Monday, November 18, 2013

Hard Questions in Ed Tech

Photo by Megan Black
Despite my last name and city of birth, I'm white. This is an identity with which I have struggled in one way or another most of my life. Growing up in Detroit, I was often the lone white girl. I spent five years in Chicago and another sixteen in Los Angeles in mostly Mexican neighborhoods. Until recently the schools I taught in were lower socioeconomic communities of color. 

For the past six years I have been back in Michigan. I spent the first five at a public charter in Detroit. When I first got there we had nothing to speak of by way of technology. When I left we had plenty. I'm told the digital divide is being crossed. At least on paper. Many minority schools and city school districts have the same technology tools as their wealthier counterparts. 

But I challenge you to go to an educational technology conference and look for diversity.  With the rare exception, it is a sea of white faces. And not just white teachers but white teachers from white schools. The MACUL conference this past March was at Cobo Hall in Detroit. There were thousands of educators. I worked an Ask Me booth above the main floor for two hours at the end of the first day. It allowed me to see the entire crowd as they departed. I counted less than a dozen minority teachers. 

And don't even get me started on the perception that the major players/presenters in the Ed tech field are mostly men. In a profession predominantly peopled by women (education) the vast majority with the authority to present and pack a room are men, in their mid thirties. Former high school teachers. Don't get me wrong, these are good men with a lot to offer. But, are there that many less women instructors with the gravitas to impart best practices in this area? Oh I know there are a few noteworthy elementary education technology integration specialists as well as a few female high school experts in the field, but again, the numbers are skewed. Why?

I believe  digital divide still exists but it is less so about having the tools and more about the expertise in how to skillfully integrate those tools.  I want to be wrong about this and I welcome feedback that tells me I am with explanations. Is it possible that minority schools are getting their professional development in house and/or on site? Or is this a casualty of the survival mode struggling districts seem to operate under? 

If I am right, what can be done about it? How can we cross the great divide and bring equity to all?

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