Learning under Covid-19 has brought attention to equity and EdTech. This has reinforced the fact that EdTech decision-makers, whether providers or implementers, must properly disaggregate and design for end-users to improve the effectiveness of EdTech interventions. Wagner, 2016, p. 11, stated that equity requires the implementation of projects in areas with a well-developed infrastructure, teachers, and electricity.
This paper, “EdTech To Reach the Most Marginalized: A Call for Action,” was created to give guiding recommendations that EdTech stakeholders, including policymakers, practitioners, and designers, need to implement to reach marginalized students. These recommendations will be presented before acknowledging — as the paper has done throughout — that inequality is a political issue and cannot be solved by technical solutions. To apply the guiding principles, it is necessary to understand the political economy factors in different contexts, as described under each parameter.
Understanding the context in which EdTech interventions are being planned is a crucial first step. Engaging with context experts would be a first step to understanding the context. This would also include undertaking a political economy analysis, examining how change has occurred and what has prevented or enabled a plan related to different marginalized groups. These factors will help determine the best approach to follow the ten recommendations below. This approach is likely to be iterative rather than linear.
The second step would be to track where countries are about the ten recommendations below. These will likely differ depending on the context and how marginalized learners are treated. Trucano’s (2016) Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER), ICT framework, is worth looking at as it outlines four stages of progression. These are latent, emerging, and established settings and advanced ones.
EduTech can reach marginalized learners in 10 ways
Below are ten recommendations related to the five education parameters described in Section 3.
Decision-making data and evidence
- Produce more robust evidence about the impact of EdTech that disaggregates data from EdTech end-user populations. Future research should adequately break down the impact of EdTech interventions on end-users, considering context, relevance, and feasibility. This will ensure decision-makers have the most accurate information possible. Access to disaggregated data is required to create a database that allows for evaluations and meta-evaluation about EdTech interventions that work and for whom.
- Equity considerations must be considered when EdTech is used to collect and disseminate information. Equity and inclusion are crucial to understanding EdTech data activities. This includes how data is collected by who, what purpose it serves, and how it relates to marginalized groups. In data collection and analysis, stakeholders must be represented. Data privacy poses a severe risk. Therefore, EdTech decisions must consider the safety of learners.
Professional development for teachers and pedagogy
- Encourage and support teachers to continue their professional development in inclusive education. Any EdTech intervention must ensure that teachers have the support to teach marginalized learners to address equity concerns. This includes working with teachers to understand and provide support in the classroom to psychologists, parents, and peers.
- Teachers from marginalized groups should be encouraged to include. Every EdTech initiative should ensure that teachers from marginalized communities are supported in their teaching practices, professional development, and adapting initiatives for teachers who have disabilities. Supporting teacher diversity is to achieve more significant equity in education.
Assessment and curriculum adaptation
- EdTech should be adaptable and flexible. All learners have different learning needs that are varied, numerous, and constantly changing. EdTech interventions must support education systems in effectively catering to the changing learning needs of learners (e.g., by providing content creation or materials in marginalized language). However, EdTech content must be reviewed to ensure that it aligns with the national curriculum and offers relevant, representative, and inclusive content.
- EdTech should support formative assessment and allow access to the evaluation. EdTech should be used to support educators in formative assessment — both in classrooms and with national monitoring and evaluation initiatives that provide timely feedback on individual learners’ requirements. EdTech should also allow for adaptability to accommodate different learner needs.
Participatory and integrated approaches
- Participate in the design of EdTech interventions to make them more democratic. To better reflect the unique needs of end-users (e.g., any challenges they might face or their ability to use the technology), a user-centric and participative design should be used. The design should give the end-users real power throughout the entire process to be inclusive. This would allow the intervention or technological device to be designed to have the maximum impact possible for their specific needs.
- EdTech actors must work together with other sectors and neglected parts of education. The most marginalized learners will be the best beneficiaries of a multi-sector approach, as they are more likely not to be in the formal education system. They also face interrelated disadvantages that require support beyond education. This approach will help to reduce the cost of technology-related investments.
Finance and resources
- To ensure that the EdTech sector is funded in the future and present, both donors and governments must embrace a progressive universalism approach. Public funding agencies will have to prioritize EdTech funding to prioritize education for marginalized groups and emphasize technological devices that have been proven to significantly impact learning outcomes and access.
- Public funding must encourage the private sector to invest in EdTech products and services that help marginalized learners. To ensure that EdTech reaches marginalized learners, partnerships between the government and the private sector are crucial. External public subsidies can support and encourage the private sector to cover the costs of targeting marginalized learners. In addition, the private sector can assist governments and donors in making EdTech products available to marginalized learners in settings that would otherwise be impossible.