Finally, as was suggested in the entry entitled Report Review – Uncharted Waters: A World-class Canadian E-learning Paradigm, we  wanted to examine the other two reports that were published by the Information and Communications Technology Council.  On Wednesday we reviewed 21st Century Digital Skills: Competencies, Innovations and Curriculum in Canada, and today we review the first report related to distance learning in Canada was:

Class, Take Out Your Tablets

The Impact of Technology on Learning and Teaching in Canada

By Maryna Ivus , Nathan Snider , Trevor Quan  March 7, 2020

Abstract

This study evaluates the increased presence and role of technology in the classroom. Assessing benefits, challenges and future opportunities, this study explores emerging educational technologies, highlights how these digital developments can be leveraged to solve problems, and ultimately how they enhance the student learning experience.

Anchored in a series of insights derived from more than sixteen key informant interviews, this research also showcases the attitudes and insights of educators toward the growing adoption of hardware and software in the K-12 Canadian education system. Accessibility, equity, diversity, connectivity, and teacher training and support were recognized as foundational concepts for large scale implementation of technology in the classroom. Collaboration and partnership between academic institutions and industry, and effective procurement policies for digital tools are pathways for the effective implementation of technology.

Given the challenges and complexities of navigating the Canadian K-12 education system, stakeholder engagement will be crucial to ensuring coordinated efforts. Future efforts must involve policymakers, school districts, educators, parents, Indigenous communities, technology providers, and the general public to address the following issues in emerging education technology:

  • training educators in the use of technology
  • effectively integrating technology into the classroom
  • addressing challenges of insufficient broadband connectivity
  • recognizing unique cultural needs for local communities
  • managing technology-related distractions
  • assessing learning outcomes and new skills development
  • ensuring student data privacy protections

Technology is becoming the fabric of our daily lives and the classroom is no exception. New and transformative technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality/ Virtual Reality (AR/VR), and many others are rapidly changing our economy and providing new opportunities on a global scale. Regardless of the method of administration, the blending of technology and education has been found to help students achieve better educational outcomes while also expanding their interest in subjects such as computer science, interactive digital media, and cultural preservation.

The demand for talent in Canada’s digital economy is expected to reach approximately 305,000 by 2023.1 Critical areas include data science, user experience design, software development and many other technology roles. But the core skills of this demand are agility, teamwork, flexibility, and the need for lifelong learning. Tech-integrated education changes and amplifies student learning by providing the interactions that can shape their future educational journey and encourage new ways of thinking. By developing these foundational concepts from an early age, technology in the classroom is key to equipping students for success in a rapidly expanding digital economy.

Tagged with: Technology, EdTech, Education, Digital Skills

Like the previous entry, as we reviewed the organization and the same three authors in the previous entry, let’s just focus this portion of the review on the methodology and the authors use of the literature.

Examining the Logistics of the Report

The methodology for this report was similar to the first two that were reviewed.

The primary research for this study consisted of a series of sixteen key informant interviews (KIIs) with Canadian educators and education subject matter experts from across the country. KIIs played an important role in gathering insights on trends and needs of K-12 education. Candidates were selected based on their location (urban and rural areas, as well as Indigenous communities), role or responsibility, relationship to technology, administrative leadership and/or influence on teacher training and use of equipment.

A series of structured interview questions were designed to identify the candidates preexisting relationship to technology, student learning, influence on curriculum and policy, current use of education-related technologies and independent views toward technology trends. Qualitative data was extracted in aggregate from these interviews to form the basis for this study.

The secondary research for this study focused on an analysis of literature. A robust literature review was identified and used to highlight or clarify key themes, trends, and emerging realities. (p. 35)

So the same comments and limitations about the content of the report being more about the experiences and opinions of the 16 interviewed individuals – as opposed to truly national trends – still apply.

As the literature review was used a main source of data, an examination of the literature that is used to inform the report is another important tool to determine the understanding that the authors have of the field (as noted in the earlier entries).  Given that the focus of this report is focused on the presence and use of digital technology in the K-12 classroom, a search for that kind of literature – particularly independent research – would be important.  In looking through the 107 endnotes, once again there is a high proportion (potentially even a majority) of sources seem to come from articles published in the popular news media (often Canadian daily newspapers) or from material published on the websites of different government agencies or various companies involved in the e-learning sector.  However, in comparison to the earlier reports that were reviewed, there is also a higher proportion of research studies, particularly those published in peer reviewed journals, that are included in this list of literature.  Further, due to a lack of expertise in things like mobile learning, virtual/augmented reality, or artificial intelligence we can’t speak to the appropriate representation of scholars cited.  However, when it comes to the K-12 distance and online learning scholars that are cited there individuals cited are indeed appropriate for the examples used.

