Edtech Still Doesn’t Get Diversity and We’re Tired

I could talk all day about my new obsession with the NY Times T Brand Studios and what digital storytelling should be in schools. I get giddy when sharing how hearing Megan Smith talk about inclusive computational thinking beyond drag & drop coding helped me to frame our district’s work in making “makered” accessible to all. I’m obsessed with raspberry pi, arduino, makey makey…etc and more importantly providing these tools for kids to invent their heart’s desires . Heck, we held a series of invention camps for our students this summer and I would love to share how others can and should do this too.

Don’t even get me started on talking about professional learning…the kind that is learner driven, accessible and aligned to what each person needs…when they need it!

…and digital learning with math??? Oh my gosh, it can be everything and more!!!

I’m passionate about digital equity. I want my son, nephews and niece to have the tools needed for much more than assessment. I want them to be able to explore their ideas and passions anywhere and everywhere. I want every classroom to have strong connectivity and tools that work.

This is the work that moves me, keeps me awake at night and smiling at the oddest of times during the day.

I love that my job is to make this magic happen in my school district and I would love to not just live and breathe it but have people know my work for this, much more than they do about me calling out organizations for their lack of diversity.

And yet…here I am again…

Long sigh…

One of my fellow techs of color, Shana White, shared the link to the Georgia Educational Technology Conference list of keynote and featured speakers. Like..this is seriously GEORGIA!!! Do you know your own state’s demographics? What about the demographics of the teachers that will hopefully attend or even present? (Or why they aren’t)

How hard is it create a “featured list” that is not just diverse but ACTIVELY WORKING IN SCHOOLS teaching kids who even remotely represent those that you serve???




Yes, We’re STILL Talking About Diversity 

Last year at ISTE, Ruha Benjamin gave a stellar keynote that according to my sources, made a few people uncomfortable. I wasn’t even there but I heard about it all the way in Canada. It’s like people walked away in their feelings and said…”bump this, I’m gonna just ignore all this diversity nonsense and spin the wheel of white tech blogger/speaker folks instead”…because priorities.

Angela Maers  speaks “You matter” so loud that people believe it…unless you are us. We know that our voices don’t. Imagine living in a reality where you know that your voice literally doesn’t matter.

Welcome to the world of being black in edtech!

Here’s how this conversation looks in our backchannel…

Person A: So, yeah, check out GAETC

Person B: Facepalm meme

Person C: Seriously? We’re not even hiding it anymore.

Person D: Why even submit to speak at these things? (meme of computer breaking)

Person E: Nope! Nope Nope!

Person C: I’d say boycott but you weren’t even invited!

Perspective and Power

I have nothing against a single person selected to be a keynote/featured speaker of a conference except when that list is super white and when the list itself represents those that the conference deemed “must see/hear from” apart from standard concurrent sessions. What message does that send when highlighted/invited speakers are super non-diverse?

If you are not a person of color, it may not send a message at all…especially if you are on the receiving end of said invites. However, if you are a person of color and do not see representation amongst “hand picked” experts, it sends the message that this expertise isn’t prevalent in those who look like you or might share your experiences. What are they doing that we aren’t

This feeling sucks and the majority of you will NEVER experience this. The rest of us??? We’re used to it and that in and of itself is deplorable.

The reality is that until there are REAL discussions/guidelines and not simply people who speak on diversity for a given time to deaf ears, this will continue to happen. The technology industry is the worst when it comes to diversity.

Tagging “Educational” on the front of it doesn’t make that fact less true.

It’s not just GAETC. No tech space is void of critical reasoning around who gets invited to share. I see you too TIES in MN and you better believe that a discussion is on the way!

One more thing, it’s not just about featured/keynote speakers. It is the ENTIRE program and any program that serves professional learning that isn’t inclusive.

Seriously y’all…when you walk into a room and only see people who look like you. Ask yourself….Why? Don’t you know that when WE are in spaces of learning, we start counting…1 (and if you’re lucky…2)

Quit allowing this to be normal. IT’S NOT NORMAL!!!

Seriously…I’m tired.

Like the image at the top of this post, the choice is yours. Which space represents your organization? Committees? Speakers? Spaces?

Comments 7

  1. I love you! Tired too in Katy! I’m with you all the way. I teach in a Title 1 school and have long thought that our teachers need to look like our kids. This is beginning to change! I hear your voice loud and clear! You DObmatter to me!!

  2. I keep reading this article. And I keep wanting to yell “PREACH” in the office. You know someone is on point when their blog makes you mad and you look forward to rereading it.

    I get mad again each time I read it. As someone who benefits from white male privilege I can’t imagine how infuriating this must be to run into over and over–especially in a field that like to laud it’s openness and collaborative ethics.

    I want to further this, not discussion, action…sometimes feel a bit at sea on useful contribution. I know retweeting isn’t enough. I guess I’ll keep bringing it up with other white edtech folks.

    Thank you for continuing to LEAD on this.

    You know you missed a good “discussion” on twitter when you click on hella Rafranz’s tweets are marked “in reply to @—-” and when you click on them @—- has deleted whatever she’s responding to.

  3. Thank you for this. Like you, I am hyper aware of this. Particularly when we invite people to do Virtually Connecting sessions – then I realize everyone is white or male (or both!) because those are the bulk of keynotes and presenters at edtech conferences… diversity isn’t going to happen by default because someone’s got blinders. Diversity needs to happen by INTENTION until it becomes the norm. Thanks again for this

  4. Thank you for bringing writing to the point of lack of diversity in Edtech. Are there specific people that you would recommend to follow on Twitter or blogs that highlight diversity in Edtech or education in general?

  5. Rafranz , I admire your courage and commend you for bringing insight and perspective to a topic that is of great importance. What I am somewhat confused by is your specific reference to my work. I did not want to infer anything about your intent, but I am struggling to see why you are specifically calling me out. Is it becuase I am white and speak at the many conferences you are referring to? I feel that women in this field have a similar challenges to the ones you speak about for the African American community. Are you making the point that my message is something that does not belong in the conversation at the keynote level? By linking to my general site rather than the impact of the message and movement; I’m not sure that everyone reading would or could be clear about the full scope of the work. If there is anything I can provide you that brings more clarity to what I do beyond just “telling people they matter” , I would be happy to share it with you and your audience. Thanks again for the article. Angela Maiers (spelled with an “s” ) :-)!

    1. Post

      This actually has nothing to do with you as a person. Linking to you directly was me giving you credit for coining the phrase. This was nothing more than a universal reference to our exclusion and since you brought it up, the connection to women and people of color sharing commonality on this topic is a stretch as when it comes to diversity, people have no problem at all discussing the need for work but have an insanely difficult time to also acknowledge race/culture. I apologize for misspelling your name. Thought I caught all of the typos but I didn’t

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