The Great Ed Tech Debate- Version 2.0

Does Technology Create Equity?

Anytime the word equity comes into the conversation my interest and curiosity is immediately piqued. I believe we have a responsibility to learn, to grow and to evolve our perspectives as humans and teachers.  By making a plan to increase the equity through tech for our students, we conversely also need to become more aware of the inequity that is occurring in the world, we are more aware of the full picture that is occurring in our schools and classrooms.   I think this awareness of both sides of the coin allows us to serve our students and our communities better.  There is a quote by Dr. Maya Angelou- “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know you better, you do better” and I believe this topic and the discussion points brought by Jasmine, Victoria, Nataly and Kalyn shed light on all the ways in which we need to consider both sides of this argument and “do better”.

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Nataly and Kalyn did a phenomenal job talking about accessibility and adaptability.  Technology provides access for all learners, it provides opportunities to engage in learning that reflects their curiosity.  When given the tools, there are doors that can be opened that otherwise would not have even know existed. Their points about using technology to not only have a voice at the table, but to JOIN the table really struck me.  When Kalyn and Nataly said, “For most of us technology makes things easier, but for people with disabilities technology makes things possible” that stopped me in my tracks.  This quote reminded me that we all come with stories, BUT it is my privilege that I can choose to be aware of those diverse stories in my classrooms and inequities that are present, or I can remain ignorant to the landscape in my room.  There quote made me take pause.  I am aware of the Record of Adaptations, physical limitations and how technology can level the playing field for students who have the documentation to provide support, but what about the invisible biases and structures that benefit some while not considering others?  In my last course, I had the privilege of learning about Indigenous Research Methodologies. A major facet of engaging in that discourse and methodology was being able to place yourself in your research, which in turn affects and colors the lens in which you view the world.  It starts by being able to name and recognize the dominant discourses, and then placing yourself within that framework. By naming who and where you are, you are recognizing how the systems have affected your ability to engage and learn within the dominant discourse.  With that in mind- I am a thirty-eight year old, white, Catholic, heterosexual, English speaking, middle-class, urban raised female. I have four siblings and I was raised in Regina, Saskatchewan.  I am the daughter of middle class parents who both acquired University Degrees and both work in the field of Education in the Public School System in Regina for thirty plus years.  I am the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, and her personal story has greatly affected my point of view and my deep connection to family, education and spirituality.  Regardless of the stories that have brought me to this point, I have been greatly influenced by the social constructs that have garnered me unearned privilege and to ignore that is to ignore a large portion of my dominant perspective being reflected back to me in life, in relationships, and in the academy.   It is essential I am name that unearned privilege as that is critical in understanding my point of view as an educator.  Kalyn and Nataly reiterated that to me when they illustrated how technology can provide opportunities to for all students to learn and be empowered in that learning.

After hearing Kalyn and Nataly’s compelling arguments, this is where things got interesting for me in this debate.  The moment I thought the Pro side hit major points that illustrated opportunity and empowerment, Victoria and Jasmine showed me the other side of the argument that got my wheels turning once again.  Access and adaptability are great, but their argument about the digital divide, lack of affordability, and the concept of techno-colonialism showed me that technology does not provide a quick and easy fix for this incredibly complex issue.  I should know from experience that the concept of equity (and therefore inequity) does not come with an easy solution.  We are constantly taking steps to try to decrease the divide between the privileged and the marginalized, but as a whole, there has not been an easy fix to this situation.   In the article Technology for Equity and Social Justice in Education: A Critical Issue Overview Papendieck put forth the argument that “formal conceptualization of equality, what Gutierrez and Jaramillo call the “sameness as fairness principle” (2006, p. 180), does not account for structural oppression in guiding policy or practice”.  To simply say, “technology will create equality” is to deny that oppression exists is to be part of the problem, not the solution.  Furthermore, equality and equity are incredibly different things.  Equality is about the same for everyone, equity is about the specific resources a person needs in order to have the same foundation as their peers.   I felt that Jasmine and Victoria began to show the other side that we may be so busy thinking tech will level the playing field; that we could lose sight of how the systems that support that technology (both the tools and the people leading the learning) are coming with their perspectives.  So although providing technology may seem equal, does it provide equity?  I believe their arguments showed that unless we critique and understand how the tools are being taught, used and accessed among the diverse communities we are involved in, we are limiting the capacity of learning and voice as we are simply reiterating the dominant perspective.