Examining the Content of the Report

Again, this report is focused on the presence and use of digital technology in the K-12 classroom – and K-12 distance, online, and blended learning only makes up a small part of that focus.  So this commentary will focus solely on those portions.  In the executive summary, the authors indicate:

Future efforts must involve policymakers, school districts, educators, parents, Indigenous communities, technology providers, and the general public to address the following issues in emerging education technology:

  • training educators in the use of technology
  • effectively integrating technology into the classroom
  • addressing challenges of insufficient broadband connectivity
  • recognizing unique cultural needs for local communities
  • managing technology-related distractions
  • assessing learning outcomes and new skills development
  • ensuring student data privacy protections (p. 5)

Earlier commentaries were critical of the authors lack of focus on how to use the tools to teach, so it is important to note the second point in the bulleted list – which implies that there is a difference between using the tool (i.e., the first point) and using it to teach (i.e., the second point).  The fact that this was the first of these three reports published makes this omission in the following reports that much more important, as the authors understood this nuanced difference and did indeed ignore it in the subsequent reports.  However, it should also be noted that later in the report, when the discussed the lack of teacher training in greater detail, the authors wrote, “Issues raised included the educators’ level of comfort utilizing digital technologies and a lack of sufficient training opportunities and resources to make this journey smoother” (p. 20).  This statement raises the question of how the authors perceived ‘making that journey smoother’?  Would simply greater knowledge of the tool be sufficient?  Would resources to help them troubleshoot potential student technical issues be enough?  While both would undoubtedly help, nowhere in this sub-section on “Tech Training for Educators” within the larger section on “Educators Speak Out: Challenges or Barriers to Technology Integration in the Classroom” did it reference anything about how to teach with the tool- which is the greater barrier in most instances (at least based on the available research into effective professional development focused on technology integration).

The authors begin a four-page section entitled “Impact on Student Learning: How Tech in the Classroom Trains Students to Think Differently” on page 9.  While not focused on K-12 distance, online, and blended learning, it is important to call out the fact that this whole section is underpinned on the belief in or myth of the digital native.  As we indicated in the previous entry, this myth is a “convenient untruth.”  A reminder that some seventeen years ago, Oblinger and Oblinger (2005) stated “although they are comfortable using technology without an instruction manual, their understanding of the technology or source quality may be shallow” (p. 2.5).  And those that know the research understand and accept this premise.

Moving on to the “E-learning and Blended Learning” sub-section of the “Bringing Digital Learning to Classrooms in Canada: K-12 and Beyond” section and read these statistics, which appear to be taken from our annual report – with no reference, citation, or attribution:

In fact, the number of K-12 students engaged in distance and online learning has remained relatively steady over the past six years, while blended learning activities have shown a sharp increase. Based on enrolment data for 2017-2018, the number of students engaged in K-12 blended learning was around 12.8% of the overall K-12 student population in Canada. Although engagement ranged across provinces, Nova Scotia showed the highest enrolment rate [in blended learning] totalling at 81.7%. (pp. 26-27)

Beyond that oversight, the following Newfoundland and Labrador example was based on research published by faculty from Memorial University of Newfoundland.  The following example of e-learning in Ontario relied heavily upon publications from the Ministry of Education – much of which was not based on the available research, as noted in Barbour and LaBonte (2019).

And that was it for the K-12 distance, online, and blended learning content…

 

References

Barbour, M. K., & LaBonte, R. (2019). Sense of irony or perfect timing: Examining the research supporting proposed e-learning changes in Ontario. International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education, 34(2). http://www.ijede.ca/index.php/jde/article/view/1137

Oblinger, D., & Oblinger, J. (Eds.). (2005). Educating the Net Gen. EDUCAUSE. https://www.educause.edu/ir/library/PDF/pub7101.PDF

Report Review – Class, Take Out Your Tablets: The Impact of Technology on Learning and Teaching in Canada

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