Category Archives: Digital Divide

Life’s not fair

Have you ever been told that life’s just not fair? I remember complaining about things as a kid to have my mom tell me that sometimes life isn’t fair. I would love to believe that we could someday live in a world that is fair, but what does fair mean? Does fair mean equal? I don’t believe that fair means equal. As many of my classmates have pointed out, equal means that things are the same. Danielle compares equity and equality by providing some webster’s definitions and this would further my point that for something to be fair it doesn’t mean that things should be or are equal. Equity on the other hand can provide fairness by levelling the playing field for each individual by giving them the support they need to meet their goals. Kyle shared a great picture that depicts the difference between equality and equity. So now that we have taken a minute to discuss the difference between equity and equality, we must think about the role technology plays in this. Is technology a force for equity in society?

 If equality means giving everyone the same resourcesequity means giving each student access to the resources they need to learn and thrive. – Shane Safir 

I want to focus on technology in the classroom before looking at the greater society. Simply throwing laptops or iPads at students and expecting it to have some sort of huge impact on their learning isn’t realistic. As Kelsey states, technology is a tool.  Students still need to know how to find information and use the computers properly. If they need to write an essay or a paper, the computer won’t do it for them. They still need to know how to form proper sentences and create a paragraph that makes sense. In order for them to do this, they need to be given other resources such as reading and writing support. Students cannot be given a calculator and expect that they will suddenly understand math. Sure they might be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide using a calculator just like everyone else can, but take away that tool and suddenly we are back to a unequal playing field. Tyler discusses assistive technology and how it can help students with disabilities by creating a more equal playing field. I totally agree with this, but just like he said, we have to remember that not everyone has access to these tools. We must also consider the time and money that has to go into implementing this tools and putting them to use. Not everyone has the money to be able to make use of the tools.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that students who used computers more than others actually had poorer scores. They also found that using computers increases the socio-economic divide that already exists in society.

The OECD’s education director Andreas Schleicher says school technology had raised “too many false hopes”.

I would have to agree that we need to focus on reading and math skills as a way of closing the gap as opposed to assuming that more access to technology will give us results. Sure technology can help. But we cannot think that technology is the only answer. There are amazing apps and websites that can help students learn, but we need to make sure that we are focusing on the fundamentals and making sure that technology is used as a way to enhance learning as opposed to technology being used to be the teacher. If we are looking for ways to crete equity in our classroom without using technology, Shane Safir has some great ideas on edutopia.

In terms of the digital divide in society and the socio-economic gaps, I don’t think that technology will solve all of our problems and create equality. There are far too many issues that technology can’t solve such as poverty, abuse, and mental illness. Can technology help? Absolutely. But it isn’t the driving force that will create equality in our society. We have seen some great ways that technology is helping communities that don’t have access to doctor’s 24/7.  I think it’s great that we are trying to bridge the gap and make use of technology when we can. There are certain situations in which we can close the gap, but we will have to look beyond technology for the most part when looking to create equality in society.

I feel as though I sounded like I am totally against technology and don’t think it has any value but that really isn’t the case. I do think there are situations that technology can be used to bridge the gap. I don’t think it is the solution to all of our problems though. I also don’t think that throwing computers to students will bridge academic gaps for all. The academic gaps in our classroom stem from issues with basic skills like reading, writing, thinking and problem solving. Technology can assist us in providing support to students who are struggling, but we must work with them. Technology is just a tool. We must work with our students to meet their needs by providing them with resources that will help them thrive. Technology isn’t the only resource.


No Fair: Does Technology Support Equity?

Technology is the promise of the future.  It is touted as the great equalizer.  The tools that will bring education to the underprivileged, those with disabilities and those on the margins of society.  It has the promise of breaking down barriers, of helping us all communicate better and of bringing equity to the world.  But, is technology living up to these promises?  What is the evidence that we have indeed begun bridging the digital divide?  In a recent Financial Post Study, evidence suggests that even in a developed country like Canada, disparity with regard to access and internet fluency not only still exist but are being exacerbated.  As is noted in the study, age and income both play significant roles in who accesses technology and also how it is used.

