What's the Plus?
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What's the Plus?

Bringing Digital Equity to Our Classrooms Will Keep Students Engaged

By Michael Flowers

During a recent class, my students and I discussed the responsibilities and obligations of citizenship. When I asked them to copy the objective of the lesson from the whiteboard on a blank sheet of notebook paper, Evelin raised her hand. “Coach Flowers, is that a ‘L’ or an ‘I,’ and can you move so I can copy the rest of the objective?” Even when she moved to an empty desk up front, she still couldn’t see well.

A major task for teachers like me is finding solutions to ensure an equitable learning experience for all students. One solution is to promote digital equity in the classroom where students have access to resources and old equipment is replaced with new technology. Digital equity is about ensuring all students have equal access to technology that impacts engagement and learning. When students are provided with resources to fit their needs and teachers are trained to navigate and use those resources, the entire classroom environment improves. However, there are two major barriers to teachers getting the technology that has proven to ensure digital equity for our students. One barrier is teachers may not know who to go to within their respective school districts to get the assistance they need to address the digital equity problem. Another barrier is digital equity may not be on the top of a school district’s priority list. But the issue of keeping and closing the technology gap prevalent in our schools can no longer go unaddressed and unresolved. It’s up to teachers like me to make sure my students have access to the technology tools they need.

Whenever I write or draw on a whiteboard, learners like Evelin are forced to juggle their time and visual attention between the content being presented and the instructor presenting it. Creating digital equity using innovative technologies increases the likelihood that all students can learn in the way that meets their needs. Technologies such as eGlass and the mobile teaching station HoverCam Pilot X helps to close and keep the gap closed in students’ learning by engaging students wherever they are, in class or online, with content that can be easily recorded and reviewed until the student has mastered what they missed. This helps to reduce disparity between students with differing abilities, including students with attention disorders, and assist students with visual and auditory impairments.

The eGlass, a transparent writing glass with a built-in camera that captures your face and writing in the same picture, is perfect for blended and distance learning and can be plugged into an interactive flat panel, projector, or other classroom display. The eGlass is designed to boost student engagement and is an upgrade from the traditional whiteboards found in today’s classrooms. The HoverCam Pilot X, my other favorite technology, is designed to drive student engagement through teacher mobility. The HoverCam Pilot X is a wireless digital teaching station that is an upgrade from the traditional AV carts teachers use. Rendering AV carts, obsolete, the HoverCam Pilot X comes equipped with a powerful tablet computer, 4K interactive casting, fold out document camera, and an ergonomic mobile podium. With the HoverCam Pilot X, teachers spend less time setting up and more time teaching because every essential classroom technology is in one wireless station. What’s more, with eGlass and HoverCam Pilot X, I can effortlessly access everything I want to teach whether it be videos, maps, data, or audio recordings to be pulled out on the eGlass screen, and be interacted with for higher engagement and learning.

I want students like Evelin to stay engaged for entire lessons to learn more. Watching Evelin react to my writing and gestures, seeing her learning more and picking up subtle cues that she’s engaged or needs assistance with what I’m teaching, are the benefits of having devices like eGlass and HoverCam Pilot X in my classroom. It is what I need to bring digital equity into my classroom.

Michael Flowers is a 9th-12th grade civics/economics and world history teacher at Wilbur D. Mills University Studies High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. He is a 2021–2022 Teach Plus Arkansas Policy Fellow.

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