Debating contemporary issues in Educational Technology is not an easy task, but it’s necessary. If we want to progress and evolve as educators in this digital world, we need to have the hard conversations, debate the controversial topics, and raise awareness on issues that matter. As Alec said on Tuesday, “debates exist so that we can continue to improve,” grow, and gain new perspectives.
We had our second round of debates in our #eci830 class this week, which was based on this topic: “Technology is a force for equity in society.” I have to say, the group of debaters, Kalyn and Nataly vs. Victoria and Jasmine, were strong and well-spoken with their arguments, despite the power outages and frequent interruptions from the sudden Saskatchewan storm that blew in. They taught me a lot about our need for technology in education and the areas of concern surrounding the topic. They highlighted so many great points that outlined the reasons that technology is a force for equity, and how there is a digital divide happening in society. Here’s the breakdown:
Reasons that Technology is a Force for Equity
- It provides greater access to information, especially during distance learning.
- It allows for personalized learning within the classroom and it gives students the voice and ability to reach out.
- It increases access to education and maintains student-teacher connection.
Reasons that Technology is NOT a Force for Equity
- There is a lack of accessibility with the cost of the devices and monthly fee for internet connection.
- The vulnerable population could suffer, especially during distance learning when technology is the primary source for education.
- Specific communities in Saskatchewan, especially rural and Indigenous communities, lack reliable broadband connection.
The subject that we debated was one that I struggle with personally. I am a firm believer in using technology in meaningful, purposeful ways in the classroom. I have seen its educational benefits due to its ability to allow for differentiation, adaptation, engagement, and choice. I have witnessed students develop critical thinking and collaborative skills. I have seen ideas come to life through the creativity of technology. Students can develop digital citizenship and literacy skills that help them in their everyday life. However, before all of these skills can be achieved, they need to have the technology in their hands.
When the debate started and it was time to make our pre-vote judgments, I voted against the idea that technology is a force for equity in society. With the recent events of school closures, I have seen the disparity and inequality with internet and technology access among students and families first hand. As the debate progressed and I was reminded of the opportunities that technology brings to our classrooms, I was at one point convinced that my vote would change by the end of the class. However, even though I was introduced to additional ways that technology enhances learning and creates equitable classroom experiences, the rest of our class discussion only solidified my original “disagree” vote. It was clear that others were also impacted by our class discussion on the digital divide and societal inequities because the vote was swayed by the end of the debate.
It’s evident that when technology is implemented purposefully in learning, “it removes barriers to learning materials, supports students where they are across varied learning contexts and needs, and gives educators more insight into the learning environments they’re creating”… but as Victoria and Jasmine stated, “do the advantages of EdTech come equitably?” Even when you think of the benefits of technology, there are still concerns that arise. If you look at Assistive Technology for example, Christina brought up the idea that there are long wait lists and a lack of funding when it comes to this kind of technology. When you think of technology use in the classroom, there is often a lack of funding for new technology, which means outdated devices and minimal devices to be distributed. However, the real gap begins when you think of technology use outside of the classroom.
I have spent time writing about the digital divide before. I have read articles, recorded podcasts, and sent tweets about it. I am well aware of the inequalities that arise from the lack of access to technology and internet connection for individual students and their families. However, I have recently been reminded of the deeper issues that underlie these inequalities, and Jacquie reminded me of them on Tuesday. She said that the digital divide is “shedding light on a bigger societal issue of privilege and marginalization.” This statement caused me to pause and reflect.
Yes, I believe that technology has power and opportunity. Yes, technology brings greater access to information, personalized learning, and adaptation. However, technology can only have this type of power and opportunity if it’s accessible and equitably distributed. Curtis brought up a crucial point by saying “the issues of the digital divide goes beyond technology itself.” As we dive more into the issue of the digital divide, it’s important to remember that “providing access to technology is important but not a complete solution when it comes to getting rid of systemic disparities caused by issues like income inequality, geographic isolation, or discrimination” as Kelsie Anderson says.
Lately, I’m feeling compelled to say more and do more about inequalities in this world. Do I have all the answers? Absolutely not… but if Educational Technology is something I am passionate about, then maybe that’s where I can start. Maybe I need to be more proactive and have a louder voice when it comes to the inequalities in not only Educational Technology, but in education itself. As our world continues to see issues with injustice and inequality, my job as an educator is never truly done.
“As long as poverty, injustice, and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” – Nelson Mandela