The Great Ed. Tech Debate – Is technology a force for equity in society?

This week’s debate was definitely an interesting one – though that may be subjective as I was one of this week’s debaters. This week Ryan and I debated the statement: Is technology a force for equity in society? Ryan took the pro side meanwhile I debated the con side. Prior to our debate, the class took the vote and these were our results. As you can see, our results were almost split down the middle, so I knew I had some persuading to do.

The Pro Side:

Ryan did a good job during his video as he examined how technology helps individuals with exceptionalities, creates an opportunity to connect those from around the world, and gives youth a voice. Ryan expresses how technology can improve daily life and functioning. For example, Ryan discussed how Stephen Hawking’s life was improved through the use of speech generating technology. This is an excellent example as it examines how technology has been used to provide individuals with exceptionalities with opportunities to participate in society in a more equitable manner. This article, shared by Ryan, explores how different technologies that are being used to improve the functioning of individuals with exceptionalities daily life. Ryan shared how, when done right, individuals can empower students in developing countries or in refugee camps (as stated in his video) and supported in this article. Ryan also discusses how technology gives the youth of today a voice and in turns empowers them to discuss their thoughts via social media. Ryan also shared this article, that discussed how the use of technology gives adolescents the ability to engage in the world around them and can become a participatory citizen.

Counter Argument:

After listening to Ryan’s video, having our debate, and engaging with our assigned readings I was left pondering some burning questions:

  • What youth are you empowering through the use of technology? Who gets a voice as well as the right to participate?
  • Are their bigger issues other than the implementation of technology in developing countries or refugee camps?
  • How does using technology create equity in society for individuals who have exceptionalities if they can’t afford it? (This was brought up by a classmate in our debate and I felt it was important to include here)

There are no easy answers for these questions, but ultimately are things to consider when thinking about this weeks debate.

The Con Side:

During my video, I examined the following: the digital divide, access, digital equity, and digital inclusion. The digital divide refers to the gap in who has access to technology and who does not. As you can imagine, that leaves a wide array of experiences in the classroom. For example, those who have had more opportunities to be exposed to technology may be more technologically literate whereas those with less experience may fall behind. On page eight of this article, the author discusses how low-income and minority students are some of the most affected as well as this article identifies low-income and rural students to be at risk. One might ask the reason why, and the answer is simple, technology costs. Not only is there the initial purchase cost of technology (whether it be a phone, tablet, computer, etc.), but there is constant upkeep such as the cost to maintain these devices as well as the price of internet connection. For some families, this just isn’t realistic or sustainable. This is where I think it becomes crucial that individuals recognize the position of privilege they hold in society; some families have to make the choice between buying groceries or paying bills, so it is not unreasonable that technology isn’t in the picture. This is where our debate turned to look towards the concept of techno-colonialism and the issues that have risen around the globe.  Justin Reach examines part of this conversation in a video, by discussing how technology has become a civil rights issue of the 21st century and uses the example of how funds are distributed inequitably between schools low and high-income schools. Why is there such inequity between the opportunity to take part in learning at school? In Mark Barnett’s TEDx Talk, he explains how the Maker Movement is making its way into schools, but he too identifies that there are areas where schools have little to no access to technology whereas other schools do. Why are some students using sewing needles as there technology where other students are coding or using 3D printers? But this issue is much bigger than whether or not everyone has access to technology, as the problem would not be solved by giving an iPad to every student (Katia shared a similar example during our debate). I think this becomes an issue of ethical consideration. Should the implementation of providing access to technology take priority in today’s society meanwhile there are many individuals living in third world conditions?

wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

As Lauren, mentions in her blog post, I think that technology is one of the puzzle pieces that contribute to striving for an equitable society; however, I do not think that technology can achieve that on its own.

 

Conclusion:

Overall, there are many factors to consider when examining this debate; which makes it so difficult to choose a side. Even after having this debate, I am still thinking of topics that can be brought into consideration with regards to how this debate is approached.  As a classmate, Cody, has shared via Twitter this debate is a lot to think about.

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