Technology, Equity and Efficiency

The issue of equity is something that I struggle with. Technology if used correctly has the power to bring equity to the world in terms of access to education and training.  The “Wired” internet of the past spread the Internets power at breakneck speed but the advent of mobile technology and wireless access to the Web has opened up the world to opportunities that were restricted to a much smaller audience.

Locally I see the issue of equity in the way school divisions receive funding for technology in their schools. Rural schools have vast areas to service with low populations, and tax bases.  In comparison urban school divisions have high populations to tax and smaller regions to service.  This sharp contrast has forces school divisions to be more innovative and at times conservative about what they offer their students.

On a global scale there is a shift from have not counties and regions thanks to the advent of free online resources and increasing availability of wireless and cellular internet through a multitude of mobile devices. Recent developments in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) , Wikipedia, CK12, Khan academy  and a plethora of other online resources has made access to education and training a reality for millions who would have never had the opportunity or resources to access them before.  Governments and NGO’s are getting into the technology movement as well.  Great examples of this are One Laptop per Child and India’s $35 laptop. It seems that the technology curve that Chris Anderson from Wired talks about is coming to fruition.

From cheap calls to India  Netflix, and now the $35 computer, innovations in technology are bringing the benefits of the internet to the masses.

Andreas Schleicher presented at TED and used the Pisa data to discuss performance and equity.

Andreas Schleicher asks:

What do high performing systems do?

  1. Place a high value on education and less value on consumption in their society.
  2. Believe that all students can have success.
  3. 9/10 Japanese students say that their outcomes depend on their effort.
  4. Personalize learning proprieties
  5. Clear targets for students and teachers, everyone knows what to do to be successful.
  6. High performing systems are very selective on how they recruit and train teachers.
  7. You don’t have to compromise equity to provide excellence.
  8. Encourage teachers to work tougher and better.
  9. Encourage inventiveness.
  10. Have high performance across all levels.
  11. Align policies across all areas

The growing data surrounding education and learning has the potential to bring the high performing educational models to every country.  I believe that part of the issue surrounding the “educational reform” issue is that until recently education did not have the hard evidence to support changes.  John Hattie’s meta analysis of educations practices and the work of many others will be the guiding light for future changes in education.  I see this as an opportunity to bring more efficiency and rigor to what we do.

Why should we be concerned about this? Who will benefit?  What changes will come from this growing proliferation of education and technology?

In the simplest terms education particularly of mothers is highly correlated with children becoming educated. Education is also highly correlated with better health, and social stability.  Interestingly the more education people have the lower the birth rates become as well.

This proliferation of information and technology makes me beg the question, “What world are we preparing our youth for?” Weber warned us of the future education inflation which has led to a rush of youth trying to access Post Secondary education only there don’t seem to be as many jobs as students with degrees and worse yet Universities and Colleges may not be preparing students with the skill-sets necessary to be successful.

Recently I watched a video called 21st Century learning that outlines the 21st century skills that are believed to be the key to success in the future.

Richard Culatta’s Ted presentation titled “Reimagining Learning” is a call to action for all of us involved in education. His video warns of the tendency in education to digitize what was already possible.  This increased cost of turning a chalkboard into a digital more expensive format.  Replicating what education has done in the past with new tools is not a useful practice.  He recommends using technology to do things that we had not previously been able to do in the past, which he believes will make a difference.

It is hard to untangle the notions of equity from technology. To build an equitable future for students in the 21st century we will have to continue to innovate and build even greater efficiency into educational programming. Work smarter not harder.

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