Lets talk about equality and educational technology.
Looking at Canada specifically, I think that our best example as to how technology may be a part of the answer, but not the whole answer; lay in the calls to action listed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. If you take a minute to read through, these calls are mindfully and carefully written with the intention of telling the truth of residential schools, reconciling from residential schools and the closing the gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians. Not all gaps that the world needs to close are between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, but many are. For this reason if we are talking about closing gaps, I very seriously encourage Canadians to look at how we can as individuals and a whole work towards meeting these calls to action. In Canada, equitable access to technology may a a piece of the puzzle in meeting these calls and closing such gaps, but lets face it: the puzzle itself is complex. It is economic, it is systemically racist, it is imperialistic, it is historical, and it will not be solved until we acknowledge with truth and begin to reconcile the reasons for the gap in the first place
My colleague Janelle Henderson just wrote a kick ass entry on her beliefs on this topic. She quoted Annie Murphy Paul in Educational Technology Isn’t Leveling the Playing Field as saying:
“while technology has often been hailed as the great equalizer of educational opportunity, a growing body of evidence indicates that in many cases, tech is actually having the opposite effect: it is increasing the gap between rich and poor, between whites and minorities, and between the school-ready and the less-prepared.”
Susan B. Neuman and Donna C. Celano have agreed, stating that technology as “the very tool designed to level the playing field is, in fact, un-leveling it.”
Why all these women are correct: You can’t necessarily put a long term goal in front of people who are living in the right now, who can’t even meet basic survival. We were given an example during the debate of Luke Braun’s experience teaching in London, where disadvantaged students were given laptops, which they near immediately pawned. Well OF COURSE those kids pawned their laptops. They didn’t see them as a means to an good ending…..they saw them as a means to RIGHT NOW. As Janelle said, we are living in a world where
“internet may be a basic human right, but it doesn’t mean we all need it. What we need is proper food, clean drinking water, access to affordable health care and medical treatment, human rights, employment, positive family units, safety and security.”
Too many of our students are coming to school without having their basic human needs met at home which undermines them as learners and puts them at disadvantages when accessing any sort of education, with or without technology.
This is another debate where I notice that there are a alot of factors being discussed, not simply socioeconomic status either. On a more personal level, I teach Grade 5 at a middle class public school in Regina. My students are not currently involved in any type of BYOD at school, in fact they are not allowed to bring cell phones to school. This is a school wide rule. Next year in Grade 6, they will begin integrating BYOD into their school days with education and supervision from teachers.
The most serious issue I see as a professional is what Jeremy mentioned in his blog, which is that “there is a significant amount of time and pd opportunities that will need to be provided by schools in order to ensure all teachers are capable of achieving mastery.” I personally doubt that I will ever get the opportunity to participate in PD for technology. I feel like even if the technology fairy dropped off 36 chrome books and a smart board for me tomorrow, would I be near the “mastery” required to close that gap? (if closing that gap was even possible) Not a chance. Access to technology doesn’t come with education, even in…education. The lack of training for teachers is a perfect example of this.
My colleague, Kyle Dumont, states that “The parents have a role within this as well. They will need to be involved in their child’s learning, they need to take a proactive approach, especially when the tech tool is a specific one designed for assistance with a diagnosis, or specialized learning plan put in place for the individual. The parents then need to also be educated on how the tool works, and what its capacities/limitations are.” In my classroom experience, this is a huge hurdle we need to overcome. I have a student who has been granted a chrome book for his personal use. Using Google Read and Write has helped him significantly, but at the start of the year it was a different story. Getting his mom and himself up and running was no easy task, and quite frequently they were unable to troubleshoot at home and therefore were unable to progress outside of school without the support. We were lucky to have our LRT attend a session on Google Read and Write that Kyle spoke of, and she has been a great support in teaching myself, and the students how to utilize it. There were countless hours spent outside of school…and this was for one out of my 28 students. Like many things that turn out to be rewarding, this experience was exhausting.
The reason that I think that the issue of lack of education behind technology is the most serious is how it manifests itself into the bigger picture. I see the bigger picture to be the lack of education being put into the people who are one the other end of this such gap; the one that we are trying to close. As teachers we know that there is a lack of training for us when it comes to… well…most aspects of our jobs. But we are critical thinkers, we have a university degrees, we have privilege…and lets be real, none of us are on the wrong side of the gap. By handing over technology as a means to an end we are shooting first, asking questions later…and we are expecting that technology and education are the same thing.