This week I’m left feeling frustrated and bit defeated… but some how hopeful all at the same time!? Equality – giving everyone what they need to have opportunities for success- something so fundamental yet so difficult to achieve and understand.
The big debate this week was Technology is a force for equity in society. Agree or disagree? Our debaters Bob and Katherine vs. Ian and Ainsley did a great job with both sides of the argument. After the debate, reading through the articles, reading classmates blogs and struggling with my personal beliefs I have a lot to sort out before I can come to a decision.
Education is powerful. Many say it has the power to change the world yet inequality is still the biggest issue in the world today. Why? What can we do? I’m left wondering if equality is really even possible- and this is where I feel defeated. While reading the articles that say technology is having negative impacts, I was frustrated that something that could be used to benefit students seems to be creating a digital divide. It’s disappointing reading these articles where many look a technology as the magical fix to all the worlds equality and problems. Governments, directors, parents and many teachers are “dazzled” and think that technology is the answer and are extremely disappointed to find results that are not reflecting what they assumed would occur. Often results are not happening because One Laptop Per Child is not going to make a difference when the approach doesn’t fit the situation.
Justine spoke about Dave Mulder and his belief that the approach to equality is not in giving everyone the same thing, but finding the unique ways to get everyone to the end goal even if that means everyone’s approach is different. This really made me think about Prekindergarten in the province. This program is specifically designed to meet the needs of specific populations(See page 19). When families get turned away from a prekindergarten program for not meeting the criteria, they are often upset with the teacher or school for taking an opportunity away from their child. I would love for my own daughter to be in a prekindergarten program; however, I understand that she doesn’t qualify for these programs as she is already receiving early learning support through her family and other community opportunities. I know that she would benefit from these programs and I wish she could go, but Prekindergarten is a “targeted” program and I wouldn’t want her taking the spot of a student in the community that requires the program in ways that our daughter does not. Technology is like prekindergarten, it is one of the methods we can use to help our students succeed. We must look at all of our students, classrooms and communities and determine what methods and strategies can be used for each of our students to reach their full potential.
Technology won’t fix everything, but it does have some amazing possibilities to help our students if the approach and implementation are done thoughtfully. There are many advancements happening with online learning. Instead of offering “One Size Fits All” there are new programs which are trying to offer more personalized education. I liked parts of the approach that Daphne Koller spoke of when she said that every students has to engage with the material. She gave the example of students in a lecture and the teacher asks the question…most students are on facebook, some are frantically still writing notes, some don’t understand the question and the keener in the front row blurts out the answer before the rest even have time to process the question and the lecture continues. With the online courses they have created, the questions are built in; every students has to stop and complete the questions and engage with the material unlike a lecture format. I want to believe that most elementary, middle and high school teachers already know this and are finding way to engage their students instead of just lecturing at them all class with and without technology.
I was so amazed when I read about the Medical Robots and ways they are making a difference. This technology is really life changing. I think that it is a huge advancement for many around the world. My parents lived in Pelican Narrows when my mom was pregnant
with me 33 years ago. My mom was sent to Flin Flon when she approached her due date as there were no doctors in Pelican Narrows. My dad stayed back to work and drove to visit when he had the day off. Luckily, he happened to be visiting the day my mom went into labour. Pelican Narrows now has one of these medical robots. That makes me excited and hopeful for the people that live there and the possibilities these robots half in making a difference in many lives. It appears that many people agree as the survey at the end of the article showed results that were very promising for how people are reacting to this robots.
So the challenge to implementing technology is finding the approach to meet the needs of the students, classes, schools and communities in which we live. Many factors need to be considered before throwing a bunch of laptops into students hands and expecting results. I liked the program that Reich mentioned in his article called TechGoesHome This program provides netbooks and internet connections to students, along with computer training for the entire family. What a great idea – training for the ENTIRE family! That seems like a smart idea and would really help some of our students. Now we just need to find some funding for programs like these!
My decision lies with the wording of the statement. Technology is a FORCE to equity in society- to me this means that technology is a tool and is making some sort of difference. The positives of technology enhancing learning and opportunities for many students and communities around the world cannot be ignored. Technology is not a magical fix… BUT, there are success stories because of technology, and to me, we need to build on those successes and continue using technology as it is making positive differences in the lives of our students.