Source: Reddit.com

At the end of the day, I do not know which side of the argument I would place my vote.  And I think that is OK.  What this debate did was remind me of the diverse and complex stories of the people in our classrooms and in our world.  It reminded me of the need to unpack my perspective and my privilege.  It made me want to question whose voice is the loudest in my classroom.  It made want to ask more questions, and seek more input to ensure that I am enhancing my point of view so that I may use this platform as an educator to empower ALL students.  It made me want to use tools (both tech and other) in my classroom for students to share their voice so that we all grow and evolve in our understanding of our personal stories in conjunction to other stories.  It made me want to operate from a place of compassion, and humility and to LISTEN.  Glennon Doyle once said, “When I am at a table where I have less privilege, I speak.  When I am at a table where I have more privilege, I listen”.  This debate reiterated it is essential I take time to listen before I act as tech can provide equality, but equity takes a larger look into the many facets of our social constructs.

The Great Tech Debate #1: Technology: Does Tech help or hurt student learning?

My first thought after watching the first round of debates was how both showed the power of persuasive arguments.  Nancy and Amanda’s choice to share a personal angle, highlighting Amanda’s story of her torn Achilles, really shone a light on the potential that tech brings into not only our students lives, but teachers as well.  The way she took an obstacle of being home bound and rather than being limited by her injury and feeling disconnected from her passion of teaching she found an opportunity to solve her personal situation with via tech.  You could see the joy and love in Amanda’s prepared lessons, and the creativity and the connection that occurred through them.  Their highlight of the 4 C’s 4 C’s of 21st Century Skills(critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity +connection) being present through tech really highlighted that when tech is used by caring, compassionate, creative, pedagogically sound teachers the sky is the limit.  After hearing their arguments, I would add another C- curiosity!  Often we tell students to find their passion, but finding their “one true thing” can feel like a lot of pressure.  However, with the aid of technology students have access to information and learning that can pique curiosity.  Elizabeth Gilbert (a well-known author and speaker who devotes her life to creativity) shows how curiosity can fan a flame, whereas passion can be a flame killer.  She states, “I am a big advocate for the pursuit of curiosity. … Curiosity, I have found, is always within reach. Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder — a little whisper in the ear that says, “Hey, that’s kind of interesting” (elizabethgilbert.com). 

At the beginning of the debate, I was under the impression that Matt and Trevor would have their work cut out from them to counter the strong argument that Nancy and Amanda put forth.  Furthermore, being aware of their work and seeing some of their lessons in the Connected Educator database I was aware that they have strong pedagogical practices that utilizes technology to enhance learning in their classrooms.  Their persuasive argument took a humorous approach and that really resonated with me.  The way they modeled an “attack ad” of sorts was very timely considering all that is going on in our world with the Presidential Election occurring south of the border and our recent Federal Election here in Canada.  While watching their incredibly well constructed video it got me thinking of how their video could be used to teach students about the power of media.  As a society we are inundated with information on our social media feeds and it is CRITICAL we look at what we are reading and validate it.  Furthermore, we often follow or receive information that think like we do.  Eli Pariser put forth the theory of a filter bubble influencing how we see the world.  He states that a Filter Bubble is the intellectual isolation that can occur when websites make use of algorithms to selectively assume the information a user would want to see, and then give information to the user according to this assumption”. 

This got me thinking of not only how we perceive media, but also WHAT media is presented to us.  Therefore, it got me thinking that Matt and Trevor’s video would be really cool assignment to look at the power of media.  It would be really neat to look at the angle they are taking, how are they trying to persuade you to think like them, what type of marketing skills do they use, what did you think about the tweets from Amanda and Nancy in their document, can we substantiate that Amanda and Nancy wrote them????  I love how their presentation not only defended their stance, but could also be used as a segue into another conversation and potential lesson for students.

