A Tool That Can Change the World Faster Than Anything Else…

In this week’s #ECI830 class the debate topic was, “Technology is a force for equity in society.”

On the agree side there was JenDawn and Sapna. In their opening arguments video they stated that technology is bridging the digital divide and providing opportunities to those that may not have had such opportunities in the past. It was discussed that it should be called digital inclusion instead of divide. They further explained that open education in the form of virtual classrooms and online educational resources (MOOC’s, OEC, OER) made education more flexible, accessible, and are providing fair and inclusive opportunities for all people.

Image result for technology connectsSome main points that I took away from the presentation was:
Technology connects many people across the world- Most people have access to technology and therefore it is the perfect tool to connect from anywhere in the world and anytime. It also provides fairness in regards to gender, socioeconomic status and ethnic background.

Technology removes barriers- Technology can act like a bridge for learning, students can have a voice, and technology has features like assistive technology that help students who may have learning disabilities or difficulties.

Technology doesn’t discriminate. Sexism was here long before technology.

 

Image result for digital colonialismOn the disagree side there was Rakan and Amy S. In their opening arguments video they stated that technology is designed in ways to promote racial inequality, gender inequality, digital colonialism and economic inequality. To be totally honest, I don’t think I ever thought this deep about this ever and think that Rakan and Amy S did a great job at defending this side.

Some main points that I took away from the presentation was:
The AI facial recognition problems was very interesting. Rich vs Poor- lower income don’t get connected. “digital poorhouse”. 4 billion have access to the internet— what about the rest of the world?

Both sides did a great job in defending their positions – In my opinion, the most complex topic thus far.

 

 

I really enjoyed the above Ted Talk that was provided this week. It showcased how technology can be successful on a limited budget as well as, how educators need to look at options, not just the “tech candy”. I liked how the video pointed out that technology is not to blame for the inequities. Inequities have been around far before technology. 

While doing more research and watching videos and doing the readings this week, I came across the below YouTube video called, “Using Technology to Close Equity Gaps”.  Richard Culatta, from the US Department of Education presented on this topic.

 

 

He discussed five ways that technology can be used to close persistent equity gaps so that all students can have access to high-quality education regardless of who they are or where they live.
Opportunity 1: Equitable access to high quality digital learning materials.
Opportunity 2: Equitable access to expertise
Opportunity 3: Personalized Learning
Opportunity 4: Support for Planning Higher education
Opportunity 5: Supporting accessibility
Image result for technology eqaulitiesRobert concluded his presentation with what I thought was very powerful. To summarize what he said, Technology is an accelerator, whatever we apply it to is going to accelerate. Technology is neutral, it is not good, nor is it bad. If we choose to apply technology is ways that accelerate existing inequalities, than shame on us all. On the other hand, if we choose to realize the value that we hold dear in this country, a value that all students should have access to the same opportunity for learning, regardless of their ZIP Code or income or anything else that we group some students to have less opportunity than others. If we decided that is something that we truly care about,  and we use technology as a way to solve those challenges- He believes that we have a tool that can change the world faster than anything else we’ve ever seen before.  Because if we drive them and keep that as part of the conversation, we change the world. It’s as simple as that.
I think that this was a good summary of how I personally view this topic. Technology has the opportunity to be more digitally inclusive instead causing a bigger divide.  How are you ensuring you are being digitally inclusive is the question? Thank you for reading and stopping by my blog this week.

 

 

 

 

Equality and Equity in the Digital World

This week in EC&I 830, two teams argued the statement:

Technology is a force for equity in society

The general consensus during our class discussion was that Team Disagree had a tough side to argue as nearly two thirds of the class sided with Team Agree.  That being said, Team Disagree raised some very valid and important points in their opening and closing statements and rebuttal.

The image below is the first thing I thought about when I read the debate statement. Equal distribution and use of technology will not work in our society – it can’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach.  Instead, equitable distribution and access to technology is required to have positive and successful integration of technology.  Therefore I completely agree with the debate statement this week, provided there is equal opportunities for all.

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A classic illustration of equality vs equity

Although my ‘agree’ opinion did not change before or after the debate, my eyes were opened to some of the negative aspects of technology and equity in society.  One of the points Team Disagree focused part of their opening statement on is the issue of gender inequality in the technology world.  In one of the suggested articles, technology is considered another avenue for men to oppress women.  In fact, many women have come together to reveal the sexist culture in Silicon Valley tech and venture capital firms.

The article also expresses the idea that, “we have to challenge the presumption that it (the workplace) is neutral and allow women to reach their potential in workplaces where they feel safe and respected”. I have never really considered the idea that technology can be biased against women, but it does make sense.  I know I don’t question the fact that certain tools like Siri are set to a woman’s voice.  Although you can change this in the settings, it is interesting that the default is often a female voice. As the article describes, we need to have a neutral technological system for gender and social equality.

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Often a barrier for technology is limited access in some developing countries and poverty stricken areas. Facebook created Free Basics, a limited internet service for developing markets, (which) is neither serving local needs nor achieving its objective of bringing people online for the first time. Maybe the intention of this service was meant to be a great solution for developing areas that do not have internet access, but instead it narrows what users can access and search for online.  Ellery Biddle, the advocacy director of Global Voices says, “It’s building this little web that turn the user into a mostly passive consumer of mostly western corporate content. That’s digital colonialism.”

