We had a great debate experience this week. Nataly and I were debating Victoria and Jasmine on whether technology is a force of equity in society. It is one of the toughest topics that most of us feel on edge when trying to take a side.
Educational technology offers a way for the marginalized to gain knowledge and power as it provides greater access to information, and levels the playing field for different students because it creates personalized learning. It also enables people with disabilities to connect and communicate. That is how technology is a force for equity in society.
Technology not only increases the efficiency of the existing educational approaches but facilitates experimentation with pedagogical methodologies. For example, technology is a prerequisite and enabler for the flipped classroom approach, inverting a traditional notion of classwork and homework.
Victoria and Jasmine argued that technology can cause discrimination and techno-colonialism. But, acts of discrimination, harassment, and colonialism have been around a long time in different areas of the world before technology. Technology allows individuals with no political power to share their ideas and this allows novel models of activism. Recent online movements such as #NeverAgain, #Arabspring and #MeToo have sparked waves of social activism and demonstrates the positive power of technology when it comes to combating societal inequities and injustices of our time.
Assistive technology allows students with learning disabilities to work with their strengths while working around their disabilities. Tools build students’ self-confidence and increase their sense of independence. Judy Heumann said it best when she said “For most of us, technology makes things easier. For a person with a disability, it makes things possible.”
We believe Education is the equalizer. It prepares people with 21st-century skills. Hence, Education is one of the most prominent factors in reducing the equity gap. However, It is key to recognize that all students are different and come to their education with different needs. We advance equity when we do our best to meet their needs. Technology has the ability to create opportunities for people including learning, reaching out and giving them a voice.
How Access to Technology Can Create Equity in Schools: This article discusses the ways that technology can increase equity in schools. Equity is increased by removing barriers to learning materials, which allows students to access materials outside of the classroom. Tools can be used to personalize learning experiences, so students can work at their own pace and in a way that works with their strengths, not weaknesses. Educators can also use technology to not only grade students, but to gather useful insights about absenteeism and homework completion that guides them to make informed decisions. While technology can help, it doesn’t get “rid of systemic disparities caused by issues like income inequality, geographic isolation, or discrimination.” To ensure equity there also has to be a focus on making sure students have access to the internet outside of the school. You also need to invest in professional development so that teachers can properly use the tools needed to personalize learning experiences.
The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) serves every U.S. state and territorial education agency. Their website has an excellent list of priorities, amongst which Digital Equity is listed as the first priority. All priorities and their description is worth a good read, IMO. The report entitled: “Navigating the Digital Shift 2019: Equitable Opportunities for All Learners” highlights policies and guidance for providing equal opportunities for all learners, with a focus on personalized learning for students as well as professional development for teachers. It discusses how educational programs should prepare students for the future of jobs and the expected automated workplaces of the 21st century. The report highlights that students should be the point of central focus. The report focuses on knowledge and information sharing and the role technology plays in building such learning communities. The report provides an overview of the policies and practices of educational resources and instructional materials.