Before I get into the nitty-gritty details of our second debate, I want to take a moment to commend Kalyn, Nataly, Victoria, and Jasmine on a well prepared and thought-provoking debate. Both sides did an excellent job of defending their stances right from the amazing opening videos through the concluding statements. I was also very impressed with how focused and composed both sides were when they were hit with a surprise curveball (in the form of an impromptu thunderstorm) which could have easily rattled or derailed them, but instead, like true pro's, they took it in stride and continued their debate as to if nothing happened. Well done everyone!
I'll admit when it came to the topic of "Technology is a Force for Equity in Society", I wasn't sure which side to pick in the pre-vote as my experience as an educator has provided me with reasons that could potentially argue both sides. While I did initially select the disagree side, I looked forward to solidifying my stance on whichever side was able to persuade me the most.
While Kalyn and Nataly both made many strong points as to why Technology is a Force for Equity, there were a few thoughts that really resonated with me from their side of the debate:
1) Technology provides access to information.
This was something that I hadn't considered before but really does make a strong case for their side. With the use of technology, we have unlimited access to information in our world. This was specifically the case in the example of the "Digital School in a Box" that was highlighted in their video.
2) Technology allows for more personal and individualized learning, while also helping students with disabilities.
This is something that I witness daily in my classroom as the use of technology has allowed me to provide students with the choice to demonstrate their learning in whatever way works best for them - whether that be in the form of a blog post, podcast, video, Adobe Spark, etc. - students have the option (and the means) to take more control of their learning. I have also witnessed the power of technology in supporting EAL (English as an Additional Language) students as it can not only provide them with a way to communicate with others through translation tools, but can also help with their comprehension through the use of Immersive Reader programs that are built into our OneNote, or on our Kidblog website.
3) The importance of Assistive Technology.
While the Immersive Reader tool that was mentioned above would definitely fit into this category, one example of assistive technology that has really opened my eyes as an educator is the speech-to-text or dictation tool. I've found this to be so beneficial for students, not only learning English but as a major help for students who struggle with spelling and writing. Sometimes students who struggle with spelling will often spell words phonetically, which may result in zero recommendations from the spell check software. Unless these students have a classmate or teacher review each of their assignments, they are unaware of spelling mistakes and unable to fix their mistakes as they write. However, the use of dictation software certainly comes in handy as students can speak and have the words displayed on the screen for them. While this software built into Microsoft Office has certainly been beneficial, I've found the speech-to-text tool on students' cell phones far more beneficial.
Typically when students struggle with a word, they simply say the word into their phone and then write down the correct spelling on their assignment (digital or paper). I've found that this route for middle years students has been particularly helpful in helping students grow because they have to read and correctly spell the word for themselves, rather than having it inputted directly into their assignments. The benefits of using a mobile device for this purpose has also allowed students to access this tool wherever they go while using Microsoft Office is limited to when they have their laptops. Without this tool, these students would most likely fall further behind, but technology has allowed them to "level the playing field", and I can definitely see the argument as to why technology could be a force of equity.
Victoria and Jasmine also did an excellent job of defending their side, and really used some compellign arguements surrounding why technology is not a force for equity in society. While listening to both their opening statement and rebuttal there were two key ideas that really stuck with me:
1) The Digital Divide.
At the start of this debate, the main reason why I was hesitant to side with the "Pro" side was largely due to the digital divide. This is something that many of us might want to believe is only a problem in developing countries, but Covid-19 has exposed this reality throughout our society. It became glaringly obvious that there was a gap in our province when teachers were tasked with delivering lessons remotely, there were a large number of families who would be unable to access this information. It's kind of scary that it took a global pandemic for the light to be shed on such a serious issue, that was seemingly swept under the rug in the past.
While this term was relatively new to me, one thing that Victoria mentioned really stuck out to me - the idea that in some parts of the world technology was being presented to populations as the "fix-all", but in reality, they were facing issues that were far more pressing than the need to buy a $100 laptop. This also tied into Victoria's point later on when she talked about families a little closer to home, who could potentially be faced with the decision to sacrifice basic needs to be able to pay for devices and the internet.
One thing that I really didn't think about during the debate, but that Trevor highlighted in his blog post was the notion of misinformation online. This is something that's really been picking up steam over the past few years but appears to be at an all-time high during the COVID Pandemic. As Trevor mentions, it's alarming to think that if people aren't properly prepared or educated in identifying misinformation or "fake news" online, the effects could be devastating.
While both sides made some great arguments that seemed to pull me in both directions, in the end though, I think my conclusion will be like the ending to LOST or the Soprano's - no real closure (Yes, I'm still bitter about LOST ten years later...Six Seasons and that's all we got...C'Mon!). While there are reasons to agree with both stances, ultimately I feel like the answer to this statement is complex, and much like the previous debate, there is probably more to it than a simple, "agree" or "disagree". When we look at the issue specifically, I think it all comes down to how the technology is being utilized, who is using it and what role education plays. For example, as we heard earlier, the advancement (and price) of technology can certainly cause a digital divide in our society and may force individuals and families to sacrifice so much, just to have access. This in itself, would really support the notion that technology is causing inequity in society. However, as we've witnessed with the CoVid crisis, many school divisions are providing technology to families who don't have access or enough devices at home in an effort to bridge that same gap. So...the argument could also be made that the use of technology has actually helped to provide equity to society.
So, where does that leave me? The answer is simple...I really don't know. See simple! Overall my brain feels like it's in the midst of an intense tennis match - going back and forth. Ultimately, as I mentioned earlier, I don't feel like there is an exact answer to this statement as there seems to be so many factors that could play out that could make both sides right. Maybe I'm taking a cop-out here, but I really feel like there is no right answer. What do you think?