Category Archives: Digital Divide

Barbie and Tech

I don’t often get to see my family. So, we all had a lot of fun working on this video together.

Credits:

Voiceover – My mom

Skipper – Ryan (My Daughter)

Ken – My Dad

Lizzo (Voice Changer) – I may have had 2 pay $2 for the voice changer, but at least it sounded better than my singing! Ha Ha!

This has certainly been the best class I have had during my master’s degress so far. Thank you all and Katia for the fun!

Ponderings from China

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Going into the debate sign-ups, I had hoped to snag a spot in the AI debate, but it was a snooze-you-lose situation, and I snoozed. Was it the jetlag or my desire to eat some pie before I logged on to sign up? We will never know. Working with Ashlyn on the opposition side of the debate was a great deal of fun. Honestly and shamefully, I hadn’t considered equity and technology. I work at a school much like Allysia’s, where students all have devices, often two or three, to engage within school and at home. This debate had me thinking about a couple of areas regarding equity and technology.

First, my school actively participates in a charitable organization called the Pfrang Association. The charity aims to raise money to send young people from the northern part of Jiangsu province to school. The idea for it came about from tragedy. A local German family was murdered one night, the Pfang’s, when some young men broke in to steal from them and didn’t expect them to be home. The family and school were rightfully upset and angry until they learned that the young men who broke in had nothing to their name and little education. From this knowledge, they transformed their anger into helping hands to help teens access education by offering them all the necessary supplies and computers and paying tuition. Living where I live, I don’t see a lot of evident poverty in China, but it does exist. Meeting and seeing people come in from rural communities is shocking to me as a foreigner but also to even my Chinese husband. They don’t have cell phones, they often don’t have education, and they struggle to maneuver into the technologically advancing Chinese society. Seeing a large, white woman like me is often deeply shocking for them.

The Digital Divide isn’t just a Canadian and American concept; it is global. The video interview with Billy Buffalo also showed his community members struggling to get cell phone service in the middle of Alberta because the service towers nearby were all facing away from the reservation. One gentleman notes in the interview that the internet was vital to him because while he admitted to being addicted to it, it was helping him with his alcohol addiction. It is difficult to say that technology has led to more equity when these are still issues of today.

 

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Second, I think about the censorship that comes with my location and how that impacts my students (and my family). Just as social media giants can develop the habitus of their users, so can agencies controlling access to certain technology. I remember a key conversation with my husband about Nancy Pelosi visiting a certain area. His technology told him it was a hoax, whereas mine even came with pictures as evidence. Is it equity when all users are left in the dark regarding certain issues? Some may argue that it is, but in my mind, this situation creates further gaps. Information sharing is critical to bridging gaps. I love Buffalo’s expression that information is a gift. The affirmative side of the debate today was right in being solution-focused. However, as Muzzafar found in her 2016 article, the initiatives aren’t sticking. They aren’t being made mandatory, which means the solutions remain in the realm of theory rather than practice.

AI: Here to Stay

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AI has been consuming my life these last couple of years, as I previously stated in a prior blog post. David Bremner, the previous vice-principal of BIS, introduced me and my TOK students to AI. During my TOK exploration of knowledge and technology, I invited David to guest lecture in my class. He had us run through some scenarios based on ethics and AI, similar to the train track questions we have all seen before. My students loved the lesson, and I had the privilege of joining as a student as well. After class one day, David showed me how to properly use Chat-GPT. I was making a unit plan for the graphic novel Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim at the time, but the novel was so new there were no helpful resources. David asked Chat to make a unit plan for me. Now, was it perfect? No, but it offered me multiple possibilities I hadn’t thought of based on the knowledge it pulled up about the author and her other texts. I was hooked!

