Implications for educators and technology developers

Student voice and knowledge building can be encouraged as part of a larger effort to engage the community in anti-poverty strategies, helping diverse stakeholders “develop a shared view of their own community, confer a sense of common purpose to their struggle against poverty, and eventually create representations and discourse that better reflect and emulate their own construction of reality.”44 Yet to take full advantage of these possibilities educators and technology developers must rethink “assumptions about who can and should be an authority on educational practice.”45 For students to feel a sense of genuine purpose in the classroom, they must be exposed to “opportunities to lead and share responsibility in achieving their individual and collective goals.”46 At the same time, interactions between students, educators, and technology developers must “transform considerably” in order to “accommodate and leverage” edtech as a tool for increasing equity: “At stake are existing power relations between adults and youth, particularly with respect to control and the directionality of learning.”47

For example, Flocabulary’s “Week in Rap” music videos use hip hop as a lens to examine current events, setting up opportunities for students to explore a range of topics that affect their lives. A teacher in Brooklyn, New York, has used the videos along with journals and class discussions to help students practice critical thinking as well as reading, writing, and oral presentations.48 Such an interdisciplinary approach is aligned with the “interconnected nature of science as it is practiced and experienced in the real world.”49 Applying science to life beyond the classroom also encourages students “to become emotional stakeholders in the problem”, an important precursor to self-directed learning.50

The tendency of those in power to undervalue the perspectives of students from low-income households can be interpreted in part as “fear of the other,” which can reinforce a tendency to engage in practices of “exclusion, rejection, prosecution, domination and even extermination.”51 By contrast, in order to fulfill the promises of diversity in the classroom – which include “promoting […] participation,” “eradicating social conflicts,” and minimizing “misunderstandings between groups or individuals”52 – educators and technology developers must create opportunities for these students to actively engage in “discourses” that prioritize community-level change through “the construction of knowledge as a social activity”53:

Inclusion is a construction project. Inclusion must be engineered. It is unlikely to “happen” on its own. Rather, those who hold the power of invitation must also consciously create the conditions for sincere engagement, where underrepresented voices receive necessary air time, where those contributing the necessary “diversity” are part of the planning process.54

In addition to expanding discourses, inclusion can be facilitated through practices such as “participatory budgeting,” which ensures that stakeholders of all backgrounds have a voice in how resources are distributed.55 In the school context, these conditions are intimately connected to “academic freedom,” which can exist only within learning environments that “[t]reat all students with respect and dignity” and provide “positive reinforcement” for self expression despite cultural differences.56


44. Strier, 2008, p. 1076
45. Cook-Sather, 2002, p. 9
46. Quaglia, 2016, p. 9
47. Philip & Garcia, 2015, p. 698
48. White, 2016
49. NSTA, 2016, para. 5
50. Rule, 2006, as cited in ERN, 2007, para. 5
51. Prieto, 2014, p. 298
52. ibid, p. 297
53. Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1993, pp. 38-39
54. Spelic, 2016, as cited in Bali, 2016, para. 4
55. Mercedes, 2016, para. 1
56. Lee & Garrett, 2005, p. 268