Welcome back, colleagues! Rounding off Week 2, we listened to our second debate on the topic of technology leading to a more equitable society. Admittedly, I recall having the stance of agreeing and discussing how technology had created equity within society. This was before listening to Dr. Katia Hildebrandt and my first EC&I class. Katia had posed and presented some questions that allowed me to reflect on this stance. I definitely didn’t consider the bigger picture and looked at a narrow view of this statement. The two groups did a masterful job representing their sides and gifted us some great resources to reflect further. Although technology presents opportunities, access to technology is not equal.
When I think of technology and equity, I reflect on my own experiences as an educator. The first portion of my career saw me in inclusive education settings within my school division. During this assignment, I used technology to narrow the gap and provide opportunities for inclusion. Educational technology can be defined as tools to enhance learning. Technologies like the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) were a standard at my school site to allow students to communicate with staff and peers. However, a more costly option that SOME students utilized was Proloquo2go. This assistive technology is closely relatable to the Picture Exchange Communication System. The most significant difference is that this application provides a digital platform for its users. According to the Benetech blog published in 2015, “there are unprecedented opportunities to deliver more content to students, on a wide range of devices, and to discover new paths of learning that would benefit them.” Additionally, I appreciated Benetech’s comments on including those with disabilities in technology development and delivering education on these technologies.
Furthermore, technology allows working on assignments collaboratively through Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps platforms. Technology is evolving and advancing at an incredible speed. In theory, it looks and sounds great, but is it equal? Is it inclusive of all? Matt Jenner (2021) explains that “the biggest journeys in this fast-paced world don’t equate to an overnight arrival. We recognize that there are many challenges along the way. But as digital education opens more doors, we must be sure it’s for an increasingly inclusive audience.”
As we reflect on the equity, the gap is more like a canyon. We don’t have to look far to see the inequities in access to technology. Ashleigh Weeden and Wayne Kelly (2021) describe Canada’s rural and urban divide in technology access and equity. Weeden and Kelly deliver a message that applies to what we are experiencing here in Canada regarding unbalanced technology access. “When building digital infrastructure is treated as one-off project work and addressed through private sector stimulus investment to serve SINGLE municipalities, hospitals, schools, or networks, the result is a programmatic cycle that does not address or solve systemic and structural challenges to connecting ALL Canadians to critical internet services.” Reflecting on the global pandemic and the role and importance of technology access emphasize the consequences of leaving communities disconnected. How do we ensure all peoples have equal access to quality internet, platforms, and devices?
As educators, we need to recognize and address inequities. In fact, educating our students about the lack of standards and challenging these inequities is a powerful tool for change. For me, recognizing my privilege as a Connected Educator and the tools accessible to both my students and I is crucial. Beyond the classroom walls is an entirely different set of circumstances and expectations must be altered in fairness to our students. Meet students where they are not where we think or assume. When we apply this mindset to other communities locally and globally, we can begin to address inequities on a larger scale. We have the power to enact change!