Equity and Access
The educational landscape of schools in the United States is changing rapidly. According to the article, The Growing Diversity in Today’s Classroom¸ by Digital Promise Global, from the 1970s to 2014, there has been an approximate 7% growth in low-SES students, 5% growth in ELL’s, and a 6% growth in students with diagnosed disabilities (Growing Diversity 3). These numbers represent a serious and growing issue within educational circles. Teachers must find new and innovative ways to best teach their students that are becoming more and more varied in numerous ways.
However, there is a distinct problem that arises when discussing technology in the classroom, and that is according to the National Education Association, access to technology throughout our schools is seriously lacking (Access, Adequacy 2). This observation is corroborated by the U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Educational Technology. The Office of Educational Technology notes that there is a great disparity among schools in affluent areas compared to high-poverty schools (Equity). The NEA offers some recommendations to aide in this problem, and much of it boils down to finding ways to increase access to technology for all students, and to ensure proper professional development for teachers to best utilize the technology. This seems to be most directed at policy makers and local, state, and federal officials to appropriate sufficient funds to make increased access possible for all students.
In a more focused look at the Social Studies content area, there are new themes that are beginning to arise to help tackle these areas of need. Through the use of technology, students are being exposed to two potential influential techniques; Inquiry and Project Based Learning.
The U.S. Department of Education defines Project Based Learning as, “tak[ing] place in the context of authentic problems, continues across time, and brings in knowledge from many subjects. [PBL], if properly implemented and supported, helps students develop 21st century skills, including creativity, collaboration, and leadership, and engages them in complex, real-world challenges that help them to meet expectations for critical thinking” (Future Ready Learning 11). Creating authentic tasks that students must solve through critical thinking and collaboration with their immediate class peers is something that can be aided an immense amount through the inclusion of technology. They can almost instantly collaborate with students or experts from across the state, country, or even world, to try and solve real-world issues, something that prior to the inclusion of technology in education would be nearly impossible to do. This idea of solving issues with the use of technology also coincides with the topic of inquiry-based learning. Technology allows students to better personalize their learning as they can choose a specific avenue of interest within a unit, and use their increased access to materials and tools to find a topic that truly interests them, and produce their individual learning in a unique way (Future Ready Learning 10).
Though there is still much to be done in creating truly equitable access to technology, the idea of creating innovative and engaging social studies classrooms to meet today’s growing demands is a must. The NCSS does a fantastic job outlining the reasons to keep and strengthen our social studies courses. The inclusion of Social Studies allows students to explore personal interests, learn about diversity, and make informed decisions about the global community (Powerful and Purposeful). By creating project-based learning opportunities such as solving drought or access to water issues, students will be exposed to new topics and ideas, and through the inclusion of technology will be better able to problem solve and create an authentic solution and share their learning with others.
Digital Promise (2016). Making Learning Personal for All: The Growing Diversity in Today’s Classroom. Retrieved from http://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/lps-growing_diversity_FINAL-1.pdf
National Council for the Social Studies (2009). Powerful and Purposeful Teaching and Learning in Elementary School Social Studies. http://www.socialstudies.org/positions/powerfulandpurposeful
National Education Association (2008). Access, Adequacy, and Equity in Education Technology. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/NEA-Access,Adequacy,andEquityinEdTech.pdf
Office of Educational Technology, US Department of Education (2014.). Equity. Retrieved from http://tech.ed.gov/equity/
Office of Educational Technology, US Department of Education (2016.). Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education. Retrieved from http://tech.ed.gov/files/2015/12/NETP16.pdf