Technology can help and hurt your education

By Perris Njenga - Staff Reporter

Technology is an important tool to use in education, but how it is used can sometimes be discriminatory, Highline's director of Instructional Design told at last week's Science Seminar. 

Marc Lentini said the introduction of the worldwide web was the catalyst that disrupted how education was done and has revolutionized how education is taught.

He said that, according to research, blacks and Latinos rely heavily on their smartphones for educational content, and since Highline's students are 70 percent people of color, teachers should be using applications that are cell phone accessible. To not do so could be discriminatory.

Lentini said that when he looks for learning applications for his students, he only uses applications that are also accessible through cell phones devices.

"Many students do the bulk of their work through their smartphone," he said.

Such technologies are helpful in keeping students engaged in the education process, Lentini said.

An example is a system that monitors the behaviors of students and detects if they are on the track of being at risk of dropping out. This system takes data from past students who have dropped out and compares it to students currently taking courses. 

There can also be an intersection between ethnicity and income.

Lentini said augmented reality and virtual reality are great ways to learn but can also be extremely expensive.

"Learning technology is a double-edged sword because it's expensive but it's a great tool for learning," he said.

Virtual reality is also helpful for veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder or doctors who are practicing surgery.

Technology has also been important in creating communities, he said. Virtual communities such as "Second Life," which is a community-driven virtual world, have given those who are different a chance to fit in.

"If you lived in a community where being LGBTQ+ could get you killed, you have a community online to turn to," Lentini said.

But with the benefits of technology there are also the negatives. Lentini said there are flaws in some artificial intelligence and they can be improved.

He said that screen readers allow people who can't see to know what is on their screen and that is very valuable to those who are blind and live in a world that is immersed in technology.

"When designing technology, we have to make sure it is accessible to those with disabilities," he said.

He also said that although artificial intelligence is great tool, there are still some improvements to be made. Standardized testing and employment application sorting programs are a few of the AI uses that need improvement.

An example he gave was employment in the tech industry. The tech industry is not very diverse, with the majority of employees being white middle-class cisgender males. AI is very likely to exclude those who want tech jobs but who also don't fall into this demographic.

To further prove his point, Lentini showed the audience a video of a soap dispensary in a public restroom that only gave soap to those with light skin and wouldn't give any to those with dark skin. 

He said such AI tools should be programmed to be all inclusive and need to be able to recognize hands that may not look like his.

Lentini said such technologies should be accessible for all people to use.

This week's Science Seminar will be about electro-cardiograms when Dr. Emil Dela Cruz of Highline Medical Center speaks on "Understanding the Principles of EKG and EKG Interpretation," Friday, Feb. 16 at 1:30 p.m. in Building 3, room 102.  

The presentation is free and open to the public.

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