools districts like Rowan-Salisbury Schools and Lakota Local Schools approached hybrid and distance learning during the 2020-2021 school year. The guide includes six categories that include and extend beyond providing students with devices and internet access:
These categories encompass the multiple dimensions of digital learning that schools and districts should consider when implementing digital learning models. They also address supports and procedures that can help sustain digital equity in a learning ecosystem over time.
No matter what the setting, the most successful implementation will be accomplished in partnership with students, teachers, families, and community stakeholders.
How is your school or district planning to prioritize digital equity for the 2021-2022 school year? Share your response on Twitter using the hashtag #DPLIS.