Welcome

Thank you all for joining us! ACTNext and the ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning have convened today’s symposium to discuss the serious challenges we face, but also the formidable strengths we possess, when it comes to innovation and meeting the needs of our underserved learners.

Achieving equity in the approach to innovation in education has never been more important than right now. Educational technologies are moving forward at break-neck speed and the pace is only accelerating. On one hand, this swiftness in assessment and technological innovation provides us with unprecedented means to reach a global community of learners and help them succeed in a workplace and scholastic landscape, the focus of which is shifting to the importance of developing and assessing 21st century skills. On the other hand, there is a possibility that innovation will outpace those with unequal or unreliable access to these technologies and they will be left behind more quickly and in greater numbers; a fact reflected in the U.S. Department of Education – Office of Educational Technology’s decision to update the National Education Technology Plan on a yearly basis, rather than the previous five-year cycle. That change alone highlights the pressures students, educators, and the developers of educational and assessment technologies are under: all stakeholders will be expected to do more, in less time, with greater accuracy.

It is imperative that we take a clear-eyed view of the challenges we face as innovators, educators, policy makers, and as a society in addressing the needs of those most at risk. We are at an historical precipice; 10 years ago, no one knew what a “smart” phone was or what an “app” did. Where will we be 10 years from today? Where will those without equal access to the technological revolution already underway find themselves? We have the means to influence that future, and therefore the responsibility to shape it to our vision. Equity in learning must not fall into the realm of privilege; it must rise above it. Equity must remain a central topic of conversation as we address the innovations we are pursuing and methods with which we pursue them.

The panelists gathered here today have broad expertise across multiple domains and are representative of the some of the best and most creative efforts underway in meeting the needs of the underserved. The purpose of this symposium is to raise awareness and keep the spotlight on the role of equity in innovation and education. The goal of this symposium is to not only extend the dialogue regarding underserved learners and innovation, but to extend a hand across the digital divide and help them leap over it.

Sincerely,
Alina A. von Davier, PhD
Vice President, ACTNext

Jim Larimore
Chief Officer, ACT Center for Equity in Learning