Students’ experiences of poverty can affect almost every aspect of their lives, including the extent to which they are able to satisfy fundamental needs such as nutrition, safety, social interactivity, and academic freedom. Poverty also impacts students’ relationships to education technology (“edtech”) – where and when it can be accessed, why and how it is used, and the outcomes for which it is optimized. These sociocultural and technological affordances, in turn, encourage or suppress learning opportunities that influence students’ intellectual development.
Along with homes and communities, school environments play a crucial role within students’ day-to-day realities, helping to define physical and digital backdrops that are critical for academic and social growth. Nonetheless, within these spaces students interact with educators and technology developers in ways that can reflect and reinforce gaps in resources. For example, the proliferation of mobile devices among students from all backgrounds has dramatically increased access to edtech, yet in many schools there are infrastructural deficits that constrain technology-enabled learning.
Edtech can offer new opportunities for students to create and express ideas that transcend differences in economic and political power, but these are contingent upon use that prioritizes perspectives and values that may differ from those held by many educators and technology developers. Students from low-income households benefit when they can discover their voices and critically examine poverty’s relationship to both education and technology. In order to empower these students, educators and technology developers must encourage the development of epistemic agency as well as the capacity to build and share knowledge – important precursors to participation in decision-making processes related to education policy, curriculum, and learning goals.
This paper explores the link between equity, economic and political power, and education technology, and argues that hunger and fear are essential considerations for educators and technology developers who seek to support students’ academic and social liberation. The opening section begins with an exploration of diversity, inclusion, and decolonization, followed by a discussion of equity and education technology, and concludes with an introduction to the topics of hunger, fear, and liberation. The paper continues with three sections exploring hunger, fear, and liberation in greater depth – probing their relationship to poverty, the school environment, and edtech equity. The sections also explore how educators and technology developers might leverage mobile devices, student voice, and epistemic agency to empower students from low-income households to confront social inequities as well as to pursue the promise of their own freedom.