The opportunity gap is one of the most bedeviling problems facing education today. The reality is that the educational experience of a student is strongly influenced by the socioeconomic situation of his or her parents. This often means that students who require the most intervention in order to succeed academically have access to the fewest resources. But digital learning tools may provide some ways to close the opportunity gap. Here are four ways that that could happen:
First, educators can take advantage of edtech tools that provide extremely fine-grained analysis of student learning data in order to improve student outcomes. Instead of being content to note that half the class passed an exam, a teacher can now look at performance on individual questions—particularly in terms of the learning gaps shown by incorrect answers—in order to target precisely what remediation and reteaching are necessary in order to help students. Careful analysis of student data can ensure that no student falls behind by targeting precisely what skills an individual student needs to work on.
Second, edtech tools create impressive opportunities for personalized learning. Instead of a “one size fits all” approach that, inevitably, will not meet the needs and interests of all students, teachers can harness edtech tools that permit them to engage all students by using content, approaches, and designs that appeal to each student personally. Some teachers view edtech as a faster, more organized way to teach the way that they have always taught, but the real innovators view edtech as allowing teachers to teach in entirely different ways in order to meet the needs of all students.
Third, digital learning allows students to expand their horizons. Recent research into reading development has shown that students with deeper and broader background knowledge perform better in reading comprehension. Students who struggle often do so because they have not been exposed to the same enrichment opportunities that their middle-class peers have. But digital tools are a clever way to bridge this divide, allowing, for example, inner-city students to take a virtual field trip to a zoo, an art museum, or even to Rome.
Fourth, a flipped classroom can benefit students who have less support at home. In a traditional learning model, a student whose parents are unable to help with homework is often at a substantial disadvantage. But, with a flipped model, most any student can watch a video at home—without parental assistance—and then fully participate in class the next day.
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