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Not so long ago, smartphones and other gadgets were the silent enemies of schoolteachers: Students would often use them during class to watch films, play games, send messages, or even look up answers on tests. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools were already limiting phone usage to lower the distraction level.

However, educators’ relationships with technology drastically changed after the pandemic necessitated a move to distance learning. Seasoned teachers and school leaders had to adapt quickly — a transition that wasn’t always smooth. After months of online learning and the return of in-person and hybrid classes, the question remains: What did we gain from this experience?

The Digital Divide

Technology has proven it can be a power for good and a tool that delineates social disparity among school districts. Unfortunately, K-12 teachers, especially those in underserved communities, found themselves caught in the “digital divide.” As schools closed and teachers began to implement remote work, students in lower-income households lacked appropriate access to technology, and “a lack of internet connectivity and digital skills negatively affected K-12 students’ ability to complete school work at home,” noted the World Economic Forum.

The effects of internet accessibility, or lack thereof, will most harshly be felt in the next couple of years, as children try to catch up from more than a year of remote learning and navigate learning in this new era. Apps, laptops and other learning programs have become a global source of knowledge, but those who can’t or won’t use these tools will be left behind professionally, materially and socially.

This disparity is why now, more than ever, it’s imperative for educators to integrate technology into the classroom. Advanced education programs that focus on educational leadership and curriculum and instruction can give professionals the tools they need to foster technology access for all learners.

Educational Leadership Is Crucial

Even for experienced K-12 curriculum and instruction leaders, ensuring technology access for all learners may be a daunting challenge. It may seem appealing to use traditional teaching tools without technology hurdles — especially if you’ve been doing so for many years.

Teacher Andrew Simmons speaks to incorporating technology into the classroom with a purpose: “The temptation was to go back to the ‘Before Time,’ to simply unearth the old lesson plans in binders, the ones graffitied over with notes, but it feels odd to imagine forgetting what I’ve learned since. It’d be just as weird to insist on still entirely communicating and collaborating through devices when 30 people are sitting in a room together.”

There is a balance to using technology for learners appropriately. Being well-versed in educational technology is a must for modern educational leaders. Professionals in education, particularly curriculum leaders, may want to refresh their knowledge and “tools of the trade” by taking advantage of learning opportunities like the Technology Trends in Curriculum and Instruction course, part of Mississippi College’s Ed.S. in Educational Leadership online program. Courses such as this empower educational leaders to integrate technology consciously and more naturally.

Friend, Not Foe

After accepting technology as a friend, not a foe, educators may want to shape their curricula accordingly. When choosing hybrid learning, the first step is, of course, to ensure that the minimum requirements for access are in place and that inequities regarding students’ technology access will not impact their overall performance.

To accomplish this goal, the Office of Educational Technology offers a guide detailing instructions, tactics, and techniques to follow. Among its highlighted topics are student privacy and security, health and wellness, and collaboration with parents and families. The author notes that “[w]ith your leadership, it is possible to maximize the benefits of digital learning for the students you serve now and in the future. Effective use of technology can address the impact of any learning losses experienced by students in the current environment and mitigate the prospect of future learning losses.”

With the right leadership, curriculum, and instructional tools, educational leaders can effectively utilize technology for learners of all backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and experiences.

Learn more about Mississippi College’s Education Specialist in Educational Leadership – Curriculum & Instruction online program.

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