Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

One of the more common interpretations of my use of the word Techquity is that it solely focuses on access to devices. While access to a device is both a necessary and critical foundation to any equitable learning experience, it is not, and should not, be assessed based on access alone. As I wrote in this article for ASCD, access is only one part of the techquity equation. The other just as important part is how is that access being utilized for accessible, culturally relevant, and engaging learning experiences.

When it comes to engaging learning experiences a common metaphorical representation I like to share is that all learner experiences should be aligned with the “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors” a concept developed by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop. The reference is usually associated with texts/stories that are read by learners. Each learner should be provided access to stories that serve as a mirror, meaning they can see themselves reflected in the stories from an authentic and affirming perspective. This can occur through the author and/or the protagonist in this text. The “windows” afford a reader the opportunity of engaging in a story of which the main character does not share some element or elements of their own cultural identity. This provides a “window” into the lived experience of another. The sliding glass door affords the learner the opportunity to essentially “step into the shoes” of the character and gain more insight into their lived experience while juxtaposing that with their own. This process is how you build higher degrees of cultural awareness, more meaningful cross-cultural connections, and a heightened sense of self.

When I was first introduced to Reading Progress, a platform available through Microsoft Education I immediately thought about how this can be very closely aligned with a techquity based learning experience. The basic idea is the platform provides readers the opportunity to engage in the reading of teacher-selected texts, records their voices, and provides immediate feedback on everything from reading accuracy to word pronunciations and much more. The reader then submits the video to their teacher and both receive a data analysis. This information is not only very useful for the teacher, but also provides differentiated feedback so that any supports needed can be strategically implemented based upon the performance of each reader. Some of its’ critical features include the ability to add Insights that monitor progress within a class, also flexibility in using selected texts based upon grade level, Lexile level, and word count. My favorite feature, which is where techquity comes in, and more specifically the “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors” is the option to upload a word file or pdf. This feature specifically enables teachers to identify culturally relevant texts that can serve as the “mirror, window, and sliding glass door” which not only bolsters the effectiveness of Reading Progress but does so in a culturally relevant manner.

So what are the implications for our learning environments when using Reading Progress and applying a techquity lens to it:

  1. Learners are more likely to not only engage in reading at higher levels but develop lasting strategies for comprehension and understanding.
  2. Learners will have more access to more texts that research supports more reading directly correlates to broader language development within context.
  3. Learners in the early stages of language acquisition are more likely to be empowered by their experiences rather than disenfranchised by one-size-fits-all all approaches.
  4. Learners can effectively increase their oral reading fluency using Reading Progress which is outlined in the research cited here.
  5. Educators can be intentional about the texts they select for readers and incorporate the “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors” to augment reading with intentionality aligned with a culturally relevant focus.

The first step for educators in utilizing this fantastic reading tool is to watch the overview video here and then take the free beginner course here in the Microsoft Educator Center. In part 2 of this series, I will share a story from the classroom about the impact of Reading Progress on an educator’s students.

For a glimpse into the power of Reading Progress I highly encourage you to watch the video below.