What do we mean when we talk about “access”?

What do you think when you hear the word “access” when it comes to education and our students?

This was a question that I was recently asked at a panel at THE Ohio State University (I was told that I have to write THE before OSU and I am kind of scared not to now.).

At first, when you hear the term “access,” many people think about things like access to technology and the Internet.  Makes sense, and I agree. Kids who do not have access to the biggest library in the world will lose out on many opportunities that other kids do have.

But in my response, I wanted to challenge the term “access” to go beyond technology. What about access to high-quality learning opportunities in every classroom?

Put it this way. If you have access to the Internet in your school, but the quality of teaching and learning in your school is not excellent for all students, then how much does the technology matter?

I addressed the notion of equity in my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset,” and how it has to be not just equitable, but at the highest level:

Another concern often voiced in response to innovative initiatives is that the new program or approach might create superior learning opportunities—opportunities that aren’t offered in another learning environment. If what’s best for learners is our primary concern, equity of opportunities will be created at the highest of levels, not the lowest.

I am not saying that every teacher has to be the same. That is impossible. I am saying that access goes beyond technology and that every student should have access to high-quality learning opportunities.  When talking about students, the “access” conversation has to go far beyond technology.

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