Tech Educator Calls for Digital Equity in California Schools

An Interview With Education Technology Specialist:

Kenneth Shelton

Kenneth Shelton specializes in leveraging instructional technology to effectively engage middle school students and raise student achievement.  As part of his active involvement within the Educational Technology community, Shelton is an Apple Distinguished Educator and Google Certified Innovator.  He regularly keynotes conferences and leads workshops that address educational technology equity and inclusion. 

 
What message did you deliver at the School2Home Leadership Academy? 

I address the challenge of, "How do we effectively and sustainably close the Achievement Gap?" California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson created a task force in 2012 with the overarching theme: "No child left offline."  If your plan does not involve technology, the Gap will not be closed.  It's 2018, it's the 21st century, and using technology is a must.  Technology is an access portal that engages no matter the student's socioeconomic status and lays a critical foundation for closing the Achievement Gap.  Every time a student fails or drops out that is human capital that we have completely lost. 
 
How can educators best engage and challenge their students using technology? 

We do not want to be asking our students questions that lead them to simply Google the answer.  For example, my 11-year old daughter was given an assignment to memorize the U.S. state capitals.  I suggested an exercise using Google Earth, in which the students analyze where the state capitals are located.  So instead of just memorization, they also begin to develop a geo-literacy.  Technology can be a wonderful, transformative tool when utilized to engage students in new ways.  If instructors simply digitize lessons, they fail the students by not providing contemporary engaging learning opportunities.
 
What are some of the challenges?

Overcoming digital barriers at home and in school.  We need to put technology tools in the hands of all students, no matter their socioeconomic status, race or gender.  The brilliance of the School2Home Leadership Academy is that it helps educators think of ways to incorporate technology not only in the classroom but also at home by involving parents.  When incorporating technology, we need to give our schools digital equity, so they can fully integrate technology across all schools, and make sure families have access to affordable broadband at home.

Are the technology apps you used during your School2Home Leadership Academy presentation accessible to educators?

Everything we used at School2Home Leadership Academy is free.  I am a big fan of open educational resources.  I used Answer Garden, which is a free polling app that allows you to post questions and then feedback pop us as a visual representation of the most popular answers.  We used Padlet as a platform for learner voice and publication.  We used Google Sites, which is part of the Google Suite for Education, as a Digital Portfolio of our learning.  NextVista.org is another fun resource for students and teachers to access educational videos.  I also recommend to educators that they empower students to submit instructional videos to one of the contests run on NextVista.org.  Each video has a 90 second-limit and is arranged in three principal categories, depending on the lesson focus.

When onboarding 1:1 technology tools and news apps, it is imperative that educators and administrators work together to create culturally relevant and responsive programs that effectively support student achievement.  This will help lead to "techequity", the ideal combination of equal access to and effective use of technology.

 

What's your next project?

I have an idea to develop a statewide K-12 STEM competition to encourage student/school teams to develop and present solutions to an existing challenge facing California –such as solutions for closing the Digital Divide, establishing sustainable water sources or environmentally friendly energy production or efficient transportation.  The goal is to provide our students with an opportunity to do something truly meaningful for California.  We would be encouraging tech literacy while also being socially engaging.

 

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