Digital Inclusion and Technology Plan
The COVID-19 crisis and the need for distance learning has exposed the technology disparity in school districts across the country. While this disparity is not new, the coronavirus has triggered a global movement to shift classrooms online which has prompted a new drive and motivation to resolve this disparity. Many school districts in the last ten years have tried to improve technology equity by providing Chromebooks, iPads, or tablets to youth in middle or high school grades. However, the device is only one part of the battle towards full inclusion. “Digital Inclusion requires intentional strategies and investments to reduce and eliminate historical, institutional, and structural barriers to access and use of technology.” (National Digital Inclusion Alliance).
The barriers to digital inclusion that currently exist at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) are many and as diverse as the students impacted by the school. While the common thread among our students is a visual impairment, each student has a varying degree of vision loss and acuity. Their vision ability is what drives the type of adaptive device and application that is most appropriate for the student to learn and communicate. This means there is not one type of device or digital application that would best serve all students as reflected in most school districts across the country. Many school districts hand out one type of device to all its students and use one unified platform for students and teachers to utilize for instruction and learning. This type of approach just is not applicable at ISBVI.
Currently, 86% of the student population at ISBVI do not have the appropriate learning devices/tools or consistent access to adaptive technology needed to engage and learn most effectively. (Based on survey questions and data collected in April 2020 from ISBVI families.)
Over the next year, the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation intends to actively recruit and implement a digital inclusion task force and technology plan in partnership with the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The task force will work year-round on fundraising efforts targeted towards raising the necessary $431,140.00 to ensure the 128 full-time students (ages 3-22) at ISBVI have current and appropriate technology to use at school and at-home.
In addition to raising funding for technology, the task force will:
- Assist in policy creation surrounding technology in the hands of students.
- Research insurance plans surrounding school technology on loan to students and families.
- Lend skills and expertise regarding technology on an ongoing basis as well as develop first year goals and outcomes.
- Create ongoing community connections that assist in the delivery of and long-term support of access technology.
- Determine any additional ISBVI support staff who will document progress and challenges, lead and support data collection efforts, summarize data, and report that data to task force and IBCF.
- Address any family’s lack of internet, WiFi or hot spot capabilities by creating clear resources on how families can obtain support in their home or in their local community (libraries, coffee shops).
- Assist the school in developing professional development opportunities for teaching and support staff (teachers, therapists, nursing staff, social workers and etc.).
- Work with the school leadership to ensure technology trainings and workshops are made available to students and families multiple times through the year both at the school and in community partner locations across the state to meet families where they live.
- Work with IBCF Executive Director to create an ongoing fundraising plan that accounts for diverse on-going consistent revenue streams towards this infrastructure and a changing technology to ensure ISBVI students and families have access to new technology when it is needed.