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Protesters against Facebook’s Free Basics service

The term “digital colonialism” showcases one way that our society is not making technology equitable across different socio-economic groups.  Instead of giving these groups “internet” (like Free Basics) that pushes certain messages or propaganda, Biddle explains that we need to fix, “the barriers to internet access (which) include signal availability, device ownership, education, digital literacy and electricity”.

Finally, bringing the technology access closer to home, a Huffington Post article explores access to internet in Canada.  The Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s 2014 Factbook (CIRA) states that while 95 percent of Canadians in the highest income bracket are connected to the internet only 62 percent in the lowest income bracket have internet access.  Some communities in Canada (like Nunavut) only have 27 percent of communities with internet access.  Unfortunately, the CIRA explains that Canada has no national strategy to improve access, speed and prices.

Team Disagree made some very good points in their rebuttal that for technology to be equitable in society, internet should not be a luxury. It needs to be affordable and accessible to everyone and we need to redesign systems that discriminate against social status, gender and race.  All this being said, technology is here to stay, so we need to find a way to make it equal and fair for everyone.  This issues raised in Team Disagree’s argument are a great starting point for how we can improve technology to be an even better force for equity in our society.

Team Agree opened their argument by suggesting that technology has achieved a lot in our society, like removing barriers (ex. helping people read) and connecting the world (ex. real time video chat).  Most importantly, they focused on the idea that technology is not the problem and neither is the “digital divide”.

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In my own experiences and those expressed by my classmates during our class discussion, we have seen how technology can help remove learning barriers for students in schools.  A big discussion took place on how one school division (my division) redistributed technology across all schools for equitable use among students.  During my short career so far, I have only taught in community and lower socio-economic background schools.  The equitable distribution plan has been crucial in my teaching and use of technology, because many of my students do not have access to reliable internet and technology at home.  It has also affected how I prepare lessons and assignments, as I have to assume that students will be able to complete assignments with technology at school, but not necessarily at home.

Some students have an assigned laptop (assistive technology) that follows them throughout their school career.  As a teacher, I know that I can design instruction that will allow these students to have the most success because they are guaranteed to use the assigned technology to help with their learning experience.  An example is the ‘Read&Write for Google Chrome‘ extension that is used throughout my division.  This tool has a variety of options including reading text to the student, dictation and simplifying text which has been extremely valuable with students who have reading difficulties.  A couple of years ago I taught in a school with a high EAL population, and ‘Read&Write’ helped my students (with a variety of English speaking and reading levels) to achieve their learning goals.

Another reason I agreed with the argument is the availability and affordability of online education.  A few great examples provided by Team Agree include Open Education Courses (OEC), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Open Education Resources (OER) and Virtual Classrooms.  The suggested article explores that a process that is helping share knowledge is, “the use of ‘open education resources’ (OER) – freely available, high-quality materials that can be downloaded, edited and shared to support teaching and learning.”  Team Agree explains that open education is based on fairness (among gender, socio-economic status and ethnic origin) and inclusion (a basic minimum standard of education should be available to everyone).

During my B.E.A.D. program (Bachelor of Education After Degree) at the University of Regina, I was able to complete my program in a shorter time period and maintain working nearly full time by taking courses through Athabasca University.  This was my first experience with online education, and I do admit that it was a challenge at first.  I found that by not having classmate interaction and only assignments to complete that I needed a lot of self-discipline to stay on track.  I eventually figured out the time management piece and overall felt that the experience was positive.

My first “blended learning” course was for Standard First Aid.  The course required completion of online modules and quizzes prior to attending a one-day in class session.  This is a great model as it allows for a deeper understanding of the information and can then be applied in person during the one-day course.  I enjoyed this experience as it did not take up my entire weekend and I could work on the modules at my own pace and schedule.  My husband is currently enrolled in professional development learning through his work.  The course started with a one-week intensive in person to dive into the course material with the instructors and other classmates.  He then has one year to complete a variety of modules and assignments through an online portal.  There is continuous contact with course instructors and motivation to complete the coursework with an online course community.

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And of course,  EC&I 830 is my first “blended learning” web based academic course.  I think one of the benefits of this being an educational technology course is that there is lots of engagement online through blog comments, Google Plus community, Twitter and of course, our weekly Zoom sessions.  This keeps the motivation for learning and completing course work in a timely fashion, something I struggled with in my Athabasca courses.

This brings me to the point raised by Team Agree that the concept of open education has revolutionized the learning classroom and allowed for digital inclusion.  Instead of referring to a digital divide, the term inclusion was used to reframe the divided in a more positive way.  This can be achieved with equal and equitable access, affordability and a mindset to embrace the digital world.

A Forbes article explains that many advocates believe that digital technology has the potential to expand access to education to underserved children around the world.  In 2015, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called technology the new platform for learning at the annual South by Southwest conference and said, “technological competency is a requirement for entry into the global economy”.   For this to happen, we need to increase equity for children and communities that are historically underserved, and one way is through digital technology.  This solution almost seems too easy – to help poverty stricken communities have better education, all we need to do is supply the students with technology!  An example is the “digital school in a box” provided by the Vodafone Foundation,  which supplies a laptop and 25 tablets pre-loaded with educational software to a refugee settlement in Kenya.  I think this is an awesome initiative and it is great to see organizations looking for ways to support education around the world.  But in reality, it is a band-aid fix – as it is only a temporary solution to a problem.  What happens when the technology is out of date? What about all the other underserved areas in that community? Or the underserved areas in our own country?

