Solving for the Unknown: Ed Tech and Equity

Just before the big snow storm on February 10, I went to New York for a meeting sponsored by Mimi Ito, Justin Reich and Danah BoydFrom Good Intentions to Real Outcomes: Equity by Design in Learning Technologies.  There was a diverse and motley crew of entrepreneurs, researchers, funders, reporters and practitioners assembled in the Data and Society offices in New York to discuss how we might design for equity in ed tech. The group came up with an incredible starter list of principles that I am hoping the organizers will release soon! Some of the ideas that came up:

  • Addressing psycho social barriers.
  • Co-designing with learners.
  • Working with families to use the technology together.
  • Addressing costs/other barriers.
  • Measuring subgroup usage.
  • Focusing on using technologies to support interests.

My group had a robust discussion about how technology can be a “blunt instrument” in communities of color.  We talked about the importance of considering:

  • The needs of students vary at different points in time.
  • The need for a social infrastructure that is peer-based and recognizes social capital and informal/formal networks.
  • The need for research that both helps create interventions and is rapid cycle.
  • The need to remember technology should replace hands-on learning but augment it.
  • The need to be attentive to local context/culture and relationships.
  • The need to clarify the goals because they may influence the technology used and how you go about implementation.

It’s worth taking a moment to ask: who is designing the tools our students are using and how do they reflect their needs? If culture is an asset that unlocks learning for low income students of color, then we need to amp up the culture in technology. Given the fact that a colleague just went to an AI/tech conference in San Francisco and noticed very few people of color and even fewer women, I’d say we have a long way to go on both the gender and racial diversity fronts.