Some students, not teachers, struggling to embrace edtech

A new study shows the disparities that exist among those in lower-income districts and the astounding, and likely confusing, number of tools available to them.
By: | December 21, 2020
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Educators from school districts across the nation – from the most underserved to the most affluent – made significant strides in embracing and using technology tools to start the school year. Unfortunately, that balance still has not been fully achieved by all students.

According to a new study done by LearnPlatform, there remain large gaps in the use of education technology among students from lower-income schools compared with those from higher-income areas.

Through its analysis, LearnPlatform noted that teachers from districts with 25% or more free-and-reduced lunch quickly made up ground on peers from other districts in November in their use of education technology. However, their students were still engaging about 30% less on digital platforms than other students.

“The good news here is that educators who serve low-income students appear to be getting access to, and are using, ed tech to connect with students,” said Karl Rectanus, CEO and co-founder of LearnPlatform. “But the digital equity gap in student engagement remains troubling and is something districts must continually monitor.”

Learn Platform’s yearlong research, has looked at more than 270,000 educators and 2.5 million students across K-12 districts in 17 states.

Although those students seemed to be on the right track in October, LearnPlatform said there was a notable drop-off in those gaps in November. In its report, authors said, “If the trend continues, the gap could expand beyond pre-COVID levels.”

One of the many potential reasons for the continuing divide is the sheer number of education technology tools out there. LearnPlatform’s study noted an analysis of “8,000 tech tools” used by teachers this year, including more than 1,300 in the past month alone. Since March, the authors said more than 70 tools were utilized for math and English courses and that most districts employed more than one LMS plus multiple single sign-on providers.

“The data suggest that having to learn and navigate so many digital tools may be contributing to confusion and disengagement, rather than creating more options,” Rectanus said.

More on DA: For those still struggling with hybrid and remote technologies and environments, Adam Garry, Senior Director of Education Strategy at Dell Technologies, offers these guidelines to assist districts.

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