We have officially reached the halfway mark in this semester’s series of Ed-Tech debates in EDTC400! Last night’s debate was another head scratcher, as both debaters made some excellent points with regards to a tricky topic to maneuver. This week’s topic was structured around the question of “is technology a source for equity in society?”. I was very interested to hear from the debaters on this topic, as I was not really sure what all the topic would entail. I’ve learnt a lot about equity throughout my life, which is the state of being fair and impartial, however I never really considered the role of technology in achieving equity, until now that is. Ever since reading the topic to be debated, I kept asking myself how technology could be a force of equity. I came up with a few ideas, such as allowing for access and connectivity, but the extend of my knowledge ended there, which is why I could not wait to hear from the debaters! Additionally, I was interested to see a debate topic that started beyond the classroom and focused on society as a whole, as the majority of the other debates that have been argued so far have began with technology in the classroom or learning environment, later moving into society as a whole.
As per usual, we began the debate with our awesome theme song, which was followed by our class pre-vote. Although I was able to think of a few ways that technology could possibly foster equity, I felt that it would be irresponsible of me to vote in agreement with this statement with the very little information that I had to support this stance, therefore I voted that technology is NOT a force of equity in the classroom. Unlike many of the other debates that have taken place so far in EDTC400, I really wasn’t sure how this topic was going to fair in terms of the class’s votes. The results of the pre-vote indicated that a little over half of the class took the same side as I did, with the portion of the class believing that technology is a force of equity trailing closely behind.
I was even more interested in this topic after seeing how close the pre-vote results were. While I did vote against the debate topic statement, I was very open to being persuaded, as this stance I took did not come from my extensive experience, but could be attributed to a lack of understanding and exposure to this topic of discussion.
Arguments for the agree side
This debate started out with a video that was prepared by Ryan, who was arguing that technology is indeed a force of equity in society. I really enjoyed how Ryan‘s debate not only focused on how technology can be a force of equity within education, but also in other areas of life. This added to his argument by illustrating how we as future teachers need to not only consider how technology can impact our student’s lives for the time being, but also the impact technology will have on them throughout their entire lives. Many of the points made by Ryan highlighted how society consists of people with varying ability levels, economic statuses, and degrees of accessibility, as well as how technology can help to address these differences and foster equity. I will now be outlining some of the major arguments made by Ryan. Here is the link to his debate video that was presented in class:
1. Technology Helps People With Impairments/Disabilities in Daily Life: Ryan’s debate kicked off by sharing a statistic that there are over 1 Billion people around the world who have a disability, whether it be physical, mental, emotional, learning, or any other form. As discussed in this article by Benetech, technology is rapidly advancing and redefining all areas of society, meaning that it has the potential to revolutionize what people with disabilities are capable of. One amazing example of the power of technology for those with disabilities that was shared by Ryan in his debate was Stephen Hawking, who was an amazingly intelligent scientists and individual who was impacted significantly by a disabling condition known as ALS, which gradually paralyzed him and led to deterioration in language. Although he faced these disabling conditions, Hawking was able to live his life to the fullest extent possible through the use of technology. Hawking utilized a computer-based communication system that he could control with his cheek and eye movements. With the help of this technology, Hawking was able to communicate with the world around him, continue to study what he as passionate about, and play an active role in his own life. While this is truly amazing, it is only one of the many ways in which technology can enhance the lives of those with disabilities. In the article shared by Ryan called “The Tech Giving People Power to Deal With Disability”, Padraig Belton identifies several technological tools that assist individuals with disabilities, including devices that allow individuals to communicate with their eyes and head, “smart glasses”, and the use of 3D printing technology to create prosthetic limbs. All of these technological tools and devices have changed the way people with disabilities live their life for the better, leading to enhanced equity within society.
2. Technology Enhances Quality of Education Around the World: As emphasized in EDTC400, technology is a powerful tool when it comes to education. There is no denying that technology offers huge potential for education and is a powerful developmental tool. This article by Taha Ahmed Khan provides just a few examples of the many ways that technology enhances education, such as improved communication and increased access to resources, programs and opportunities. In an article shared by Ryan titled “Technology can empower children in developing countries – if it’s done right”, it is discussed how technology has the potential to be a force of good and a source for innovation if it is utilized appropriately. An example of this is the Dell Youth Learning program, which is built around the belief that technology fuels human progress and has the power to break down barriers and bring forth new possibilities for children around the world. While this program initially began in India, it had now spread to 15 different countries, providing opportunities for the children who need technology the most to have access to it, which is what equity is all about. Programs such as these are a can have a critical role in achieving equity in society, as they recognize where the needs of individuals lie and work to meet those needs through the spread of technology.
