The best growth opportunity for any facilitator is to improvise. So, when event Chair suddenly dropped from the call, I had to improvise as I was not kept in the loop of what was planned. Fortunately, I eat challenges for breakfast.
This post summarises the activity I ran on 10th Feb for ARLT SIG, which included:
- Reading a blog
- Participating in a Padlet activity
- Watching a short video on simple technology with group discussion
1 Race equality in learning technology – digital poverty Blog
A few days beforehand, I had published a post around “Race equality in learning technology – digital poverty” (https://bit.ly/3VK0Ly8); it was an apt topic for the ARLT SIG crowd given that it touched upon race equality in learning.
2 Padlet activity
While the attendees were reading the blog, I quickly created a Padlet to capture their reflections on equity in technologies (https://bit.ly/3vz8oM2) around:
- Their current thoughts (after reading the blog)
- Their current emotions (after reading the blog)
- Have you been sensitive all the times?
- What can you do to be more sensitve to such issues in the future?
The rationale for capturing thoughts and emotions was purely to capture a British audience’s thoughts and emotions when exposed to views different from their own, particularly if they were born and grew up in the UK and have never been exposed to the educational sector outside the British educational system.
And I was right to ask these very questions. A point that stood out was that many of the attendees had never thought of that angle of technology that I wrote about in my blog post. It was not surprising as many people have not had access to the wide range of technologies that I had the opportunity to use throughout my studies and career. Coming from Africa, and of course Global South where tech innovations take time to appear on the market, I knew fair well how to use simple day-to-day gadgets for high impact, and of course, having toyed with high techs like Virtual Reality (CAVE) during my research, I had the other end of the experience as well.
I summarise here some of the thoughts shared on the Padlet:
What is technology?
Yes, I very much agree that ‘What is technology?’ is an under-discussed matter. It is entangled with people and their background, biases etc. It’s not neutral. It’s created by an unrepresentative slice of humanity who we cannot expect to understand all the people who will use this technology. If we use it as if it is neutral, that’s a problem *we* are making.~ A member of the Mooc Delivery Team from the Unviersity of Edinburgh
Race and Class
The intersection between race and social class is a complex one. I sometimes feel that it’s easier to conflate the two because race is more difficult to talk about (and more difficult to address within our sector).
Multi Factor Authentication
It’s not an LT tool, but we rolled out MFA for logging on to PCs/devices and although that means extra security for students and staff, I was struck by the fact that students will need to have a phone either to use the authenticator app or to receive an SMS message to log in now.
I think the process might have been handled a bit differently if we’d thought about the questions in the blog post.
Group discussion notes: It is clear that many institutions force the use of technology on students (and staff also) without much thought on the impact this will have on those people. For instance, in this case of MFA, students without a phone will be penalised, how about someone whose phone got stolen or stop working? When we cater for the most marginalised group, we automatically cater for everyone. I am more than glad that this unplanned activity has kicked started some meaningful conversations around digital inequity.
A big issue
Feels like ultimately this is to do with the inequity in who holds the power. Feels like there is a little an individual learning technologist can do against this.~ A member of the Mooc Delivery Team from the Unviersity of Edinburgh
Group discussion notes: Here there is a failure to realise that it is individual people grouped together who make the crowd. While union makes power, it is clarity in purpose of each individual that drives the change. So in fact, each individual Learning Technologist has the power to start change – it may not be budgetary control but surely each individual has the power to start the conversation around the change which is needed.
Have you been sensitive at all times?
I am studying for a master in Digital Education at the moment and we are very much encouraged to consider how students can be put at a disadvantage by the technology we require them to use and how we expect them to use it. For me this has been to increase my awareness of the inaccessibility of the arrangement and the impact of class and economics, but racism itself less so. So, because of my lack of such awareness I am less sensitive to this, and this alone means I have acted with insufficient sensitivity.~ A member of the Mooc Delivery Team from the Unviersity of Edinburgh
The connection between learning tech and race is a concept I’ve really not thought about before. This forum (and hopefully the outputs) will be important and widely educational~ Sarah Sherman
Group discussion notes: Antiracism is actually not a day-to-day business of most people, particularly here in the UK where antiracism is wrongly understood. Hopefully, today’s conversation has nudged some people to think about tech and race and this is just the start of more meaningful and impactful conversations. It is necessary to keep turning up to similar events to increase our awareness and debunk our own biases.
What can you do to be more sensitve to such issues in the future?
I hope through education (which includes through informal support from friends and colleagues) I have become more sensitive to accessibility and have acted with greater sensitivity. I hope that I might understand racism (and learning technology) better in this way also.~ A member of the Mooc Delivery Team from the Unviersity of Edinburgh
Group discussion notes: It is also important to go beyond friends and colleagues. We are a product of our immediate circle. When it comes to a successful antiracist effort, the key is to hear from voices outside our circle and also to get comfortable around uncomfortable topics which most of the times come from strangers who are not in our professional or personal circles – e.g. connect to your 3rd+ level connections on LinkedIn, and this may expose you to a whole set of completely new conversations, like for instance today, I do not know anyone of you personally, never worked together, not even connected on LinkedIn, and yet from the comments, the activity seems to have touched all attendees profoundly.
3 What is a machine video