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Blog: Techquity at Mastery Charter Pickett Campus

Eric Soble & Amelia Rivera-Speight

 

Innovative and topical professional development at Mastery Charter Pickett Campus

This year at Mastery Charter Pickett Campus, every single one of our professional development sessions was infused with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (“DEI”). Our DEI work isn’t a bucket, it’s everything we do. Of course, as educators planning to start a new school year teaching and learning in a global pandemic, technology was on the forefront of everyone’s minds.

There’s been lots of news over the past 6 months about the digital divide. The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare many of our society’s inequities, not least of all the differences in technology access for students living in low-income communities. Together, we planned a new professional development session we called Techequity.

Mastery Schools fundraised over $750,000 to establish a 1:1 laptop lending program. Every single family will also have home internet access, receiving assistance from Mastery if they cannot afford it. However, even as access to devices and internet has improved, we’re still concerned with the next great technology equity challenge: the way educators use technology with their students. We’re focused on Techequity.

This issue can look like a lack of access to tech-focused educational opportunities like Computer Science and Programming courses in schools. A lack of Techquity can manifest itself as discrimination in hiring practices in STEM fields and Silicon Valley. At its worst, technology can be used against people of color in racially biased surveillance software. Check out the Amazon same-day shipping maps, which mimic redlining. All of these things, from small to large, are ”Techquity.” This is the context in which we grounded our professional development session: this is our why.

We must prioritize creating a high quality Technology user experience for our students, especially now.

We started by considering simple accessibility and equity of user experience in our new learning management system, Schoology. We are committed to creating the highest quality virtual learning experience possible. Next, we set out to create a meaningful shift in our staff mindset with the three following priorities:

 

  • Building technological mindset: For years, we’ve posted signs in our schools that say things like “technology-free zone.” Upon some reflection and a new context for Techquity, we have sometimes delivered toxic, negative messaging around technology. We need to get away from our biased teacher-voice warns technology is always a toy and never a tool.
  • Technology is about how we use it: Technology can be harmful or helpful, it’s about how we use it.
  • Connect technology to educational purpose: We need to be intentional. We’re not going to use technology for the sake of technology. It needs to be deeply connected to our lessons and what we’re trying to accomplish with our students. We’re saying no to “Flash & Trash.”

Our staff is now unified in our approach. We’re going to transform teaching and learning by using technology to promote all students’ problem solving and higher order thinking skills. This year, we’re addressing inequalities in instruction through a focus on Techquity.