3. Technology Gives Youth A Voice: In today’s society, an increasing number of youth are developing their own social media accounts, which provides them with a platform to express their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and beliefs with others. As Baysia Herron states in this article, social media is a tool that allows for children to find their place in the world, as well as allows for their voices to be heard. While there are many dangers to social media use, there are also many benefits, including the ability to stay connected with others, stay up to date with world issues, and even unlock a sense of empowerment. One thing that was mentioned in this debate was how individuals no longer need to be adults to be considered contributing members of society, as technology now allows for children to make their voices heard. In an article published by Microsoft titled “Technology gives the quietest student a voice”, it is mentioned that technology has specific benefits for students who are quieter in nature and often do not feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas with others. For many shy individuals, technology provides a platform for them to express themselves in a way that makes them feel comfortable. In this sense, technology is a force of equity, as it recognizes that there are multiple ways of learning, knowing, and sharing that vary from individual to individual.
Arguments for the Disagree side
Following Ryan’s opening debate, it was time for Kaytlyn to present her argument on why technology is not a force of equity in society. While I did initially vote in favour of Kaytlyn’s stance on the debate, I found myself feeling completely swayed to Ryan’s side after watching his opening arguments and caught myself thinking that Kaytlyn really had her work cut out for her. Regardless, I went in with an open mind and was really amazed to hear the numerous valid points that Kaytlyn was able to make as well! Here is Kaytlyn’s opening debate video:
1. The Digital Divide, Access, & Equity : The digital divide is used to describe the gap in equity between those who do and do not have access to technology. In today’s society, the large majority of individuals, students included, have their own devices, but just because the majority of students have these devices does not mean that we can ignore the minority that do not. In one of the articles shared by Kaytlyn titled “Crossing the Digital Divide: Bridges and Barriers to Digital Inclusion”, it is addressed how physical access to technology is only one of the components to digital equity. There are so many aspects to take into consideration with regards to the role technology plays in contributing to equity. Some of these considerations include:
- Physical Access – Who has access to technology at school and at home?
- As addressed by Kaytlyn in her debate, not all students have equal access to technology. While technology has began to have a dominant role in classrooms across the world, not all classrooms have the same access to technology, whether it be due to funding, bandwidth, or other reasons. This also applies to students’ home lives, in which some students have access to technology at home or in their community, while others do not. As highlighted in this article by Education Week, technology has become more and more dominant within classrooms and while this may seem like progress, it may actually be widening the digital divide between the students who do and do not have access to said devices.
- Types of Technology Accessible – What kind of technology do students have access to?
- Not only do we need to consider who has access to technology, but also what kinds of technology they have access to. There are a wide range of technological devices that can be utilized in the classroom, including laptops, tablets, and cellphones. Despite each of these devices being seen as a tool to be utilized in learning, they differ from each other in terms of what applications can be used, how easy they are to access, and their functionality in the classroom. While the use of different technological tools may be appropriate or even beneficial at times, it can also lead to an even bigger divide. For example, we cannot expect a student to create a powerpoint presentation on their cellphone while others are able to access tablets and laptops to do the same job. To say that simply giving students some form of technology is levelling the playing field overlooks this aspect of digital equity.
- Literacy – Do students know how to use this technology?
- Digital literacy is the awareness and ability of an individual to appropriately use technology in meaningful and effective ways. It is apparent that schools and students have difference access to technology, and with these varying levels of access and experience comes varying levels of digital literacy. As with anything else in life, the more experience students gain, the more likely they are to succeed. This applies to the use of technology and how students who have more exposure to technology will likely develop a higher level of digital literacy than those who have very little experience with technology. Once again, this only adds to the digital divide.
- Physical Access – Who has access to technology at school and at home?
