The first of Tuesday’s debates was something that really struck home.
As an English Language Arts teacher, a lot of my curricula depends on access to technology, from completing 1500 word essays to engaging in inquiry projects to writing researched papers. I can’t guarantee that I will have access or even my students will have access to the technology they need. This presents a rather large barrier in completing my curriculum.
The point on Tuesday that was the most forceful was not from the debate itself, but was a comment from Steve. His remark about the free dispersal of laptops to at-risk youth presents many more problems than it solves. Systemic poverty and denial of human rights is not corrected through the donation of a laptop.
Technology is a tool. It does not solve problems by itself. It’s like expecting a hammer to build a house by itself and being dumbfounded when it does not. A hammer is only part of what is required to build a house. Many more tools are needed in order for the house to stand, being structurally sound, and safe.
I believe technology has a part in social equality, but it is not the only thing to promote equity.
As the agree team pointed out, open sourced education is widely available through many, many mediums. Applications such as iTunes U, Gale Courses through the Regina Libraries, and Harvard Online Courses give access to otherwise inaccessible educational avenues. However, because I’ve taken a whole gamut of online, free courses from Harvard, does that equal a Harvard degree? The idea of open education still carries with it a “less than” stigma. An open course on Harvard’s website is still less valued than a course that I would pay tuition for.
So then, how fair and equal are these courses from these illustrious places really? Perhaps in the future these courses will carry with it equal weight in the workplace, but I know if I tried to approach my employer with a printed off certificate from Harvard they would laugh at me.
Again, technology is a tool, but it is not the only tool. As well, it is in how it is applied and used and by who. Handing out technology with no long term plan other than high hopes of equality do nobody any good. Technology is not a bandaid (though being removed from it is a similar painful experience…). Technology is not the solution. It is part of the solution that we have not discovered yet.