The increase of technology and the digital world has give many different groups around the world a chance for better education.  I completely agree that technology is a force for equity in society, but the complicated part is how technology is distributed and used.  I think this is still a learning process and we will continue to see many trial initiatives as possible solutions to the complicated issues of technology access.  By being aware of the issues raised by Team Disagree (like inequality among different gender, race and socio-economic groups), we can continue to improve distribution, access and affordability of technology to remove the digital divide.  Technology is here to stay and grow, so it is society’s responsibility to search for solutions that close the accessibility gap.  Both teams presented great arguments this week which served as a reminder that issues that existed before technology will continue to take place with technology use.  As educators, we must continue to focus on teaching digital citizenship to develop positive online identities.  As members of society, we need to rally for equal and equitable technology access in our communities.

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

Learning, Technology & Equity – It Can Work!

Technology is a force for equity in society – yes or no?

This week the two sides of the debate were challenged with the task of debating a question that can easily have a strong argument on either side but has left me feeling like Kari described in her post, dazed and confused! This is a first for me this semester! In all of the other debates, I have strongly sided with one of the arguments and never really wavered. Then this week came along and much like Shelly described in her post, I am sitting on the fence and after reading her post I wanted to post the link here and say ‘ditto’ because she about summed it all up too!

I think it would be fairly easy to relate this weeks debate topic to a variety of different social justice initiatives and conversations. After all, social justice typically deals with tackling an issue that has placed an individual or group of individuals at a disadvantage. I decided to tackle the definition of equity in relation to social justice and searched for a way to help me best understand just exactly what equity might look like and came across this explanation:

Equity has to do with everyone having access to fair and equal treatment under the law, regardless of race, social class or gender. Social Justice extends the concept of equity to include human rights as part of the social contract. – Shoreline Community College

Though I like this explanation I think it is important to understand that there is a difference between fair and equal. What fair and equal looks like in schools, specifically, can be very different dependant on student experiences, teacher reactions and school atmosphere.

If we break down this weeks debate topic and talk specifically about how technology can help to create equity in education we need to remember that it can’t be just about the technology. There is a human element to education that we can not do without. We need compassion, intuition, conversations and relationships established in order to work towards creating environments that provide students with equitable opportunities for learning. Without these pieces in place, I don’t agree that technology can help to create equity in education.

Perhaps I have simplified it too much but I think that the conversation this week is about how we as teachers implement technology into our classrooms, not the technology itself.

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Both sides of the argument this week brought up the idea of accessibility and affordability and both made great points. In society, we have schools that have parent councils that are able to provide their schools with more access to technology and then we have schools on the opposite end of the spectrum.  Though there may be frustrations and learning curves along the way, I think school divisions working towards creating equitable access across all schools in their division is a move in the right direction. I may ruffle a few feathers with this one but I really don’t think we need to have a classroom of 27 students, with 27 devices in order to be able to use technology in our classrooms. In fact, I think if that is how we are using technology, we are missing the mark.  I believe all it takes is a little bit of creativity, some thought out planning, trial and error and a willingness to adapt and change in order to see how we can create equitable opportunities for our students.

It may be because it is June and I always have a hard time letting go of the students that I have spent the last ten months with but this video really hit home and reminded me of the power we hold as teachers.

I think the key word here is flexibility! If we let go of our need for all students doing things in the same way, we open ourselves up to an endless world of possibilities. If we have a student who has access to technology at home and the support to work on a project at home, great! Have a student that doesn’t? That’s fine too, learning looks different for everyone and it can be shared and communicated in many ways.

 

 

Technology Is Equitable; People Are Not.

This week’s debate had me all over the place.  Thinking of the phrase: “technology is a force of equity in society” has many sides and angles to consider and there is not one straight answer: yes or no.  I found there was a lot of mixed reviews throughout our 1.gifdebate, and many elaborations for our reasons we think it is or isn’t.  For example, yes, technology can be a force of equity because it is creating opportunities where they were limited before or no, it is not a force of equity because there is not equal access around the globe.  These types of ideas were incredibly important to our debate this week, and I think through a lot of thinking post-debate, I have established that we may not be there yet, but we are working towards solutions for this inequity.

The agree side this week did a fantastic job opening the floor and I found myself agreeing with all the points that Jen, Dawn and Sapna shared.  Their major points included the removal of barriers in education and skills, the use of open education resources creating equality through education, and then focused on the idea that the corporate system is the reason that technology is inaccessible for people in a lower socio-economic status and not the tech itself, and not the tech’s fault itself, showing that the tech isn’t creating inequity, but people by making these devices which have now become a necessity, cost too much money to afford.people using smart phones sitting at a table

The disagree side of Amy S, and Rakan countered well including some important ideas I would have never thought about in my internal debate.  Their main ideas circled around tech creating bias, gender abuse, and racism online, as well as digital colonialism and economic inequality.

As a said before, I found myself agreeing with all the points the agree team shared.  I see technology remove barriers all the time in the classroom.  I actually once saw a two men sitting at Tim Horton’s using their cellphones and a translating app to communicate with their voices and have a real conversation.  It made me so happy that technology has been able to reach a point where we can communicate with one another and create friendships with people that do not necessarily share a common language.2.gif

As for the classroom, I know I would have been in a real bind if I did not have my technological resources for teaching.  I have taught A LOT of different subject matter and without open resources and the World Wide Web, my knowledge would have been much more limited as well as the material for my students would have been much simpler as I would be scrambling for activities and ideas on my own.  For example, my first year I original-846541-1taught Law 30.  Where did I turn but to the internet to find different ideas and resources to help supplement the material.  I even found an activity to look at the laws often broken in different fairy tales and create a trial for the characters.  Would I have been able to come up with this idea without technology?  No way!  It helped make my life less stressful and created equity in a situation where I was at a disadvantage.

