Friday, December 15, 2017

Is "Leveling the Playing Field" really leveling the playing field?

My phone rings at work... it's EdSurge asking for feedback from their Fusion conference last month.  It was a great conference with tremendous networking opportunities and fantastic discussion regarding personalized learning opportunities for students.
The woman on the other end of the phone asks, "Tell me more about your district."  I love talking about our district, our infrastructure, and the learning opportunities we provide for students.  One of my biggest talking points is our migration from a legacy system to Google Apps for Education (side note:  hate the name "GSuite").
"You know, since we migrated to Google Apps for Education, we have really leveled the playing field.  It is so much easier for teachers to share documents with students, collaboration has never been greater, and the fact that all students have Gmail and GAFE accounts, has been a tremendous shift."  But in reflection, have we really leveled the playing field?  Have we provided the proper support and guidance for our staff and our students?  That is an open-ended question.  I feel the staff members who have embraced the shift will speak favorably of it; some don't care, and others do not like change.  Welcome to human beings 101. 
I am concerned.  Are our socioeconomically disadvantaged students and historically underserved students on an equal playing field?  Do their parents understand the shift and the impact these tools can have?  Do they have an environment they can study quietly in when at home?  How do we truly "level the playing field?"
For starters, this can't be one person's vision.  It has to be a grass-roots effort; district and site leadership have to embrace technology integration.  They need to understand the SAMR model. They need to walk the walk and talk the talk.  Without a shared vision that includes and informs all stakeholders, technology initiatives fail.  Nobody wants to repeat the LA Unified iPad nightmare.  But it can easily be repeated if we aren't careful.  Technology shouldn't be put in schools because it is sexy; it should exist to extend learning opportunities for all students and teaching opportunities for our staff members.  And quite frankly, with a shared vision, getting there isn't as hard as many may think.  Shared vision.  Communication. We can do it.  We can level the playing field for all students.  Baby steps.  We will get there.

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