Debate #2- Technology Has Led to a More Equitable Society

During this debate, I felt like I was being pulled towards both sides constantly. Originally, I had said that I disagreed with this statement as this is definitely a topic that I have not put much thought into before, especially past the general ideas surrounding access to tech and internet. Both teams presented many great points for their side of the debate and I believe that this topic ends up being much more intertwined than people may originally think with other issues such a race, gender, and disabilities.

Before getting started on the debate, I just wanted to review the ideas of equality vs equity as this came up a few times. When thinking about this, many people immediately picture this:

When talking about this topic, it is important to remember the difference. In this case we are talking about if technology is leading to equity- not equality. In this case, equity would mean that all people have to the technology that they need to succeed or thrive, not just that there is equal access for everyone to everything tech related.

YAY-TEAM

The agree team (Tracy, Nicole W, and Stephen) presented many great points that immediately had me thinking “wow why did I say I disagreed with this statement? I have never thought about it this way before!” Some of their main points included:

  • Impact on lives of individuals with disabilities
    There have been so many advancements in technology that can provide more equitable access to individuals with disabilities. Some examples mentioned include: mobility aids for physical disabilities, assistive tech such as hearing devices and computer software, and closed captioning. The TedTalk shared by this group illustrated a wonderful story about a man named John which shows how he is able to used supportive tech devices to work a job that he loves. In the video, Kimberly states that this “helps to level the playing field.”
  • Adaptations in schools
    Similar to what Megan and I mentioned during our debate, technology can have a great impact on helping students achieve in school. Many types of technology exists to help students demonstrate their knowledge and be included in the classroom (*I use the word included here lightly as there could be a whole post about what is inclusion in the classroom…).
  • Access
    This group presented that there are ways to improve access to internet, resources and technologies. For example, they mention devices that can provide internet in small spaces, ways to download content and view it when there is no internet access, and digital access giving us increased ability to find information/resources (such as online journals).
  • Decrease in costs
    According to Jenner (2021), there is a decrease in the cost of electronic devices which leads to more equal access.
  • Education achievement gap
    Lastly, they present that the achievement gap existed even before technology was an influence in education.

NAY-TEAM

The disagree team (Christina, Amaya, and Matthew) also presented many good reasons as to why technology is not leading to a more equitable society:

  • Inequity & Access Gaps
    In the debate, as well as the article by Ghobadi & Ghobadi (2015), there is information presented on the types of gaps that exists due to various factors and the effects that these gaps can have on equitable access. The first main point was relating to socioeconomic status in which there is more parental support, resources, and devices available in homes with higher socioeconomic status. This can widen the gap that already exists.
    Of course, there is also the topic of general Wi-Fi access and the lack of access which disproportionately affects certain groups and communities of people (here is an article illustrating this in relation to Indigenous communities in Canada). As Weeden & Kelly (2021) state, “Canada will not realize its full potential until rural communities are fully included in identifying and responding to our most pressing social and economic challenges, including digital policy.”
    The group also presents a statistic in their introduction video regarding access: only 43.2% of people living in Africa have access to the internet, where as it jumps to 93.9% in the United-States.
  • Technology is not altruistic
    Another point made is that technology is not altruistic and in turn is not necessarily making students freer. We can reference data policies and how personal data is being collected, stored, and shared. We can also look at how the media can be easily influences by many different people, and even governments.
  • Technology does not provide culturally relevant material for all students
    Although there are plenty of resources available, a majority of these are still in English. I notice this problem frequently as someone who lives in Canada and tries to find appropriate French resources for my immersion classroom. Let’s just say the SK government really doesn’t want me to be able to properly teach grade 4 social studies.
    Amaya also pointed out the fact that there are many algorithmic biases that exist on platforms and even with access to devices, the education is still very Eurocentric and students may not have the critical thinking needed to understand this.

Final Thoughts

I think that the agree team presented many good points as to how technology can help to create a more equitable society. However, during their initial presentation of this topic I was wondering how prevalent these agree things such as assistive tech etc. are across the world or are many of these things more popular or widely used in Western society? This came up a few times during the general open discussion. When thinking of the topic this way, it is true that technology does create a more equitable society since these things (such as a decrease in cost, adaptations in school. and the numerous tech tools for people with disabilities) allow for more people to have access and participate in society. However, I do think that the disagree team makes strong points regarding some major issues that are present as well as the fact that access is still not available to everyone. I think until there is equal access to these things, we can’t necessarily say that technology has lead to a more equitable society overall as it will seem to vary greatly depending on which “society” we are referring to.

5 thoughts on “Debate #2- Technology Has Led to a More Equitable Society

  1. I can empathize with your opening statement – I too had not thought much about these topics and had a “default” position that wasn’t based on strong convictions (or in my case much evidence). I found it interesting that during the debate I wanted to concede several points that the other team had made. I don’t truly believe that technology doesn’t have a role in creating equitable learning environments, but I don’t think that its use guarantees it.

    As an aside about your opening statement I noticed you used a commonly shared image to differentiate between equality and equity (I have used it myself in the past). I recently saw a variation of it that I think I prefer more than the original. It has a third panel in which the fence is removed pointing out that removing systemic barriers in the first place is better than making adaptations after the fact. I think the thoughtful use of technology could play a role in this.

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  2. I, too, had a hard time voting after this particular debate concluded. Both sides have valid points. I think COVID definitely opened my eyes to how big the digital gap is; this is especially true because, teaching in a rural school division at the time, some students didn’t even have reliable internet. Our school division did a good job of making sure students who didn’t have laptops were given one, but what can really be done when you don’t have access to internet? I read an article recently that made the argument that having access to internet should be a fundamental human right. It was very thought-provoking and made me think of all the rural students across SK who didn’t have great internet during COVID and, therefore, lost some important months in their education. Now, using a larger lens, multiply that by the number of adults that didn’t have access to a device/internet during COVID and therefore couldn’t attend doctors appointments, missed out on job interviews, couldn’t work from home, etc. This just exacerbated the socio-economic divide that already existed in society. “Internet should be a fundamental human right” is certainly an interesting proposition to ponder.

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  3. Hi #ohmybritt14,

    It seems you misunderstood a statement I made during the debate. What I stated was in response to a comment that our class discussion had a mostly North American lens. I was acknowledging that many of us do bring a North American perspective to the conversation, however, it is valuable to acknowledge that technology has enabled increased access to education globally. World literacy rates and world education rates have increased dramatically over the past two decades because of increased access to education, which has been facilitated by technology.

    Please feel free to revisit my comments at 01:34:58 of our class recording. I did not say that the North American viewpoint is what is relevant, and I apologize to each of our classmates if that is what you took from my remarks.

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  4. It seems like most of us had a hard time decided which side we agreed with more. At times I was really pulled in one direction, and then at the drop of a hat, I felt like I had swung in the opposite direction. Both sides had compelling points for sure. I also found it difficult to put aside my preconceived notions and beliefs, and really listen to what both sides were saying. I guess that is what makes a good debate prompt when you struggle to really agree with one side or the other. I think that technology has allowed people more access to educaiton, but when it’s not accessible then I am not sure that it is making anything equal at all. I wonder if I didn’t have a first hand experience in the classroom if I would have felt different about this prompt.

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