Technology: a force to be reckoned with

This was a very interesting, and somehow perfect debate to end our classes with. Before class, I watched this video that Alec shared on the weekly schedule:

Daphne Koller, a professor at Stanford University, begins her discussion by raising some very startling points. She told the story of a mother in South Africa that was stampeded while standing in line to register her child for university. She talked of college tuition in the U.S. rising 559% since 1985 (the year I was born). In my lifetime, the cost of tuition has risen at a rate that now makes education impossible to afford for most families. These alarming facts led into the main topic of her conversation: free quality post-secondary education.

Daphne co-founded Coursera which allows professors to offer online university courses to anybody in the world. In it’s early phases, they had they were already offering 43 courses from 4 different universities. She explained how this met the needs of people like Ryan, a father who’s daughter has an immune disease and makes it too risky to leave his home. He was able to take classes online without risking his daughter’s health. She explains,

When you move away from the physical constraints of a classroom and design content explicitly for an online format […] this allows us to break away from the one-size-fits-all equation and allows students to follow a much more personalized curriculum. – Daphne Koller

Daphne explains that if we could offer top quality education for free to everyone around the world it would do three things:

  1. Establish education as a fundamental human right
  2. It would enable lifelong learning
  3. It would enable a wave of innovation and “Maybe the next Albert Einstein or the next Steve Jobs is living in a remote village in Africa” – Daphne Koller

After watching this video, I felt very strongly that YES, I agree, technology is a force for equity. Technology has been called a

“game-changer in the field of education – a game-changer we desperately need to improve achievement for all and increase equity for children and communities who have been historically underserved.”

 

I was almost feeling confident FOR Team Agree going into the debate. In my head, I was thinking “Yes! Jen, Dawn, and Sapna, you’ve got this in the bag!” and they came out very strong with their opening statement. Little did I know, that Rakan and Amy were out for blood! Dannnnnnnng. They made some really excellent points in their opening statement. So, there I was, once again, dazed and confused about where I stood in the weekly debate. As someone incredible passionate about social justice issues, I could not deny that Team Disagree was swaying my opinion. I decided that I needed to explore this topic further so that I could have a more well-rounded view of the issue. I found that Benetech made an excellence argument towards the inequitable side of technology stating,

“In the rush to get market share and to guarantee return on investment, we see too many technologies that leave too many students behind—particularly students with disabilities, who could perhaps benefit most from technological innovation. For example, popular software features such as drag-and-drop interfaces and 3D animations are often inaccessible to students with disabilities. “We’ll include accessibility in the next version,” is a statement we hear all too often. Yet, given the cost to retrofit accessibility, that is a no-win proposition.” (2015)

In regards to whether technology is or can be a force for equity within our classrooms, Daniel restated four excellent questions to ask yourself when it comes to technology in education: 1) What does it do? 2) Is that a good thing to do? 3) What does it cost? and 4)What do people think about this?

Although the arguments that Rakan and Amy provided do in fact make me question how technology is in fact perpetuating things like racism and sexism, and can definitely be used as an inequitable force to separate us, I believe that we can take this knowledge and truly change it to become an equitable force that brings us together.

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Photo credit

 

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7 thoughts on “Technology: a force to be reckoned with

  1. Dazed and confused… now I get how to describe how I was feeling after that one this week! I think this was the first time all semester where I have truly wavered over where I sit. Just when I think the agree side has me hooked, I can appreciate points made by the disagree team. Reflective thought makes for good practice right? I have to agree with you, through knowledge and informed practice we can harness the equitable attributes of technology and use it to benefit us in all aspects of education and our everyday lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great blog, Kari! I also watched the Daphne Koller video before class and was inspired by the connectivity that technology can provide to the world.
    However, when Alec showed us the pictures of the impoverished children in developing countries with a computer tablet, I was reminded about a video that we watched In Dr. Marc Spooner’s class about Bhutan and another about Ladakh. Bhutan is a country that ranks number one on the Happiness Index and does not rely on technology to provide opportunity for its citizens. While they live simple farming lives, they also are self sufficient and obviously meet most criteria for a happy society. Recently, youth from Ladakh, which is near Bhutan, have been enticed to leave their remote communities and go to larger cities due to the lure of capitalism. Technology is partly the reason they are leaving, as the media has portrayed a life of utopia beyond their ancient communities. Unfortunately, many young adults are not finding employment in the cities and therefore technological media has failed them. They are struggling to make a living in a more technologically advanced world, but do not want to go back to their more simple lives in the country. I think that the stories of these people demonstrate how we have to be very cognizant about whose values are being projected on a society before we assume that technology will bridge the gaps in equity.
    We certainly have a messy job in education wading through supposed advancement and ethical implementation of such.
    Thanks for your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shelly, I completely understand where you’re coming from. As you mentioned, the lure of capitalism, along with colonialism around the world has a very negative effect on communities such as the one you mentioned. When I spent time in Guyana two summers ago I flew into a rural village in the middle of the rainforest. I met some of the happiest most peaceful people I’ve ever encountered, and they are living without TV/technology. I think a big part of it is about respecting them for their ways of life and not trying to change them. When I showed my friend from Ethiopia the article about giving each kid a laptop he just shook his head. He said that is the last thing they need and is only going to lead to problems. Thanks for your comment, this is such an important conversation and I really only hit a few points out of the large debate in this blog!

      Liked by 1 person

    • This sounds like an awesome class with Marc, I wish I would have had the chance to take it! I’m intrigued by the story out of Ladakh, and it is quite heartbreaking to see and you make a great point in stating “we have to be very cognizant about whose values are being projected on a society before we assume that technology will bridge the gaps in equity”. Sometimes we don’t know what is best for others!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Learning, Technology & Equity – It Can Work! – Think, Ask & Reflect

  4. This is such a tough debate topic! I feel that my perspective shifted from the agree side to the disagree side after the debate. I feel that there are so many inequalities in our world today and tech inaccessibility and misused purposes are perpetuating some of these. I do feel though that it is the people behind the tech that are the issue and not the tech itself. It goes back to the importance of excellent educators and informed leaders and using tech intentionally and purposefully to create positive changes in the world.

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    • I agree Esther, I was definitely gravitating towards the disagree side of the debate at the end of it too. Especially when they spoke about how the tech is actually learning stereotypes and is actually perpetuating the racism. It is kind of mind-blowing. But you’re right, it’s not the tech’s fault, it is the people behind the tech. How do we go about changing something like this!?

      Like

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