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Blog #2 (Part 2) – Technology! It is Equal? Is it Fair? (Debate #2)

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!  

8 thoughts on “Blog #2 (Part 2) – Technology! It is Equal? Is it Fair? (Debate #2)

  1. This debate was really difficult for me to pick a side! Technology has definitely given many people access to opportunities that they may not have been able to have without it. However, like you said, the gap becomes a canyon for those without access to technology. I appreciate that you included a paragraph on teaching your students about inequities so that we can help make a change!

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    1. Hey Megan, thanks for the comments! I feel that challenging students to see that technology is a privilege and to question norms is essential. I’m also mindful of this when giving assignments and managing expectations. Again, thanks for reading my post!

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  2. I find it interesting that you had a direct analogue to the digital divide with some students being able to afford more feature rich software packages than some of their peers. I have had similar experiences in my teaching career with some students being able to access free photo editing software (we sometimes use a program called Gimp) and some have access to Adobe Photo Shop (which is subscription based). While the free software is great, the power of having an industry standard software package allows some students to access more advanced tutorials and provides more options and integration with other programs. It creates haves and have nots. This was one of the key points we were trying to make in our debate, even when everyone has access, the quality of access can vary significantly.

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    1. Hey Matt, thanks for your comments. I agree with you on the ‘have’ and ‘have not’ divide. Your group did a great job of highlighting this point. Access is an issue and so too are features. My students and I debated if digital access is a privlege or a human right. The dialogue was interesting.

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  3. Hi Arkin,
    This article genuinely has more information and thanks for an amazing blog.

    I didn’t knew about PECS and I think it is an interesting tool to get in touch with each other. I also agree that we all need to address the inequalities among students. We all put blame on government or higher authorities for not providing equal access to technology. But I have noticed that despite of having tools, resources some people do not use technology due to lack of skills. Being an educator we should work towards literacy in technology.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Amanpreet, thanks for your kind words! I agree 100%! Educators do not have the appropriate training to integrate technology in their classrooms. We are fortunate for our Connected Educator program through the Regina Catholic School Division and the associated professional development that comes with the program.

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  4. I definitely have to say that I am on the disagree side of things here (if you couldn’t already tell). We know that technology is not equitable amonst all of our schools in our division, let alone between classroom to classroom, or even student to student within our own schools. Even though I would hope that things would be more balance, at the current time, they are not. Besides a lack of funding, I wonder what else our division or schools could be doing to make technology more equitable.

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    1. Kelly, I agree with you! The inequities are everywhere. I also believe the training and professional development teachers receive is not equal as well. How do we close the divide? Who’s responsible (government or school division)? Interesting challenges we face and need to address sooner rather than later.

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