When schools closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, educators and students faced a new challenge: an overnight pivot to distance learning. Technology in the classroom isn’t new. Student tablets are often used to complement traditional lesson-planning and help students reach learning goals. But even as more devices are introduced in the classroom, not all students have access to a device at home. 

So, when school districts transitioned to distance learning models, many students were left to improvise or were unable to participate in online classrooms.

EdWeek Research Center found that students at each school level lack sufficient access to devices. Their survey of teachers found that in the United States, 47% of elementary schools, 69% of middle schools, and 72% of high schools have a device for every student. While students were previously able to share devices in classrooms, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights a growing need to equip every student with a device. 

Prior to the pandemic, classrooms where students shared devices were commonplace. In many instances, shared devices have educational benefits. They often help students develop critical social and emotional skills, learn to collaborate, and build intellectual curiosity. As we visualize the post- COVID-19 education landscape, consider 3 reasons why student tablets can help reduce the equity gap in education.

The Education Equity Gap is Expanding

Educators have known for years that there’s a gap in student access to devices and the internet. Digital Promise, an organization committed to accelerating innovation in education, found that nearly 1-in-5 students who lack a computer or internet access are unable to complete homework assignments. 

Research shows that race and socioeconomic status are also compounding factors. Pew Research found that 25% of black teenagers who lack internet access could not complete homework assignments. Lower-income households face similar barriers to access. Among households that earn less than $30,000 annually, 1-in-4 teenagers lack access to a computer as compared to 4% of teenagers who live in households that earn at least $75,000 per year.   

Although most students have access to devices at school, without home access, the homework gap can morph into a larger learning gap. 

Student Tablets Promote Education Outside of the Classroom

As classrooms increasingly use student tablets to supplement traditional lesson plans, educators are using technology to enhance the learning experience. Incorporating devices in classroom curriculum helps students to develop digital literacy skills. By using videos and educational applications, teachers are better equipped to support students with varying learning styles. 

The use of technology and devices to personalize learning paths, has significant impacts for students. Teachers are able to monitor a student’s progress and customize education tracks based on their individual needs. This enhanced approach to learning extends beyond the classroom. 

In schools where every child has a device, students are better equipped to develop critical skills such as independent learning. Personal devices give students the opportunity to explore classroom topics in greater detail. Take-home tablets promote curiosity and enable students to further research topics or build deeper understanding through videos, podcasts, and applications. 

Student Tablets Improve Access for Learners with Disabilities

Increased access to personal devices also improves outcomes for students with physical and learning disabilities. In a recent survey, Educause polled 2,000 students with disabilities to understand how more devices in the classroom can help support the needs of all students. 

They found two consistent themes in their research: students want access to materials and resources online, as well as greater use of technology in the classroom. By making classroom resources such as notes and presentations available online, students can access content before and after class. Educause found that such access is particularly beneficial to students with eyesight disability, as it ensures they can access reading material during class. 

Classroom Devices Strengthen Learner Engagement

Technology in the classroom creates a more interactive environment for students. Rather than listening to lectures, student tablets open the classroom to active learning models. Technologies that “gamify” the classroom or incorporate virtual and augmented reality support students with varied needs, through immersive classroom experiences. 

The Academy of Whole Learning, a private K-12 school in Minneapolis for students with autism has seen increased engagement among students when technology is introduced in the classroom. Teachers engage students using technology like virtual reality to create immersive experiences that limit the distractions of the classroom. 

Student tablets also foster stronger communication between students and teachers. When students have devices at home and in the classroom, they have greater connectivity with teachers through communication and productivity applications such as Zoom, Teams, or email. The availability of digital communication helps students ask questions directly to the teacher either during or outside of class. 

COVID-19 has exposed a critical factor in education’s equity gap. However, the pandemic also comes with an opportunity. Distance learning gives school districts, teachers, and students a chance to experiment with new approaches to learning. The abrupt transition to digital classrooms spotlights the need to equip every student with a tablet. As technology plays an increasing role in each of our lives, every student needs access to ensure that they’re developing the digital literacy skills required for success after they’ve completed their education. 

In an uncertain public health climate, student tablets empower K-12 students to pursue college, careers, and a destiny of their own choice. Esper has teamed up with iTeach Schools to donate 5,000 devices to under-resourced children in Pune, India. 

iTeach Schools is using Esper’s cloud platform to remotely secure, manage, and debug student and teacher devices, because every child has a right to distraction-proof learning experiences. Contact us to learn more about Esper for education, or click here to start using our cloud platform free-of-cost.