There are also many assistive technologies out there to help students including Google Write&Read.  Many students struggle with getting their ideas on paper and these types of apps help create an equity in the classroom so they too, can reach the outcomes of other students.  However, access to these apps can be difficult if you do not have access to the technology which is what the disagree side countered.

3.gifCost is a major downside to education as well as creating equity in the classroom.  And like Amy R. said in her blog this week, Technology should be accessible to everyone because it has become essential to live.  It has become a basic human right to be able to access this information and these devices yet corporations will not lower the price on devices, making it difficult for people of a lower socio-economic status to get access.  People may argue that there is free access in libraries, and schools, but not everyone has direct access to a building like that.  Sunny Freeman’s article states that even in Canada, only 62% of low-income quartile has access to the internet and it is difficult to dispute.  Have you ever gone camping in a rural/northern part of Saskatchewan?  Little to no internet access or even service exists! 4 So like, the agree group said, we can fix this!  We just need to lower the costs on devices, and create more opportunities for access in order to lessen the digital divide felt everywhere in the world, not just Canada.

Daniel also made a great point in his blog this week: “Some affluent people thus think by simply dumping the highest tech in the poorest places in society, inequality will be solved.”  This will not solve our problem when there is no education to help those educators or students use the technology and unlock its potential for the classroom and for their future.  If we are going to increase technology use in the classroom, we need to also increase the professional development and resources for teachers to USE the technology as well.

UNRWA_Gaza5(2).jpgI think it is super important that if we are going to increase technology and use programs like One Laptop Per Child, they need to be used appropriately in order to avoid digital colonialism which is what Amy and Rakan hinted at in their opening video.  It’s a very thin line between introducing and advancing a third world country and pushing Western beliefs on an already established society.  For example, in this article, Facebook is offering free internet to places with low economic status but with a catch.

The following statement is from ‘It’s digital colonialism’: how Facebook’s free internet service has failed its users, and can definitely be considered a negative for what should be a positive movement towards digital inclusion:

“Free Basics is a Facebook-developed mobile app that gives users access to a small selection of data-light websites and services. The websites are stripped of photos and videos and can be browsed without paying for mobile data.

Facebook sees this as an “on-ramp” to using the open internet: by introducing people to a taster of the internet, they will see the value in paying for data, which in turn brings more people online and can help improve their lives.”

The catch is that they cannot access all the internet, only a few select sites and they need to pay more for more access.  This in my opinion does not create equity, but increases the divide showing “you can afford this” or “you can’t afford this.”  This idea is also restricting language, with the majority options being only in English, and if that’s not a Westernized view/Digital Colonialism, then I don’t know what is!

Dhanaraj “Thakur believes a better solution would be to give low-income groups a limited amount of free data to access the open web” and I agree.  Why not?  What is the harm?  Unless the corporations in charge have a hidden agenda behind enabling these communities with a more Western view.

Another solution to the idea of making education more accessible is Open Education Resources (OERs), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and Virtual Classrooms.  Having these types of resources online have created a lot of opportunity for remote classrooms and cities.  They may not have the resources physically, but they can access the information online ending the digital divide.

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Via Flickr

The article, Analysis: How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs to the Arctic shows how students and classrooms in Kotzebue, Alaska are able to still access high-quality materials within budget cuts and limited resources. Layla Bonnot says, “With OER, districts can adapt content to meet their local needs, maximize education budgets, and ensure access to resources and educational rigor. By being able to serve all students — whatever their race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, family background, or family income — OER supports the goal of educational equity.”

Of course, there are still other down-sides that are creating unequitable circumstances like the ideas of gender and racial bias online, and that AI could possibly be racist and learning its racist behaviours from humans, but I hope that we are moving in a positive direction away from these ideas.  Lizzie O’Shea stated in her article that technology’s biases are not bad necessarily, as long as we recognize them as such and move towards making these racial and gender roles more neutral.

0447f-thinkstockphotos-179079064O’Shea said,  “To make the most of this moment, we need to imagine a future without the oppressions of the past.  We need to allow women to reach their potential in workplaces where they feel safe and respected.  But we also need to look into the black mirror of technology and find the cracks of light shining through.”

And after listening to both sides of the debate, I couldn’t agree more.  We are imperfect, so our tech is imperfect too.  As long as we recognize our faults, and are trying to work towards solutions, then I think we are accomplishing something.  Is technology creating equity in society?  In some cases yes, and in some cases no.  Technology is not going anywhere, and it is becoming a more crucial part of life and should be demanded by all of society.  It has huge potential to create equity in all walks of life, but it is how we go about making sure it is accessible, fair, and neutral to everyone that is the most important part.

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Education, Technology, Equity

Wow! What a debate. I feel like this debate more than others has many, many layers to it. This weeks debate topic Technology is a force for equity in society really challenged me to think about this question from many different angles and although I right now will say that I agree that technology is a force for equity, I am not 100% convinced that I couldn’t be persuaded the opposite direction still.

Both teams agree and team disagree did a great job of presenting their points. Both teams proposed strong arguments and there was not many overlays or middle ground in their debate positions and arguments this week like we found in other weeks. For the sake of my arguments, I am going to look at technology and equity when it comes to education and the roles of education in finding equity for our students among technology.

