Thoughts on the equity debate.

 

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I’m going to start with the debate I was fortunate enough to be a part of (Hint. Hint. It was the one about equity and technology). My partner in crime was the incredibly talented Katherine Koskie  and I thought we did pretty dang good, if I don’t say so myself. Seriously ‘though, the usage of technology to work toward providing equity for students (or anyone else for that matter) is a serious topic that is not going to go away. We have to acknowledge the elephant in the room and deal with it before it destroys the furniture. We get caught up in the idea of technology just being the latest electronic gizmo, whether it’s the latest laptop or tablet or a smartpen for that matter but I also think of useful technology as being something as simple and life changing as LED lights in Himalayan villages as part of the Village Lighting Project or the recycling of computer systems as part of the Computers for Schools initiative undertaken by the SaskTel Pioneers.

I am a huge advocate for getting the appropriate tools into the hands of those with learning difficulties. I realize I have used the phrase “Learning Disability” in the past – even during the debate – but I view it more as a difficulty. I have ADD and I speak from personal experience when I tell you it made my life very, very difficult. It was only after my diagnosis that I discovered assistive technology. Was assistive tech the magic bullet that saved the day and made my life perfect? Nope. Not by a long shot. Did it help me stay organized and help me with all the myriad details, stresses, and strains of a Masters program? Absolutely. I have primarily used 2 pieces of assistive tech – a livescribe smartpen for taking notes in class, and dragon dictate for writing papers and blogs.

I realize that there are critics out there that view assistive technologies as being affordable only by the affluent and thus driving the gap between lower socio-economic groups and the upper middle class but please take a moment to read a paper by Johan Borg (2011) about assistive technology in the third world. I absolutely agree that we in the west can’t blunder into other countries and try to impose our cultural imperatives on those societies. It is doomed from the start if we take approach. We must work together to come up with a solution that fits the needs (and budget) of the participants. People with disabilities / difficulties must have the tools available to them so they can compete with their more able-bodied peers. To do anything else is to deny them basic human rights…

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3 thoughts on “Thoughts on the equity debate.

  1. Great job on the debate, Bob! Great feeling to have it done, hey? Your team’s assistive technology argument was probably the strongest for me because of the impact it can have. My mom manages the Neil Squire Society Regina location and that is a main part of what they do: use assistive technology to help those with disabilities acquire the skills they need to return to the workforce. She is a strong proponent for the use of assistive technology and the important impact it can have on making the world a more equitable place. Without it, many people would not have the same opportunities they deserve. Job well done!

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  2. Very interesting post and thank you for sharing your personal experiences. I like your suggestion of viewing it as a learning difficulty as opposed to learning disability. I think even this slight shift in language would have a huge impact in the feelings of my students’ parents when discussing learning challenges that their children experience.

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  3. You’ve touched on some really important pieces about accessibility in education: assistive tech. I know, personally, some students who would be failing everything, every time if it weren’t for the availability of assistive technology in the classroom. It has truly made a difference and it’s affirming to hear first hand accounts, such as yours.

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