“People with some post-secondary education (and who were no longer students) had Internet-use rates nearly 10 per cent higher than people with just a high school diploma, and nearly 50 per cent higher than those without a diploma.” -Financial Post

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The question has to be asked, can technology really bridge gaps such as income disparity?  After-all, at the end of the day the technology has the potential to allow access to a myriad of learning opportunities.  People have access to apps like duolingo, coursera, MOOCs, online information hubs, and translations tools.  The problem is not necessarily the programs and software but the access to internet service and hardware.  How can these services be considered equitable learning opportunities if students do not all have access to the technology?  In addition, it has become clear that technology, even when applied across a range of different socio-economic classrooms, does not benefit all students in the same way.  Harvard Education has undertaken a study outlined in the video below that indicates that the use of a platform such as wiki as an example, is disproportionately benefiting those students who come from higher income brackets and have higher socio-economic status.

So what is the solution?  Clearly the teachers and innovators need to have a strong social justice focus as we engage in these questions.  As mentioned in the video, tools that are specifically designed and targeted at low income and marginalized youth can have a greater impact than simply applying the same broad technology strokes to the entire class and expect the technology to magically transform our students.  Technology in education is an amazing gift and I use it every day and am so thankful for it, however, it can not take the place of personalized learning.  Due to issues of access and socio-economic status, we are still not able to offer the same advantages to these students as the privileged already receive.

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Growing up in Africa meant I was able to experience a different world of education than what we are accustomed to here in Canada.  My friends went to school in which they had 1 pencil for every 10 students.  This meant that as the students sat in rows on the dirt floor, the first person in the line would copy down the notes, pass the pencil on to the next person and so on and so forth.  Is it equitable that these students do not have the opportunity to experience technology in their education?  Maybe not, but it may not be that far off.  Programs like Youth Learning, and the Text to Change project are being implemented in third world countries in order to engage youth in technology and give them a voice in a digital world in which they were not citizens.

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“Technology has the potential to be a huge force for good but it is not a silver bullet, a fix-all solution to how to fix the education and employment problems for young people in developing countries,” says Kenny. “Yet one thing is clear – it will undoubtedly play an increasingly important part of millions of young people’s lives across the world.”-Charles Kenny

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Technology has tremendous potential to affect positive change in the lives of millions of people who are not currently a part of the world you live in right now.  The ease with which we can access and share information across the world in this day and age is unprecedented.  In our own schools here in Saskatchewan, tech tools are allowing creativity to flourish in those that would not otherwise have an outlet.  They are giving hope to those can can’t access traditional learning environments, they are giving a voice to the voiceless.  But the work is not done.  As you are reading this, just remember that there are millions of others around the world right now, and probably in your city or town, who have no way to read this blog.  As educators, let us not be caught in the techno-colonial trap of presuming that as we bring technology to the poor and downtrodden of society, we will be the saviours once again.  Equity must mean more than simply providing the same tools to all.  Personalized learning is the key to success.  We must ask ourselves, what are the individual needs of this student, of this class, of this community?  For many students throughout the world, physiological needs will supersede a simple piece of technology.

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Then again for others…

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Free Internet and the Digitally Divided

This week I enjoyed the article Backlash against Facebook’s free Internet service grows. I think offering a free app would be awesome, an if it only connected to certain internet services so be it.  I believe that some for free is better than none.  I look at it like the T.V., yes there are like 3 channels if you don’t have cable but society and the a group about T.V. neutrality isn’t petitioning for  60 free channels for all, as in lets not just limit to the local channels such as  CBC, Global and CKCK.  I believe if you want the full internet you should have to pay some sort of fee.

I do believe that people who are living in poverty have certain rights violated, and sometimes they just look past it, as they don’t want to cause added attention or are unaware.  I have occasionally judged people who are poor because they are looking for money or food and have the best of the best cell phones. Unfortunately there is The new digital ddownloadivide as the internet does not level the playing field in terms of access as some can not afford it, but I know that there are many free WiFi options and libraries have computer and internet for the public.

I do see the point of Don’t post about me on social media, children say.   I am very selective about what I post about my step daughter online, sometimes I feel that she is old enough to decide what she should and shouldn’t post. My brother has a saying whenever pictures are take “Right to Facebook”.  I don’t think embarrassing a child or making it anyone business is appropriate, kids are just learning.  After our class on Tuesday I thought about the idea of child shaming. and I  wondering if shaming children online is the best idea as those pictures don’t go away. I even came across husband and pet shaming this week on Facebook, it did make me giggle thou.