This past week, I participated in my first debate. My partner, Ainsley and I argued the point that technology is NOT a force for equity in society. Feeling nervous about delivering a five minute opening statement (interesting how that works, given that we are all teachers and do this all the time in real life), we decided to make a video to share our initial arguments.
The other team delivered some great arguments about all of the opportunities that technology provides for leveling the playing field in society — robotic healthcare, assistive technology, and online education opportunities. Improved medical help, technology to assist in overcoming barriers to education, and free access to university level courses are great! All of these things are positive additions to society and will be amazing assets for many people. But our argument was that these (and other) technologies do not help EVERYONE and that given the definition of equity, cannot be considered forces for equity in society.
We reinforced our side by arguing that:
- Technology does not improve access to education for everyone.
- Technology does not make education inclusive for all students with disabilities.
- Technology does not narrow the achievement gap.
The two most important points from our argument were:
- Access to technology is something that falls in the hands of the privileged. Location, socio-economic status, language, and ability all play a role in creating this access. Therefore, although there may be technologies that can help work towards equity in education, not all people benefit from them.
- The Digital Matthew Effect, explained here: Open Educational Resources Expand Educational Inequalities suggests that even though most people are able to benefit from technological advances, it is those that are most privileged in society who tend to benefit the most. Essentially it is suggesting not that technology does not benefit the disadvantaged — in fact, it DOES for the most part — but the affluent tend to benefit more. The disadvantaged do benefit, but because the privileged benefit more, the gap only increases.
We wrapped up the debate with a pre-recorded closing statement. Here it is:
As a final thought…
Is technology a force for equity in society?
No. As my classmate Jeremy concluded, “while technology certainly is working towards creating an equity that didn’t exist in the past, we still have a long way to go before assuming that technology is the catch-all solution to all learning challenges in and out of the classroom.”
But does this mean it should be disregarded as a tool for improving education for our students?
Of course not. The benefits of using technology in the classroom are huge… and yes, they do help improve education for many. It cannot solve all injustices and struggles in our society. But just because it is not a force for equity does not mean that it is not a force for good. We just need to be careful in touting it as a catch-all solution for societies inequities.