Sunday, March 2, 2014

EdTech and Gender in 4 Scenes

This post started out as a post about getting large systems to move forward with EdTech and notions of frontier. The more I thought about it the more my examples seemed to be about gender roles as much as about technology. I think this much less true in higher ed than k12 but still. You may disagree, even then the post might illuminate something.

1. All of my students have tablets (it is a requirement) and most have an iPad or iPad mini. In a conversation one of my students confided that her dad hates the iPad. I smiled and said: "let me guess, he loves tinkering and hates the fact that you do not need him to conduct maintenance and problem solve your computer problems." She paused, thought about it and admitted: "yep that's pretty much it".

2. In a work with a specific district the school technology guy refused to get iPads for the teachers. He was an old army guy (I can relate) used to the age where we could fix anything with pliers, a screwdriver and a few components he rebelled against the blackbox. His main defense was "how will we change the batteries once they start running out?" Once again it was an issue of control of a male "techie" over mostly female staff. By the way there was a lot less patronizing over the high school staff in the same school with many more male teachers.

3. Two weeks back I was in Western Nebraska participating in the ESU 13 MidWinter Conference. We had two great sessions with teachers (60 in one session and over 100 in the second). A few kindergarten teachers complained that they have yet to receive the iPads because the technology person at the district will not release the iPads until they take a class and a test. They were frustrated as was I. I've seen 3 year olds and cats manage the iPad effectively- a course?

4. A large district I work with bought i devices, but gave the elementary teachers (predominantly women) sets of predefined apps and no passwords. The devices were updated 1-2 times a year. Again, the same women we trust with 16-30 of our children (a woman's role) cannot be trusted with technology and access to a password or just the freedom to create their own.

Each one of these scenes on its own is just a tiny sliver of reality but taken together we start seeing a whole picture. I am not "blaming" anyone I just think that we have persisted with stereotypes and attitudes that go unexamined. Why do teachers need to pass a "test" or a "cours" to use a device meant to be used out of the box? Mainly because we want to "protect" the womenfolk from their own foley. Some of it is based on previous experience. Elementary teachers (again mostly but not exclusively women) disliked using computers that required constant tinkering and time wasting on just getting things to work. They needed machines that worked and for that they needed techies (mostly menfolk). Now with new devices that do not require support it is the techies that resist because these new devices make their role as gate keepers and winners of admiration less somehow.

Because as we all know the role of the tech experts is actually much greater than ever, security, network, wireless and privacy are all necessary, crucial to the operation of any school system. But that puts the techies away from the teacher and her gratitude. Teachers as a result developed a dislike of technology and its many obstacles. How many passwords will you try before you give up on that Youtube video?

Technology in it's modern transparency is part of literacy. Devices let us express ourselves and experience others in a multitude of ways that are crucial for raising this next generation- remembering that the kindergarteners of today will graduate college (or the open-badge factory) in 2030. As a result we cannot heap obstacles in their way we should be opening doors to seamless technologies and let everyone- EVERYONE- play.
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