I knew already before sitting down to listen to our classmates’ debate that I was firmly on the side that AI would revolutionize education. Sorry, opposition debate team! I didn’t change my mind during the debate either. My current school, NIS, has allowed me to join even deeper into the AI movement, and I often get to debate with naysayers of AI in my daily practice. Thankfully, the team I work with are forward thinking and pushing forward with incorporating AI in our school regardless of others banning it. This quote,

“Beyond using AI tools for educational purposes, it is crucial to educate students about AI itself, including how to develop AI technologies and understand their potential risks.”

from the World Economic Forum best encompasses what I believe about AI. AI is part of our world, and we cannot widen the Digital Divide by keeping our students away from this technology. There is no need to be afraid. I shared the argument that people were also afraid of fluorescent lightbulbs, which were not that far into our past, yet they are still here to stay.

We can push against it, or we can embrace it to support our learners and ourselves. If people aren’t careful, technology will run on without them.

Taking a moment to examine the opposition side, the following article cautions educators to consider their values before jumping into using technology. This has been a common stance that I have seen. However, Dr. Shannon Doak at NIS has offered me a better stance in that AI is something that is fluctuating, so we, as educators and leaders, must be flexible in our approach. This is one of those cases where caution needs to go somewhat out the window, and the willingness to make mistakes comes into play.

A second prominent argument is that student privacy is at risk. This is 100% true! Many AI tools require students to be at least 13 years old to use, but with all age-gated technology, it is easy for our youngsters to bypass them. That is why, just as we need PD, students need it regularly, too! All of my students are on Magic School at the moment because it offers helpful reminders about the type of information they input into AI, which hopefully serves as a helpful reminder when they use other platforms.

The final argument I will address is the issue of bias. The debaters addressed this in their opening statement by stating that AI is assigning gender to certain job roles. I remember this being an issue with Google’s Gemini when it was “woke,” according to several users. This won’t change with AI. AI is created by those who are biased. Therefore, that will continue into the online space. However, this is a great lesson for students. We teach students about navigating bias as part of our current curriculum. Using AI to determine that bias is just one way of making the educational outcomes more relevant to our learners.

AI is here to stay. I am on board…are you?

“The gift of information” – Bruce Buffalo

Summary: The Al Jazeera piece follows Bruce Buffalo as he attempts to bridge the Digital Divide in his community of Maskwacis. Buffalo embodies a Robinhood-type persona by “stealing from the rich and giving to the poor” regarding broadband access. He runs a single-person non-profit project hoping to gain better internet access for Maskwacis. The video speaks to nationwide issues that stem from colonization, such as drug and alcohol addiction and loss of identity. The video also follows Bruce as he attends the Digital Futures conference in Canada, his worries about being the only “First Nations” person there, and his need for donations to complete his project. He is pleasantly surprised to find people who want to help fight the Digital Divide in Canada. By the end of the video, Bruce is successful in creating his access point and expresses further dreams of building the network from within the community and offering jobs to locals. However, a captioned note at the end reads that Bruce could not secure funding to maintain the access point and had to shut it down.

Evaluation: The article offers a life perspective of how the digital divide impacts Canadian Indigenous communities, especially those who live on reserve. Buffalo speaks candidly about the government actively avoiding putting better access in his community even though it is in the middle of the province of Alberta. The video offers several clips of Buffalo in the community spreading his message, as well as him trying to create ways to gain access for the community. The Al Jazeera video is raw and offers a remarkable firsthand account of the Digital Divide in Canada, near us in Saskatchewan.

2016 Issues Still Problematic Today?

Muzaffar, S. (2016, December 28). Opinion | what good is declaring broadband a “basic service” without regulating retail prices?: Opinion | CBC news. CBCnews. https://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/broadband-basic-service-1.3913627

Summary: The opinion article discusses the 2016 Canadian legislation around the basic right to broadband as simply a target and not a requirement for Canadian citizens. The author also mentions the government’s inability to set price regulations for telecommunication services. The article further describes the 2016 climate of Canada being anti-immigrant and having poor previous records of supporting Indigenous communities. There are further comments about access needing proper infrastructure, which the author notes does not exist.

Evaluation: The author of the opinion piece is the founder of TechGirls Canada (TGC) and has various author qualifications in the field she is discussing, highlighting her ethos to speak on the matter. This article openly describes itself as an opinion piece, meaning their statements are biased. The author is upset by the lack of regulations surrounding the 2016 policy. However, their opinions are still relevant today due to the telecommunication companies’ monopoly over Canada. The author had little trust before writing this piece, which made their opinions more negative.

