So today is the deadline to sign up for virtual learning for the coming 2022-23 school year in the Toronto District School Board. The information was posted as:
The Toronto District School Board is asking families interested in requesting Virtual Learning for the entire 2022-2023 school year to complete a Virtual Learning Registration Form.
If your child will be attending school in-person next year, no action is required.
The deadline is Monday, March 21 at 11:59 p.m. and there will be no opportunity to switch in either direction between In-Person and Virtual Learning once the Registration Form closes. This is a final decision for the entire 2022-23 school year.
Virtual Learning 2022-23
Virtual learning is for students who wish to learn in a virtual environment and further develop digital literacy skills. Students will participate in fully virtual classes (no simultaneous/hybrid learning) and will be part of a community of students and staff from throughout the TDSB.
Virtual Learning students will engage with peers and their teacher(s) synchronously (face-to-face in real time) in a virtual environment using Brightspace, Zoom and/or Google Meet. The online classroom environment will be engaging and one where students feel a sense of belonging and where their social and emotional well-being is supported. Students will participate in synchronous and asynchronous learning (small groups, full class, student-teacher conferences and independent work).
To develop the classroom community, enhance student engagement, and build human connection with one another, students will be expected to have their cameras on during class time. Students or parents/guardians/caregivers can speak with the Principal if there are concerns.
Elementary Virtual Learning
Students will be combined from various TDSB schools into Virtual Learning classes hosted at local schools.
Secondary Virtual Learning
Students will be combined from various TDSB schools into a Virtual School.
Note: Details related to the 2022-2023 school year could change between now and September 2022 as we receive new information and guidelines from the Ministry of Education and Toronto Public Health.
The current school year (i.e., 2021-22) ends on 30 June 2022. This means the deadline for signing up to participate in virtual learning in the school board is 101 days before the end of the current school year, and 164 days before the 2022-23 school year begins. Given everything that has been documented with CANeLearn’s Pandemic Pedagogy Research Site, it does seem a bit much that parents have to make decisions about in person or virtual learning more than five months before the school year begins.
This is not to pick on the Toronto District School Board. There are numerous school boards in Ontario that could have been used as an example. There are numerous school boards across Canada – particularly in Western Canada – that could have been used as an example. However, it does highlight one of the problems with how K-12 distance and online learning operates across the country. The reality that school boards must force parents and guardians to decide a full half of school year in advance whether they want their child to enroll in distance or online learning in order to adequately resource those programs speaks to a lack of expertise in the teaching population in how to design, deliver, and support these learning opportunities.
This is not the fault of teachers. As this project documented in the Teacher Education and K-12 Online Learning special report, university-based teacher training programs are woefully inadequate in their preparation of pre-service and in-service teachers for K-12 distance, online, and blended learning. While this problem is not solely a Canadian problem (see this study highlighting the same problem in the United States), it is something that teacher education programs in Canada need to address. As we have seen throughout the pandemic, one of the biggest impediments to the toggle term (i.e., ‘toggle’ between in person learning to online learning as “states of lockdown and openness, depending on their sense of epidemiological data and practical feasibility” persist or Phase 3 in the figure below) has been the inability of teachers to provide instruction with the same level of fidelity in both the classroom and online environments.
Until Canadian universities can reach a point where teachers are prepared at this level, ready for the next pandemic or major disruption to the education system, the regular or traditional provision of K-12 distance and online learning will continue to be this disenfranchising for students.