Category Archives: equity

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.


Can Tech help?

My last post on children and the inequalities they face, leads nicely into the topic of can technology help. I do not think it is possible for technology to overcome the huge oppression of many students, but I think it could help build those up and give opportunities to have a voice.

EdTech has many incredible possibilities when put in the right hands. JUSTIN REICH discusses in Open Educational Resources Expand Educational Inequalities that it is possible that low income students could grow academically using technology. Or Ed tech could provide growth the the other way and the privileged could grow and create and even larger gap than we see presently. Our society could go either way.

Even thought this potential to widen this already large gap is there. If we just look at all the positives we can see why Justin Reich is optimistic. Assistive Technology has helped all children no matter the sex, gender, ability or race.

RSLSteeper is just one company that could provide A.T. to help ones independence. Independence is crucial for many people. It allows one to have confidence and move forward for themselves or the group.  This is something everyone strives for. People feel more self worth with independence and ed tech can provide some of that. How could this look in classrooms? It can help those with disabilities become able and independent in their work like Mason in school.

 

When I look at ed tech I see a magnitude of opportunity, not just for students that are visually impaired  like Mason, but for all students. I think technology can help build equity in our society, even though it will never overcome it. I am excited to continue learning about all the amazing opportunities technology can provide my students and I because we all know how fast it is changing.

With this fast past world can we even imagine what this could look like in 10,20 or 30 years? If you have any ideas let me know.

 

 

 


Is Technology Truly Creating An Equitable Landscape in the Classroom?

Tonight’s first debate offered a wonderful way of looking at how technology has or hasn’t created a more equitable playing field in education.

The agree side had great points, all of which had me considering my own position as a teacher making every effort to meet the needs of the many students in my classroom. Certainly I have seen firsthand how much technology has improved the motivation and academic output of the students in my classroom. Students, for example, who are unable to read grade level texts, are capable of using apps and other tech that will allow them to listen to the text in order to understand content. Students are also able to use similar tech to record their voice, or to use speech to text to show comprehension or to express themselves. Several students who, prior to the use of this tech, were unmotivated and had to often rely on the teacher for scribe, which in a classroom with little support, gave the student little opportunity to work through problems with the teacher.

Aside from students using assistive technology, using this technology allows for greater opportunities for learning outside of the classroom. The use of Google Classroom, for example, allows teachers to provide videos and online applications that students can access outside of school time. This flipped design gives the students a better grasp of content, so class time can then be spent working on inquiry projects, and more time for students who still struggle with content and need further support.

This sounds idyllic, and easy to imagine just how much better achievement rates will improve based on these opportunities. However, the disagree side of the debate effectively threw a branch through the spokes of this smooth ride.

Thinking critically be like…

 

Ian’s side argued that these supports, that my classroom can afford to provide to its students, rely upon a number of factors, that when unmet, cannot meet the idyllic equitable situation the agree side argues technology provides.

In reflecting upon my own classroom’s success in finding an equitable balance of tech to meet and support all students learning, I pinpointed the following:

  1. Teacher training: I am one of the ‘tech’ teachers in the school, and have made it a priority to search out and learn how to use the best tools to meet my students needs. Many other teachers though, either do not have a technological aptitude, or have not taken the time  to understand how to use the technology provided to their students’ academic needs.
    This reminds me of a recent re-tweet shared to our Google + community, where George Couros speaks to the idea that teachers need to be responsible for their own PD, and this type of problem solving will make for a mastery that one cannot necessarily achieve by simply being told the step by steps. I totally agree with this sentiment, but I’m also quick to check that this type of thinking doesn’t support teachers struggling with technology, as well as it doesn’t take into account the time and pd opportunities that will need to be provided by schools in order to ensure all teachers are capable of achieving mastery.

  2. Student training: Without having a competent instructor teaching and monitoring the learning of how to effectively use the assistive technologies being offered, students will not be able to effectively take advantage of the tools to meet their greatest potential. As we all know, simply giving a student a laptop will not automatically equal success. Specific apps such as Google Read and Write will not be used to their fullest potential unless students are provided direct instruction into how best to use the tech for different end goals.
    As well, unless there exists consistent procedures and consequences regarding tech use, students will inevitably use the technology in ways that are distracting to learning.
     
  3. Access: My school, located in Regina (small, but nevertheless a city), is part of a school board that has made it a priority to provide schools with the infrastructure to access high speed internet, as well as equitable tech support for students that have been assessed as needing the technology. This makes it easy to forget that in rural areas or on reserves, either the funding, or the location, makes it impossible for students to access the technology the students need. 
  4. Access in homes: Many of my students now have computers and access to the internet. Ian’s group pointed out however, that there is a divide in how the technology is being used by students, depending on factors such as socioeconomic status, to lack of parent’s understanding on how to support their child at home to use the technology effectively to support their child’s learning. I realized that this point held true, as some students with families who are more affluent have shown more growth versus other students whose parents may be not around (due to work, etc) to monitor student’s use of online tech. 
  5. Technology does not replace one-to-one support: Many schools are currently caught up in the fervor of technosolutionism, which has led to the belief that all students, regardless of disability, will be able to find success using technology. The issue is that not all disabilities offer technological supports that provide an equitable seat in the classroom. With the increased push for an all integrated classroom, combined with a budget crunch, many school boards are simply replacing EA’s and TA’s with laptops. I have seen firsthand how this model works wonderfully when the technology meets some children’s needs (and they have all the above supports in place), but fails miserably when a student is incapable of working independently, and the technology is not fit to support their specific needs.      

So while technology certainly is working towards creating an equity that didn’t exist in the past, we still have a long way to go before assuming that technology is the catch-all solution to all learning challenges in and out of the classroom.

Banner image: MIN STEMME