Educational Technology for Social Change: Affirming Diversity and Advancing Justice
Abstract: Teacher education programs and PreK-12 schools are situated within a rapidly changing, diverse, global society. Our world is filled with pervasive inequalities, including widening socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, and gender gaps. The causes and the effects of social inequalities on teaching and learning merits the immediate attention of all educational stakeholders. Mindfully using instructional technology to increase educational access and impact offers significant opportunities to advance social justice and sustain hope. It is imperative that education preparation programs, including teacher education and educational leadership, support candidates to develop the knowledge and skills to build and sustain equitable learning environments. Multimodal technological platforms, including vodcasting and others which allow collaborative global connections, provide viable pathways to affirm diversity and expand equitable learning opportunities. Innovative utilization of technology platforms in education assists in providing promising solutions to many complex issues, including efforts to tackle classism, racism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of systemic injustice. Pervasive inequalities, shifting demographics, and an ever-changing global economy require us to rethink how we address systems of oppression in PreK-12 schools, higher education, local communities, and our world. This keynote address will illuminate social inequalities and discuss how educational technology can be used to promote social change. Bio: Rajni Shankar-Brown, Ph.D., is the Jessie Ball duPont Endowed Chair of Social Justice Education, recipient of the McEniry Award for Excellence in Teaching, and a recipient of the Hand Award for Distinguished Faculty Achievement at Stetson University. She serves on Executive Board of Directors for the National Coalition for the Homeless and is the Co-Chair of the Equity and Justice SIG for the International Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education. She is also the Founder and Director for the Poverty and Homelessness Conference, Hatters University Scholars, and the Acts of Kindness and Justice Movement, as well as the Faculty Advisor for the Student Homeless Coalition. She began her career as a public school teacher and has worked with schools PreK-12 in urban, rural, and suburban communities in a variety of leadership roles including serving as a literacy and technology coach. As a civically engaged educational leader who is deeply committed to advancing intersectional equity, Dr. Shankar-Brown actively works to confront systemic oppression, build inclusive learning spaces, and advance educational excellence for diverse communities. She has presented and facilitated professional learning workshops around the globe, as well as published in leading peer-reviewed journals and books. Her current series with Information Age Publishing includes two edited books, Bending the Arc Towards Justice: Equity-Focused Practices for Educational Leaders and Re-Envisioning Education: Affirming Diversity and Advancing Social Justice. In addition, her recently published collection of poetry Tuluminous has been praised as “a marvelous and meaningful testimony of the power of language to heal and transform” by the Presidential Inaugural Poet, Richard Blanco, and she is described as the “Poet Laureate of the just society” by NYU’s Moral Courage Project Founder, Irshad Manji. Dr. Shankar-Brown has received international, national, state, and local recognition for her scholarly and creative activities and transformative leadership including being selected as a Faculty-Scholar-in-Residence by the National Humanities Center, the Florida PDK International Educator of the Year, and a recipient of the Engaged Scholarship Faculty Award by the Florida Campus Compact. In addition to being a passionate teacher-scholar and human rights activist, Dr. Shankar-Brown is a devoted mother and artist. She resides in Central Florida with her family and their two English lop rabbits, Hazel Basil and Maple Sage.