Educational technology and the problem of inequality

Work in progress

(with Anuj Kumar)

Innovations in educational technology are proposed by many as a solution to the growing achievement gap in America and abroad. Recently, however, there is increasing concern over whether scarce resources should be allocated to these yet unproven technological interventions—or spent on more proven inputs to educational production (e.g., better-trained teachers). Moreover, recent reports advance the hypothesis that technology may further increase inequality. In this article, we synthesize the literature to develop a framework for understanding the conditions under which technology leads to less, rather than more, equity in educational outcomes. Our analysis indicates that given the uneven distribution of essential inputs to learning—teachers, administration, and family resources—across schools and students of different socioeconomic status, educational technology interventions that ignore these differences will exacerbate existing achievement gaps, not mitigate them.