Helping Schools Level the EdTech Playing Field

Posted by Ryan Hack on Jul 18, 2013 3:31:00 PM

Today's blog post comes from Ryan Hack, our team's Educational Solutions Specialist. Before Ryan joined Wowzers, he honed his skills as a veteran high school teacher and coach at Chicago Public Schools, while obtaining a Master of Arts in Teaching Degree from National Lewis University. As a former teacher, Ryan strives to ensure each and every student is afforded the ability to learn with Wowzers.

I’ve been fortunate to have had varied educational experiences. As a student growing up, I attended great schools with great facilities and resources. As a former high school teacher in a large urban school district, I taught and coached at amazing schools with excellent colleagues and students, but lacked much in regard to updated spaces and equipment.

When I coached, we struggled to provide enough safe equipment for players, held football practice on a 75-yard field, and practiced basketball in tiny gyms with one rim. It was difficult to compete the million-dollar athletic budgets of other school districts, to say the least. Let’s just say we weren’t exactly competing on a level playing field.

Recognizing the Digital Divide in Schools and its Implications

Now, as I work with teachers and educators from districts across the country to provide new EdTech content and resources to classrooms, I see parallels to my days as a coach. Many districts are struggling with budgets this coming school year and just as my old schools found it difficult to find appropriate space and equipment for sports teams, these districts are finding it difficult to reach a semblance of the educational technology available to students in neighboring districts.

edtech playing fieldLots of districts and schools are moving toward an ideal 1:1 initiative, complete with devices, apps, content subscriptions, and multimedia capabilities. However, others struggle to provide just one computer in every classroom, up-to-date labs, or even the necessary infrastructure bandwidth to take advantage of all of the great new tools available to teachers and students.

This digital divide will only serve to lengthen the achievement gap that has been present for decades. And, just as the digital revolution has created exponential growth and productivity in our daily lives, the EdTech revolution will generate similar growth in the way we teach and learn. The schools that are leading the charge in this revolution will be able to assemble great teams with great results while others are left struggling to get to the stadium by kick-off. 

Help is on the Way, but It'll Take an Across-the-board Effort

Sadly, there’s not much that can be done in the short term to shrink this digital divide, i.e. no government-spending magic wand exists that could create sweeping changes and put a tablet in every student’s hand and deliver a fiber optic network to every building. This doesn’t mean, however, that we are without solutions to help close the divide.

edtech budgetPhilanthropic organizations ranging from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to your local Rotary Club are working to create awareness and making financial contributions to help students gain access to digital curriculum. I have also learned from working with excellent colleagues in underfunded schools, the best advocates of change are the classroom teachers themselves. These teachers are accustomed to doing more with less, going the extra mile to provide resources to their students, and giving a considerable amount of their own time beyond 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  

Now, I am fortunate enough to work with teachers who are willing to do what is necessary to provide exciting EdTech opportunities to their students. These teachers realize the huge benefit to providing new tools for their students, especially as the bar is being raised with new Common Core Standards and the computer-based next generation assessments. It’s difficult to expect students to reach high levels of achievement if they lack the digital literacy skills necessary to succeed.

Teachers can now help to provide the tools necessary for our changing classrooms on their own by raising the necessary funds. Crowdsourced fundraising, or crowdfunding, has created new opportunities across many sectors from political campaigns, to the arts, and disaster relief. I’m excited to help school communities across the country with similar campaigns to help fight budget concerns for the coming year. Raising substantial funds is almost never easy, but with the right network and strategy, individual teachers can make great strides in their classrooms to provide new technology and shrink the digital divide.

Click here to read more about students and teachers' experience with Wowzers.

Wowzers and educational crowdfunding provider Edbacker have teamed up to provide you an opportunity to get Wowzers in your classroom. To learn more, simply click the button below.

Topics: Wowzers Tales

Wowzers is a comprehensive online math program covering all Common Core State Standards for grades K-8. The research-based program adapts to each learner and allows for an individualized path through the curriculum. Content is presented in multiple ways, and appeals to tactile, auditory, and visual learners. Assessments mirror those found on high-stakes achievement tests and provide teachers and administrators with the information that they need to personalize learning for each student.

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