Access to technology gives students a voice
Reflecting on CoSN2021’s “Brave and Bold” theme, Shelton opened his discussion with the poem “Invitation to Brave Space” by Mickey Scott B. Jones: “Together we’ll create brave spaceThe poem begins, and finally concludes with ‘You will Be our brave space together, and we’ll work on it hand in hand. “
Shelton stressed the importance of being both brave and daring to navigate the separation caused by distance learning and inequality. “I don’t think it’s possible to have a truly equitable learning environment without technology,” Shelton said. He explained that technology and equitable access to it allow students to thrive in education rather than just survive.
Speaking about the importance of these values, Shelton posed the question, “How do we use [technology] To make sure that everyone has a voice, and that everyone is heard? Without technology, he continued, students could only access one perspective: the audio in their textbook.
Shelton explained how books and curricula are often outdated and bleached without access to technology. Drawing from personal experience, Shelton recalled his low grade in an American history paper he wrote on the Tuskegee Airmen, in which he interviewed primary sources from his family because his teacher’s curriculum did not include the military class.
The Five Elements of Critical Pedagogy
When creating a platform where all voices can be heard, Shelton said, it is important to use restorative policies rather than punitive measures for student behavior. He discusses what he calls the Five Elements of Critical Criticism: humility, love, faith, hope, and critical thinking. He explained that when teachers are able to maintain these five expectations, they create a more equitable learning environment for students.
Shelton noted that culture is a much greater predictor of the path to student success than anything else, emphasizing that students need to be seen, heard, and loved in their learning environments. This can be particularly difficult in the era of hybrid learning, he added, as students and teachers struggle with inaccessible devices, connectivity issues, and other aspects of the digital divide. However, he said, technology can also help schools remove barriers to equity in the first place.