Updated: Jan 18
Promoting equity through offline extended learning in 2022.
The beginning of a new school year brings with it an atmosphere of excitement and possibility. Connecting with friends new and old, learning classroom routines, and exploring available school activities and resources all signal a fresh start. But this can also be a time of uncertainty, as students are immersed in an environment with new faces, expectations, and procedures.
“Will I be able to sit next to my friends?”
“Where do I get lunch?”
“How much homework will I have this year?”
Teachers are experts in helping students transition to a new school year and find exactly what they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond. Empathetic and intuitive, the heart of an educator is centered on equity and compassion. We know that when students feel seen and their concerns are addressed, they are more likely to do well in school (source). Whether it’s through providing a band-aid for a scraped knee, an extra homework folder to replace one that has been destroyed by the family dog, or a granola bar for a hungry student during snack time, teachers figure out what students need and provide the resources that will keep them learning.
The heart of an educator is centered on equity and compassion.
When we think about school-provided resources, we do so through a lens of equity. Teachers recognize that students have varied backgrounds and needs and they respond to those needs with personalized learning plans, instead of using a one-size-fits all approach. We differentiate instruction and provide scaffolding where needed. We spend extra time after school with students who need some one-on-one attention. We provide devices and technology tools for innovative learning. And we consider the diverse learning styles of our students when planning instruction and assessment.
The severity of digital inequity
Teachers have worked sincerely and tirelessly to establish equitable practices within the walls of the school, but what happens when students walk out of the building? What kind of access to opportunities for extended learning do our students have? In a world where so much learning happens in the digital space, some of our students are left behind (source). Once they are behind, without the same level of access to digital learning resources as their more-connected peers, will they ever catch up?
Up to 37% of students lack adequate access to the Internet at home.
A lack of internet connection is a barrier for many students across the United States, especially in communities of color and rural communities. In some areas of the country, up to 37% of students lack adequate access to the Internet at home (source). We can advance digital equity by setting students up with access to learning resources that don’t require an internet connection to support them when they are not at school.
A digital equity solution:
The Endless Key is an offline tool that unlocks student curiosity and choice through independent learning. It is available as a USB drive or an app on school-issued Windows and Chrome OS devices. Curated to be interest-based and inclusive, our collection of content encourages students to discover knowledge and skills that will support them now and in their futures.
What makes the Endless Key unique?
We developed the Endless Key with one audience in mind: students who have little to no connectivity to the Internet. We believe that every student should have access to quality, engaging content that enriches their lives and broadens their learning experiences, regardless of their ability to obtain a reliable internet connection.
How can I use the Endless Key with students?
Think of the Endless Key as a supplemental tool for students to enrich and extend their learning. By providing them with access to the Endless Key, you are giving students the opportunity to be curious and explore the content on their own terms.
Are you studying the environmental impact of honeybees at school? Using the Endless Key on their device, students can continue their learning independently by exploring a TED-Ed lesson on biodiversity. Are they obsessed with gaming? Students can enhance their hacking skills by playing coding games on the Endless Key. When viewing the Endless Key through a lens of digital equity, you can ensure that all of your students have access to relevant and easy-to-access content.
Can I use the Endless Key to assign work to students?
We have found that students prefer to use the Endless Key for self-guided learning. When they are in the driver’s seat, they are more likely to engage with the resources in our content collection. You can offer student exploration of the Endless Key as an option for enriching and extending learning. Students are just as likely to use the Endless Key to find a budget-friendly recipe to make for family dinner as they are to complete a research project or math assignment.
What kind of content is available on the Endless Key?
The content on the Endless Key covers a broad spectrum of topics that interest kids. Cooking. Mindfulness. Writing Skills. STEM Challenges. Career Prep. Coding. Social Emotional Learning. Dance. And so much more! The Endless Key content is:
Supplemental: Our content supports students in their schoolwork but does not replace the curriculum (TED-Ed, Khan Academy, etc.).
Discovery & curiosity-based: Our content encourages students to explore their interests (Arts & Crafts, Gaming, etc.).
Interactive: Our content provides multiple mediums for learning with open-ended activities (Blockly Games, Terminal 2, etc.).
Culturally-relevant and inclusive: Our content is representative of our community of learners and considers the diverse backgrounds and abilities of the students.
Self-guiding: Students can interact intuitively with our kid-friendly content without the need of an adult guide, much like visiting a local library. They can personalize their learning by choosing to read, watch, or interact with content.
The beginning of the 2022-2023 school year is a good time to remind ourselves that students come to school needing personalized support throughout the learning process. The opportunity to extend learning beyond the school day is increasingly important across the digital landscape that kids engage with every day. By offering offline access to the same kind of discovery-based, self-guided content that is available online, the Endless Key is another way that teachers can support equity in (and out of) the classroom, and keep all kids learning.
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Author - Heather Drolet
Heather is the Content Manager at the Endless OS Foundation. As a lifelong learner and educator, Heather is passionate about equitable learning environments that prepare learners to be the problem-solvers of tomorrow while promoting a spirit of curiosity, creativity, and failing forward.