Mar 02 2021

CoSN2021: Technology in the Classroom Promotes Equity in Education

Access and opportunity stem from educational technology that gives all students a voice when learning.

The need for digital and technological equity became clearer than ever following 2020’s shift to remote and hybrid instruction. A year later, schools across the country are still struggling to bridge the gaps.

“Internet access is the electricity of the 1930s and ’40s; it is that crucial to everyday life and learning,” said New York Commissioner of Education Betty Rosa said in a Feb. 24 press release.

In a keynote address at this year’s annual CoSN conference, Ken Shelton spoke about the digital divide and why access to technology is critical to equality in education. In his session, “Fostering Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in EdTech,” Shelton — one of EdTech’s 2020 K–12 IT Influencers — used examples from his own experience as a student and educator to share how technology can support equity.

Access to Technology Gives Students a Voice

Reflecting the CoSN2021 theme of “Brave and Bold,” Shelton opened his discussion with the poem “Invitation to Brave Space” by Mickey ScottBey Jones: “Together we will create brave space,” the poem begins, eventually concluding with, “It will be our brave space together, and We will work on it side by side.”

Shelton stressed the importance of being simultaneously brave and bold to navigate the separation caused by remote learning and inequity. “I do not believe it is possible to have a truly equitable learning environment without technology,” Shelton said. Technology, and equitable access to it, he explained, allow students to thrive in education instead of merely survive.

Speaking on the importance of these values, Shelton posed the question, “How do we use [technology] to ensure everyone has a voice, and everyone is heard?” Without technology, he continued, students can only access one perspective: the voice in their textbook.

Shelton explained how, without technology access, textbooks and curricula often prove antiquated and whitewashed. Pulling from personal experience, Shelton recalled getting a low grade on a U.S. history paper he wrote on the Tuskegee Airmen, for which he interviewed primary sources from his family because his teacher’s curriculum hadn’t included military segregation.

The 5 Elements of Critical Pedagogy

In creating a platform where all voices can be heard, it’s important to use restorative policies instead of punitive measures for student behavior, Shelton said. He discussed what he calls the five elements of critical pedagogy: humility, love, faith, hope and critical thinking. When educators can maintain these five outlooks, he explained, they create a more equitable learning environment for students.

Culture is a far greater indicator of the pathway to student success than anything else, Shelton observed, emphasizing that students need to be seen, heard and loved in their learning environments. This, he continued, can be especially difficult in the age of hybrid learning, where students and educators struggle with inaccessible devices, connectivity issues and other aspects of the digital divide. However, he said, technology can also help schools dismantle the barriers to equity in the first place.

EdTech is covering CoSN2021, so keep this page bookmarked for our ongoing coverage. Follow @EdTech_K12 on Twitter for live updates and join the conversation using #CoSN2021.

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