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Getting Strategic about Digital Equity

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Kecia Ray, a senior fellow with the Center for Digital Education, has spent her career thinking about how technology can enhance learning — designing technology programs, conducting research and serving as a turnaround agent for state departments of education. In this Q&A, she discusses best practices for ensuring technology serves its intended purpose.

What challenges come to mind around one-to-one device programs?

Of course, digital equity and rolling out devices to every student is the top challenge. Another big challenge has been having enough digital curriculum for one-to-one programs. Many districts have had to create or piece together options to meet curriculum requirements. Districts that have a learning management system — one designed specifically for delivering online courses — have an advantage. You can’t just email stuff to everybody or send them to various websites.

What specific capabilities should folks consider when purchasing devices for students?

A recent COSN study found that the device itself matters. A lot of districts in the study had chosen devices that couldn’t hold up to the speed, memory, and other system requirements of the curriculum and software that the district used. Before choosing a device, districts need to think about their standards of practice, the curriculum for each grade level and subject area, and the software they want to run.

How can districts simplify device rollouts when they have hundreds if not thousands of students to serve?

Standardizing on a single device is increasingly important. It helps ensure each device has all the filtering, patches and other things required to protect students when they take a device home, and it simplifies the device break/fix process. It also simplifies training because every student is learning how to use the same device in the same way.