Innovative technologies are transforming the landscape of education. While there is great enthusiasm for and considerable investment in cutting-edge EdTech, there still remains the pressing issue of promoting equity in education. Although digital programs and applications have huge potential for increasing the availability and affordability of educational resources, mounting evidence would suggest that there is a widening gap in student performance and this is closely linked to what is referred to as the ‘second digital divide’.
What is the latest research on the equity implications of technology? How can online education platforms best serve the interests of students and teachers in economically challenged areas? In what ways can emerging tools democratize education and improve learning outcomes? In this selection of articles, specialists in this field bring their own insights and perspectives to explore the key issues at the intersection of technology, equity and learning.
The Second Digital Divide: Privileged Usage of Educational Technologies
Dr. Justin Reich
Assistant Professor, MIT
Using Data to Drive Outcomes in Education: Getting the Right ‘Recipe’
Ms Jo Besford
Director, Green Shoots
Harnessing Technology to Bridge Gaps in Education
Founder, Chairman and CEO, Hujiang EdTech
The Internet has led to a fairer education while technologies make learning easier and happier. With a cable, a computer and the Internet, online courses can be accessed from any corner of the world. Our team developed CCtalk, an interactive online education platform, as a core application to support the Hu+ Project. It allows users to learn anything that interests them. Such learning applications not only break down geographical barriers but offer more educational resources as well as a reduction in the cost of learning. Previously, many primary school pupils in rural China had only three major subjects, namely Mandarin, mathematics and English. Now, they can take the same courses as their peers in towns and cities, including physical education, drawing, music, science and art. Their drawings and handicrafts are displayed online or in exhibitions. When you meet these countryside children in person, you will be struck by their sincere smiles, gifted works, and, most importantly, the light in their eyes.
Online education is being used to address the problem of inequality in education between rural and urban areas and between different economic groups and regions, but developing technology or applications alone is far from enough. The core solution is in the equal distribution of education resources and teacher training. In fact, we have abundant learning resources and amazing teachers in China. However, the distribution of such resources is not yet well-balanced and most of the time not easily accessed by the most needy.
Educational charity programs like the Hu+ Project provide an answer to this. Rural teachers are given regular online training courses free of charge, enabling them to learn directly from top educators or instructors from all over the country in different subjects. It is encouraging to see that more teachers from rural China are taking part in it and gaining competence. They teach as they learn. Inspired by advanced online educational tools and handy teaching materials, rural teachers are more confident and feel a sense of achievement as they devote themselves to educating children in rural areas.
In 2017, Hu+ Project partnered with over 30 educational organizations such as the YouChange China Social Entrepreneur Foundation and Beijing Normal University to launch the Youth Teacher Empowerment Education Plan (“Youth TEEP”), which offers a wide range of supports to rural teachers. The plan provides courses in codes of ethics for educators and professional development, instruction in integration of online courses with curriculum teaching, along with a community learning platform. We hope such a program will help rural teachers to master modern education theories and teaching practices.
Technology means efficiency and flexibility in learning and teaching. The Internet allows people to study anytime and anywhere. Online courses are open to learners from entirely different academic backgrounds and of all ages. Learning opportunities for everyone are widening across the board and lifelong learning is becoming a reality. Furthermore, accessibility to a fairer education on a larger scale has been made possible by the Internet which facilitates the spread of knowledge and information, allowing people to learn and grow online. It promises both quality and equality in education.