The dictionary defines equity as “the quality of being fair and impartial”. Kalyn and Nataly argued that technology is a force for equity in our society, while Victoria and Jasmine took a stance against this. Both sides brought up great points to argue both sides of this broad, deep topic. This debate went beyond just equity in education but also in our society. Many questions were raised during this debate allowing me to see both sides of the topic. This subject is very relevant in the world we live in today. The digital divide is a discussion among educators and professionals around the world as online learning is implemented.
Many great points were brought up from both sides. Many argue that internet access should be a basic need in our society. This doesn’t mean the devices are all equal. Many students are experiencing difficulties doing online school because their device is not new. They have access to the internet and to online learning but it looks different per household and device. I have had many families tell me certain lessons don’t work on their old tablets, iPads or computers and make their child very frustrated. This is the only device they may have at home, but it is not able to help them in their online learning. The article provided by Nataly and Kalyn, How Access to Technology Can Create Equity in Schools, states the three ways technology can increase equity in schools is “1. Students can access learning materials outside of school, 2. Students and educators have more tools to create a learning environment that fosters personalized learning, and 3. Educators and district leaders can use data to make informed decisions.” I know this is not always possible in our schools and our society. It is a good theory but not always practical or the reality of education.
A discussion that came up regarding assistive technology in schools is that it creates inclusion. We see many students being able to be in mainstream classrooms because they have technology to help them learn among their peers. But on the other side there can be many obstacles to get this technology implemented into the classroom. Some students may be on a waiting list to get proper technology to assist them in their learning for a long period of time. This provides a gap as they struggle to wait for technology to help them learn and show their learning. I see many students slip through the cracks because their learning needs are not as visible as others. We also discussed having this assistive technology can point out differences in kids and create bullying or students not understanding why one kid gets an iPad and another doesn’t. These students learning needs may stick out among the classroom and this student may feel embarrassed that they have assistive technology and others don’t need it. On one hand it gives them confidence and on the other it points out their differences. You may also argue that this is a good thing for students to celebrate differences and understand that we all need different tools to learn. Some students may need more than others and that is okay. There can be many ‘teachable moments’ during this time. The school I work in believes in kindness, fairness and respect as their motto. These three values are talked about at every assembly and on morning announcements. They are posted in every classroom and in the hallways. The discussion of fairness often leads to equality. Is fairness the same as equality? Fairness does not always equal equality. What is fair doesn’t always look equal. These are discussions I like to have in my classroom. I believe these are important conversations to start at a young age. Students may see a child with a device in the classroom and say ‘that’s not fair’. This gives us the opportunity to have conversations about equity and the needs of each learner. Our students will experience this for the rest of their lives and I argue it’s never to early to help them understand this value. We can celebrate each other’s differences and learn that everyone needs different things to be successful.
Reading one of the articles provided by Victoria and Jasmine Should schools teach anyone who can get online – or no one at all? had me nodding and agreeing with many of the points presented. “Expanding e-learning district wide raises thorny questions about digital equity and access, especially for students with disabilities, children living in poverty and those who are homeless. This has forced school leaders to ask, “If we can’t teach every student equitably, should we be teaching any at all?”” This quote stuck out to me and goes with what I had discussed previously. We are seeing many students not accessing online learning and falling behind because they lack technology or the supports around them to do online learning. This, again is a very big topic that I could go on and on about but will leave the idea here to allow you to ponder more about it. All educators are experiencing online learning differently depending on the school, community, district, country, etc that they work in. There are many factors that are affecting equity in our society and education right now.
The discussions we have within the debates always lead to more resources and tools. I am very appreciative of this learning that takes place. I learned about two new models that I had never heard of previously. Universal Design Learning (UDL) is a method used to give all students equal opportunity for success in learning. Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) is a model that helps with instruction for EAL students. Reading Daina’s blog, I got to learn more about these two models. I believe these approaches are beneficial for all learners in our classrooms, not just struggling or EAL students. I will look into these models more and see what I can implement in my instruction.
I feel like this could be a very long post diving deep into this heavy topic but I will keep it short and sweet with my thoughts that were provoked after hearing the debate and reading the articles.
Until next time!