It’s about equity, not equality
Heading into this week’s debate, I was hesitant to pre-vote because I was unsure of my position when discussing whether or not technology is a force for equity in society. Shortly into class, it became apparent to me that I was definitely on team agree with Jen, Dawn and Sapna even though Rakan and Amy. S posed a strong argument for team disagree. Team agree discussed how technology can be used as a tool to promote equity and positive opportunities. There are many initiatives to change education with technology and team agree’s ideas were similar to Richard Culatta’s from the US Department of Education (video below).
The three main points that resonated with me (because of personal experiences) were the following:
a. Technology has the ability to increase personalised learning which is of high value because many students have different needs, passions and interests. As a Learning Resource Teacher and former FIAP teacher, I have watched students struggle to communicate, work through Math problems with a learning disability in Math and write essays by hand with a diagnosis of Dyslexia. In the past few years, increases in technology have provided equitable opportunities to these students that never existed before. For example, students who are non-verbal have access to Proloquo2go (a program designed to enhance communication) and students with learning disabilities can use Google Read & Write on their PERSONALISED board issued lap tops in order to utilise text to speech and speech to text programs.
b. Technology can improve accessibility of education. Growing up in rural Saskatchewan with dial up internet, I was never granted the same opportunities as others my age in neighbouring urban centres. Nowadays, with access to online education and distance learning, students could take classes not otherwise offered in their rural schools.
c. Open resources are essential and we must make access to information we need to teach and learn free. Richard Calutta discusses the high price of textbooks and how many individuals are in debt or unable to afford these resources needed to learn in learning environments. I agree that this sounds rather backwards when an individual can purchase a Google Chromebook for roughly the same price as two “required textbooks” for a course.
In his Ted Talk, Raj Dhingra poses that yes, technology can change education despite there being obvious barriers to overcome. Obviously, students cannot thrive in a global community if they do not have access to technology and we know that many individuals living in poverty or lower income households do not have these devices at their disposal. Team disagree spoke to this when they raised the point that technology is spreading inequalities in society by creating a rich versus poor divide, while also encouraging racism and sexism through the use of particular tools such as facial recognition programs. Although I see where they are coming from, I think it is unfair to blame technology. Technology is not grooming racism and discrimination, it’s humankind programming it this way.
Raj Dhingra’s also stated that “if we change the thinking, we can change the solution.” Having all the resources in the world does not mean that they will be utilised in the most effective way. As teachers, often times we complain about limited resources and I think our perspective on this needs to change. In the class debate, much concern was raised when discussing how Regina Public Schools re-allocated technology this school year. I also hear many comments at the school I teach at regarding not having enough lap tops for each classroom yet, the computer lab across the hall from my classroom is often completely empty during some class periods.
Technology has done a good job at removing barriers in today’s society. If we continue with an optimistic mindset, I believe many more barriers will be eliminated as time goes on resulting in increased equity across the globe.