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.