Mathematically Considering the Digital Divide

Howard, P. N., Busch, L., & Sheets, P. (2010). Comparing digital divides: Internet access and Social Inequality in Canada and the United States. Canadian Journal of Communication, 35(1), 109–128. https://doi.org/10.22230/cjc.2010v35n1a2192

Summary: The research utilizes Gini coefficients to demonstrate how Canada has made drastic changes in closing the Digital Divide, whereas the gap is still wide in the USA. They argue that Canada’s creation of culturally relevant content is partly the reason for the closing gap. The article further offers historical context relevant to Canadian and American telecommunications and information about previous studies that measured the Digital Divide.

Evaluation: The article is mostly fun of aging data because it was published in 2010. While much of the historical context about the Digital Divide between the two countries is accurate, the article must present more evidence to support that Canada is closing the gap. As of 2024, the programs mentioned in the article are few and far. Many initiatives are no longer happening or have been replaced. However, suppose you are someone who enjoys looking at graphs and figures. In that case, this may be an interesting read from an economic and mathematical perspective.

Food or Wifi?

OperationMaple. (2014, July 30). Starving for the internet. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-osAq93jdBg&t=15s

Summary: In today’s climate, it has become a fundamental human right to access the internet. Everything we need to do must happen online. Applying for a job? Well, that happens online. If you do not have a job, you may not have the funds to have Wi-Fi access to apply for one. People are having to choose between having the internet and having food. The video discusses a campaign by Acorn Canada to help make the internet more affordable to those who currently cannot afford it.

Evaluation: The nonprofit organization created the video, providing a biased opinion. It was also older, from nine years ago. However, the problem persists today in 2024. There is still a monopoly on services provided in Canada and limited competition. It is reminiscent of the few airplane companies on Canadian soil. No competition means they can charge insane fees, and people are left with nothing to do but pay them.

Tech is Part of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

During my teaching career in China, I worked for two schools with vastly different opinions on technology in the classroom. My previous school had a 70/30 policy, which instructed teachers only to utilize technology 30% of the time. This wasn’t easy when many materials were not available in paper form, and we had to adhere to strict printer budgets. The principals militantly monitored the hallways multiple times daily to ensure we were off technology. Students were becoming more and more technology illiterate

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at school and unethical when it came to using AI technology. Using the technology felt more like a hindrance rather than an enhancement. My current school is technology-positive, especially as they are working towards becoming a fully UDL school. Students are taught from grade 1 how to interact with iPads until grade 5, where they learn more about using Apple computers. Students respect technology and are much more willing to experiment with new apps and platforms because they were taught to play with unfamiliar technology from a young age. Having these two experiences helps me straddle the fence regarding the idea that technology can enhance education.

Liu et al. (2020) make a good point while researching the effects of VR in the classroom: VR creates an immersive experience that generates more student interest. Technology opens doors for students to explore spaces beyond their current existence. This year, I utilized a virtual tour experience of Greenwood to help students understand Black Wall Street and what happened during the Tulsa Massacre to contextualize the history presented in the TV show Watchmen, produced by Damon Lindelof. Having students engaged with the real history, they better understood the motivations of Angela Abar and Will Reeves to seek revenge and the suffering they faced based on past traumas.

Cellphones are often a point of contention for teachers regarding what kind of Ed tech

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should be allowed in the classroom. While Furió et al.’s (2015) research did not exclusively conclude that using technology allowed students to learn more effectively, they did find that students using their cell phones were more likely to continue learning in their free time. As a mother to a 7-year-old, I can also attest to this. While my daughter will work in your home study textbook, she is much more willing to reach for IXL and Khan Academy Kids at any time. They are a great road trip distraction! Personally, I allow cell phones in my classroom. I understand that students get distracted, but even I do some scrolling during my two-hour lecture to have a brain break when I need one. It is important that a little distraction may offer our learners personal brain breaks as well; we must remain vigilant in helping them remember to rejoin the lesson when they are ready.

