Designing Equitable and Culturally Responsive Learning Environments: Access to Technology and Learning

Objective: To design a learning environment that promotes equitable access, equitable representation, and equitable opportunities for all learners.

“Not all students come to school with the same background, skills, learning styles, or prerequisite knowledge. Educational equity involves providing students with the supports that they individually need to succeed.” Students Taking Charge (2nd Edition) Dr. Nancy Sulla

When designing an equitable and culturally responsive learning environment, technology is an integral consideration. Use the tables below to reflect on your current learning environment.

Students access to materials

  • What percentage of your students have access to technology outside of school?
  • What percentage of your students have access to WIFI enabled devices outside of school?
  • Are the technology use activities you designed accessible to all of your students at any time they need?
  • What is the plan for your students who don’t have technology or internet access outside of school?

Individual learning path

  • How is technology being leveraged to transform students’ learning experiences?
  • How is technology being used to extend the curriculum so that students are exposed to a diversity of experiences, scenarios and representations?
  • How are the learning needs of each student being met through the integration of technology?

Using technology to make data-informed instructional decisions

  • What data are you collecting from activities that students are engaged in?
  • How are you using the social and academic data to make instructional decisions (lesson and unit planning, designing and administering assessments, etc.)?
  • What are you learning about your students as they engage with various learning activities?

Brainstorm and Design

Consider the Getting to Know Your Class activities below to move beyond equitable access to providing equitable representation and opportunities for all learners in your remote or hybrid environment.

Student Culture and Background

Design an activity, such as a writing prompt or brochure, that allows students to express and/or illustrate their cultural or ethnic backgrounds. This could involve a parent/family interview to gather information they can use for their products about themselves. Then, reflect on how you can use this information throughout the year so each student in your class feels represented. Also, reflect on additional information needed to better understand your students.

Language and Communication

Communication is an important global skill that has evolved over the past couple of decades with the advancement of smartphones and social media. Understanding the nuances of how your students communicate with one another and the adults around them will give you further insights into each student. Reflect on the following questions:

  • What languages do your students speak?
  • How do your students communicate with one another and with the adults around them?
  • What are some words or phrases that students use that are unfamiliar to you?
  • What do you notice about the nonverbal cues that students use to communicate with one another and/or adults?
  • How is conflict resolved?

Student Life Experiences and Interests

What do your students enjoy doing outside of school? What social media platforms do they use? What genre of movies, music, and TV do they enjoy? Design a student interest survey with questions like the ones mentioned above to target your students’ interests beyond school. Use this data throughout the year to create authentic lesson plans and design activities tailored to their interests and academic content. Relevancy matters to students and will lead to retention.

Stop and Think

Key: T – Teachers, SL – School Leaders, DL – District Leaders

Use the Reflection Questions below to prioritize your designs for an equitable and culturally responsive learning environment.

  • How does your current learning environment support equitable access, equitable representation, and equitable opportunities for all learners? (T)
  • How will you use this information to plan instruction for your diverse learners to ensure all are considered? (T)
  • How are you using this information to increase equitable technological access for learners across grades? (SL)
  • How will you use this information to support horizontal planning and instruction for your diverse learners across grades? (SL)
  • How are you using this information to ensure your district’s organizational goals align with providing equitable access for all learners? (DL)
  • How does equitable access to materials and instruction promote equitable learning? (T, SL, DL)
  • Why should equitable access be considered before equitable representation and opportunities in a remote or hybrid environment? (T, SL, DL)


Complete the above as a grade level team, co-teaching partnership, department, etc. and reflect on how your relationships and connections as a partnership or team affect equitable access, representation, and opportunities for all learners (you can use some, or all, of the reflection questions above).