This week’s debate had me all over the place. Thinking of the phrase: “technology is a force of equity in society” has many sides and angles to consider and there is not one straight answer: yes or no. I found there was a lot of mixed reviews throughout our debate, and many elaborations for our reasons we think it is or isn’t. For example, yes, technology can be a force of equity because it is creating opportunities where they were limited before or no, it is not a force of equity because there is not equal access around the globe. These types of ideas were incredibly important to our debate this week, and I think through a lot of thinking post-debate, I have established that we may not be there yet, but we are working towards solutions for this inequity.
The agree side this week did a fantastic job opening the floor and I found myself agreeing with all the points that Jen, Dawn and Sapna shared. Their major points included the removal of barriers in education and skills, the use of open education resources creating equality through education, and then focused on the idea that the corporate system is the reason that technology is inaccessible for people in a lower socio-economic status and not the tech itself, and not the tech’s fault itself, showing that the tech isn’t creating inequity, but people by making these devices which have now become a necessity, cost too much money to afford.
The disagree side of Amy S, and Rakan countered well including some important ideas I would have never thought about in my internal debate. Their main ideas circled around tech creating bias, gender abuse, and racism online, as well as digital colonialism and economic inequality.
As a said before, I found myself agreeing with all the points the agree team shared. I see technology remove barriers all the time in the classroom. I actually once saw a two men sitting at Tim Horton’s using their cellphones and a translating app to communicate with their voices and have a real conversation. It made me so happy that technology has been able to reach a point where we can communicate with one another and create friendships with people that do not necessarily share a common language.
As for the classroom, I know I would have been in a real bind if I did not have my technological resources for teaching. I have taught A LOT of different subject matter and without open resources and the World Wide Web, my knowledge would have been much more limited as well as the material for my students would have been much simpler as I would be scrambling for activities and ideas on my own. For example, my first year I taught Law 30. Where did I turn but to the internet to find different ideas and resources to help supplement the material. I even found an activity to look at the laws often broken in different fairy tales and create a trial for the characters. Would I have been able to come up with this idea without technology? No way! It helped make my life less stressful and created equity in a situation where I was at a disadvantage.
There are also many assistive technologies out there to help students including Google Write&Read. Many students struggle with getting their ideas on paper and these types of apps help create an equity in the classroom so they too, can reach the outcomes of other students. However, access to these apps can be difficult if you do not have access to the technology which is what the disagree side countered.
Cost is a major downside to education as well as creating equity in the classroom. And like Amy R. said in her blog this week, Technology should be accessible to everyone because it has become essential to live. It has become a basic human right to be able to access this information and these devices yet corporations will not lower the price on devices, making it difficult for people of a lower socio-economic status to get access. People may argue that there is free access in libraries, and schools, but not everyone has direct access to a building like that. Sunny Freeman’s article states that even in Canada, only 62% of low-income quartile has access to the internet and it is difficult to dispute. Have you ever gone camping in a rural/northern part of Saskatchewan? Little to no internet access or even service exists! So like, the agree group said, we can fix this! We just need to lower the costs on devices, and create more opportunities for access in order to lessen the digital divide felt everywhere in the world, not just Canada.
Daniel also made a great point in his blog this week: “Some affluent people thus think by simply dumping the highest tech in the poorest places in society, inequality will be solved.” This will not solve our problem when there is no education to help those educators or students use the technology and unlock its potential for the classroom and for their future. If we are going to increase technology use in the classroom, we need to also increase the professional development and resources for teachers to USE the technology as well.
I think it is super important that if we are going to increase technology and use programs like One Laptop Per Child, they need to be used appropriately in order to avoid digital colonialism which is what Amy and Rakan hinted at in their opening video. It’s a very thin line between introducing and advancing a third world country and pushing Western beliefs on an already established society. For example, in this article, Facebook is offering free internet to places with low economic status but with a catch.
The following statement is from ‘It’s digital colonialism’: how Facebook’s free internet service has failed its users, and can definitely be considered a negative for what should be a positive movement towards digital inclusion:
“Free Basics is a Facebook-developed mobile app that gives users access to a small selection of data-light websites and services. The websites are stripped of photos and videos and can be browsed without paying for mobile data.
Facebook sees this as an “on-ramp” to using the open internet: by introducing people to a taster of the internet, they will see the value in paying for data, which in turn brings more people online and can help improve their lives.”
The catch is that they cannot access all the internet, only a few select sites and they need to pay more for more access. This in my opinion does not create equity, but increases the divide showing “you can afford this” or “you can’t afford this.” This idea is also restricting language, with the majority options being only in English, and if that’s not a Westernized view/Digital Colonialism, then I don’t know what is!
Dhanaraj “Thakur believes a better solution would be to give low-income groups a limited amount of free data to access the open web” and I agree. Why not? What is the harm? Unless the corporations in charge have a hidden agenda behind enabling these communities with a more Western view.
Another solution to the idea of making education more accessible is Open Education Resources (OERs), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and Virtual Classrooms. Having these types of resources online have created a lot of opportunity for remote classrooms and cities. They may not have the resources physically, but they can access the information online ending the digital divide.
The article, Analysis: How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs to the Arctic shows how students and classrooms in Kotzebue, Alaska are able to still access high-quality materials within budget cuts and limited resources. Layla Bonnot says, “With OER, districts can adapt content to meet their local needs, maximize education budgets, and ensure access to resources and educational rigor. By being able to serve all students — whatever their race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, family background, or family income — OER supports the goal of educational equity.”
Of course, there are still other down-sides that are creating unequitable circumstances like the ideas of gender and racial bias online, and that AI could possibly be racist and learning its racist behaviours from humans, but I hope that we are moving in a positive direction away from these ideas. Lizzie O’Shea stated in her article that technology’s biases are not bad necessarily, as long as we recognize them as such and move towards making these racial and gender roles more neutral.
O’Shea said, “To make the most of this moment, we need to imagine a future without the oppressions of the past. We need to allow women to reach their potential in workplaces where they feel safe and respected. But we also need to look into the black mirror of technology and find the cracks of light shining through.”
And after listening to both sides of the debate, I couldn’t agree more. We are imperfect, so our tech is imperfect too. As long as we recognize our faults, and are trying to work towards solutions, then I think we are accomplishing something. Is technology creating equity in society? In some cases yes, and in some cases no. Technology is not going anywhere, and it is becoming a more crucial part of life and should be demanded by all of society. It has huge potential to create equity in all walks of life, but it is how we go about making sure it is accessible, fair, and neutral to everyone that is the most important part.