Are we seeing a third wave of inequality in education in relation to technology?

Yesterday I had the pleasure to take part in an expert meeting on technology in education and ethics. I’ve learned a lot from the specialists around the table who all came from a different background. One of the things I put forward is that we now are experiencing a third wave of inequality in education in relation to technology.

The first wave of inequality was the difference between those children who have access to technology versus not having access. And while there are still children who aren’t online at home, the reasons now can be very different. I’ve seen research that shows that in some regions it’s more common among more affluent families to limit the amount of time online.

The second wave – probably still present – is in what young people do online. It is the difference between doing stuff for school versus just fun, not necessarily in line with social background, although I’ve seen statistics suggesting this also to be the case.

The third wave of possible inequality in relation to education – to me – consists of two elements:

  1. The focus on personalized learning through technology has shown at least mixed results in relation to inequality, as e.g. the Dutch inspectorate has shown in 2016 that this approach made inequality bigger while often hailed as a mean to lower inequality or not having access to personalized learning being regarded as a a form of inequality.
  2. Related to this is a second element: human contact as luxury. If you go to McDonalds you order now your food via a screen. In a more expensive restaurant you will pay extra for a human waiter or waitress. This is a scenario from hell for education in which poor students get the technology while children who’s parents pay more get the actual teachers. It’s not unlike the MOOC’s who were a hope for more democratization of education, but were also actually the opposite or the danger of using taped courses online.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Are we seeing a third wave of inequality in education in relation to technology?

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