equity Archives - The Jose Vilson

equity

The Digital Divide

The Digital Divide

EdSurge, a popular education technology website, recently invited me to write an article for them. My mouth was agape at the offer, mainly because everyone knows I won’t hold back on issues of equity. I applaud their courage for taking me on. Here’s an excerpt:

Of course, this means I am advocating for tech as tool, not tech as teacher. A common misconception, especially for many education reformers, is that we can put a set of YouTube videos in front of a student and they will learn all the material they need better than if they had an experienced in-person educator in front of them. This sort of structure, commonly known as the “flipped classroom,” assumes students will use their devices at home to get all the lecturing they need and come to school to get their activities. In theory, this sounds great for the self-motivated student and looks to “free up” teachers to innovate with the time they got back from having someone else teaching.

In practice, however, our students tend to need someone in front of them, working with them. Even online teachers need to develop relationships with their students. Most adults I speak to don’t remember exactly what a teacher taught them but they remember the teachers they had based on how they felt about them. Plus, videos can’t adjust themselves to the students’ needs and don’t align themselves to the way the teacher or the school approaches the material. Pretty colors and 3D animations may attract students’ eyes but it doesn’t automatically lead students to create ideas or delve deeply into the curriculum. If anything, the ed-tech landscape as of now suggests badges, gradients, and glossy commercials make students learn, to the detriment of students whose parents buy into it imprudently.

Read up and share with your friends! Thanks everyone.

Mr. Vilson

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Keys in the Sand

In the previous essay, I discussed why I believe that opportunity and tenacity go hand-in-hand in a pendular relationship, even with the disproportionate balance of the discussion going more towards “hard work.” The struggle for opportunity is a battle many thinkers and advocates alike see as a critical component of finding equity in as many arenas as possible. In a country so proud of its opportunities for millions of citizens of many backgrounds to make “something” of themselves, there’s plenty of instances where the owners and bosses of the established order limit the opportunities to their liking, and often to the detriment of those we may consider hard-working.

With that said, when my students ask me, “Mr. Vilson, how do YOU think we’re going to make it up out of here?” Here, of course, meaning the metaphorical ghettos and impoverished neighborhoods they live in, and even subconsciously, the mentalities that persist in these neighborhoods, I’d say simply, “Work hard.”

That sounds rather hypocritical that I’d perpetuate that stance even after I just told hundreds of adults online that there should be a balance. However, if we look at the context of what I might say (and have said), it falls right in line with maintaining that balance.

For many of our youth, the idea of instant gratification has become more prevalent, a huge side effect of capitalism (the merits of which I won’t explicitly debate here). Everyday, my students are exposed to images that tell them that a) if you just do x-y-z, then you’ll get on this screen in front of millions of people, b) if you want something, it’s really easy to get it, and c) you don’t need to know much about what you see because things are really as simple as they’re displayed.

To expound upon the first point, I see many of my boys gravitate towards men such as Kobe Bryant, Jay-Z, and Jamie Foxx. These three gentlemen, among plenty of others, represent some of the hottest and successful in their respective fields. Yet, all my students see is that they’ve made it on the screen or the radio, and because they make their craft look so simple, my boys are deceived by these instant snapshots delivered at them rather than the more concrete evidence of their long, sleepless nights, tireless practice, and years of disappointment and failure to get to their positions. While it’s true that many of their opportunities were fairly lucky, and some were privileged enough to know the right people and have the proper upbringing, none of the success happens without a tub of elbow grease.

None.

Basketball courts and tabletops certainly come in abundance in my boys’ neighborhoods, and likely so does a certain level of competition. For that matter, so do get-rich-quick opportunities, illegal or otherwise. These opportunities come in abundance, and the right conditions can multiply the allure of selling drugs or buying into pyramid schemes. In spaces where they’re told that their parents work hard through a blue-collar job but their society undervalues it by only giving those workers enough to have a shabby square of an apartment, it’s easy to see why one might choose these options. The code for these occupations, thusly, is “ hustle,” because the returns on the investment come much quicker than a 9-5, but the risks involved often lead those involved to having to “run.”

From what is often the variable.

Therefore, when I tell my students that hard work and dedication is the key, I’m more implying a few counterpoints:

We’re all working towards building bigger and better opportunities and equity across this space.
We have a long way to go before we get there, but I believe we can make it happen by believing in that balance, and having some discipline in what we do there.
Most occupations worth their weight in salt can exist without that balance of tenacity and opportunity, because when the balance gets out of order, the risk becomes a factor in that occupation.

As we teeter in our imbalances, I can only hope that we as thought leaders keep these things in mind as our culture obfuscates the ideas of opportunity with what we see on the screen. Particularly with the heightened rapidity of globalization and computer engineering’s huge influence on that speed, if we don’t seek to balance this, we’ll see a wider gap that many of our communities simply can’t withstand.

Let’s not miss another opportunity here.

Mr. Vilson, who really doesn’t like case studies too much …

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