Technological Equity

To be honest, I did not know what to expect from this weeks debate: Technology is a force for equity in society.

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I had one immediate thought…. when everyone has technology, it can be a force of equity, but I quickly learned there were so many more details to this issue.

When the debate started, the agree side, Jen, Dawn, and Sapna presented three main points:

Technology removes barriers- they explained that technology can act like a bridge for learning, students can have a voice, and technology has features like assistive technology that help students who have issues reading and writing.


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Technology connects the world- the agree group explained that most people have access to technology and therefore it is the perfect tool to connect the world. It also provides fairness in regards to gender, socioeconomic status and ethnic background.

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Technology is accessible and can be affordable.


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A large part of the agree’s debate was the idea of the digital divide. The group wanted to ensure that the audience understood that this is an issue, but technology is not to blame. The divide comes from the corporate sector who decides the price of technology. Technology should be accessible to everyone because it has become essential to live.

Another great point made by the debaters was that online classes have opened the doors to many people. In the video What We’re Learning from Online Education, Daphne Koller explains that research has found that lecture based classes place half the class above average, and half the class below. When students were given personal tutors, 98% of the students were above average. Koller is acknowledging  that it is financially impossible to provide every student with a personal tutor, but we can afford to give everyone access to technology. Technology has many benefits such as personalized learning… and it doesn’t get tired of marking like a teacher.

This idea is also reiterated in the article How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs to the Arctic: where they explain that OER, which is freely available high quality materials that can be downloaded and edited to support teaching and learning, has opened up so many worlds to students in the Arctic who do not have access to all of the classes they might need to be successful.

The agree group did a great job of explaining the benefits of social media, but was immediately challenged by Amy S. and Rakan. They explained that there are many reasons why technology is not a force for equity in society. Their four main points were:

Gender- the disagree side stated that the internet is a place where women encounter a lot of sexual harassment and they are often abused online. Technology perpetuates men’s dominance whether we notice it or not; for example: how most voices on recognition sotware are female, giving the idea that women are meant to be ordered around. Furthermore, most graduates going into the technology field are men.

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Racial-The second reason why technology does not promote equity is because AI has been found to be racist. The group quickly points out that humans are racist, not AI, but that AI is learning racism from humans.  Even the facial recognition software has been found to be racist. Darker skin is hard to recognize which is clearly racism.

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Bennilover 

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    1.  Technology and colonialism- In some places, free internet is available, but only certain sites are shown. This is seen as sites like Facebook controlling what information is put out there.
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      Inequality was the last point raised by the disagree group. They explain that no matter the country, English is the primary language seen and heard on the internet. Also, in Canada, only 62% of families with lower-income have access to technology. This directly affects them because without practise using these tools it is harder for them to get hired for jobs in this ever growing field.

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I was very interested in the Artificial Intelligence statistics. I did not know that the AI programs had so many issues regarding race. The article AI programs exhibit racial and gender biases, research reveals that AI is learning our racism.  No only that, but “the words “female” and “woman” were more closely associated with arts and humanities occupations and with the home, while “male” and “man” were closer to maths and engineering professions.” These facts are really disturbing and whether it be the testing pool or not, it should be the responsibility of the companies to fix this issue.

Another great point brought up this week was Regina Public School’s decision to reallocate technology last year. My school was directly affected by this, and to be honest, I was a little mad about it. I understood that they did it to be more fair, but I never really thought about the reasons before this weeks debate. During the debate it became clear that some schools have more technology than others. By reorganizing the computers/ laptops and tablets, they were trying to create a smaller divide. After tonight’s debate, I found myself, for the first time, sympathizing with the decision.

As in most of these debates, I found it hard to choose a side. It was the first week that I was actually unsure of what side I would pick at the beginning. I chose to go with agree because I honestly believe that technology has the ability to create opportunities for people including learning, reaching out and giving them a voice. But I have to admit that there are many inequalities with technology, even in Canada. The disagree group was so close to changing my mind. Their informationw was explained well and it really made me think about the divide that technology can create between people.

I really think we have a lot of work in order to ensure technology creates equity throughout the world, but  we cannot ignore that it has advanced the world, and opened up so many doors.

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2 thoughts on “Technological Equity

  1. Great summary of the debate, Amy. I too agree that this week was difficult to decide. I get stuck on the potential technology has to create equity, and forget about the gaps, cost, and discrimination associated with theses different sources. What really started to make me question the equity of it, was the AI and facial recognition software, as well as the ideas of digital colonialism. It can be a scary world, and when we allow companies to control what we see, and these AI systems are able to pick up on our already pre-determined habits and roles, what does that mean for our future? And what is technology really doing to our children’s minds? Great post, and I think you make a great final point: we have a lot of work to do, but we cannot ignore the advancements we have made and what opportunities it has presented for us!

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  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Amy. I would also agree that this issue has important considerations from both sides. I found that the disagree side brought up some points that I had not considered before, including the gender oppression from the use of female voices in our voice activated technology. Those underlying messages and conditions affect how we (and the rest of the world) live, whether we like it or not. How often have we told our female-voiced GPS to shut up and stop recalculating? 🙂
    I also agree with you that the re-allocation of technology within our school division was indeed an attempt to level the playing field for all students. Schools have some impact over those changes that may benefit our students in the future. Unfortunately, tech re-allocation is only a small change in a bigger and more oppressive system, about which schools have little influence. However, ensuring that the socioeconomic status of a community has less influence over its children and their futures as compared to a completely compartmentalized system will only benefit our society as a whole in the long run.
    Finally, I agree with you regarding fears that AI is learning our racial habits. It greatly concerns me that technology that will likely have huge influence on our futures may negatively affect certain races or genders. All of our hard work as educators could be erased by the influence of a computer.
    Thank you again for a great blog! I enjoyed reading it!

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