I want to begin by giving kudos to both teams on each side of this debate topic. As I mentioned in my last blog post, going first is a difficult task, and these teams knocked it out of the park. Great job! On the agree side of this debate was Tracy, Nicole W. and Stephen and on the disagree side Christina, Amaya and Matthew. Both sides made valid points to argue their side, but ultimately, I do agree – technology has led to a more equitable society.
Some reasons for the agree side…
Technology supports those living with different abilities
First off, I want to practice using inclusive language, so instead of using the term disability, which implies a lacking of, or something that is missing, I would rather use the term different abilities. Individuals have abilities that are different and using inclusive language is a step in the right direction.
The biggest reason supporting this statement is the way technology supports people with different abilities. For many people, technology has given them the ability to live life in a more inclusive and independent way. In society, we see supports like wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, glasses, and hearing aids.
Technology supports in education
In education, assistive technologies like magnifiers, large print, software programs with speech recognition, and microphones help to make our classrooms more inclusive. These technologies make learning more equitable for students who benefit from them. Often times, these assistive technologies will benefit more students than we originally think. Adaptations like large print, magnifiers and microphones benefit all students. As an example, I wear a microphone in my classroom for all of my students as no one in particular requires it, though all of my students appreciate it. It allows the students in different areas of the classroom to hear me clearly.
Technology supports in the workplace
In Kymberly DeLoatche’s TEDTalk How Technology Can Level the Playing Field in the Workplace, John, a non-verbal greeter at Panera, has changed the culture of his workplace by using a microphone to communicate with customers. John presses a button on the device which says, “Hello, my name is John. Welcome to Panera!” In this story, the business noted an uptick in sales during the time John was at work. What is more inspiring though, is how Kymberly describes John’s smile. I can only imagine how John feels as a contributing member of his work team.
Kymberly also notes how her son is able to dance by watching videos over and over again. Technology allows him to express himself in a new way. The videos support his unique needs, unlike traditional serve and return communication, which is not as effective for his learning.
Kymberly mentions that only 1 in 5 persons with different abilities works a meaningful job. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could hear more stories like John’s? I believe that technology can help with that. Employers can hire persons with different skills and abilities to improve the climate of their workplaces and help support this often marginalized community of people. In Saskatchewan, SaskAbilities and Inclusion Saskatchewan help link employers with people looking for employment.
Global access to technology
Education shifted dramatically for some time due to the pandemic. Online learning allowed many to continue learning during this time, albeit, not everyone was so lucky to continue their learning this way (more to come in the disagree reflection below). In Jenner’s article, Increasing Access to Education is Incremental, we learn that the advancement of technology over the years has provided access to education for many people all over the world. This has in turn improved their quality of life and led to a more equitable society for more and more people. When we examine the metrics listed in the article, we see that in a span of 10 years (2007-2017), the number of countries providing over 10 years of education to people grew from 57 countries to 173 countries. This shows that millions of people are receiving quality education and globally, we are trending towards the prospect of lifelong learning for more and more people.
Now to highlight some reasons for the disagree side…
The Digital Divide
Not everyone has access to technology, whether it be connections to the internet or devices. This reality was highlighted during the pandemic for me, personally. I was teaching Grade 5/6 in a rural school and many of my students did not have access to the internet in their area of Spring Valley, SK. It is simply a dead zone for some of the farms out there. As such, some of these students did not participate in online learning or if they did begin, the hassle of bad connections gradually led them to quit. Additionally, for families that had access to the internet, access to devices became an issue. Whether it was large families with only a few devices, or single parents who could not afford devices to learn it was a challenge. As a school we delivered and offered “paper packages” to be picked up at the school for students to continue learning to suit the needs of our community. This was certainly challenging for students, parents and teachers.
Another challenge for me, personally, is access to devices in the classroom. I have taught in schools with 1:1 devices and in schools with far less than that. As a teacher who tries to incorporate digital literacy in my classroom, not having equal access to devices for my students makes my job more difficult and impacts my students’ learning as well.
In the article by Weeden and Kelly, The Digital Divide Has Become a Chasm Here’s How We Bridge The Gap, digital policy initiatives are proposed to support the argument that digital equity is needed in Canada. This includes getting digital broadband infrastructure right to including rural leaders in digital policy-making. I am hopeful changes will be made sooner rather than later for the sake of our province’s rural students who need better access to internet.
Despite there being a digital divide when it comes to technology, I have to agree on this debate topic – Technology has led to a more equitable society. Hearing stories like that of John’s, knowing my students appreciate the microphone I use in my classroom and seeing non-verbal students communicate using apps makes my heart happy. Technology is enabling those with differing abilities to thrive in our society. In addition, technology is connecting people around the world to knowledge, despite there needing to be more work done to connect those who are disadvantaged for a variety of reasons.
Let me know what you think…
- What is your biggest reason to agree or disagree with this statement?