Technology, Access, and Equity

Lindsey’s post on the digital divide and media literacy touched on some issues that I have been thinking about since I was a teacher. These are issues that pushed me out of the classroom, and drove my decision to come to HGSE.

Like Lindsey, I am also a huge proponent of media literacy. I think it’s very important for people to be critical consumers of media instead of passively consuming everything that’s being thrown at them. I think it’s also important for students to develop the skills to craft their own messages, and to be able to participate in our digital culture as creators.

I think this isn’t really an issue for schools that have the proper resources and support. However, for schools like the ones I have taught in, it’s a huge challenge. Access is a huge issue. The schools I worked in, for the most part, didn’t always have the infrastructures in place to run more updated software. There was also a lot of disconnect between the IT department and schools. Teachers didn’t really have any autonomy over the software that could be installed and used on classroom computers, but then the process for getting technology approved could take months.

(I remember how if I wanted to show a YouTube video in class, I would need to email it to a specific department that would review it, and if they found it acceptable, they would upload it to a server and email me the link. This process sometimes took weeks, which wasn’t really efficient. And this was the process for something that is ideally simple – the process for getting software/programs approved could take months. It took a whole year to get the Oregon Trail app approved.)

Then, even if schools have access, the technology itself isn’t enough. Most of the time, what ends up happening is thousands of dollars in technology sits unused in a warehouse for months because there wasn’t much consideration or thought put into how it was going to be implemented. Or, the technology is rolled out, but teachers don’t receive much support in integrating it effectively.

Technology often ends up being re-appropriated into what’s already being done. If we’re to look at the SAMR model developed by Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura, we can see the various levels technology can be used. From my experience in low-income districts, much of the use was still in the substitution and augmentation levels. While that’s a start, I wonder how we can push technology integration toward the redefinition stage.

I recall going to various edtech conferences, such as CUE, and being both inspired and frustrated by the things I saw. There are some novel and innovative things being done in this space, but what is frustrating is that it isn’t always accessible or scalable in urban schooling environments or areas where access is an issue. Sometimes this lack of access was due to cost, and other times because of the bureaucracy of school districts.

I often wonder how MOOCs could be a game changer in this. It seems that MOOCs want to increase access to quality education, but I wonder – access for whom? From most of the readings and things discussed this semester in T509, it seems most MOOC participants are usually already educated and looking to advance their careers. So MOOCs enable them to do this, and that’s awesome for them. However, I wonder how we help those who don’t fit that description? Whose responsibility is that?

I also wonder how I can play a role in this. I often struggle with this and what career I would like to pursue. I want to create awesome edtech products for low-income schools, but how can I do that if they don’t have access to it? How do we increase access? How do we help school districts build themselves?

3 thoughts on “Technology, Access, and Equity

  1. Meri, many of the administrators do not know how to use tech and I think you could be an excellent person to bring them up to speed and explain things just as clearly as you have in this blog.


  2. I’m so glad you are raising these questions. I agree with you about the levels of technology integration – it’s so hard to think beyond, let alone move beyond, substitution and augmentation when teachers don’t have access to training and students don’t have access to materials. How are we supposed to close the opportunity gap (and therefore the achievement gap) among students when even schools aren’t providing the same opportunities?


  3. Great post, Meri. I have been asking myself a lot of the same questions as you about what my role can be in this and how change in these systems can really come about. I’m starting to wonder how much these systemic issues can be adjusted for in product design or how much of it actually just depends on fixing those issues. I’m thinking a lot about what we discussed in Dock’s class on Friday about crossing the implementation line and how that looks different in low and high income communities.


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