Smart Tech

Welcome to the Smart Tech for Equity Homepage. On this site, you'll learn about our cause. We are a group of San Diego educators exploring the question: 

Which uses of technology in schools help create equity, and which don’t? 

Our answers may surprise you.

    We’re at a juncture in education where big dollars are being spent making sure kids have access to computers, tablets and the Internet at school. Such infrastructure opens the portal to a world of information, and new tools that support viewing, documenting and playing with information in school appear almost daily. We’re told such tools engage our kids and so, inherently support their learning.

   But which uses of tech in schools support young people’s development better than, say, using a pencil? And which are, in fact, worse than a pencil?

    As a step toward answering this question, an educator-led initiative called Smart Tech Use for Equity is engaging a diverse group of K-12 teachers who teach San Diego’s low-income students of color. 

    Our goal? 

Identify uses of technology in schools that promote student learning, 

development and success versus uses that don’t.

Who Are We?

    The Smart Tech Use for Equity participants are K-12 teachers of science, math, special education and English (including English as another language). In 2014-15, 10 founding teachers each explored one tech use with their students, documented the effects for students, and shared their learning with other teachers. This year, leaders are engaging a next group of colleagues in the same process.

    The project asks teachers to be equity designers, exploring the potential and limitations of tech for enabling student thinking, learning, voice and achievement. Each teacher in the group is encouraged to think critically about the equity implications of tech use in classrooms. And while the “equity” goal of tech use in education is often framed as “all students having devices and access to the Internet,” the Smart Tech Use for Equity project requires a loftier definition of equity. We’re asking the question: Does this use of tech help support the full human talent development of every student and all groups of students? Or not? 

    Does this tech use help support equity (the full human talent development of every student, and all groups of students)? Or not?  

    This question asks teachers to test whether tech uses support English language learners; all racial and ethnic groups; students of all genders; students from all economic backgrounds; children with diverse abilities; and, of course, every individual. 


    Teachers have big dreams for their classrooms that go far beyond more tech use. The teachers participating in the Smart Tech Use for Equity project have visions for equity in classrooms that include “students getting opportunity despite a label,” “making sure that all students leave classrooms with the skills they need to succeed,” “students leaving 12th grade as confident collaborators and creative thinkers,” and “helping students be curious, contribute to community, and get excited.” Tech is simply a potential vehicle for these loftier goals. 

    A key to making these visions a reality is documenting whether tech uses actually support students’ learning, participation, and deep comprehension in schools. Is putting kids on iPads in preschool better than playing with oatmeal or water? Is seeing the solar system on a screen better than mapping out its dimensions using toilet paper? And when does the use of tech open up learning for young people who most need support from their schools?

    We need more teachers exploring and assessing smart tech use for equity. In an era when many stakeholders call for more tech while others resist, teachers acting as equity designers can forge tech’s role in supporting young people. As one teacher put it, “I want to see tech as a tool—not the end, but a bridge.”

For more info please Tweet us with the hashtag #CreateEquity

Smart Tech Use for Equity was made possible through the support of Educator Innovator of the National Writing Project and Teaching Tolerance and was spearheaded by the San Diego Area Writing Project and UCSD’s Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence. Our concept of teacher as “equity designer,” and the Equity Line for assessing equity pros and cons, come from Mica Pollock’s forthcoming book Schooltalk: Communicating for Equity in Schools (The New Press).

Teachers need to be equity designers, exploring the potential and limitations of tech for 

enabling student thinking, products and voice.”