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Photo Credit

Team agree shares the idea of the digital divide and how technology actually has the ability to build a bridge over that divide. I agree with team agree in how they state that technology isn’t pushing people apart but yet it can assist in bringing people together. Team agree does a great job of sharing how technology is a driving force that allows students to move from the cannot side of the spectrum over to the can side of the spectrum. Technology and assistive technology does, in fact, have the ability to help students become more independent and it can help them to accomplish tasks that they may not have been able to accomplish before. I have witnessed this first hand in my classroom in how powerful technology can be in helping students complete grade level tasks that without assistive technology they would not have been able to accomplish. This evens out the playing field for these struggling students and allows them to also reach and feel success within the classroom. This is powerful!

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Team agree also shared the Ted talk video What We Are Learning From Online Education that features Daphne Koller who shares how college education used to at one point in time only be for the privileged. Daphne shares how she is the co-founder of Coursera and that with the use of technology they were successfully able to break down the barriers of traditional education and are now able to ‘take the best courses from the best universities and provide them to everyone around the world for free’. She goes on to share how there are now 640 000 students from 190 countries being educated on Coursera. This development in education with the use of technology has transformed inequality in post-secondary education. It provides people who may not have been able to before, an opportunity to be educated at the highest level possible. Resources like this allow for everyone to have access to post-secondary education and no longer is this level of education just for the privileged it is now for the willing to learn. This also is powerful!

Similar to the above video team agree also shared the article How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs to the Arctic. This article outlines the power of Open Education Resources and how this greatly benefits student learning. The Open Education Movement allows isolated communities to have access to top-notch resources that are online and free for everyone to use. It allows classrooms to learn from the most updated resources and allows teachers the ability to meet the needs of their diverse learners. The article shares how divisions are using OER to address the many complexities of today’s education. The article shares how OER has the ability to:

help students learn with the most up-to-date materials, allowing teachers to do more with limited time, and adapting resources to meet the needs of diverse learners at varied levels, some whose first language is not English—all in the face of budget cuts.

OER is extremely powerful in helping reach the goal of equality in education. Prior to OPen Educationthis, isolated communities were being faced with tough budget cuts and unfortunately, the quality of education dwindles when budgets get cut. With OER this allows these communities to improve education for their students by having access to these top quality resources online. This allows all children access to the greatest level of educational resources that possibly their division could not afford to update themselves. I feel that OER most definitely works towards equality in education and it aids in preparing all students for success in their future.

With OER, districts can adapt content to meet their local needs, maximize education budgets, and ensure access to resources and educational rigor. By being able to serve all students — whatever their race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, family background, or family income — OER supports the goal of educational equity.

– How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs to the Arctic

One discussion that hit the chat room hot from Monday’s debate was the inequality of technology between the ‘rich and poor’. Many of us could relate to this and we as teachers were able to relate to being able to see this in our local schools. This was also brought up in team disagrees introduction video. Within this video team disagree shared that ‘lower income people do not have access to resources or opportunities that are offered by technology’. This is one inequality that I feel is very unfair, the fact that people based on their socioeconomic status will or will not have regular access to technology and the internet. Many will argue that the internet should and could be considered be a basic human right and that currently there is a divide in society between the rich and the poor and the access to the internet. In the article Has The Internet Become a Basic Human Right Pavel Marceux shares that several countries are declaring internet access as a basic human right. The article states that,

Internet advocates believe that the web can significantly improve standards of living, especially as key segments such as health and education are increasingly becoming accessible online.

Although ideally, the internet would be a basic human right we are well aware that currently, this is not the case. We can see this within our own community and also within our own classrooms. In our schools, we see families who do not have access to the internet and how that can impact their lives and their education. This is where I Image result for basic human rights internetfeel that school boards have a role to fulfill and they need to do a better job of increasing the access within our classrooms and within our schools. While students are in the education system they ideally should have daily access to technology which would allow for them to learn and build the skills that they need to be successful in the 21st century. As teachers, we need to ensure that we are incorporating as much technology and access for our students into our teaching to ensure that we are giving them full opportunities to build and practice their skills. Once again education is a key factor in helping to create equality within this digital divide.

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I feel that this debate, as I mentioned above in my post has many layers to it. I chose to focus my discussions mainly on the education system. I feel that as teachers we can participate in the OER movement by sharing our resources online to help others who may not have access to what we do while we are teaching where we do. Although this debate feels very large in scale and debate most definitely is a global topic for debate there are still little things that we as teachers can do to help in building equality. Get online and share resources, give others access to what you are doing within your classroom. This may just help someone!

 

Technology: a force to be reckoned with

This was a very interesting, and somehow perfect debate to end our classes with. Before class, I watched this video that Alec shared on the weekly schedule:

Daphne Koller, a professor at Stanford University, begins her discussion by raising some very startling points. She told the story of a mother in South Africa that was stampeded while standing in line to register her child for university. She talked of college tuition in the U.S. rising 559% since 1985 (the year I was born). In my lifetime, the cost of tuition has risen at a rate that now makes education impossible to afford for most families. These alarming facts led into the main topic of her conversation: free quality post-secondary education.

Daphne co-founded Coursera which allows professors to offer online university courses to anybody in the world. In it’s early phases, they had they were already offering 43 courses from 4 different universities. She explained how this met the needs of people like Ryan, a father who’s daughter has an immune disease and makes it too risky to leave his home. He was able to take classes online without risking his daughter’s health. She explains,

When you move away from the physical constraints of a classroom and design content explicitly for an online format […] this allows us to break away from the one-size-fits-all equation and allows students to follow a much more personalized curriculum. – Daphne Koller

Daphne explains that if we could offer top quality education for free to everyone around the world it would do three things:

  1. Establish education as a fundamental human right
  2. It would enable lifelong learning
  3. It would enable a wave of innovation and “Maybe the next Albert Einstein or the next Steve Jobs is living in a remote village in Africa” – Daphne Koller

After watching this video, I felt very strongly that YES, I agree, technology is a force for equity. Technology has been called a

“game-changer in the field of education – a game-changer we desperately need to improve achievement for all and increase equity for children and communities who have been historically underserved.”

