Summer school concept,Asian children are playing laptop computer in the park.

Investments in Technology

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If you’ve not read the precursor blog post “Federal COVID-19 Relief for K-12,” there is quite a bit of helpful background about the federal relief bills which make investments in technology possible for many districts. We encourage you to read it as a partner piece to this blog post.

By Shawn Gross, CEO and President of Digital Millennial Consulting

Technology has the capacity to allow districts to more efficiently and effectively identify learning loss and develop differentiated mitigation strategies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amount of investment in technology will differ as adoption rates vary by schools and districts. For example, I worked with very large urban systems that only had small pockets where teachers and students were effectively integrating technology. By contrast, I supported a smaller district in a rural county that invested in migrating its teaching and learning strategy to all digital more than seven years ago. The rural system made investments in all of the areas that  I consider the basics for mobile learning. Consequently, the rural system was more easily able to rapidly implement virtual learning in the face of the pandemic. Further, this district now has access to a plethora of data that it can leverage to mitigate learning loss. Some examples of ESSER III allowable categories that align to past and future technology expenditures include:

  • Providing educational technology for all students that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors.
  • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months.
  • Addressing learning loss among students, including by:
    1. Administering and using high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable to accurately assess students’ academic progress and assist educators in meeting students’ academic needs, including through differentiating instruction.
    2. Implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students.
    3. Providing information and assistance to parents and families on how they can effectively support students, including in a distance learning environment.
    4. Tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education.

Recommendations

ARP should be treated as if a very large philanthropy provided your school or district with a one-time investment. The philanthropy has given you a tremendous amount of freedom in how you spend their dollars but has made two points very clear. First, your school or district will not receive another round of funding, and, second, they require you to publicly measure and monitor the progress of students by school, grade level, subject, sex, race and ethnicity. As you ponder different ways to allocate these resources for technology, consider the following recommendations:

  • Develop a plan and obtain feedback amongst all stakeholder groups (not simply due to the statutory requirement), especially students. 
  • Invest in longer-term strategic initiatives to ensure the foundations of an instructional technology system are well established.
  • Ensure needs are met for students and teachers as they relate to devices and connectivity.
  • Implement software that captures disparate data from other applications, analyzes inputs through unbiased learning algorithms and provides differentiated and individualized instruction for students.    
  • Invest in your infrastructure to maximize uptime and minimize outages on your network.
  • Continue treating technology as mission critical for teaching and learning.

About the author

Shawn Gross is a former education senior policy advisor in the US Senate and House of Representatives. Additionally, Shawn served as a member of the Obama Administration’s task force on continuity of learning in response to school closures as a result of a pandemic. He has worked with over 200 districts across 23 states to help leadership maximize access to federal funding opportunities for edtech. Shawn is the CEO and president of Digital Millennial Consulting and is based in Arlington, Virginia.