The words equality and equity are often used interchangeably. Some might argue that equity is everyone getting the ‘same’ and another might say that it is making sure individuals get what they ‘need’ so as to equalize the playing field. Naturally there are conflicting opinions in the area of technology as well. Is technology equal or equitable in our world?
I agree with many of the points raised to defend how technology could lead to greater educational equity worldwide. Sending a ‘digital classroom in a box‘ to areas in need is a great idea but it seems to be a ‘limited’ solution. A doctor visit via ‘robot‘ is fascinating and Ivar Mendez explains how this technology allows patients to receive medical diagnoses from afar. Speaking to a doctor who is not physically present is better than not being able to see one at all. Of course there are advantages and yet…
One thing I really love about this class, is how it makes me look at my beliefs – and challenge them. This has been echoed by my classmates already. I find that often I start off thinking one way – and then, with information that is placed before me, I can also agree with the other side and realize I am of ‘many minds’ about given topics.
I know that technology is not available to everyone and thus seems unfair, but when I listen to how Daphne Koller describes the benefits of free online education – I am swayed. After all, which student would not benefit from opportunity for interactive learning and personal feedback. If the opportunities she describes (free online education, ongoing learning, and waves of innovation) are accessible to all – it sounds like a technological ‘utopia’.
Then… I listen to videos and read articles talking about the ‘digital divide’. I find myself persuaded to agree with how educational technology does not create equity. Even when we do offer free education, often disadvantaged students may not even know what to do with it. Also, the Matthew Effect points to the ‘tendency for early advantages to multiply over time. The article Educational Technology Isn’t Leveling the Playing Field, explains how children who struggle early often end up in a ‘dispiriting downward spiral’. Low-income neighborhood children are more likely to use computers for drill and practice, and rich background children are more likely to know how to ‘google’ information in order to make it work for them.
I watched an interesting TED Talk about the digital divide (see below). In it, Aleph Molinari talks about an alternative to the ‘One Laptop Per Child‘ initiative. There has been a Learning Innovative Network created in Mexico that has created a ‘learning network’ (RIA) in a needy community, which he refers to as ‘urban acupuncture’. The digital learning community sets up a space (out of entirely recycled materials) where they can meet the communication needs of the community. They have human connections available to bridge the process. They teach learners about a computer, the internet, and software. They also provide the training to those that are doing the teaching. Molinari’s overall message it ‘let’s use human energy to make the world a better place’.
So, as seems to happen each week, I am left in the middle, (no definitive decision). Actually, I think that is a good thing. It attests to the fact that in these weekly debates, the teams are doing a good job of presenting their opposing arguments. Well done classmates !