As part of this debate’s team on the disagree side, I felt very certain of my position from the get-go. I chose this topic because I feel strongly about the lack of equity that technology provides and the ways in which it actually perpetuates inequity among students in the classroom. However, reflecting more deeply and thoughtfully on this topic post-debate, taking into consideration what the agree side had to say (excellent job, btw!), I once again find myself questioning the rigidity of my previous stance.
As stated by Amundson and Ko in this article, “[t]he shift to remote learning was a blow to many students who were already vulnerable, particularly students of color and low-income children and youth” (2021, p. 14). I strongly agree with this statement because I witnessed it first-hand. The most vulnerable students in my class were the ones who openly admitted that school was the place they felt safest. Remote learning ripped this away from them and attempted to mimic the classroom setting digitally. Unfortunately, the home life of many students does not support an adequate learning environment, or more importantly, an environment that provides safety and security of basic physical and emotional needs. Of course, it’s not technology’s fault that we were hit with a life-changing event; the pandemic could have arguably yielded even more detrimental results without technological intervention (mass production of PPE, vaccine development, etc.). But did technology, in this particular scenario, lead to a more equitable society for our students? No, I don’t believe so.
On the other hand is the question-what, then, is the alternative? What if technology was not available to make remote learning and digital classrooms possible? In the article, Amundson and Ko go on to talk about how technology makes it significantly easier to differentiate instruction and tasks, access professional development, streamline assessment, and share work with other educators (2021, p. 16). In this regard, from a teaching perspective, technology has certainly supported equity. The access technology provides to, well, everything, gives anyone with internet and a device a gateway to everything in the public cyber-sphere. Hypothetically, this should shrink the gap to nothing and, given everyone has digital access, equity shouldn’t be an issue. But this is not the case.
As argued by Tracy, Nicole, and Stephen in their intro video, technology has led to more equity for individuals with disabilities, increased access universally, diversified learning opportunities, and is not solely responsible for maintaining the achievement gap. These points were extremely well-argued and I found it difficult to disagree with them. I’m not sure anyone could say that a technological device that allows a child to communicate, when they otherwise couldn’t, has not led to more equity.
Somewhat of a tangent here, but during the early lockdown days of the pandemic, I was home with my 4-month-old. I was lucky to be able to introduce her to many family members and friends prior to social-distancing protocols and household gathering restrictions, but soon window visits and video chats would have to do. I think about my 88-year-old grandmother who lives in an apartment for seniors and is not very mobile herself. Without her iPad and the ability for me to send her pictures and videos of my daughter, she would not have been able to see June grow over the first year and a half of her life. I had conversations with many others who had similar experiences with grandparents and elderly relatives during this time. In this case, technology helped decrease an equity gap related to age and ability.
The conundrum of whether or not technology has led to a more equitable society can be summed up in this statement (full article here) by Matt Jenner: “too many exclusions still block the fundamental right of access to education” (2021). The major exclusions that prevent equity are not ones we can fix through the use of technology. The structural inequalities embedded deep in the fabric of society naturally permeate into all the worlds created by human hands and minds, including the digital world. It’s daunting to think about what we can even do to address the root of the problem. Perhaps a first and important step is recognizing that while providing universal digital and physical access to technology creates opportunity equity, it is not a replacement for the work that is needed to fix much larger societal inequities.
Final stance? Technology has not led to a more equitable society…at least not yet. But, alongside other interventions, it could help.