Does Edtech Hurt—or Help—Those Most in Need?

Personalized Learning

Does Edtech Hurt—or Help—Those Most in Need?

Sep 7, 2015

Here’s the question that cuts to the quick: Will technology in schools help or hurt students most in need? Reach Capital’s Jennifer Carolan believes it helps and points out that her fund supports companies that make tutoring and one-to-one instruction a reality for even the poorest learners.

"Since the Gutenberg Press began the democratization of knowledge, technology has brought the experiences of the well-off to the masses...In edtech, entrepreneurs are bringing tutoring to our public schools, STEM mentors to rural classrooms and apps for classroom teachers to screen for dyslexia in kindergarten," Carolan writes.

She cites work by Stanford University professor, Sean Reardon, among others. When you boil down what accounts for the disparities in outcomes between wealthy and poor students, Reardon writes, he finds that "High-income families are increasingly focusing their resources — their money, time and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in school — on their children’s cognitive development and educational success." Poor and middle class parents are doing more for their children--but their efforts are outstripped by wealthy families.

Reardon would like to see more emphasis on families: "Let’s invest in parents so they can better invest in their children," he writes. Carolan believes that technology can also help level the playing field in the one place where all kids meet--namely schools. "The high-touch education that Reardon ... describe[s] is more personalized (closer to 1:1), broad (extends beyond testable subjects), and engaging (interactive, passion-driven)," she writes.

What we'd like to add to that: The “right” technology can make an enormous difference. But not every technology will work in every school. That’s why we believe that those closest to learning—teachers and yes, even students—deserve a louder voice in shaping how they learn.

Editor's Note: Jennifer Carolan serves on EdSurge's Board of Directors.

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