Education insights

Digital equity and digital literacy go hand-in-hand

During the 2020-21 academic year, K-12 schools, teachers, parents, and students met a myriad of challenges of COVID-related closures with creativity, commitment, and resilience. As students return to the classroom, however, many challenges remain: what is the ongoing role of remote learning? How do we continue to build effective and engaging hybrid classrooms? Most pressing still is the persistent challenge of the digital divide, fueled by the inextricably linked aspects of digital equity and digital literacy.  

What is the digital divide? 

The digital divide is the gap between those who can readily access and benefit from information technology and those who can’t. For schools, this gap—disproportionately affecting lower-income families and racial minorities—particularly alters the value of coursework requiring independent online work, research, or collaboration, a disparity long-recognized as the “homework” gap.  

When COVID hit, the digital divide evolved overnight from a persistent problem into an urgent crisis as millions of students lost access to in-person learning. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 66% of students from households with annual incomes below $50,000 had access to online learning during the pandemic compared to 86% of students from households with incomes over $100,000. The “homework gap” grew into a full-scale education gap.  

Digital equity and digital literacy 

Digital equity—often called the “first-level digital divide,” describes the unequal distribution of the devices, software, and high-speed internet service that students need to access the full range of digital learning and productivity resources available to them.  

Digital literacy—the “second-level digital divide,” focuses on the disparity of skills and behaviors students need to realize the full value of digital learning and productivity. Digital literacy requires access to information technology—digital equity—but also depends on the quality of student experiences with the technology.  

Even when students have full access to digital technology, there still exists a profound gap in the quality of digital experiences that also breaks along socioeconomic and racial categories. Low-quality digital experiences using devices for passive entertainment, do little to develop digital literacy compared to high-quality digital experiences, such as learning, exploring, collaborating, and creating. 

Any working approach to bridge the digital divide must conceive of digital equity and digital literacy as a single, overarching challenge requiring a solution that increases access to technology as well as increases the quality of student experiences with these technologies. 

The Lenovo-LanSchool comprehensive approach to the digital divide 

LanSchool is trying to bridge the digital divide in K-12 schools with an initiative committed to getting the technology into the hands of more students while at the same time improving the effectiveness and quality of the digital learning experience in the classroom and beyond.  

Access: From the very first school closures, LanSchool has focused on providing schools with the tools they need to address the challenges of the digital divide. In 2020, LanSchool donated over $1.2 million in complimentary licenses to the classroom management software. 

Lenovo and LanSchool are continuing their effort to get devices into more classrooms going into the new school year by offering the Lenovo-LanSchool Bundle. This bundle provides a complimentary one-year LanSchool license with each qualifying purchase of a Lenovo education device. Bundling the device and software maximizes the purchasing power of the school, helping schools achieve a true 1:1 device-to-student ratio

QualityClassroom Management Software is designed to make device-enabled instruction more effective for both students and teachers. Software, like LanSchool, includes several features designed to raise the quality of student’s digital learning by increasing engagement, focus, collaboration, flexibility, and personalization. 

  • Screen Monitoring allows a teacher to monitor the students’ screens, the digital equivalent of walking around the room. In addition to identifying students who are off-task, thumbnail monitoring allows the facilitator to identify students having problems with the lesson or technology and intervene. 
  • Show Teacher allows the teacher to share their screen with one or more students in the classroom to guide their learning, teach specific skills, or help them solve technology and navigation problems. 
  • Messaging provides teachers the ability to directly communicate one-to-one with students through their learning device to aid in learning, help with problems or technology, provide immediate feedback, or get distracted students back on task. 
  • Raise Hand allows students to participate in group digital work or ask a facilitator for help. Raise Hand is especially valuable when students fall off-task due to confusion with instructions or technology, and it can also encourage participation from students who are less inclined to speak up verbally in a classroom.  
  • Limit Application is another powerful tool for keeping students focused and on-task. With it, facilitators can stop all applications from running on a student’s computer except those relevant to the task at hand. 

Utilizing digital technology has become a vital tool in the classroom for teachers and students in everything from lesson planning to collaboration. It may be uncertain how many schools will use technology to continue with remote or hybrid learning in the coming school year, but even in the classroom, the need to understand that the relationship between digital equity and digital literacy is key in closing the gap of the digital divide. Narrowing the gap will not only aid in the success of students, but also the future workforce.  

To explore all the features that LanSchool offers and to find out more about how it promotes high-quality digital learning experiences, sign up for a free, no-obligation trial

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