The Great EdTech Debate – Round Two! Has Technology Led to A More Equitable Society?

Open the whole world for yourself

A fantastic effort put forth by both debate teams on a very controversial topic today in education, has technology led to a more equitable society? Even though I already had my mind set coming into the debate on the disagree side, therefore siding with Christina, Amaya and Matthew. It goes without saying that the agree team of Tracy, Nicole W., and Stephen still made several valid points to argue their side as well.

Technology has led to a more equitable society. *Agree*

Enhanced Supports: With the advancement of technology, there are now better supports for those living with a disability such as wheelchairs, hearing aids and assistive computer software. Over the course of my time teaching Kindergarten, I have had a few students in my class that have been diagnosed with a hearing impairment and therefore use hearing aids. In addition to this, I was also then provided with an FM system to use while I was teaching. This allowed for these particular students to be able to hear me more clearly as well. Without this assistive technology, the inclusion in the classroom would not have been possible for these students and most likely they would have been placed in a specialized program elsewhere.

Global Education and Flexibility: Technology has increased access to education globally where students across the world have much better access to the education that they so desire; education and learning is no longer location dependent. Additionally, when accessing education through technology rather than in person, it often allows the student the opportunity to learn at their own pace or take part in more of a hybrid model learning experience. Even though my students were still central to Saskatchewan during the pandemic of online learning at home, it allowed the students and their families to access the remote learning program at a time that was most convenient for them. A lot of my student families were still working full time during the day, but with the flexibility that remote learning provided, they were then able to support their child’s learning program in the evenings or on weekends. The feedback I gathered from families during this time was that they really appreciated the flexibility of the online learning program and that they were able to organize school learning around their home life schedule rather than what it was before, which of course was organizing their home life schedule around school learning.

Technology Supports the Workplace: Kymberly in her Ted Talk shares an inspiring story about a man named John who is in a wheelchair, is non-verbal and uses a communication device that is connected to his wheelchair. He is a greeter at the front entryway of a store and Kymberly describes that John has the most fantastic smile. To greet the customers at the store, John simply presses a button on his communication device which then says, “Hello my name is John, welcome to Panera!” John loves his job and with time, he helps to increase sales at the store for the one afternoon that he works there a week, he truly is making a difference and feels that sense of belonging. This would not be possible for John without the use of his supportive tech devices. As Kymberly quotes, “technology helps level the playing field.”

Technology has led to a more equitable society. *Disagree*

Inequity Gap: Access to technology and the internet for many people is a real issue and this was a harsh reality that families faced during remote learning at home during the pandemic. While more prominent schools, middle to upper class communities were concerned about how to navigate online learning from home, so many other communities were dealing with the concerns of how they were going to find food that day for their families. I used to teach Kindergarten in the North Central community of Regina, and our school was a huge provider of food and clothing for our students and their families. When schools closed down during the pandemic, the staff at the schools in the North Central community were not solely focused on developing online learning activities for their students at home. Rather, they knew they needed to put together clothing and food hampers to deliver to the students and their families, because this is what they needed in that moment of time more than anything. No matter how much technology continues to advance with time, low socioeconomic students and their families will continue to not have access to technology resources or the internet. As stated above, they have bigger things to worry about. Therefore, the inequity gap, the digital divide, unfortunately will only continue to widen, and in the end leaving so many behind.

An apple on a dry cracked desert soil. Water shortage, food insecurity, crisis, hunger and agriculture concept.

Access to Technology and the Internet: One of the data comparisons stated in the disagree groups debate video was that 43.2% of people in Africa have internet access and that 93.9% of people in North America have internet access. What is so alarming about this, is the fact that Africa makes up 17.6% of the worlds population and North America only makes up for 4.7% of the worlds population. How are people that are living in these third world countries such as Africa supposed to benefit from online global education when they do not even have access to the internet?

Lack of Funding: Schools lack the funding to provide an equal amount of devices to all students. For example, I have two separate Kindergarten classes, one class with seventeen students and the other with fifteen students, a total of thirty-two students plus one teacher and one educational assistant. For our entire Kindergarten class, we have been provided with two iPads, therefore forcing both the educators and students to share the devices. As an educator, this has prevented me from being able to incorporate technology into my classroom more, simply because we have such little access to these essential resources. Additionally, this school year I have a non-verbal student that requires an iPad to communicate through our school Speech and Language Program. However, because there is such a shortage of funding in this area, my student was only able to use the iPad for one month in the classroom before it had to be sent off to another school for another student to use. When I inquired about ordering an iPad that we could keep at the school to support this particular student, I was told that it would take close to one year to acquire.

