May the Force Be With You…When You Have Access and the Skills to Use Technology

Tonight’s debate, was once again, was very informative and brought forth some valid points on both sides. However, I must say that I sided more with the disagree side for a couple of different reasons:

  1. As stated in the article posted by Jasmine and Victoria, other equity issues still remain such as “special education services, food and nutrition, English learner services, and child care.” This doesn’t take into account aspects at home such as water or electricity that also factor into the gaps in our socio-economic or even urban/rural environments. Therefore, just because someone may have access to technology, doesn’t mean equity has been achieved.
  2. Victoria mentioned how the digital divide doesn’t just include access to technology anymore, it includes the skills necessary to use it and use it effectively and with purpose. You can’t expect to give someone a car who doesn’t know how to drive and expect them to succeed because they can now get from point A to point B. The education of these tools is important but costly and continuous as the vehicles continue to change and/or need maintenance.
  3. As Matt mentioned, we need to take into consideration the access some students have to these same technology tools outside of the class because a lot of them don’t have access, as this pandemic has brought to light. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use technology in school, but we need to use them in balance with other forms of learning. Going forward, how do you think we are going to address this discrepancy of having access at school but no access at home? Does this create more inequities?
  4. More on inequities with technology opportunities, Alec brought up a good point that sometimes providing students with individual (assistive) technology will ostracize students even more and marginalize them within their own class. To address this, UDL (Universal Design for Learning), is something to consider when planning. In addition, Matt brought up SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol). I’ll share more on what I learned about these models later.
  5. Lastly, I never thought about the point that Victoria brought up regarding usage of technology between different socio-economic groups. A study done in Western Australia looked at home children between 6 and 17 used technology. Participants from higher socio-economic status neighbourhoods were more exposed to school computers, reading, playing musical instruments, and vigorous physical activity. Participants from lower socio-economic status neighbourhoods were more exposed to TV, electronic games, mobile phones, and non-academic computer activities at home. They concluded that “in a sample with near universal access to IT, issues of a digital divide can still be evident. NSES (Neighbourhood Socio-Economic Status) clearly associated with the nature of young people’s current IT use and this may impact their future economic, academic, and health outcomes. This correlates with the previous point about having the necessary skills needed to use technology with a specific purpose, and these purposes may differ between socio-economic groups.

I do believe that Kalyn and Nataly brought up some good points to defend the intentions to provide those without technology access and skills. However, this, unfortunately, doesn’t mean equity. There are so many other factors that weigh into the concept of equity. The initiatives taken place are a starting point but there is a long way to go before technology will bring us closer to equity in the world.

Back to the two other new learnings that I further explored, UDL and SIOP.

UDL is an approach to planning and teaching to help give all students equal opportunities to succeed. It’s flexible because students have different ways to access material, engage in their work, and demonstrate their understanding of concepts in ways that work for them. It is especially helpful for kids that learn and think outside of the box.

Here are some great tips from this website to help introduce a UDL model in your classroom:

  1. Know your students’ strengths and weaknesses
  2. Use digital materials when possible
  3. Share content in a variety of ways
  4. Offer choices for how students demonstrate their knowledge
  5. Take advantage of software supports
  6. Low and No Tech options do exist
  7. Learn from others

This video describes how this school district has found success implementing the UDL model using Google Read/Write, which is an Chrome extension that many students I work with use. Coincidentally enough, myself and a colleague of mine gave a quick tutorial to some of our primary teachers today to show them the benefits of Google Read/Write and identified how it can be used with all students, not just your struggling ones. I guess I am already on the right path with using a UDL model.

SIOP is a research based instructional model that addresses the need our EAL learners, but I argue that it addresses the needs of all students, much like UDL works.

This website has some great tools and strategies for using this comprehensive approach.

This video demonstrates how a teachers uses this model in her third grade classroom. They are always referring back to the objective of the lesson/activity, much like the I Can… statements that my division has. I see a lot of these strategies used by some of the teachers I work with. So again, there are elements of good teaching practices that fit under these two types of models.

Both of these models help address equity in teaching and working with our learners as the diversity continues to grow. Do you know of any other methods or models that works to give tools and opportunities to all learners? I’d love to learn more!

3 thoughts on “May the Force Be With You…When You Have Access and the Skills to Use Technology

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post! (I have to admit, the Star Ward reference really drew me in haha). I particularly appreciated your analogy to using technology and driving a car. I spoke about using technology without the proper training in my last blog, and how disastrous it could be, so I liked the way you worded that statement. I also agree with your statement regarding how other equity issues still remain, and, in my opinion, can be much more crucial. I teach in a borderline community school, so I witness these inequalities first hand. There is a great spread of socio-economic status in our building, so I have seen both sides. As a teacher, it is not that I don’t find technology important, however, most days, there are other inequities that I am managing or focused on first. I have also witnessed parents rushing out to buy the latest “tech toy” so their child does not feel excluded, but then that child has no lunch for a week or more. It’s a tough topic for sure, and it opens up so many other doors to just how inequitable our society is.

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  2. Great Job Daina! I love Google Read and Write as a tool for all my students. When I first was introduced to it, it was for just some of my struggling students but as they used it in the classroom the others wondered about it and I knew others would benefit so I had them demonstrate it and very quickly I had others trying it out as well. I found it benefited quite a lot more students than I expected. It was also great for my EAL students! Thanks again!

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  3. Daina!
    I really enjoyed learning from you in your post. The SIOP and UDL models are both brand new to me. The videos you included were informative and made me excited to learn more. During the debate, I was also thinking about the PD we had earlier that day about google read and write. I was using it for writing about my debate project and couldn’t believe I had never used it before. It will be a big part of the rest of my grad studies. I am also anxious to implement it into my classroom. Many students will benefit from using it no matter what their ability. I think it will be a good skill for all students. The SIOP model, I agree is beneficial for all learners, not just our EAL learners. These tools and technology in general if implemented properly can engage students and enhance inclusion in our classrooms.
    Thank you for expanding my learning on these two new models. 🙂
    Christina

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