We know that students, families, and educators have been forced into an urgent and unprecedented educational crisis as a result of COVID-19. D2L has helped support educators on the front line in adapting and responding with a shift to remote and hybrid learning on a scale they had never anticipated.
This global pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated student inequities. While much attention is appropriately focused on ensuring students have equal access to and through an Internet-connected device, there also remains great opportunity around the equally important task of ensuring equity of access for all students to a (digitally) excellent teacher. In doing so, school districts and boards can more effectively move from a crisis management approach to a focus on sustained quality for the benefit of all students.
A Teacher’s Role in Educational Equity
We recognize now more than ever, the critical role of teachers in delivering instruction, guiding learning, and supporting the maturity and academic growth of their students. Teachers require more support not just in adapting to online teaching during this pandemic, but also to be successful educators in a learning environment where expectations for student skills and the importance of digital learning are continuously evolving.
A report by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) describes our moment in time: “Systems and strategies used to address COVID-19 can propel our schools forward toward the future of learning and better meet students’ and educators’ needs.”
Teachers are a critical component of any pathway to promote and enable education equity. Ensuring all teachers can be effective in designing and leading the future of learning empowered by technology is fundamental to helping students succeed, irrespective of their race, income, location, or exceptionality.
Supporting Teacher Needs for Professional Development
Building student competencies as digital, lifelong learners requires teachers to possess and apply those competencies themselves. The ISTE Standards for Educators provide a road map for teachers to design authentic and learner-driven activities, use data to identify and support student needs, and enable collaborative learning and problem-solving.
Nonetheless, much work remains to support all teachers in learning and teaching with those skills. The following educator surveys identify that gap:
- In a 2020 survey by AASA (the superintendents association), 39% of school districts identified “lack of instructional capacity for online learning” as a barrier to an online learning modality.
- In a recent national survey by GBH, only 66% of teachers reported being confident in using digital media services for teaching.
- Another survey presented at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) found that only 34% of K-12 administrators believe novice teachers are prepared to use technology to vary instruction to meet differing student needs, and that 45% believe they must spend time and resources to help novice teachers learn to use technology.
States as Agents to Empower Teachers and Students
States and their respective Departments of Education have an opportunity to further lead in this work to support teachers and reimagine learning. They have a traditional and legal role in ensuring equity of learning access, opportunity, and quality, as well as a fundamental role around teacher preparation, certification, licensure, and support. Just as importantly, states are well situated to lead in establishing and implementing a vision for a more modernized education system that serves all students.
As shared in their report, ISTE reviewed state COVID-19 guidelines and found variation across states in their explicit identification and support for these important teacher competencies. For example, while 47 states are encouraging new learning models made possible through technology (i.e., Designer), only 21 states leverage teachers as leaders in developing a renewed vision around digital learning and modeling effective practices (i.e., Leader).
Teachers as a Pathway to Educational Equity
The need, opportunity, and road map to achieving educational equity is apparent. We can move from a crisis management approach to sustained change that benefits all students, but only if we can better support and empower all educators to lead us into that future of technology-enabled teaching and learning. Absent that vision and support, some students may lose out on more engaging and effective pedagogical models and learning opportunities that risks exacerbating disparities and reducing their success.
This blog was co-authored with Brendan Desetti.