Equality Issues in Educational Technology

What is equality based on?

Equality in terms of funding for educational technology depends on the funds that are available to supply technological equipment and education. It seems that dDollar-Sign.jpgivides occur in funding all the time, and are usually a topic of controversy. It is no different for technology. Schools with higher incomes can afford better technology, more technology, and afford to offer more instruction to teachers to use the technology. Funding is where the main divides in educational technology occur. If a school cannot afford the equipment, there is very little that students can do without it. If a school cannot afford it, the students simply have to go without. This produces more problems for equality in professional development and access.

Professional Development
Some teachers know how to use technology better than others. It seems that if a teacher does not know how to use it, or is not taught, they will not use it in the classroom. Inequality stems from the professional development of the teachers in terms of technological development. As in most cases, higher income schools have the uppeProfessionalDevelopmentLogo.jpgr hand. They can offer teachers a higher salary; therefore these schools usually get the highest caliber teachers. Also these schools have the fund for additional development to keep teachers up to date on new technology. Teachers should all be on the same page when it comes to technology and they should all be able to use it; however this is not always the case.

Twenty five states have requirements to help ensure that teachers are competent in the use of technology, either at the time of initial licensure or for recertification, while
13 states have similar requirements for administrators. States are increasingly implementing policies or programs that encourage, rather than require, educators to be
familiar with technology. Without universal standards for teacher training in technology, all students can not be taught equally.

Access is based on the amount of technology in the classroom. Some students, especially in from underprivileged schools may not have the same technology that schools in higher-income neighborhoods do. For instance, smartboards are very expensive and only some schools can afford them. This has a lot to do with funding. However, it has something to do with the teacher as well and how often they use it in the classroom. Therefore, it completely reasonable for a higher income school to not be equal to a lower income school simply because a teacher did not make use of it in the classroom. By having access to the technology, students learn how to incorporate it into their daily lives, and understand how to use it to their advantage after they have completed school.


This survey was taken in 2008 by Project America. It shows some of the inequalities that schools are facing today with it comes to access of technology.

All children with disabilities are to be educated to
the "maximum extent" with children who do not have disabilities.
~ Federal Law I.D.E.A. Sec. 612.5 (A) ~

Access to technology is also dependent on ability. Often, students with disabilities are not given opportunities to use technologies in the classroom because schools can not provide the special tools needed for every student with disabilities gain access. As increasing numbers of people with disabilities pursue educational opportunities that require computer use, accessibility of computing facilities is critical. The goal is equal access. Everyone who needs to use the computer lab and software should be able to do so comfortably.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has provided leadership and funding for a statewide project known as the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative (WATI) through an IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) grant. The primary goal of this initiative is to assist Wisconsin school districts with building their capacity to provide assistive technology devices and services to children and youth with disabilities. IDEA defines these requirements for assistive technology.

Language barriers can also affect student's access to technology. With the proper software and training, computers can help bridge the gap that prevents English Language Learners from succeeding in school. Computer programs in their own language can be the support they need to continue their education while connecting the information to what they are learning of English. But if software in their native language is not available or not purchased, the gains that could be had in their education is stunted as their efforts are spent decoding rather than processing.

How to make technology in schools more equal?
At the state level:

1. Adopt standards and measure competence as a requirement for licensure and recertification.
2. Encourage incentives for ongoing professional development.

At the district level:

1. Provide the same equipment and course offerings to schools serving mostly lower-income children as are provided to schools serving mostly higher-income children.
2. Provide the same equipment to schools serving mostly minority children as is provided to schools serving mostly White children.
3. Ensure that students in schools with high numbers of students of color or low-income students have an opportunity to use computers in the same way as students in schools with high numbers of White students or high income students.
4. Ensure that those who screen and purchase software are trained in evaluating bias issues.
5. Seek out instructional software that meets the needs and interests of limited English speaking, ethnic minority, female students, and students with different abilities, namely -- software that (1) shows both boys and girls from varying ethnic backgrounds in diverse roles, (2) is available in more than one language, (3) allows for different learning styles, (4) accommodates varying ability levels and (5) addresses the needs of students with different abilities.

At the school level:

1. Provide opportunities for all students -- including lower-income, lower-achieving and ethnic minority students -- to use computers for high-level cognitive tasks (simulations and applications) as well as low-level cognitive tasks (drill and practice).
2. Allow all groups equitable access to the computer facilities before and after school and during other free times.
3. Encourage all groups to use computers before and after school and during other free times.
4. Educate all parents and guardians about the importance of technology skills for their children.
5. Ensure an equitable representation of all groups of students in computer clubs.
6. Require all students to demonstrate proficiency with computers and other technology.
7. Ensure that no particular group of students is allowed to dominate computer use.
8. Provide students with female and diverse racial and cultural role models in technology-based careers.
9. Make efforts to counter negative labels like "computer nerd" or negative attitudes about computers like "it's not cool."
10. Take measures to accommodate students who do not have access to a computer or to the Internet at home.
11. Train staff to support people with disabilities.
12. Follow a checklist to see that your school meets the needs of those with disabilities.

At the teacher level:

1. Participate in software training and staff development classes to learn how to implement technology into your classroom
2. Collaborate with other teachers to encourage use and share ideas
3. Create authentic uses of technology in every subject
4. Respond to specific accommodation requests for technology access in a timely manner.
5. Apply for grants

Below is a video that has 10 great tips for applying to technological grants for schools. Grants can help close the gaps that many schools face in funding new technology in the classroom.

What are the problems facing technological equality in the classroom?

  • Often, school districts are forced to choose between short term fixes for technology versus long term goals. The short term fixes are often cheaper and more readily available but soon become obsolete or outdated. Technology planning should allow for both short- and long-term purchasing based on projected future use of education technology. Buying state-of-the-art technology is the best bet, even though it is often the most expensive, in ensuring that the school or district can use it effectively as long as possible.

  • Schools often buy expensive technology without addressing the needs of teachers to be trained on the technology. Without proper training, a teacher can not properly or effectively utilize the technology in their classrooms.

  • Often, teachers are not aware of the special tools available to students with disabilities, such as impaired hearing, visual, or motor skills. Districts should provide students with these tools thoughout their schooling years to help students with disabillities use technology to their fullest potential.

  • Teachers need more time than the average 55 minute class to collaborate and work with students effectively. As schools require more and more ways of incorporating technology in the classroom, the problem becomes more of an issue of time and daily class structure rather than equipment.


Warren-Sams, B. Closing the Equity Gap in Technology and Use: A Practical Guide for K-12 Educators. Portland, Oregon: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, 1997.