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Guest Blogger: Equitable access to technology in education – can there ever be guarantees?

| Betty Ray

This week's #edchat blogger is Berni Wall (@rliberni), who beautifully captured the vasty and wily topic of equitable access to technology and tech literacy. Feel free to share your comments in the space below this blog.

--Betty Ray, Community Manager (@EdutopiaBetty) and Elana Leoni, Online Membership Coordinator (@elanaleoni)

The topic for edchat on Tuesday 9th February was a subject and a half - How can we guarantee equitable access and use of technology to ensure tech literacy and to support meaningful learning for all students? I quote it in full because this is heady stuff!

Equality in anything in education is something to reach for, like motherhood and apple pie. Nobody would dispute its desirability however, given the number of variables usually encountered from school to school, district to district and country to country, is it, in fact, possible and how would you guarantee it?

Undaunted by the enormity of the subject, Tuesday's edchatters unleashed a fast and furious stream of tweets which flew through the twitterverse. Examples of good practice, links to blogs and web pages, beliefs, ideas and determination were all shared.

@blairteach: This is an issue bigger than educators since "equitable access" & tech resources are influenced by financial resources

@cybraryman1: The goal should be for universal access

Ideas to address the issue ranged from grants for tech, links with businesses and diverting book budgets, to community access projects, providing netbooks and getting students to bring their own tech to class. There was great passion, great dedication and a palpable desire to ensure that every child, every teenager and every adult in education had access to the best tech tools to further their learning.

@EnglandinVa: Perhaps we should better utilize the "computers" kids carry in their pockets in secondary. Cell phones are way more than phones...

@MissCheska: Pair it w/ cheaper netbooks, or allow students to bring in their devices, and work w/ cloud computing system

@ShellTerrell: So many businesses & universities replace their computers annually can't they donate the old laptops to schls?

Equality of access can be measured in two ways - having the technology itself within the organisation and ensuring that where the technology is available it is actually used to best advantage. A theme which runs through many edchat discussions is that of colleagues who shy away from using tech through fear, apprehension, time or lack of training. This theme was raised again here. Obtaining the technology is only half the battle, all the reasons for not using it have to be addressed and are fundamental to the questions of equitable access.

@russechd: Not just equal access to equipment but to effective leadership under which to use it. Don't want it to gather dust!

@karimderrick: We all want universal access - and still schools block student bringing in mobile devices?!

@openstudy: What is more important, providing the student access to technology, or teaching with technology? Two different things

Anyone involved in this edchat discussion could not have failed to have been swept along by the sheer energy that was created for the whole hour and beyond. Yet at its height one tweet leapt out at me, a small voice being swept along by occasional retweets, crying in the wilderness almost yet very powerful in its message.

@olafelch: I don't think access will ever be equal, but within schools there must be an equal opportunity.

It struck me that what we strive for is sometimes utopia and so it should be, why accept pebbles when you desire the stars! However, here, now, today what we have to guarantee is best practice and our best must never be mediocre. In our divided world, tech or otherwise, while we must use our passion to strive for what is true excellence, we also have to ensure that each child, teenager and adult involved in education has equal access to the very best we can provide within our organisation now.

Here is the #edchat archive.

#Edchat happens weekly on Tuesdays at 9 AM Pacific (17.00 UTC) and 4 PM Pacific (Wed 00.00 UTC).

An EFL teacher/lecturer/teacher trainer since 1977 teaching in Indonesia and then the UK, I set up my language training company RLI in 1995. I launched Gapfillers E-learning site in 2007. We work with advanced level English language students helping them continue to improve and develop. Having taught 6 years of primary school through to university I have seen the 'education' process at all stages. My passion is to get excitement and wonder back into learning.

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