Matt and Trevor’s argument that technology adds to teacher intensification, that it is distracting for students, that even Silicon Valley executives do not want their children using tech at school was very interesting.  I agree with them that tech can be overwhelming at times.  I know I have left Technology sessions where so many tools were shared I did not know where to begin.  But, once I picked one or two tools that aided my pedagogy, I found that the ease of the tool actually made my Outcomes easier to achieve, assess, and I had a bigger picture of student understanding which influences student learning.  I could and would start a lesson with checking in with students learning via a quick Mentimeter or Quizizz and with a few clicks I knew what content I had to review, what they were curious about and suddenly my next lesson was empowered by their learning from the previous lesson. Technology allowed me to inquire into student understanding and learning efficiently and effectively and I hope positively impact student learning.   In regards to technology being distracting, well, how I do say this, of course it is!  I know if I am bored, it is easy to grab my phone and look at something I find more interesting.  I am also guilty of responding to a text while I am in a Staff Meeting or somewhere else where I should be listening (never this class of course 😉 ). So rather than seeing this as an obstacle, I think it’s a teachable moment where we can practice the skills of self-regulation, discussions about appropriate and inappropriate use of tech, the power of active listening and how that aids engagement and learning.  Simon Sinek had a great video that went viral a few years ago talking about how tech can limit those opportunities for human connection, but also the power it has in our life.  Trevor and Matt spoke about this, but if we do not teach those skills in our classroom how can we expect student ts to learn those skills to use in the workplace and in their personal lives? 

Finally, Matt and Trevor’s point about technology executives preferring that their children do not use technology at school is an interesting one.  Do they know something we do not? Or . . . are they able to give those lessons in a controlled environment with their expertise that supersede a teachers understanding of technology?  I draw this analogy, if Michael Jordan is my dad (old school reference, but the Last Dance made me think of him and 90’s basketball was the bees knees!) do you think he should teach me about a fall away jumper, or will the Physical Education teacher be a great coach for that skill??

With all that being said, Amanda and Nancy shared really interesting insights that I agreed with. But Matt and Trevor took an argument in a Technology class and showed great points of what all teachers need to consider. They shared the other side of the coin, a side we must consider to ensure sound pedagogy is at the basis of any tool that is used in class- technology related or not. At the end of the argument, I actually changed my vote from the beginning.  Due to Trevor and Matt’s points, I believe that technology can enhance learning AS LONG as there is sound pedagogy at the foundation of the lesson and thus ultimately sided with them.  What I found while listening to the two sides of the debate is that Amanda and Nancy showed the potential of tech enhancing learning, and Trevor and Matt’s points got me thinking that there must be a foundation of pedagogy prior to tools being used.  Overall, both sides made me consider how we, as potential future leaders, in our schools need to say tech has great power, but with great power comes great responsibility!  Therefore, before we use tech, let’s make sure we are aware of the benefits, challenges and be able to name the reason why we are using it!  It’s a balancing act that both sides show great opportunities, so the more we can understand both sides the more we can be conscious of how we use it in our classrooms, and how can empower students and staff to utilize good teaching practice regardless of the tools being used.  

A Day in the Life. . .

In the immortal words of The Beatles- “I read the news today, oh boy”.  I feel like those lyrics are incredibly relevant in our current daily life. How every day there is “news” and a new development happens that the world reacts to which sets the next few steps for people.   When I first read the question, the word current stood out to me.  It made me reflect on the world’s current perspective, how the world is currently operating, and how in a few short works our current lexicon has phrases like “plank the curve”, “social distancing” and “contact clusters” being used by all people around the world.  Therefore, when I think of my “day in the life”, I have to remind myself that our current situation has evolved quickly, that the fluidity of this situation highlights that we are adaptable beings who are tremendous at taking situations that are incredibly overwhelming to find a new normal within them.

Through technology, I have maintained some “normalcy” of what life looked like before the pandemic.  I am able to connect with my colleagues via Microsoft teams where Staff Meetings are facilitated.  I have found the meetings to be efficient, for people to be receptive to the procedures and protocols to connect with students during this time.  I have also noticed collegiality and immense support from a far.  Outside of staff meetings, teachers are connecting in teams to ask questions, to seek input, to learn of new platforms that they can use so that their students continue to learn in an effective and engaging way.  This collegiality, creativity and ability to respond to Remote Learning has blown me away.  Technology has given me the opportunity to observe and participate in these interactions in ways that would have been impossible without the use of tech.

