The concept of an equitable society is one that the education sector strives to embrace while fully understanding that at times it can be unattainable in certain circumstances. “Equity [can be defined as] just and fair inclusion; an equitable society is one in which all can participate and prosper. [Furthermore], the goals of equity must be to create conditions that allow all to reach their full potential” (Natural Resources Defense Council, 2019). I believe that all educators have a common goal to try to attain an equitable society that is free from oppression and discrimination. Therein lies the challenge of schools trying to overcome “ the prejudice and discrimination of one social group against another [that is] backed by institutional power [which allows] oppression [to take place where] one group is able to enforce its prejudice and discrimination throughout society because it controls the institutions” (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2017, p. 61). As educators, we are constantly looking for tools that can lead us to a more equitable society where all students can flourish and reach their full potential and this week’s debate encouraged us to consider the role that technology plays regarding equity within education. As with most of the debates presented in class up to this point, I can appreciate both sides of this argument. On the one hand, I can understand that for many individuals educational technologies have allowed for equity to take place within the classroom while for others technology has further enhanced the educational technology gap among students.
For starters, I am fortunate to work at a school that houses a Junior and Senior FIAP (The Functional Integrated Academic Program) program. The programming and instruction of our FIAP programs are quite different from our other classrooms in the school. The needs of our FIAP students are diverse and each has a unique plan – based on their needs – in place to ensure that they can be successful at school. For instance, I have witnessed how technology can assist nonverbal students to communicate in a class setting and partake in daily activities. I have also observed how students with visual impairments have used a braille reading system at school to follow along in classroom activities and used applications to read instructions/stories to them. Furthermore, I am lucky to work at a school that values the use of technology at school and hence, we have different educational technology available to teachers and students because of this stance regarding technology in the classroom. We have a couple of computer carts and an iPad cart that staff can sign out and use daily if they want to as well as a few smartboards spread out throughout the school. These technology carts are a nice tool to have when students have work periods and it allows students to complete different assignments at school if they do not have access to technology at home. There is no doubt in my mind that if we were to ask teachers that have used some of the aforementioned educational technology to enhance their students’ experience at school, they would all express that educational technology has brought forth equity in some capacity to their students’ learning.
While it is a great thing to underline all the opportunities educational technology can grant our students, it is also important to take note of the different instances where technology might be unbalancing the “education playing field” for our students. Teaching virtually during the pandemic confirmed the current problem we have concerning the digital learning gap and highlighted various inequalities within our classrooms. When we were pushed to teach online during the pandemic, we became aware that not all students had access to the same technology which causes inequity when being asked to complete assignments online and to participate in virtual meetings on Zoom or Google Meet. Many of our younger students were not always able to log on to virtual meetings if their caregivers were not present to help them maneuver all the technology they were being asked to use and many did not always complete the assignments. Not to mention, all students do not always have access to the internet when they are at home and we need to understand that socioeconomic status can play a role in accessibility to the internet as well. Additionally, Bruce explains that “while socioeconomic status and race play a role in a child’s ability to access the internet at home, so does location. When household income is held constant, students who live in rural areas are less likely to have internet access than students who live in urban areas” (2020). I can not deny that there is indeed an educational technology gap that seems to be present in schools and it is important that educators contemplate this issue when incorporating technology into their teaching to ensure all their students have a quality education founded on equity for all.
It is crucial to consider what could hinder achieving equity in the classroom so that we can identify these inequalities and begin to bridge the educational technology gap. I do not believe that this will be an easy fix seeing as we have huge issues that affect equity in the classroom that is deep-rooted in the institution of education. To truly free ourselves from oppressive tendencies in education and level the playing field for all students we would have to dismantle the institution of education as a whole and build it back up. Bruce proposes the following suggestion to aid in bridging the educational technology gap: “the goal of providing everyone with an equal, high-level education cannot occur within the current system. The root of the issue lies in the need for a foundational educational reform nationwide. Everyone deserves a fair chance at educational success, and the only way to achieve this for all students is by reforming educational institutions from the ground up” (2020). Reforming educational institutions from the ground up might take some time, but there are steps educators can take to try to bridge the educational technological gap in the meantime. We could try the following to help develop digital equity within our classroom: 1) understand our current students’ tech capabilities and concerns; 2) try out new apps and platforms before having students use them for assignments/homework; 3) create a tech equity vision with students; and 4) reconsider homework policies that deal with technology (Common Sense Education, 2019). I also believe that consistency among classrooms within a school could be beneficial when establishing policies linked to the use of technology and that collaborating with colleagues or simply just having a dialogue to ensure that all our students are receiving the same information will be helpful to create digital equity within a school. For example, in our primary classrooms, we have decided to use three literacy-based applications with our students and have ensured to create accounts for all our students to these platforms that are used in class and can be used at home as well. All primary teachers have tried out these applications to help troubleshoot in the future and to make sure that they are user-friendly for students with minimal glitches. It is also very helpful that we have a schoolwide digital policy that we send home at the beginning of the year and parents as well as their children have to sign it before having access to the technology that is available at school. I am in no way saying we can fix the digital equity problem at present with these few suggestions. I am simply looking for different opportunities to try to bring digital equity into my classroom and to create meaningful learning opportunities for my students that are growing up in a digital age surrounded by endless amounts of technology.