Social Justice: Choice or Necessity?
By Colleen Swain and David Edyburn
L&L March 2007
This article underscores the importance of equity in the classroom with regard to instructional technology for students of all backgrounds and abilities. It makes the case that equity refers not only to access but to expectations of fluency and the enhanced learning strategies made possible by the computer.
Colleen Swain and David Edyburn argue that while problems with limited or no access still persist in some schools, concern should also be raised that teachers need to ensure that all of their students receive the maximum benefits available through the use of instructional technology. In other words, just because the technology is present doesn’t mean a teacher has achieved social justice in the classroom. They like David Miller’s definition of social justice, which they quote as follows: “…how the good and bad things in life should be distributed among members of a human society.” So, for instance, a teacher should monitor computer time in the classroom to ensure boys don’t end up with more time than girls. A teacher should be mindful to offer challenging technological tasks to students with lower grades or scores and not just to the star pupils.
1. What can a teacher do at the outset to further technological equity in the classroom?
To achieve the best results possible, a teacher needs to know which students have access to a home computer and an internet connection, and which students do not. Per Swain and Edyburn, this information should be collected discreetly from each student. That way, a teacher can make sure to maximize the resources and time available for the student without home access.
2. What can a teacher do to ensure technological social justice for a student with special needs?
The laws and resources to provide maximum opportunities for children with special needs are now substantial. Therefore, one of the most important things a teacher can do is identify any children that might have special needs and recommend an IEP, if appropriate. Most children with special needs can be mainstreamed into the regular classroom, and still access special technology as needed.