Saturday, May 21, 2016

What Girl Volleyball taught Me about EdTech

I am visiting my mother in Israel for a few days. Sitting around the table were some family and friends that came to say hi. My aunt was telling us about her granddaughter who is just over 15 and already 6'2". My first thought was, does she play volleyball? This is what I perceive to be a Nebraska question. After 14 years in Nebraska, I think like a Nebraskan. It is unusual for a girl who is tall not to be involved in sports. Einat, a long time friend, and an athlete, chimed in does she play basketball? The answer was No, she does not do any sport. Instead, she is modeling. My aunt explained that there were no opportunities afforded to her in sports.
Einat, who is a former pro athlete, lamented the status of women's sports at all levels. The opportunities aren't there, and there is very slow change.

I started thinking about what made the situation in Nebraska and the US different. While the status of women in the US is somewhat better than Israel, it is not dramatically different. Israelis love sports. While speaking, I realized that the main difference was schools and extracurriculars. I have to admit that I have an ambivalence towards high school sports. But through this discussion, I realized how the structure of extracurricular activities allows schools to open opportunities across ethnicity, income, and gender lines. The fact that it is a school sanctioned activity allows students who might never find such a home to "try out" new selves. In this case to try out their identity as athletes. This would not happen for many students unless schools offered the activity. In popular culture, I am reminded of the path that Jesminder 'Jess' Kaur Bhamra took in Bend It like Beckham. I am convinced that the road would open to many more girls and minority women when it is a school activity.

So what does that have to do with EdTech? Quite a bit. I hear calls to limit the use of technology in
schools or even not teach with devices. Teach thinking, basics, writing. I believe that much of this argument is coming from a middle-class belief that students will eventually get there. I make this point often about my kids. If their school fails to teach them about digital citizenship, search, or tools, I will show them. The problem is that this approach leaves too many capable students behind. Students who will not find a guide that would help them explore if they are interested in science, programming or gaming. Without schools affording to expose all students to these areas we are reproducing gap and losing some of our most talented future creators. We should teach science, technology, and making to ALL in school right NOW.
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