2. Digital Inclusion & The Participation Gap: Building off of the points discussed above, it is important to also recognize that inclusion is an important component to equity. Digital inclusion is a term that is similar to the digital divide, however it is much broader and emphasizes the participation aspects that surround and influence the divide between those who do and do not have access to technology. This article defines digital inclusion as a framework for assessing and examining the readiness of a community to provide access to opportunities in the digital age, focusing not only on access, but also adoption and application of digital literacy. Providing access to technology is one thing, but having individuals participate to the same extent with said technology is another story. “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” is an article that discusses the concept of a participation gap, identifying how the digital divide is caused by more than just varying levels of access to technology, but also participation. Kaytlyn shared a bowling analogy that she uncovered in her research by Shelley Moore, which uses the concept of a 7-10 split, which involves aiming for the outside pins in order to hit them all. In this analogy, the outside pins represent the students who need the most support and the students who need the most challenge. By aiming for these two groups of students, it is believed that we can reach all students. Here is a video featuring Shelley herself in which she discusses the power of transforming inclusive education through the bowling analogy mentioned above:
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
Through this debate and class discussions around the topic of technology and equity, my eyes have not only been opened to the power technology has in striving towards equity. As outlined by Ryan in his debate, technology has to the power to provide individuals with opportunities that they otherwise would not have access to, therefore changing not only the way they experience education, but also life in general. With this being said, I think that Kaytlyn also brought up some really powerful points in regards to how technology may provide increased opportunities for many people, but this does not necessarily mean that it is leading towards equity in society. From the class discussions that were had, it was clear to see than the majority of the class was struggling with deciding which side of this debate to take, as so many great points were raised by each side. I was interested to see how the results of the post-vote would turn out. Following the debate, we each casted our vote and the results were as follows:
It turns out that Kaytlyn was not only able to maintain the majority vote, but she also gained a substantial amount of supporters. Ryan did lose some support, but he did a wonderful job and brought up some really great points, which is why he did maintain nearly one quarter of the class’ support! So where do I stand? With all things considered, I myself have solidified my stance that technology is NOT a force of equity in society, and I will justify this belief with the following 2 points:
- Equity vs. Equality: I think that the terms “equity” and “equality” are often confused and seen as being interchangeable, when in reality they are two very different things. “Equality Is Not Enough: What the Classroom Has Taught me About Justice” is an article that provides a closer look at the difference between the two concepts, but I will essentially summarize the difference by saying that while equality involves treating everyone the same regardless of their individual needs, equity focuses on the individual and providing them with what they need to be successful based upon their unique needs. When it comes to the role of technology, I believe that we often look at the integration and provision in terms of equality rather than equity. In my opinion, to take the approach that giving all students the same devices or access to technology will achieve equity is simply not realistic. We also need to consider to supports these individuals are receiving. Some students may require more assistance in learning how to use said technology, while others may be fine to learn on their own. As outlined in this debate, there are so many interrelating factors to consider and overcoming one barrier often leads to another that we must also work to overcome, much of which cannot occur if we focus solely on equality as opposed to equity. This is not to say that equality is not important, it just should not be confused with equity.
- Technology Cannot Solve All the World’s Inequity Problems: As mentioned in class, the concept of techno-colonialism, which involves the belief that technology can answer many or all of the world’s problems, has gained a huge following with the rise of technology itself. Many people in the world believe that through technology, there is no problem we cannot face and overcome. While technology has played a huge role in revolutionizing the world, I in no way believe that technology has the power to solve all of the worlds problems, nor do I think it is the answer to achieving total equity. As outlined in this article, technology has solved some of the world’s major problems, such as making medical advancements, however it could also be argued that technology has created just as many problems as it has solved, many of which were outlined in Kaytlyn in her debate. In my opinion, resorting to technology to solve problems with regards to inequity often seems like we are placing a band-aid over the problem rather than getting to the root of what is causing it. I think that technology should be seen as a tool to increase opportunities, access, and potentially contribute to equity in society, but to rely on it to be the answer to all the world’s inequity problems seems like it could lead to disappointment and more inequity. To put this in another context, I would encourage you to consider equity as a puzzle, with multiple pieces being required in order for it to be seen as complete. In this puzzle of equity, I would consider technology to be just one of the many pieces needed to achieve the end goal!
In closing, I would like to turn to microphone over to you as the readers and hear what you have to say about this topic! Do you think that technology is the missing piece to this puzzle we call equity? Or is it just one of the many missing pieces to consider?
That’s all for this post! Thanks for reading and don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comment section below! Also, stay tuned for next week when it is my turn to tackle my debate topic!
Until next time!