Personally, I felt lucky to feel fairly prepared for Remote Learning.  I have been teaching Online Learning for the past 4 years and feel comfortable using an LMS platform (Moodle) to facilitate my courses.  Within that platform, I can upload documents, embed YouTube videos, I can add videos of myself teaching content, and I can add audio of a lecture or explanation of notes.  Furthermore, I can diversify assessment with feedback that incorporates audio, video, built in rubrics and gives immediate feedback on multiple-choice questions.  I have also had the privilege of having 1-1 access for my students through the Connected Educator Program.  This has allowed me to infuse technology in a blended way throughout my courses instruction.  My hope is that because we had been using Moodle for their learning that they felt comfortable with it, and it (hopefully) eased anxiety about what Supplemental learning would entail on their end.  Not only did I integrate Moodle into student learning prior to distance learning, the students had a lot of experience with other tools.  One such tool that I have used often is Flip Grid.  I believe it is a critical skill to not only write about what you think, but also to articulate it.  The more we practice how we say things, to feel comfortable with using our voice I believe we are more apt to use it in all areas of our lives.  To help with uncertainty and nervousness I modelled expectations by recording my own stating the intention of the activity, the questions I would like then to answer and welcoming them to Supplemental learning.  I hope that seeing my face, seeing the questions modelled to them, and providing space to share would create comfort and ease to the new journey we were starting.

I have designed my Supplemental learning into asynchronous modules on Moodle.  I wanted to be cognizant that student’s daily lives are incredibly unique and diverse. I did not want to overwhelm the students with meetings times because they are working, caring for younger siblings, taking care of household chores and many other things (as I learnt via the Flip Grid activity).  However, with that being said I also see the benefit of meeting synchronously.  Therefore, I facilitated a synchronous lesson where my students and I invited a Wisdom Keeper to share his knowledge of the Natural Law within Indigenous Spirituality.  In order to honor their schedules I used Microsoft Forms to conduct a survey of a time that would work best for them. Once the time was decided, the meeting was conducted through Microsoft Teams.   This meeting was not only incredibly informative showing a deeper understanding of and connection to Indigenous Spirituality; it was also AMAZING to see the students!  In their reflection most students spoke about the ability to connect face to face in a responsible manner was the highlight for them.  They not only connected to the content, they also connected with one another.

Education has changed.  The delivery is different than we are accustomed to. There are many opportunities in this new setting as we are on the front lines to define and create effective, engaging, meaningful education that affects students learning in ways we never imagined.  Teachers are showing resilience, creativity, care and concern in Remote Learning.  This comes as no surprise, as that’s what teachers do- we teach!  Teachers are responding to the call to teach students in so many amazing ways and technology has been a critical component to this process.  This situation has not stifled opportunities for learning and connection.  I am so proud to be a teacher.

A little about me. . .

Hi everyone. My name is Jacquie Murray and I am an employee of the Regina Catholic School Division. I have had the privilege of teaching for this division for the entirety of my 14 year career teaching Catholic Studies in the High School setting. I love that my job requires me to have significant conversations with young adults about their belief systems. I get to walk the path of learning, self discovery and naming what one can hold to be true on a spiritual and human level alongside my students and grow in the process as well. My ultimate goal is to provide space and a language for their beliefs, to discuss how rituals, rites and celebrations offer space to interact with those beliefs, and that we grow in our perspectives when we share and learn with compassion and understanding. At the end of the day, I want my students to leave our space knowing that learning more about who they are, what they hold true, and having an vocabulary about it will serve them in their future lives, careers and families. The more we can name our belief systems, the more we can reflect on how they serve us and limit us. Furthermore, the greater awareness we have about who we are, the more we can make purposeful choice that aligns with our inherent personalities and serve the world from a place of authenticity and passion.

I believe technology affords our modern era a really unique opportunity to connect with others in a meaningful way. Everyday we make choices about what influences our beliefs and our perspectives by the content we choose to share an follow. One can choose to simply “follow” or take in content that affirms ones belief systems, or we can open our perspectives to new ways of thinking, being and knowing. I hope that students leave my space realizing that the 4 walls of our classroom plants the seeds of understanding, but everything and everyone can serve as our teacher and allow us to better understand ourselves and each other. I hope they take those lessons and use them as they connect virtually with others.

This space will provide me with the opportunity to share my thoughts and how I am growing in this perspective as I continue down my path as a life long learner.