Digital Equality and Inclusion in the Age of STEAM Education
Focusing on improved digital access enhances the impact of STEAM programs for the benefit of both educators and learners.
As we have traveled through time, the issue of equality with regards to the access of resources has always been the same. Only the elite had access to books before a case was made that everyone should be taught to read. Only the wealthy could afford TVs and therefore have access to the news until enough time passed to bring down the price. Now, we are seeing only schools with high budgets as able to provide students with access to digital resources.
This issue of digital equality and inclusion needs to be discussed and dealt with because of its relation to STEAM education. Although there are countless STEAM activities for elementary that can be done without modern technology, the vast majority of them, especially when working with older children, use a technological format. As educators or working in education-related fields, it’s up to us to make the push for digital equality and inclusion.
What students need
Not only are more and more homework assignments expected to be completed online, but also updated teaching methods are embedded in advanced software and through the Internet, STEAM programs included. In order to take full advantage of everything that STEAM education has to offer, several things must be in place.
- Digital access
Students need to have access to computers with a good broadband connection
- Digital literacy
Students need to have the skills to navigate basic programs and the Internet
- Quality support
Schools need qualified IT personnel and students need instructors who are well versed in how to use the given program, for example: coding classes for kids.
- Digital enablement
Students need to know how to use technology to get what they want out of, and excel at, life
These four points ideally apply to all communities, not just students. However, schools are an excellent place for the younger generation to be exposed to successful tools in a positive environment for use in later in their lives. The terms ‘digital equality’ and ‘digital inclusion’ are more than just political rhetoric.
STEAM as an answer to digital equality
STEAM education cannot hope to meet all the challenges that are involved with digital inclusion, but it can have an impact on two points in particular: digital literacy and digital enablement.
All of the skills that go hand in hand with STEAM, which we all know and love, is what will make the difference in the real world. The critical thinking, processing of information, creativity, and more, all contribute to learning how to implement those in a digital world. In turn, it’s educators’ job to show how these can be applied on a day-to-day basis to help lead to digital enablement.
As each and every student gains access to and participates in STEAM activities in their lessons, a step up the digital literacy ladder is taken. What is provided in the classroom may be the only means of technology training a child receives. This places a new importance on what takes place through STEAM and ensuring that all students have the same experience.
When each child, no matter where on the learning spectrum he or she falls, has some ability to utilize what they have learned from STEAM programs and subjects integrated with the digital aspects, they can take themselves to new levels.
It’s not too hard to see how these topics connect. After all, the “T” in STEAM stands for Technology. STEAM education as it relates to digital equality today is more complex than just that, but it’s important to remember how and in what ways this type of education has an impact across all students from different backgrounds.