At the end of last week there were a couple of items reported by the CBC that are important to discuss.  The first article was…

Alberta government bans school mask mandates, online-only learning

Schools must always offer an in-person class option, new regulations say

No Alberta schools or pre-kindergarten classes can require students to wear masks to attend school, says a new provincial government regulation.

The rules, which take effect today, also prevent almost every Alberta school from shifting Grade 1 to 12 classes to a solely online format.

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The second article was…

Alberta premier defends new rules banning school mask mandates, online-only learning

Alberta Teachers’ Association says province needs to work with school boards to find staffing solutions

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is defending new rules ordering schools to provide in-person learning during the current wave of viral illnesses, saying a clear, measured response is crucial for students and parents.

“We need a normal school environment for our children, and we need to make sure that the classrooms stay open to be able to support our parents,” Smith said at a news conference in Medicine Hat on Friday.

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As you might imagine, there are a lot of problems with this position taken by the Government of Alberta.  But let’s just focus on three of those problems.

The first problem with this ideological stance by the Government of Alberta is the belief that what schools and districts have implemented over the past almost three years is online learning.  It is not!  It is remote learning, and in many cases remote learning that has been poorly planned and poorly supported.  Following the Spring 2020, the Government of Alberta did not end the school year early for students and use that time to allow teachers to prepare and be properly trained for what was likely going to be a disrupted 2020-21 school year (after a significantly disrupted 2019-20 school year).  It also did not delay school opening for students to allow teachers to prepare and be properly trained.  As the 2020-21 school year concluded – following numerous disruptions – the Government again did not end the school year year early in June 2021 or delay the opening in Fall 2021.  There was simply an expectation that teachers would just simply be able to teach effectively online, even though provincial government regulations around teacher education did not require universities to actually prepare teachers for it.

The second problem is the requirement that schools and school divisions MUST provide an in-person option is based on the belief that online learning is inferior to in-person learning.  As has been stated many times in the past in this space, the problem isn’t that in-person learning is better than online learning.  The problem is that teachers have been trained in their teacher education programs and through most of their professional development on how to teach effectively in a brick-and-mortar classroom.  However, few have been trained in any fashion on how to effective design, deliver, and support online learning.  It would be like me asking readers of this space to get into the cockpit of an airplane…  You all have driven before, and in the air you don’t even have to worry about staying on the road.  What could possibly go wrong?

The third problem is the belief among politicians – and so many others within society – that “the government is concerned about the mental health implications of children missing in-person classes during the pandemic.”  As the actual research on the topic advised, individuals should “exercise extreme caution around making generalizable assertions with respect to the impacts of online/remote learning and mental health” because the research to date “either commits the correlation does not equal causation error or asserts a causal relationship even when it fails to establish correlations.”  Basically, the research that claims online learning had a negative impact on mental health is based on the reality that students had more mental health issue and there was more remote/online learning, so remote/online learning must have caused those mental health issues.  It is kind of like saying that Albertans eat healthier than other Canadians and Alberta is the only province without a sales taxes, which means the fact that Alberta does not have a sales tax is what causes Albertams to eat healthier.  Everyone – except politicians – understand the absurdity in this position.  In the case of politicians this kind of flawed logic becomes the rationale for their actions.

Alberta Banning Online Learning

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