Usually, simply using the term “technology” makes us think of inequality, deficits. It leads us to think of the huge gaps between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the possibilities and reality. However, I would like to suggest that technology can also help promote equality in our classrooms.
“Fair is Not Equal”
As students of the theory of Differentiated Instruction know, “fair” means “same,” but treating everyone the same does not always result in equality. Instead, we may need to treat students very differently in order to get them each to reach the desired results.
In order to make this concept clear, I always think of an activity that one of my professors used in his classroom.
- Hand each student a slip of paper with a different ailment printed on it. For example, they may say “papercut,” “headache,” “brain tumor,” etc.
- Have students write down the symptoms of their ailment.
- Claim that you are going to cure all of the students’ illnesses.
- Walk around the room and give each student two M&Ms, claiming that they are Tylenol.
As soon as he began handing out the M&Ms, the students began complaining that Tylenol would not cure them. Those with the most severe illnesses were most upset. My professor would then turn the discussion into a lesson on how giving everyone the same instruction or treatment may not result in everyone being equal. Instead, students should be given as little or as much support as they need in order to reach the class’s learning goals.
Technology to the Rescue!
Technology can assist in our efforts to differentiate our lessons. We can provide supplemental instructional tools, such as online educational games or explanatory websites. By incorporating technology and multimodality in assessment, we can encourage students to demonstrate their learning in ways that they are most capable.
This can be especially valuable for those students who do not excel in reading or writing, or according to Howard Gardner, those who are not Linguistic learners. By utilizing technology, we can reach other types of learners such as those described in Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Using technology to provide examples, illustrations, or support collaborative activities in our lessons can be very valuable to many different types of students.
Everyone is different, and in order to recognize and value these differences, we may need to treat or teach students differently. Technology is another resource that we can use to help all students reach our learning goals. The important thing to remember is that our expectations do not change, only our methods.