COVID-19 has dropped every educator right in the middle of every argument about online education. As a small start, if we care about the rights of children, each of us needs to fight to make sure every child in America has robust access to the Internet.
And if you are as dedicated as I am to every child having equal opportunity in the classroom, then we have an obligation to shape discourse. This pandemic will pass, and our normal will be a new one. And that normal WILL include expanded online education options in one way or another.
If we want to teach and encourage anti-racism, we need to take the lead and create a social justice anchored curriculum tailored to online education.
The Internet is not a privilege; it is a right. In 2020 the Internet is part of education. It is not a nice to have. It is a must-have tool for students to access, interpret, and synthesize information.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 19 million Americans don’t have access to broadband Internet owing to infrastructure. In rural areas, it is nearly 25% of the population. In tribal areas, it is nearly one-third of the population.
And in urban areas where there is broadband access, the barrier is economic. A 2017 Department of Education Report found that only 53% of Black children and 52% of Latino children, aged 3 to 18 years old, have Internet access at home. The reason 46 % of Black families and 44 % of Latino families stated as to why they did not have home Internet access was the expense.
COVID-19 highlights the fact that the Internet should be a public utility.
COVID-19 also highlights the importance of teachers being involved in creating an online curriculum that is engaging, useful, and appropriate for the tool of online.
The education system cannot continue to put its fingers in its ears and hum —with the hopes that the Internet will go away.
“Algorithms maintain some of the same biases that permeate society. They find patterns within datasets that reflect implicit biases and, in so doing, emphasize and reinforce these biases as global truth, ” from The Ugly Truth About Ourselves and Our Robot Creations: The Problem of Bias and Social Inequity by Howard and Borenstein in 2017.
We have seen that the technology left to its own devices is not only racist, but can learn to be racist when anti-racist advocates are not at the table in the conception and development stages.
For the sake of justice, we must run towards the future of machines and grab control of the narrative, so that the advances in technology benefit our children, rather than enslave them.
Children’s Book Author, Early Childhood Education Specialist, Curriculum Developer, and Social Justice Advocate for Children
(n.d.). Eighth Broadband Progress Report | Federal Communications …. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/reports/broadband-progress-reports/eighth-broadband-progress-report
(n.d.). Student Access to Digital Learning Resources Outside … – NCES. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017098/ind_10.asp
(2017, September 21). The Ugly Truth About Ourselves and Our Robot Creations …. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28936795