Digital Equity: 1:1 Technology and Associated Pedagogy

  • Maria D. S. Andrade JohnsonEmail author
Living reference work entry


Educational technology has been proliferating, especially the implementation of one-to-one (1:1) initiatives. This accelerated growth has challenged digital equity with three gaps that comprise the digital divide: (1) access to computers, software, the Internet, and necessary infrastructure; (2) differentiated lower-order and higher-order uses of technology; and (3) technology uses that develop learner agency and efficacy in addressing the realities of the learner’s issues, interests, and community. The access gap, level 1 of the digital divide, has been closing, but as the number of computers in schools as well as the number of 1:1 implementations increase, the second and third levels of the digital divide continue to widen the learning gap between economically advantaged and economically disadvantaged learners. A wide variety of quantitative and qualitative empirical studies and the National Education Technology Plan of 2016 and 2017 supplement have documented this gap in digital equity.

Contemporary critical theorists and pedagogues, informed by Feenberg’s critical theory of technology and Freire’s critical pedagogy, have proposed that technology can be enlisted to help close this gap rather than being a hegemonic tool as previously asserted. Educators and learners who shift technology uses and associated pedagogical practices to teacher-facilitated, student-centered, and inquiry-based learning environments foster potential for democratizing spaces called Margins of Maneuver. Within these spaces, 1:1 uses and practices develop learner agency that also shapes and forms learners as their efficacy, autonomy, and voice grows, strengthening their resistance to oppression and increasing the potential for their participation in the dominant society and its resources.

This chapter examines the significance of digital equity, especially as related to 1:1 educational technology, by first setting the historical context of the digital divide. A review of the research literature pertaining to technology and the patterns of disproportionate impacts differentiated by economic positioning of learners provides evidence for the second and third levels of the digital divide. Evaluation of the conceptual framework of a critical theory of technology intersecting with critical pedagogy identifies potentially democratizing conditions and processes, including a rubric of Teemant and Hausman’s Six Standards for Effective Pedagogy that operationalizes the framework. After discussing the role of learner agency within this critical framework, the chapter concludes with an analysis of exemplar studies that have demonstrated the efficacy of 1:1 uses and associated practices that exploit Margins of Maneuver to strengthen learner agency. The analysis categorizes the characteristics of 1:1 initiatives demonstrating positive effects on the second and third levels of digital divide into three themes:
  1. (a)

    An intentional school culture supportive of democratizing uses of technology

  2. (b)

    A teacher shift to facilitator concerned with development of student agency as outcomes of technology-enhanced authentic learning

  3. (c)

    Inquiry-based, student-centered learning with higher-order uses that develop learner abilities in critical thinking, problematizing, and investigating issues affecting student lives


While acknowledging potential ideological and sociological bias in the reporting of the exemplar studies, there was sufficient replication of effects across varying contexts to justify the generalization that 1:1 uses and pedagogical practices that align with the critical conceptual framework demonstrate documented potential for closing the second and third levels of the digital divide.


Critical theory Critical pedagogy Critical stance Democratization Democratizing Digital equity Digital divide Economically disadvantaged Educational technology Gap Higher-order Inquiry-based Knowledge Economy Learner agency Margins of Maneuver One-to-one technology Pedagogy Pedagogical practices Social replication Social stratification Student-centered Teacher facilitator Transformative leadership 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA
  2. 2.Loyola Marymount UniversityLos AngelesUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • John M. Heffron
    • 1
  1. 1.The Graduate SchoolSoka University of AmericaAliso ViejoUSA

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