Technology As Privilege: Why Using It Matters

“Itsy? IT? It was an Edtech thing in Philly.” I heard my coworker say.wpid-img_36431.jpg

“ISTE?” I interjected excitedly. “Did you go? Did you have fun? How was it?”

He took a moment to measure his reaction. “Well, it was good to get swag…?”

“That’s it?”

He sighed, “It’s not that it was bad, it’s that it’s hard when you know your school doesn’t have the resources for the things there and you don’t control the budget.” He shrugged.

I nodded, knowing that similar feeling of frustration.

In my piece about going paperless, I knew I was coming from a privileged experience: my students and I are at a school that celebrates innovation, and their one-to-one education begins far before me. We have the budget and support to provide students with technology and experience using it.

When I taught in California though, that wasn’t always the case. There was a laptop cart we all shared, and a computer lab we could reserve. We had the drive, but not all the resources. Still, I counted myself blessed: there are many schools where access isn’t an option at all and the “digital divide” is very real.

It’s this knowledge that occasionally infuriates me about teachers who have access, but refuse to attempt trying technology in their classrooms. Having access and time to use any technology is an immense privilege, and I can’t help but feel that innovation is not just a best practice, but also a responsibility for those of us who are given that luxury.

I am not asking teachers to be inauthentic. I have met teachers who are amazing without a scrap of technology. That’s awesome. I am very impressed. I am not saying that if you refuse to let your classroom become full of student iPad stations or any version of that, I’m angry with you (or even that I disagree with you).

Still, it feels wrong to ignore that the world is digital. Assumedly, if you’re reading a CUE piece, I’m preaching to the choir, and I think it’s safe to say that technology is a thing that our students will interact with.

There’s a belief in social justice work that if you come from a place of privilege, you should come “collect and educate your own” (see #8 here).

So, this is me collecting teachers with rows of computers at their disposal, but an unwillingness to open them: Being able to choose the role technology has in our classroom is privilege. Having the space and opportunity to innovate and try new things is privilege.

If we can try something (and really, I mean anything), I think that it’s essential that we do—both for our students, and the education field as a whole. If it works, that’s great, and we can celebrate (and perhaps even share!) our success so that we can all learn from each other.

If we give something a wholehearted attempt and it doesn’t work, or the tech didn’t really fit our needs, we

try something and fail is more than try nothing and succeed phrase handwritten on sticker notes

should share that. If something doesn’t work for us, we deserve to name that and ask “why?” Was it something we missed? Or perhaps something in the design that wasn’t a good fit with our classroom culture. Or that style or type of technology doesn’t fit with our particular teaching style. That’s fine. At least we tried, and can all learn from that too.

We tell kids to try their hardest and give their best effort when they are afraid of attempting something new. We encourage them, tell them that failure is an important step to learning and figuring out what works for them. Why are we so unwilling to take the same approach towards innovation in our own practice? If we are centered on our students, then we must model the same things we ask of them every day in the classroom.

If you don’t have access to technology, I hope you get that support. If you’ve tried something and it didn’t work, I empathize. I keep trying to understand Snapchat and fail consistently. I hope you keep trying new things.

But if the access and the opportunity are there, and we are tempted to leave it on the table because it is “inconvenient” or “too hard,” I encourage us all to do something that lots of teachers do:

Ask ourselves, “What would I say to my students right now if they were in my shoes? What would they say to me?”

In the end, I think they would want us both to hit the ground running, and try big, crazy things together.


Ed. Note- This post begins CUE’s series of Connected Educator Month (#ce15) blog posts. For all things Connected Educator Month visit their schedule on the CEM main site and follow #ce15 on the tweets. Connect with the CUE blog by tweeting at me (@TheWeirdTeacher) and leaving comments in the comment section (where else would you leave comments? Sticky notes on your computer screen? That’s not very connected, except with extremely weak glue).

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Christina Torres currently teaches 7th and 9th grade English and Drama at University Laboratory School in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. She previously taught in Los Angeles, and worked on Teach For America – Hawai‘i staff. Christina holds a Masters in Education with a focus on Digital Education from Loyola Marymount University, and more info can be found at http://christinatorres.org

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Christina Torres

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