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”.
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.
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.