Some of the comments that I reasonate with are:
Russ Goerend - "Access to the Internet = access to quality education"
Tim Furman - "access to books would go a long to help an impoverished child"
Mary Beth Hertz - "Equal access means that all students have the opportunity to learn from a teacher who is a lifelong learner and dedicated to his or her students"I'm sure there were others, but I had to cut out early due to guests arriving at my home. Looking back over the archive, I found this statement that probably best sums up my feelings.
Ms. Bethea "As long as the underlying system is broken, there will always be inequality in education regardless of access."If we can fix the system, we will address the other comments and so many others. I going to try an avoid sounding like a broken record in this post. Instead I'll point you to my vision for how school school should look in order to speak directly to these issues.
First of all, I think "equal access" goes beyond access to technology. I take tonight's question at face value - how do we ensure equal access quality education, which is a much bigger issue. I do think access to technology helps. Access to technology and the web opens up access to a wide array of resources not available otherwise. As I said earlier tonight, we can rearrange our budgets so that money being spent on textbooks can be spent on technology. If the technology is integrated throughout the school, throughout the day, lack of access at home is not as big a factor as it once was. Proper internet access opens the doors to open sourcing education.
Some of tonight's discussion dealt with the socioeconomic factors that are associated with access. Being an idealist, I want to assume that the teachers of John Doe Impoverished Neighborhood School are just as good as the ones at Charles Moneybags Suburban Gated Community School. I want to ideally assume that teachers will receive (and seek on their own) the necessary professional development to help them be quality teachers. So don't comment on either of these issues. They are for another time. This is about a broken system.
By the way, I've taught at both schools and it is certainly is "easier" at the latter. However, that can only go far in terms of providing excuse in unequal access. As Will Richardson said earlier last week, you may not have caused the problem but now you own so do something about it. We cannot control the environment from which our students come, at least not in a free state. But there are lots of things we can do to deal with that environment - free and reduced lunch, parent outreach, parent engagement, before/after school programs, etc.
In order for any of this work, we have to change the system. We can't just tweak it. It needs serious overhaul. I'm not saying that all textbooks are bad. I am saying we need to seriously take at look at the money we are spending on those books. What would be the net effect of using technology to provide the same (or better I would argue) access? We have to look seriously at things like testing. We must stop playing the role of cash cow for testing services and developers. We must fight the conventional (yet contrary to what people actually in the know and in the trenches say) wisdom regarding the validity of these tests.
We have to change what we measure and how we measure it. If equal access means something different from equal treatment, why are we using the same metric for everyone? Throw out promotion schedules and report cards. Provide access to a guaranteed success at accomplishing learning goals without a stigma regarding how long it takes. Providing equal access is not that hard. But it requires changing the system, and that's really not that hard either.