Using Google to Promote Digital Equity
Educators have been aware of problems related to various kinds of equity—including societal, socioeconomic, cultural, familial, staffing, and linguistic—for decades. A newer entry to the list of equity concerns is digital equity. As the name suggests, digital equity concerns whether all students have equal access to digital resources. This would include everything from Internet access at home in order to complete assignments to equal access to Advanced Placement Computer Science.
Digital equity has become a topic of extensive research. There are some promising aspects, such as the wide penetration of smartphones in most communities. But there are still some areas of concern.
Fortunately, Google offers a variety of products that can be used to promote digital equity. Perhaps the most important aspect of Google’s presence in the education space is that most of its products are offered without cost:
- Schools can use Google Drive for storage, which means that they don’t need to purchase devices with extensive storage capability. Additionally—and perhaps more importantly—materials stored in Google drive are accessible from any device, which makes it much easier in situations where students need to share devices. This is an important boon for underserved school districts.
- Google’s Documents, Sheets, and Slides are offered free of charge. Because they are simple to use, they will meet the needs of under-resourced
- It seems likely that one of the next big things in edtech will be virtual reality. Of course, most virtual reality kits have a disturbingly high price tag. But Google Cardboard is a reasonable alternative; it makes it possible to use virtually any smartphone as a VR headset. Plus, Google Expeditions offers guided virtual field trips designed for use in the classroom. These trips usually have accompanying instructional materials as well.
- Google Forms can be used to streamline administration in a variety of ways. Schools no longer need to allocate as much money to printing costs, not to mention the time spent by office staff in handling paperwork.
Google has also expressed concern about digital equity and worked directly to address the issue. Recently, they announced a program to provide Wi-Fi in certain low-income housing sites in San Francisco with the specific goal of reducing the digital divide.
It’s easy when focusing on edtech to always gaze toward the cutting edge. But broader social concerns mean that it’s also important to think about students who don’t have access to the latest edtech. Google’s products are a good way to minimize the digital divide.