 

I was almost feeling confident FOR Team Agree going into the debate. In my head, I was thinking “Yes! Jen, Dawn, and Sapna, you’ve got this in the bag!” and they came out very strong with their opening statement. Little did I know, that Rakan and Amy were out for blood! Dannnnnnnng. They made some really excellent points in their opening statement. So, there I was, once again, dazed and confused about where I stood in the weekly debate. As someone incredible passionate about social justice issues, I could not deny that Team Disagree was swaying my opinion. I decided that I needed to explore this topic further so that I could have a more well-rounded view of the issue. I found that Benetech made an excellence argument towards the inequitable side of technology stating,

“In the rush to get market share and to guarantee return on investment, we see too many technologies that leave too many students behind—particularly students with disabilities, who could perhaps benefit most from technological innovation. For example, popular software features such as drag-and-drop interfaces and 3D animations are often inaccessible to students with disabilities. “We’ll include accessibility in the next version,” is a statement we hear all too often. Yet, given the cost to retrofit accessibility, that is a no-win proposition.” (2015)

In regards to whether technology is or can be a force for equity within our classrooms, Daniel restated four excellent questions to ask yourself when it comes to technology in education: 1) What does it do? 2) Is that a good thing to do? 3) What does it cost? and 4)What do people think about this?

Although the arguments that Rakan and Amy provided do in fact make me question how technology is in fact perpetuating things like racism and sexism, and can definitely be used as an inequitable force to separate us, I believe that we can take this knowledge and truly change it to become an equitable force that brings us together.

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Debate #5 Technology is a Force for Equity in Society

 

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Wow!  I can’t believe this is the last debate already!  I really enjoyed the debate on Monday evening discussing whether or not, “technology is a force for equity in society”.  Jen, Dawn and Sapna debated for the ‘agree’ side. I was also in agreement that technology helps to enhance education for students in many ways.  Some examples cited by the agree side included talk-to-text software, MOOCs, real-time video chats and many more.

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I liked the analogy of the digital divide in which the ‘can-nots’ can cross over to the ‘cans’ side but not the other way around, meaning that technology is beneficial but rarely harmful in regards to equity in society.  Usually the cost of technology is to blame for communities that don’t have access.

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They also said that technology is neither good nor bad but is used as a tool and therefore dependent on the user.  They made a strong closing remark that, “technology is a source of equity in the classroom because students can use tools to equalize abilities”. Dawn stated that digital divide should be ‘digital inclusion’ and that most importantly, educators need to model the way.

In the article, “How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity from the Suburbs to the Arctic”, Layla Bonnot discusses how free ‘open educational resources’ (OER) can help communities meet local needs, maximize education budgets, and ensure access to resources, in other words, it facilitates educational equity using technology.

The ‘disagree’ side which consisted of Amy and Rakan, did a valiant job of debating their side.  They discussed that technology has led to negative impacts on society in relation to;

  1. Gender Inequalityfreebasics-facebook
  2. Racial prejudice
  3. Digital Colonialism
  4. Lack of Access

They made some great points that made me pause and think!  I didn’t realize that a lot of computer programs had female voices!

I had to laugh at Jennifer’s comment that ‘SIRI’ is a female voice, and SIRI knows everything!  Checkmark!

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I agree that as educators, we have to try and make positive changes where we are able, especially to ensure technology is more culturally sensitive.  At Saskatchewan Polytechnic, we have a mandate to increase indigenization of all content, including the environment.  I try to incorporate ‘other ways of knowing and learning’ in classroom instruction.

Lack of equal technology access is a valid point since not everyone currently has equal access, although there are places where students can obtain access such as the library, school, a friend’s house, etc.  I did not pay for data on my son’s smartphone because there is such easy access to WiFi in the city.  It would be more challenging for rural areas where data access is hard to find.

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CIRA Canadian Internet Registry

I think this debate came down to a very similar argument as the first debate, ‘Does Technology in the Classroom Enhance Learning’, that technology is a tool and is only as good – or bad, as the person or corporation using/promoting it.

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Is technology is a force for equity in society?

My first first reaction to this statement is that technology is absolutely a force for equity in society. There are so many positive ways in which we can use technology to promote equity as well equality in society.  As Daniel mention in the zoom chat, technology can be a great equalizer. The problem lies within how the technology is being utilized and the ways in which people choose to use it. This week the debaters were Jen, Dawn, and Sapna vs. Amy S. and Rakan.

I wanted to try something new for my reflection this week! I decided that I would create TWO mind maps of the key points that stuck out the most both on the agree and disagree side.

The agree side made some wonderful arguments about how technology can be an equalizer is society.  I think one of the ones that stuck out most was the fact the technology can connect everyone in the world in many ways. This provides some great opportunities for positive environment. I also appreciate the fact that technology can accommodate everyone no matter who they are, especially because I am a teacher. There are so many needs in my own classroom, that technology gives those students will challenges an opportunity to receive the equal opportunity.

