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Foreward

A Collective Vision for Advancing Digital Equity for Learners, Families/Caregivers, and Communities

The pandemic illuminated significant, long-standing educational equity gaps faced by many of our learners and spurred an unprecedented period of emergency remote learning.1 One of the most critical challenges has been providing the foundational access to reliable, high-speed internet and adequate devices necessary to facilitate everywhere, all-the-time learning. Stories and data from the last two years clearly show the lack of this essential
technology currently impacts communities of color and low-income communities to a disproportionate extent.2

Due to the incredible leadership of educators and education leaders and ongoing contributions of community-based organizations and institutions from across many sectors, some progress has been made in providing learners, families/caregivers, and communities with access to the internet. Through efforts like rapid device and hotspot procurement and distribution, assistance to qualifying households in signing up for the Federal Communication Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, school-based technical support help desks, and digital literacy training, learning was able to continue in times when physical school buildings were closed.

As we recover from the pandemic, educators are increasingly leveraging the breadth of active and innovative learning opportunities made possible through technology.3 In addition, schools are accelerating the implementation of whole learner approaches with technology, including connections to social and emotional supports, parent-educator engagement opportunities, tele-health and tele-mental health, and basic needs services. For such opportunities to become equitably and sustainably available at scale, we must do more to ensure all learners, families/caregivers, and communities have access to technology and the opportunities that it unlocks.

As other federal agencies work to make internet access more available and affordable across the nation, the U.S. Department of Education calls on state and local leaders to also bridge existing adoption barriers–providing learners, families/caregivers, and communities with the information, continuous support, and skill-building opportunities necessary to obtain regular, adequate access to reliable, high-speed internet service and technology tools for learning. Throughout this resource, the Office of Educational Technology has aggregated and synthesized critical, strategic action steps for leaders in addressing those human-level barriers, focusing on communities that are furthest from digital opportunities.

Our nation has quickly understood that digital equity is no longer a “nice-to-have” condition but a “must-have” to ensure that all may fully participate in the digital economy and society of today and tomorrow. We hope that this resource can serve as an informative guide as state and local leaders work to build, maintain, and implement their digital equity plans in partnership with learners, families/caregivers, and communities.

Roberto J. Rodríguez
Assistant Secretary
Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development
U.S. Department of Education

Kristina Ishmael
Deputy Director
Office of Educational Technology
U.S. Department of Education


1 Stelitano, Laura, Sy Doan, Ashley Woo, Melissa Kay Diliberti, Julia H. Kaufman, & Daniella Henry. (2020). The Digital Divide and COVID-19: Teachers’ Perceptions of Inequities in Students’ Internet Access and Participation in Remote Learning. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA134-3.html.

2 Auxier, B., & Anderson, M. (2020, July 27). As schools close due to the coronavirus, some U.S. students face a digital ‘homework gap’. Pew Research Center. Retrieved July 20, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/03/16/as-schools-close-due-to-the-coronavirus-some-u-s-students-face-a-digital-homework-gap/

3 Sparks, S.D. & Harwin, A. (2022, March 22). The teaching strategies educators say will outlast the pandemic. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/leadership/theteaching-strategies-educators-say-will-outlast-the-pandemic/2022/03