Final Thoughts

As educators, we can no longer ignore the digital divide that consists of the access to technology and the internet for our students, especially through the experiences of the pandemic and remote learning from home. As Weeden and Kelly (2021) describe, “Ensuring everyone has access to high-quality, affordable, high-speed broadband internet is a matter of equity.” Within communities that do not have the same access to technology and the internet, such as North Central Regina where I previously taught, these communities will continue “to be limited by a lack of education,” (Weeden & Kelly, 2021). Until significant changes are made both locally and globally, we will continue to live within a society where technology does not equal equity.

Thanks for reading and stopping by!

8 Replies to “The Great EdTech Debate – Round Two! Has Technology Led to A More Equitable Society?”

  1. Kimberly Kipp says: Reply

    Great post, Alyssa. You did an excellent job show the validity of both sides. It really was a well-done debate, and I felt myself flip-flopping continuously. It sounds like our pandemic school situations were very similar – focused on family supports before online learning. In your area, I was just wondering about the percentage of your division’s students who continued online, or (like at my school) families whose whereabouts continue to be unknown. Also, the majority of my school tech comes by way of Jordan’s Principle. What services do you access? I agree – waiting a year more is difficult when you know how greatly your student(s) will benefit from the tech. Best wishes!

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hi Kimberly!
      Thank you so much for reading my blog and for your kind comments, I am glad you enjoyed it! I was no longer teaching in North Central Regina during the time of the pandemic, but I had stayed connected with several of my former colleagues that were still there during that time. Therefore, I am not too sure of the percentage of students who continued online, but I know that it has been a very similar and sad situation that many students and their families can no longer be located. 🙁 I am so sorry to hear that you and your school have very much the same experience.
      Considering that I still currently teach at a community school in Regina, I have continued to use Jordan’s Principle as a great support for our students and their families. Primarily we have connected families with students that are in need of additional speech therapy, hearing/eyes tested, and of course tech support for learning at home during the pandemic too.
      I can hear and feel your passion for the communities that you teach at in North Battleford, I very much admire you for that! Your students and their families are very lucky to have such a remarkable teacher that truly makes a difference!

  2. Fasiha Taha says: Reply

    Thank you for sharing your insightful tech bog, Alyssa. I agree with you regarding the digital divide. The digital divide has established a new distinction in society that has had a significant impact on people’s everyday operations and livelihoods all across the globe. The ability to completely access the internet is causing today’s disparities and inequality in various professions. So you are right, to make a more equitable society led by technology, it is essential to make significant changes both locally and globally.

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hello Fasiha!
      Thank you for your support and insightful comments about my blog post and the topic of the digital divide.
      I do feel that as a society we have become very dependent on technology, and currently with the school division that I teach for here in Regina, we are experiencing a full blown cyber attack as of the last week that has taken both staff and students of the division completely offline. It is now extremely difficult to continue our teaching in the classroom sufficiently, without access to the internet or our tech resources. It now begs the question, in our profession as educators, have we become too dependent on technology?

  3. Kelly Ziegler says: Reply

    Again, well done Alyssa! I too think that the digital divide is only increasing, and we witnessed this especially during pandemic teaching. Unfortunately, even for families that have limited access to technology, the WIFI (good WIFI to boot) can be very costly, and limiting for those families that do not have the means to enjoy it in their own homes. I think too often we assume that students know how to use the technology that is given to them to use in schools, but we also forget that with technology comes teaching, and we cannot assume that they know how to use technology properly or while being “good digital citizens” either. Even though technology has done some pretty incredible things, I do not think that it is equitable in any sense of the word. Thanks again for such a well written post. Some good food for thought!

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hi Kelly!
      You are totally just boosting me up over here with your kind comments again, thank you so much and thank you as well for taking the time to read my blog post! 🙂
      I completely agree with your statement about the fact that we cannot assume that our students know how to properly use technology. In todays world, teaching digital citizenship is crucial!
      I feel that perhaps as educators and as adults, and because we are so well versed on how to use tech ourselves, for quite some time now, that we then sometimes just assume that for our kids and students as well. Not to mention the fact that children and our students often use technology in a much different way than we do as adults, accessing apps that perhaps we are not even aware of. With the use of technology comes a lot of great teaching opportunities and teachable moments in the classroom!

  4. Megan Henrion says: Reply

    Great post! I really appreciate the personal examples you included. It really helped me reflect on both sides of this debate. I recognize that technology has definitely given people so many opportunities for a better life. However, the gap becomes wider for those without access to technology. Awesome summary of the debate!

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hi Megan!
      Thank you so much for your kind comments and for taking the time to read my blog post! 🙂
      I agree with you and I do believe that no matter how much technology will continue to advance with time, there will always be people that will not have access to the supports and benefits of technology. Therefore, the inequity gap will only continue to widen.
      Technology can have so many benefits for so many people, but sadly it can also be a deficit for people as well.

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