Due to an unexpected family situation, I was unable to attend EDTC 400 last week. Thankfully, I did not miss out on the fifth debate since Katia records all the classes and posts them to the Slack community board. The fifth debate topic was “Technology is a force for equity in society” and the two debaters for this week were Kaytlyn and Ryan.
Prior to entering into the debate, the class did the pre-vote. The class had to choose if they agreed or disagreed with the statement that “Technology is a force for equity in society”. If I was in class and voting, I would have chosen to agree with this statement because I have witnessed technology being used as a force for equity with students with exceptionalities integrated into mainstream classrooms. I was not on the majority side of this pre-vote; about 60% of the class disagreed with the statement and about 40% of the class agreed with the statement. With this divide, it seemed that Ryan, who was on the agree side of the debate, would have a bit of a difficult time trying to sway the class to the agree side of the debate.
Ryan’s Side of the Debate
To begin the debate, the class listened to Ryan’s video, which is below. Ryan had three main points in his video that argued that technology is a force for equity. They are:
- Technology assists students and people with disabilities
- Technology enhances education in the World
- Technology gives young people a voice
Ryan made a very strong argument that compelled me to agree with his side of the debate. I really agreed with the first statement that Ryan made. He stated that technology can benefit those with disabilities and used Stephan Hawking (who used his eyes to use technology that would enable him to communicate through spoken words) as an example of how technology can create equity for students that have exceptionalities. I work with students with exceptionalities and I have seen first-hand the benefits that technology can have with students with disabilities. Students with exceptionalities can use technology, such as applications on tablets to communicate or complete assignments.
Kaytlyn’s Side of the Debate
After the class watched Ryan’s video, they watched Kaytlyn’s video, which is below. Kaytlyn had four main topics that she discussed in her video. They are:
- The Digital Divide
- Access to Technology
- Digital Equity
- Digital Inclusion
Like Ryan, Kaytlyn made a very compelling argument for her side of the debate. Her side of the debate heavily focused on the issue of students having limited access to technology at home. This limited access to technology can create a gap between student achievement and student participation in homework and assignments. Kaytlyn made a very true statement that not every student will have access to cellphones and other technology in classrooms. It is a teacher’s responsibility to know what technology students have access to both at home and at school. Teachers can then use this information to plan activities and assignments that do not create an even wider gap between students that have technology and those that do not.
I think Kaytlyn made some very compelling points in her video and her discussion in the debate as much of the debate was focused on the issues of access and cost of technology. The class focused heavily on the issue that as technology is changing and improving rapidly, the costs of technology are still very high. The class went into depth on the issue that not every family will have the extra money to spend on technology. Students that do not have access to technology at home cannot always continue their learning at home if it requires them to use technology. As Liz mentioned in the debate, not every student has time or the ability to go to the library to complete an assignment on a public computer. The class discussed the issue that some students might have other commitments such as a job that prevents a student from accessing the library.
Throughout the discussion, the class also discussed access to technology as well as the cost of technology. As in many of our other debates, the issue of technology in rural communities came up. Rural communities often do not have great internet access and not every student living in rural communities will have reliable high speed internet. With limited access to reliable internet and technology, students living in rural areas are put at a disadvantage when it comes to using technology in the classroom.
As the debate went on, I was beginning to see the lines of equity and equality begin to be blurred. Tiana mentioned the image that I have in my head when I am thinking about the difference between equality and equity. The image is likely an image many people have already seen. There are three boys standing behind a fence and they are all trying to see the game. One boy is short, the middle boy is medium height and the final boy is tall. The tall boy can see over the fence, but the other two cannot. Equality is described as giving all three boys a box to stand on. With these boxes, the tallest boy and the middle boy can see over the fence, but the shortest boy cannot. In this case, everyone got the same thing, but one person got something they did not need and one person did not get enough. Equity is different from equality. Equity is giving each person the tools that they need to meet the expectations. In the case of the fence scenario, the shortest boy is given two boxes, the middle boy is given one and the tallest boy is given no boxes. In the equity situation, all three boys got something different, but all three boys are now able to see over the fence.
My thoughts on Debate TOpic
With this image in mind, I had a lot of thoughts after watching the debate. When I first began the debate, I really thought that technology can make things equitable in society, but then towards the end I began to think that technology is NOT a force for equity in society.
Prior to watching this debate, I did not really think about Kaytlyn’s side of the debate. I had only thought about the pros of technology in society and how much it benefits the students that I work with. I did not think about the issues of access to technology and the cost of technology being forces that make technology inequitable in society. I will admit this was fairly ignorant of me. I grew up with a lot of blessings. I had access to updated technology throughout my childhood and years going to school. I never had to go to the library to work on an assignment on a computer because I had access to a computer at home. I did not think deeply about the influence that access to technology had on students’ abilities to complete assignments or fully participate at the same level as their peers in an activity that uses technology.
Access to technology is a huge barrier to an equitable society, because as mentioned in Annie Kelly’s article, technology is a huge influence on today’s society and students must have technology knowledge in order to enter the work field in today’s society. Not every student will have access to technology at home. Teachers are putting the students that do not have access to technology at home at a disadvantage when they are requiring students to complete assignments online at home. As mentioned in Justin Reich’s video, technology innovation will benefit affluent (high income) students more than students that come from low income families. Technology innovation creates a larger gap between students that come from affluent and low income families.
Now even though technology can be expensive and not every student will have access to technology at home, schools in the United States are not allowing lack of internet access at home become a barrier to student learning. As described in Chris Bedrick’s article, schools are starting to create towers that distribute internet to school issued computers in student’s homes. Another point that this article made was that families are allowed to check out wifi routers with limited data plans from the library during the school year to ensure that the students that are going to school will have internet access at home.
Now, there are many barriers that technology creates for creating an equitable society. As mentioned in the Dell article that Ryan asked us to read, technology and access to technology can open the doors for students around the world to new opportunities. Technology can be very equitable because regardless of a where a person lives, with the internet, a person will have access to the same information as everyone else. Technology enables many students to learn new skills, such as coding, that will open the door for job opportunities in the future. Giving to students that do not come from affluent neighbourhoods can be very equitable, because they not have access to the same resources and tools that students from affluent neighbourhoods already have.
Along with technology being a great resource that can open the doors for students, it also can be equitable for students with exceptionalities. I witness in my ECS 100 placement the powerful effect that technology can have on equity between students with and without exceptionalities. I viewed a student that did not have the ability to write out their own complex sentences actually create sentences using the Google extension Google Read and Write to create complete their work that matched the level of their peers. In this sense, I have seen technology as a force for equity.
Overall, this debate pulled me from side to side and I do not think that I have come to a conclusion that I agree one hundred percent with either side. I am stuck in the middle with this debate. On one hand, I have seen and think that technology can offer so many options for students that have exceptionalities or that do not come from affluent neighbourhoods. On the other hand, the issues of the cost and limited access to technology can be extremely inequitable. How can teachers expect students to benefit from technology and the resources it provides when students do not have access to technology at home? In conclusion, I think that creating more access to updated technology will make technology an equitable force in society. I think that technology is an equitable force in society, but the access to technology is not equitable. Improving access to technology will create a more equitable society that benefits from the tools that technology gives people.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Leave a comment below.
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