Diversity Is Too Important to Ignore in the Talk to Technologize

By Bonnie Bracey Sutton

Two Americas? Are we marginalizing people of diversity by not including them in the conversations? Research? Advisory Boards? Are we the New Invisible Man? I don’t know what it was like during slavery. I do know what it was like during the days of segregation that were a big part of my life. We were an invisible part of the society. We had to follow all the rules, but we were like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

Now I think there is integration, but I think people in the U.S. live in two worlds, and if the world that they live in is good, they don’t include those from the other world who need to be a part of the ongoing conversation to make the whole continue to work. Most of the reports that we receive in journals and at conferences are well written and researched. However, very little involves those people who are not connected, whose schools are not the best, and whose teachers are not a part of the conversations. I am not talking about the media mavens with one minute pronouncements that dot our television stations. I am talking about the thought changers and the people who guide new ways of thinking, learning, politics, and all. A sustained exposure of diversity issues is critical because technology takes a longer time to dribble down than those twenty year old books that used to come to my community.

I am a member of ISTE. This year’s conference was great, like a moving train. I know how to negotiate it, network. I try to select the ideas that I am interested in and to see the rock stars of education. I notice that there are not that many people of diversity in the mix. A token or two. I watch the crowds to see who of broadening engagement is a part of our groups. Not many. I think ISTE is not making it happen because many people cannot afford the costs of the conference, membership, and travel.

ISTE is no longer a teacher organization per se. It has changed. You can get updated on the latest technology, see this year’s trends, and meet and greet people. One highlight for me this year was to see that Elliot Soloway and Chris Dede‘s ideas of mobile technology have taken off. And then I thought of this article from MindShift. No one was talking about the lack of broadband or permissions to use technology in the schools or the way to negotiate that move. Digital equity seems to have died a quiet death. We did have an SIGDE workshop in the conference. Maybe it is our fault  we have no sponsors. I suppose that lets us know that we are not a real part of the mix. Or does it mean something else?

There is a problem in urban, rural, and distant areas. We did talk about it in the SIG lots of problems not reflected in the conference at all. One of the topics was “Schools, Children and the Clash Over Media Use.” (See Katrina Schwartz’s Schools and Students Clash Over Use of Technology, KQED, 5.21.12.) Elliot will talk about it. I learned to discern the problem from Chris Dede. It seems we go happily along to digitalization leaving, alone and lost, a lot of people in the nation.

I am a member of the CSTA, and we had a conference in Orange County, Irvine, California. It was an up-close and personal conference. While I fretted a bit about the way one presenter talked about teachers (yes, I spoke with him later), I felt that the learning was focused and that the people presenting were sincere in outreach. CSTA is a smaller group, but there were robust presentations.

The networking, too, was different. We had access to the thinkers and doers. Maybe we have to as the broaden engagement community engages with the small groups who will listen and hear our voices and not marginalize our problems. CSTA and UC Irvine let us tour and learn about the ways in which they are using technology in research and in ways that are different from the usual applications. We actually talked to and interacted with the people in the school of technology, and they even participated in the conference.

Here is a takeaway from CSTA:

Bootstrap is the creation of Emmanuel Schanzer, M.Ed. After earning a bachelors of Computer Science (Cornell University), he worked in the private sector,” but we can take possibilities from his project. Bootstrap is “a curriculum and software package that teaches children the fundamentals of algebra by having them program their own videogames.”

The best conferences I attended this year was a toss up between CSTA, personal and attentive, and SITE. Each was small enough to allow conversations about important problems and ideas regarding social justice and digital equity. It’s a nice change. Sometimes we don’t notice when we are ignored and left to our own devices. Well, there aren’t that many devices available in our learning communities. We know the future is coming — just not in our schools. Does anyone care? SITE has received a grant from Facebook to research Digital Citizenship as a preservice initiative with modular curricula. Maybe the big conferences are all business and we are invisible people when we don’t bring sponsors to the table.

There was an online conference that I think leveled the playing field by allowing everyone virtual access to a lot of research topics and offering us the use of the portal to network. There was great learning but not so much in the way of networking.

2 Responses

  1. I believe we are at a critical time in our society and in schools because of the digital tools we have. They can bring us together or separate us. The election of a black president was a step forward. However it also was an opportunity for regression which is ugly and tends to separate us into different groups. The digital revolution will change schools and society as much as the printing press did in its time. The change is already happening, but we are unaware of it to the extent that we are not leading it. The danger is that we may end with a divide of the rich and elite and a large body of the poor and uneducated. WE must fight to ensure we have an education system for ALL.WE already see what it can do for industry. The retooling of GM is an example of what can happen in manufacturing. GM now makes better cars with fewer workers and technology. Technology can if used wisely make us more efficient. The question is can we as a society use it wisely. For example, in order to have a full workforce do we need to think of a thirty hour work week and life long learning. Does technology mean that we must think of adult learning programs throughout our lives.

    • Frank: “The digital revolution will change schools and society as much as the printing press did in its time. The change is already happening, but we are unaware of it to the extent that we are not leading it” (emphasis added).

      Frank, I think you’ve hit the bull’s eye. Leadership is critical.

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