I thought I knew where I stood on this topic heading into the debate this week. My opinion was based on past experiences but I quickly realized there was so much more to consider.
Presenting the agree side, Kalyn and Nataly explained that technology as provides people with greater access to information, allows us to personalize learning, and helps students with disabilities. The most powerful quote that I feel was presented on the agree side was, “technology makes things easier but for students with disabilities it makes things possible”. Assistive technology does eliminate barriers for students, whether it be physical or learning disabilities.
I stated that I have seen middle years students be able to do what their peers are doing with technology as the fear of others finding out what they cannot do is eliminated. I believe this. Technology can level the playing field. However, it depends on how it is implemented. My school division has a process where applications can be made for assistive technology when a student is identified as having a need. For the most part it is a relatively smooth process and not often denied. I fully agree and have seen how this can do the opposite. It can create a divide as no one wants to be different. If one student is the only one using a computer then it definitely draws attention to them, exactly opposite of what the intentions were.
I am not new to the idea of presenting something to an entire class in order to target needs of specific students. I taught a class how to use the many tools in Google Read&Write as one student in particular need to rely on it. Not only did it introduce everyone to the features but also erased the stigma of having to use something. The one student suddenly saw how classmates were just as excited to use the tool. What I wasn’t familiar with was the Universal Design for Learning. This is something I am going to learn more about.
The article EdTech and the Promise of Quality Education For All shares the belief of the Universal Design. Specifically it states “To make inclusive education a reality, however, students with disabilities must be considered in the design requirements of any new education technology”. This is so important. While there is a need to create technology to target specific needs, it is just as important that technology is designed for all students. “We see too many technologies that leave too many students behind—particularly students with disabilities, who could perhaps benefit most from technological innovation”.
Countering on the disagree side, Victoria and Jasmine presented the topics of the digital divide, techno-colonialism, and non-neutrality of technology. Their points really got me thinking. The digital divide is no longer just about access to devices but also access to connectivity and skills. I feel this has been put under a microscope with our remote teaching. While school divisions handed out devices that did not solve all of the problems. To hear that families have had to drive to locations to pick up a WiFi connection so students could complete their work while others can access what they need from the comfort of their couch demonstrates the lack of equity. There are also many families that have not been able to take part because they don’t have a device, don’t have the internet, or don’t have the skills to use the devices. That is not equity.
While the remaining months of this school year have been supplemental learning, what will we do if we need to continue remote learning in the fall? Learning can no longer be optional but how will the inequities be addressed? Is this something that the education sector alone can deal with?
I end the second debate agreeing with points on both sides. I don’t know that I can say I fully agree or disagree. I am enjoying this process as these debates and topics are challenging me to think about my own experiences and opinions.