- In a virtual session during last week's annual ISTE conference, Henry Turner, principal of Newton North High School in Massachusetts, said school technology leaders must recognize when implementing programs that "technology has been both the disruptor of addressing inequity and hate, but it also has been the amplifier.”
Leaders must not miss the equity aspect when focusing on the implementation of technology, Turner said, citing a Deutsche Bank study from 2020 that found lack of digital access could lead to 76% of Black people and 62% of Hispanic people being shut out or underprepared for 86% of U.S. jobs by 2045.
- With that in mind, Turner said, it’s educators’ jobs to help Black and brown students learn the technology so they're prepared for those jobs and know how to amplify their work.
Turner, who was also previously selected as K-12 Dive's 2020 Principal of the Year, said that his passion for antiracist leadership in schools and his dissertation on technology leadership and large technology programs led him to combine the work in both areas.
As such, he suggests using the design thinking process used by many tech companies as a way to address these issues. “As people who are interested in technology, let’s think about how the tech is created as a way to address systemic racism," Turner said.
In short, that process might look like:
- Empathize: Develop understanding and compassion for others.
- Define: Create a problem statement.
- Ideate: Thinking outside of the box to develop ideas to solve the problem.
- Prototype: Incorporate possible solutions.
- Test: Assess and redefine.
"Systemic racism feels so huge that sometimes we feel stunted or we feel paralyzed to be able to respond, but if we think about the idea of ‘crawl, walk, run’ and start small, and we talk about race and racism every moment of every day, we know we can start to grow to address systemic racism," Turner said. Given that technology has the power to empower antiracism and racism alike, he added that it requires a more granular approach than just defining the problem as “We want to end racism.”
On the part of school communities, this requires research, thought, reflection, curiosity and recognition of privilege — and these aren't always easy or comfortable processes. For example, statements like “I don’t give grades, students earn them” can indicate a lack of reflection, as teachers create the algorithms that measure the grades students receive.
“When we as educators take out our responsibility, we are allowing for the inequity to exist,” Turner said.