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Guest Thinkers

Social justice

Many of my educational leadership colleagues across the country would say that they are working in the area of social justice. They write articles with titles like Expanding the landscape of social justice: A critical ecological analysis; Leadership for social justice and equity: Weaving a transformative framework and pedagogy; School leadership reforms: Filtering social justice through dominant discourses; and Educational leadership and social justice: Practice into theory.

From conferences and other interactions, I know these folks and can say

with complete certainty that they all are absolutely top-notch

scholars. I also know each and every one of these articles is

well-researched, well-reasoned, well-regarded, and well-meaning.

That said, I’m troubled by the fact that educational leadership

folks (faculty and K-12 leaders both) aren’t talking more about digital

technologies and future employability when they talk about social justice.

Indeed, I rarely hear mention of technology at all within these

contexts. I’d like to see more discussion in both K-12 and higher ed

about the future world that disadvantaged kids are going to live in and

what we need to do to boost their digital participation, citizenship,

and employability opportunities.

NCLB is framed as social justice legislation, but its basic premise

is that boosting disadvantaged students’ performance on industrial-era

skills is socially just practice. Similarly, we talk about the digital divide

mostly in terms of giving kids access to computers and the Internet and

not so much in terms of teaching them how to be effective participants

in a technologically-suffused, globally-interconnected future.

It’s not enough to give disadvantaged students access to digital

technologies. They also need opportunities to learn to use those

technologies in ways that will enhance their opportunities to be

fully-functioning members of our future society. Disadvantaged students

are the ones most in need of these pedagogical opportunities because

their families and communities are less likely to have the means to

provide such opportunities outside of school. I read a quote from

someone (and I dearly wish I could remember who said it) that said

something like “poor kids have things done to them by computers, while

affluent kids get to do things with computers.” The author’s premise

was that even when disadvantaged students get to use computers in

schools, too often it’s for drill-and-kill, repetitive, basic fact work

rather than them getting to use computers in creative, collaborative,

problem-solving ways. I think the author was deadly correct regarding

many, many schools.

Many of us education bloggers write a lot about transforming

classroom practice to reflect the needs of a new world: we often call

it ‘School 2.0.’ Is School 2.0 the ultimate

social justice issue for disadvantaged students? Is School 2.0 the most

critical social justice issue of our time if disadvantaged students

aren’t going to be left even further behind than they already are? If

so, why aren’t we framing more of our technology initiatives and

discussion in this way? Where’s our moral imperative?

This post also is available at the TechLearning blog.


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