By Konstantina Papadopoulou
Source: One Laptop per Child/flickr
EdTech promises to create new possibilities for learners, teachers and schools. However, saviorism in EdTech may misguide and hinder the path towards.
EdTech is a rapidly growing field, with many stakeholders viewing it as the answer to numerous educational challenges. EdTech proponents believe that it has the potential to democratize education, increase access to high-quality educational resources and enhance learning outcomes. But can this optimism sometimes turn into saviorism in EdTech?
How can we define saviorism in EdTech?
Saviorism in EdTech can be described as the belief that technology alone can solve the problems faced by the education system. This viewpoint is based on the assumption that introducing technology in the classroom will automatically improve educational outcomes and bridge the gap between unprivileged and privileged students. It manifests as a one-size-fits-all approach to educational technology, with little regard for the unique cultural, social and economic contexts of different communities.
How can saviorism manifest in EdTech?
Technology as a panacea for all educational problems: It can often be assumed that technology is a panacea for all educational problems. Technology is perceived as a tool that can address issues such as unequal access to education, poor quality of teaching and lack of resources. This viewpoint overlooks the underlying social, economic, and political issues that contribute to educational inequalities. The problem is not simply the lack of technology but also the lack of opportunities, resources and support.
The “white savior” complex: This complex is characterized by the belief that privileged people have a responsibility to help less privileged people. In the context of EdTech, this can take the form of technology companies or individuals from more developed countries going to less developed countries to “fix” their educational systems. This approach ignores the local expertise and perspectives of the target audience, perpetuating the idea that people from more developed countries know best.
Ignoring local context: This can occur when technology solutions are developed without considering the cultural, social and economic context of the learners, teachers and schools they are intended to serve. This approach can lead to the imposition of technology solutions that are incompatible with local conditions and do not address the real educational challenges faced by learners and teachers. For example, providing tablets to learners in an area without considering the lack of electricity or internet connectivity may not solve the problem but magnify it.
Lack of engagement with the target audience: This can occur when technology solutions are developed without involving the learners, teachers and communities they are intended to serve. This approach can lead to the development of technology solutions that do not meet the needs and aspirations of the target audience.
Source: Maya Elie/neaToday
What are the consequences of this saviorism?
Reinforcing existing inequalities: By assuming that technology is the solution to all educational problems, the social, economic and political factors that contribute to educational inequalities can be overlooked. This can also lead to the imposition of technology solutions that are incompatible with local conditions and do not address the real educational challenges faced by learners and teachers. For example, providing laptops to students in a low-income school without addressing the underlying issues of poverty, discrimination and lack of support may not improve learning outcomes.
Disempowering local communities: By ignoring their needs, aspirations and expertise. When technology solutions are imposed without consulting the target audience, it can lead to the disempowerment of local communities and the loss of their agency in shaping their educational systems.
Neglecting the importance of human interaction in education: Technology solutions can never replace the importance of human interaction in learning. Effective teaching involves building relationships, creating safe and supportive learning environments and fostering social and emotional skills. These aspects of education cannot be replaced by technology solutions.
In conclusion, saviorism in EdTech should be observed and avoided. Working towards this direction, it is important to prioritize the needs and perspectives of local stakeholders and to work collaboratively with them to develop solutions that are contextually appropriate. This requires a deep understanding of the cultural, social and economic factors that impact learning and a commitment to promoting equity and inclusion in all aspects of education.