Technology is a Force of Equity in Society
Boy, technology has come a long way. I still remember being in grade 5 and my teacher telling me about a new opportunity where we are going to send messages to students in another country over the computer. I could not believe it! How would we be able to do that? Basically we were emailing them and sharing information on a project we were doing in collaboration with five or six other classes throughout North America! This was a big deal because it showed me that computers were for so much more than just practicing typing and playing games; we could connect to the world.
Technology has made the world so much more accessible. As a teacher, I can connect with specialists from around the world. My classroom is currently connected to another classroom in Saudi Arabia and Chicago. We are sharing our classroom experiences and learning about what it is like in those other classrooms! It is great to see my students interact and learn about other places first hand. We can also connect with specialists and live chat with them to learn more about any given topic we are learning about. Technology has afforded us that privilege.
Technology has also brought education to more people. Education is now way more accessible. Our group this week talked about Open Education Resources, which offers university level courses free of charge taught by professors at universities around the world. This is a great way for people who are interested in learning, but lack the finances, or availability to attend classes, to still get the education they seek. In addition, we cannot forget about the emergence of webinars, distance learning (correspondence), online courses, or video conferences. These are all due to the emergence of technology and they have allowed people, regardless of their location, to access courses, seminars, and even institutes, all from the comfort of their homes!
Technology has also narrowed the divide in abilities between those who “can” complete a task, and those who “cannot” complete a task. As I previously mentioned, I am blessed to teach in a 1:1 technology classroom. I have witnessed students who were several grade levels below average in reading and writing, be able to participate with our class and produce work that is at, or even above, grade level. These technological advances have given these students the boost they needed to continue to persevere and push forward. Students are also given far more opportunities and options to showcase their learning when technology is integrated into the classroom setting. Student creativity soars and they definitely rise to the occasion!
Our debate saw a lot of comments come forward. One that stuck out to me was the comment surrounding those who cannot afford the technology and how they are left behind or at a disadvantage. Raj Dhingra discusses how technology can change education in this TEDx talk. He discusses how the argument surrounding cost and affordability is null. One just has to be creative.
I have to admit, this video got me interested in some of the low cost options and made me wonder why more school divisions are not accessing this technology. Perhaps we are all so attracted to the “shiny penny” that we forget the reason behind needing the specific devices we have access to. Do we necessarily need all the features available, or are we attracted to the brand? I am the first to admit that Apple products are great, but are their price tags really worth it? If our goal is to provide technology to students so they can access and receive the benefits outlined above, then why are we breaking the bank doing so?
Education technology is huge! People in the tech industry are constantly looking at how to get into that market and sell their big idea. However there are plenty of great services available online that do not require a large credit-card limit to access. SeeSaw is an example of a technology that showcases students and their capabilities. It also features tools that allow students who “cannot” to still participate with their classmates. All of these features are FREE! There is no hidden cost or terms to work around. I have used and accessed several other sites with the same feature! If, as an educator, you are willing to search and be a little creative, then technology and integration does not have to necessarily be so far out of reach.
I am going to share with the video my amazing team and I put together outlining these points and more!
To close, I would like to mention how a lot of blame is put onto TECHNOLOGY. We like to use it as a scapegoat to justify why society is the way that it is. We use it to explain why bullying is getting worse. We use it to explain why we see so much racism in the world. We use it to explain why we have this whole “digital divide”. What some of us need to do is slow down and remember that we had all of these issues before technology. Yes, the prevalence and use of technology continues to push some of these issues to the forefront, but it is not the reason for those issues. I guess we need to accept that technology is here and we need to take it (the good and the bad) and ensure each and every one of us is using it for its’ intended purpose and not abusing this remarkable tool!