Next, comes the disagree side. This statement was definitely a touch one to argue! The following are the main points I gathered from both Amy S. and Rakan. Although I more so side with the agree side, the point they made that technology has the potential to negatively influence many aspects of ones life is quite frightening to me. I guess you never know how one will react to things posted online. Another point they made was the fact that “Low income people do not have the same access to internet as higher income/middle class individuals“. In saying that, this then cause unequal opportunity for low income individuals to search and apply for jobs online.

Overall, I still believe that technology can be an equalizer in society. The ways in which we choose to use technology, educate our children about technology as well, promote technology  is very important when determining if it will be successful!

 

Teachers with technology can mold education into a force for equity in society

Once again, the Great EdTech debate didn’t disappoint.  The statement: Technology is a force for equity in society led me to numerous paths of thought before even considering my own personal position.  Coming into the debate, I had not settled on my own point of view and I was ready to be enlightened by either Jen, Dawn and Sapna or Amy S. and Rakan.  Both teams provided excellent arguments which resulted in making the analysis of this debate even more difficult and complicated.  As I have learned since the beginning of this class over the last few months, no issue related to technology or its application in society is black or white. There are always nuances related to how technology influences people and society.

In the particular context of education, I firmly believe that I, as teacher, am a force for equity in society.  As education has become more and more prevalent over the past centuries, society has evolved into what we know today.  In parallel with education, technology has been in lockstep with education in shaping our world.

Having attended a small rural school, I can attest that technology has afforded me opportunities that would have otherwise not been available to me.  As a high school student, not having access to qualified mathematics and science teachers, the internet and distance education allowed me to receive the same level of teaching as my urban counterparts.  Although there were many difficulties at the time such as poor bandwidth (remember 56k modems and 128kbps ISDN lines?) unreliable computers (remember Windows XP and CRT monitors?) and poor communications technologies (remember analog phones and fax machines?), we as students were able to navigate these sources of friction and achieve excellent results.  As Layla Bonnot explains in her analysis on open educational resources, technology is enabling quality education access to even the remotes places on earth.  In my situation, technology was a force for equity.

Speaking to a colleague that immigrated from a remote African village some 10 years ago, he mentioned that over the past few years, access to the Internet and computers has changed the lives of his family that is still living in that part of the world.  Given that the economic situation in many areas of the developing world is improving, many people are now able to dedicate time to expanding their knowledge of the world as opposed to spending 100% of their time on tasks related to survival.  A few years ago, I was able to meet physicist Neil Turok.  He talked about how technology is at the center of his efforts in supporting and developing science and mathematics education on the African continent though the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences which he founded in 2003.  Where it not for the internet, he would have never been able to progress in developing this institute.

To me, this once again demonstrates how technology can be used as a vehicle to expand the possibilities of education and making it accessible to a wider portion of the population.

Just like in every other debate we have had; no situation is perfect and purely beneficial to all parties involved. Annie Murphy Paul highlights the digital divide that is seemingly happening between affluent kids using technology and low-income kids using similar technology.  It is no surprise that socio-economic standing greatly influences learning opportunities as this has been researched extensively at many levels.  That being said, money remains a factor that determines in many cases the level of access to technologies at home and in schools. Some affluent people thus think by simply dumping the highest tech in the poorest places in society, inequality will be solved.  This train of thought can lead to dangerous traps, that are underlined again by Annie Murphy Paul.  In addition Facebook’s free internet initiative is another example of applying technology to a problem that needs other solutions.

At times, I feel like many teachers view technology as an interesting means to teach and often get caught up in the technology itself while forgetting the educational outcome they are trying to achieve. On many occasions, I have witnessed teachers praising a students’ AMAZING project involving a high level of complex technology use while not realizing this particular student didn’t achieve the desired learning outcome.  The initial shock and awe of the project often creates bias in certain teacher’s assessments.

I often discuss with my colleagues the trap of attacking challenges with technology when simple proven solutions can be just as effective.  A pencil and a paper can be a powerful and simple technology that can accomplish great things and must not be ignored.  I find simple low-tech solutions can produce some of the best learning situations for teachers and learners.  Last summer, while participating at the Einstein Plus teachers’ conference at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, myself and the other conference attendees participated in an activity where teams were given 10$ to spend at a dollar store.  Our objective was to maximize the money by creating an activity that can be used to teach a concept related to science.  The results of the exercise were nothing short of amazing.  I have used many of these ideas developed during this activity quite frequently in my own pedagogy.  Once again, low tech, but very effective.  Here is an example of our exploits, you might even recognise yours truly.

Technology in this case, although inexpensive and simple is providing new opportunities for education thus once again, providing equity despite cost.

With technology creeping into every nook and cranny of our society, companies are seeing opportunities that seem fantastic on the surface but can be quite disconcerting when properly analyzed. It’s hard to argue cost when things are free.  Many resources we use online are sold as free tools that will change the world. Services provided by Google or Youtube and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook all commercialise our personal information for profit.  We as users effectively become the product of these tools.  The information harvested through our use of these services can then be sold to entities such as advertisers and insurance companies.  This information can then be used to target segments of populations for very specific commercial gain.  Who has ever searched for something on Google only to see, within a few minutes, Amazon ads for this product everywhere on the internet?  Although this example is perhaps benign as it is simply a form of advertising, much more serious consequences can result in the manipulation of data.  A more worrisome example of this might data manipulation is how Russia used social media through firms such as Cambridge Analytica to manipulate and influence the 2016 Presidential Election.