This week’s opposition side to the debate connects with the debate I am currently researching regarding technology and equity. The Harris et al. (2016) article shared by the affirmative side references some points that support my debate topic that technology has not led to a more equitable society, mentioning that teachers who can use 1:1 technology are at an advantage. It was studied in the article that 1:1 technology certainly motivates learners and quickens the process of differentiation, but that is only a reality for those who have this type of technology. My international school in China certainly does; the Catholic school in Regina I was at had faulty and aged technology at best, creating a further digital divide amongst learners of the same age. However, sticking to the question, there is clear evidence through the study’s findings that this type of tech initiative can be quickly successful with the right kind of funding in place. To further consider how much technology can enhance, we must consider Warschauer et al.’s (2010) considerations of gender and the realm of technology. Most people going into the computer science field are men, and women are often bullied out of the field. This is something that more women are discussing; for example, the Blizzard employee who faced so much harassment that she is suing the company. With women and minority groups individuals being left out of developing technology, the creations are often geared toward white male audiences. Without a female voice participating in creation, how can we enhance the knowledge gains of women and minorities?

Technology in the classroom raises questions about modernity and traditionalism and how teachers navigate the changing classroom landscape. Kris Alexander’s (2023) TED Talk was interesting, but it made me question if technology enhances education. There is all this fun technology, like learning from Twitch streamers. Still, teachers are not

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using this type of technology in the classroom. Many basic-style online platforms are usually found in the school to assist or replace recording tools and research methods. However, do these really enhance learning? In all cases, no. In a world where learners are bombarded with different and flashy tech, low-tech options only sometimes reach learners. Therefore, they may not reap the benefits of the technology switch-up. It becomes more important to include traditional means in the classroom to keep learning from becoming a trivial routine but instead being something students look forward to each day. Purcell et al. (2013) speak to my English teacher’s heart. I made the switch to paper-based writing this year to avoid the use of AI in the classroom. While students were not excited about the switch, the improvements in writing were tenfold. My most prevalent complaint matches the teachers in the article because my students also used a great deal of informal online writing. I spent two weeks this past academic year with grades 8 – 11 reviewing the formal writing basics to combat some informal writing practices.

There is no way I will say no to tech in my classroom. However, I still need to navigate the often rocky landscape of technology, and I unquestioningly embrace it at times. Who is going to join me?

Canadian Digital Divide – Tech and Inequality

Turner, J. (2023, March 14). Bridging the gap: Unraveling the digital divide. Busrides. https://busrides-trajetsenbus.csps-efpc.gc.ca/en/ep-108-en

Summary: “The digital divide refers to the gap between individuals or communities that have access to modern information and communication technologies (ICT) and those that do not.” (Turner, 2023). The article titled “Bridging the Gap: Unraveling the Digital Divide“ by Joshua Turner in 2023 addresses the digital divide global issue that connects access to the internet and low incomes, which in turn perpetuates the digital divide. Four common themes connected to his issue are lack of access to fast internet, limited technology training, short life of devices, and language barriers (Turner, 2023). The digital divide impacts Canadians, especially those in rural areas. The article offers four future-oriented solutions for Canadians: increasing technology access, offering training, supporting equitable policy, and investing in the private sector.

Evaluation: The article is connected to the Government of Canada website. It is posted in the Trending Technology blog space. The information on the blog space offers the amount of time it takes to read the article, which is 5 minutes. It was posted nine months ago, which means the information is relevant to today’s social climate. There are linked courses at the end of the blog that encourage users to become more digitally literate, helping to mitigate the digital divide. Turner also offers helpful secondary resources for continued research into the global issue. However, upon clicking Turner’s name at the end of the article, only other articles he has written are associated, and there is no biographical information.

Reflection: I believe the information in this article is relevant to my research on my debate topic, “Technology has not led to a more equitable society.” The article is related to my classmates’ climate, being related to Canada, as well as my experiences living in China. The digital divide perpetuates inequality in the world but is often portrayed as helping bridge the gap.