Is technology a force for equity in society?
In order to take a solid stance on either side of this topic, one must begin by taking the time to examine both sides of the coin.
One must first have a clear understanding of the terms “equity”and “equality” in order to comprehend its’ impact on society. Equity, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “fairness or justice in the way people are treated”. Equality, is defined as the “sameness, or equivalence in number quantity or measure”. As I am a visual learner, I believe it is sometimes easier to grasp this concept pictorally.
Photo Credit: leighblackall via Compfight cc
One of the major problems today with our society is that not all people are able to understand that in order to create equity, the way things are adapted and differentiated for one person, may vary greatly from one person to the next. This is often a problem, because people who do not take the time to understand these differentiations, commonly deem this action as being unfair, when it is in all reality, the very opposite.
Let’s begin examining equity and technology by looking through a variety of lenses:
When looking at technology creating equity for our children in society, we must look at this from 2 different positions.
First, social media is providing an avenue for children that can promote the rapid rush through childhood and into the adult world, often at speeds that don’t allow for kids to remain, innocent kids. At the same time, the concept of being a child, is constantly evolving. It is important to recognize that children are not static, but rather, a social construction. Technology provides children a space where they can create friendships, seek support, and where they can be creative and curious. With the proper parental guidance, this can be an excellent avenue to help children become advocates for their learning.
When considering the impact of technology on equity, it is important to look at this through the lens that examines its affect on our health.
On one side, the use of social media and technology has created an increase in mental health issues. Some of these issues include anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation and addiction. The increase of these seems to foster a view that would create a larger divide between people as they struggle with these issues. Looking at how technology impacts equity in society from another lens, paints a very different picture. On the other side, Dr. Mendez is one of many doctors who have been using technology to revolutionize the access to fast health care for those people who might not normally be able to access it. Through use of robots and innovative ideas such as doctor in a box, there may still be inequities in our health care, but “more” people are gaining access to quality care, where they would not normally be privy to this.
When looking at communication, we must take a deeper look at how it affects people for the better and worse. One of the negative impacts of technology is that it does not promote healthy face to face communication skills. It gives people a screen to hide behind, and prevents them from having to learn how to socialize in a natural environment that is free from technology. As a result, “real world” communication skills are diminishing, which walks hand in hand with the problems of technology on our health. On the other side however, the technology apps and devices are opportunities for many to have a voice where they might otherwise not. Global connections for family members are increased, communication through email and text is promoted, and access to tools promoting collaboration between people and groups locally, nationally, and even globally become accessible.
When looking at the disabled, I see only one side to be considered, and this is the advantages and equity that can be promoted through programs such as Google Read and Write and Aski. Yes, there is certainly an issue of being able to access some of the technology out there, however, when we are looking at “equity”, technology definitely promotes a greater movement toward being equitable for the disabled when they are able to use the programs and software available to them that give them a voice and ability to learn.
Those living in poverty without access to technology, along with those living in remote locations might argue that technology only further perpetuates the digital divide (also known as the Digital Matthew Effect). Daphne Koller discusses some great advantages to Coursera.
However, at the same time, it is important to recognize that open educational resources might actually expand educational inequalities. Those considered privileged, may become more privileged in this situation while those living in lower socio-economic and remote locations may not have access to these free services (that would undoubtedly help them) only creating a further divide, rather than fostering learn gin opportunities for all.
Currently support is needed in many areas to promote equity being created in society through technology.
I agree 100% with my colleague Kyle Ottenbreit when he stated that “technology can be an equating force in society, but it will require meaningful and long term government support.” In order to promote equity amongst all people, the government will need to invest substantial time, funding and resources in order to promote this equity. Currently there are many obvious setbacks in ensuring that technology is equitable for all, however, as society, technology and humankind evolve, the evolution of this fight for equity amongst man, will undoubtedly evolve as well.
Betsy Baumon, posed some excellent questions in a recent blog. She asked:
Who will benefit from the digital revolution in education? And how can we work together to ensure that massive trends in digital publishing, education technology, cloud computing, and big data create positive impact for all students?
It is through questions like hers, that we can come up with a voice that will fight for equity that can be created through the use of technology in society. As for now, we have a long road ahead. We have begun this journey to change and this is absolutely necessary. With time, we will create the education and awareness necessary, along with proper supports, to foster an equitable technologically savvy world for all.