As our world adapts to these technologies, we will suffer many setbacks and see many bad consequences.  That being said, I stay optimistic for the future in that humans are at the center of society and its evolution.  Technology will play a key part in allowing humanity to become healthier though providing access to better opportunities to those less fortunate.  As teachers, we must be the vehicle by which we drive this technology to improve education. I believe that education can become a force for equity in society by properly harnessing the appropriate technologies.  Dan Meyer proposes four interesting questions he always asks about new Technology in Education:

  • What does it do?
  • Is that a good thing to do?
  • What does it cost?
  • What do people think about this?

I don’t have all the answers, but these represent an excellent place to start.

Technology as an equalizer or oppressor?

To quote a now infamous Disney song,  For the First Time in Forever I am undecided about which side I might choose for this week’s debate. Quite honestly, wavered hard between to the two sides and I am still on the proverbial fence. I am usually one to stick to an opinion, so quite honestly it is going to be hard for me to blog with my usual conviction this week. Image result for i am right

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However, I would have to say that the topic this week has interested me more than others, and I am wishing that I would have more time to research and solidify an opinion. This week’s ECI830 debate was entitled “Technology is a force for equity in society”. Both sides did an excellent job in defending their positions, and I appreciated how stoic they stayed in their stances.  I think this week was the first debate where we saw a definitive divide between the two sides, with very little overlap of opinion.

Anyone that knows me, knows that I am driven to create a society of equals.  While I know that this is a pipe dream and will never happen in society (ever), I still feel like I can make a small change during my few trips around the sun.

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So, I delved into a little bit of research on my own.  In Technology’s Priceless Value to Education , they indicated that access to skills relating to technology will level the playing field for students in their future professions. Therefore, access to technology might mean that a student may have better opportunities in the future, regardless of their socio-economic position.  Programs for tech-allocation and re-allocation, such as that used by Regina Public Schools, have been a structural change to equalize the number of devices that students have access to at schools. Previous to this program, schools with a more affluent school community council could provide more funds for technology than those schools in lower socio-economic areas.

In my opinion, this adjustment is a good start, as the article above stated that “students have a difficult time gaining the fundamental computing skills that are necessary to succeed in business, politics, education and many other professions.” Without access to technology, we are creating another disadvantage for a group of children who are already disadvantaged.  “In this way, technology is a resource that helps to level the playing field in a society where class and race gaps still distinguish who has access to certain life chances. Unfortunately, it can also widen these gaps when individuals cannot obtain access to technological resources and training.”

Further, the article Are Technological Advances Causing Increased Poverty and Inequality  addresses that fact that, even though our educational organization is attempting to level future opportunities for students, we must consider that some students will not have equal access to technology outside of schools.  Let’s face it, if families are struggling to feed their kids, technology might not be the priority in the household.

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Two-thirds of Saskatchewan’s First Nations children live in poverty, advocate says

Having said that, the statistics about the number of smart phones owned by low income families in last week’s debate (up to 43%) is intriguing.  However, as with any statistic, we need to look at the whole picture. If 43% of low income people can afford a device, that means that 57% cannot. Does this disparity widen the learning opportunities  for students who may need to access technology outside of school hours due to limited access within the school?

The article Are Technological Advances Causing Increased Poverty and Inequality stated the connection when they said, “with less computer access at school, many minority students may be expected to use computers outside of class in order to experience the same technological benefits as their district-wide peers.” Therefore, despite education’s best attempts to equalize the playing field, the absence of technology in the home may have a serious affect on the future of the child.

Which leads me to consider the use of technology and its affect BEYOND our schools…

Capitalism is the fundamental driving force in our Westernized society.  Much as I despise the very thought of being a cog in the wheel of capitalism, I am definitely a bolt (or nut) in the system.  I like to think that I am somewhat rusty and squeaky nut though, as I don’t let my participation in the system slide by without some friction.

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Having said that, valuing technology as an equalizing force in our society is a presumptuous statement.  Our society is driving technology use for capital gains.  It is a valued resource in many countries and I do not doubt that the push for the next technological advancement will continue to drive and be driven by economic wealth.

However, we need to consider whose values are being prioritized when technology is seen as a great equalizer.  I think it depends on what is valued in a society and to what end technology is being used? And if technology is possibly creating a further divide between the rich and the poor of the world, then a careful reconsideration and recalibration may need to occur.

There may be those folks who say that it is a reality of life and times, and therefore we should push for technology for all so that our society can keep up with the rest of the world.  A careful reflection on history would tell us that the competitive nature of societal advancement has not been kind to all societal groups.  Dare I mention the colonialism in Canada, for example?

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However, depriving our students of technology will not prepare them for reality and their futures either.  It will limit their potential access to education and information beyond their local communities.  Quite honestly I feel quite strongly about both sides of the debate.

In the article entitled, Emerging technologies, education and the income gap  , authors stated both sides of the issue quite clearly.

Cell phones can be used to start businesses and organize revolutions—or instead become tools for oppression and misinformation. Will cognitive aids become as ubiquitous as cell phones, with universal translators, sensory enhancements, and neural-computational interfaces available to all? Or will these technologies be priced and marketed and controlled so that only elites can obtain them?

In other words, technology, if used as an equalizing force, could potentially narrow the gap between those who have and those who have not.  However, technology also has the force to gain capitalistic and therefore potentially oppressive power over those who do not have equal access.

Finally, I think the article Technology is making the world more unequal. Only technology can fix this  sums up my quandary.

This argument is one of those colossal questions that can not be answered, but can be waded through by ethically making choices within our schools and our school structures.

And then hope that we don’t make a monstrous mess of things in the meantime.

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