How Digital Learning Will Benefit Low Income Students

Digital learning will benefit all students -- particularly students from low-income families where education leaders are proactive. In light of the 'OER exacerbates the gap' flap this week, I thought it would be worth expanding on the ways in which EdTech, blended learning, and open education resources (OER) will benefit low-income kids. Following is a list of 10 ways that digital learning will benefit low-income students:

1. Good teachers. States that authorize multiple providers and allow part-time enrollment (like Florida, Idaho, and Utah) give every student access to great teachers in every subject.

Public Impact is building on the Innosight Institute report, The Rise of Blended Learning, and identifying strategies -- most using technology -- that extend the reach of great teachers. The net benefit is that five years from now more students will benefit from great teachers.

2.Good content. During the next five years most states and districts will shift to predominantly digital content -- it will be more to date, more engaging, and provide more expansive learning resources than print. The shift will disproportionately benefit low-income students that have had less access to quality content.

3. Diagnostics. Adaptive assessments and improved diagnostics are beginning to pinpoint learning levels and gaps that must be addressed. These tools -- like NWEA MAP, Wireless MClass -- are of particular benefit to students whose learning has not been well supported.

4. Special services. We're beginning to see the deployment of online services for students with language and learning difficulties. Available on demand, they often work better and are less expensive than traditional approaches.

5. More options. Personal digital learning is enabling a wide variety of school options -- some that blend online and onsite, and some that are purely virtual. Where states allow it, families have a wider variety of options to meet specific needs.

6. Advanced courses. Soon, most states will give every student access to every advanced math and science course, as well as Advanced Placement and college credit courses. With scaled providers it is logistically simple and very affordable to provide cost-effective access to consistent quality. This relatively new capability unquestionably benefits low-income students.

7. Time. As the high performing elementary Rocketship network is demonstrating, school models that blend digital learning with classroom instruction can extend the learning day for students that need an 8-hour school day to overcome an early childhood vocabulary deficit.

8. 24/7 access. Over the next five years, most schools will provide take home technology (at least for secondary students) that will extend access to learning resources around the clock. States, cities, and school districts will continue to make progress on extending access to broadband. The combination of devices and broadband will narrow the digital divide.

9. Free. There has been an explosion of free and open educational resources. With Khan Academy, every family has access to at least one great math teacher. Teachers can use social learning platform Edmodo, video sharing service SchoolTube, and math games from MangaHigh all for free (Learn Capital portfolio companies). Free content is helping schools make the shift to personal digital learning -- that's good for all kids but particularly for low-income students.

10. Culture. Good schools have a powerful culture of high expectations and strong support. As education shifts from a place to a service, social learning groups will extend a culture of learning beyond traditional classrooms. Teacher social networks are connecting subject area teachers across the country. Reducing the isolation of teachers and students and promoting a college/career ready culture will disproportionately benefit low-income students.

Digital learning won't close the achievement gap, but it will lift the floor. More students will be more academically successful. Five years from now, a higher percentage of students will soon graduate from high school ready for college and careers. Most will have benefited from Common Core expectations. Some will have benefited from Race to the Top funded programs. Many will have benefited from these 10 reasons that digital learning will benefit low-income students.