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Pop quiz: Define equity.

That question, posed to an educator, will probably spark a conversation about the uneven learning outcomes for disadvantaged students. But the word ‘equity’ means something very different to venture capitalists who invest in education technology.

This dynamic was on display last week in the halls and lobby of the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. The ASU+GSV Summit, an annual education technology conference, was the place to be and be seen. Belly-to-belly encounters in the hallways, arranged separately from the official agenda, are the way deals get done.

Landing those private meetings was top of the agenda for many attendees, in contrast to other education conferences. But for some educators, skipping panel discussions to network might feel like cutting class. There were 2,500 people at the conference this year, only about 150 of them educators — and at least one teacher says that is not enough.

And U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who gave a speech there, urged businesses to talk to educators.

“Technology can’t just be a tool for engagement,” Duncan said. “It has to advance equity.”

For more about digital learning, including news of some recent state report cards and a pot of grant money from the Library of Congress, check out my Blended Learning Newsletter.

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Nichole Dobo is a national writer for The Hechinger Report and she manages audience engagement strategy. She has more than 15 years of experience writing about teaching and learning. Her work has been...

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