Connecting for success: Technology in Ontario schools
New report reveals challenges for implementation of new provincial policy
For immediate release
TORONTO (April 8, 2019): A new report from People for Education, released today, calls on the province to ensure schools have sufficient resources to support current and future technology requirements, and conduct extensive consultations with experts before making e-learning mandatory.
The findings are from People for Education’s 2019 Annual Ontario School Survey, sent to all of Ontario’s publicly funded English and French language schools.
According to the report – based on data from 1254 Ontario schools – the use of technology in today’s classrooms has the potential to expand and accelerate learning in ways previously unimaginable. The report says that classrooms immersed in digital learning encourage students to work collaboratively, develop problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity skills, and be motivated to learn.
However, Ontario principals report that a lack of funding, poor connectivity, and insufficient access to professional development can make it challenging to successfully integrate technology in schools.
Most high schools currently use cell phones in class
The province has announced that it plans to ban cell phones in schools, but the report shows that they are widely used across the province.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies encourage students to bring their own smartphones, tablets, or laptops to class. Student devices are used in a variety of ways, such as creating slide presentations, podcasts, interactive maps, or graphic designs; as well as to facilitate video conferencing, take notes on lessons, translate materials, and collaborate with peers and teachers within the school, or even in other parts of the world.
Among the findings in this year’s report:
- 40% of elementary schools with grades 7 or 8 and 66% of secondary schools encourage students to “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) every day.
- Overall, 62% of elementary and 74% of secondary schools encourage BYOD in some way, whether it is only for specific grades, on certain days, or for all students without restriction.
- 64% of elementary and 93% of secondary schools with BYOD policies report at least some of the teachers create lessons with BYOD in mind. Among elementary schools that allow BYOD, 27% of schools start BYOD in grade 4, and 19% start in kindergarten.
- In 63% of secondary and 29% of elementary schools, individual teachers are responsible for creating the cell phone policy.
Current participation in e-learning far from provincial goal
Recent education announcements included a plan to make it mandatory for secondary students to take at least 4 of their required 30 credits through online learning. This change is planned for the fall of 2020, but no details have been released yet regarding what form the courses will take.
Data from the People for Education report show current student enrolment in e-learning is very far from the provincial goal.
While most schools provide students with the opportunity to participate in online learning, on average, only 5% of students per school are enrolled in e-learning.
The report recommends that before Ontario implements new policy for e-learning, the province should consult with school administrators, teachers, students, and experts to determine if it is possible to ensure that all students and teachers are equipped with the infrastructure, tools and strategies to teach and learn successfully online.
Fundraising for technology creates inequities
Many of the principals who responded to the survey reported challenges in providing all students with sufficient access to technology, and raised concerns about relying on parent fundraising. Among the key findings in the report:
- 68% of elementary and 22% of secondary schools fundraise for technology.
- 85% of elementary schools in high-income neighbourhoods fundraise for technology, compared to 54% of elementary schools in low-income neighbourhoods.
- On average, schools in high socioeconomic areas (with higher parental levels of education and higher family incomes) fundraise twice as much as schools in low socioeconomic areas. Higher income schools are also more likely to have BYOD policies.
Recommendations for change
The report includes recommendations for consultation on e-learning and cell phone policies, funding for technology upgrades, and continued support for broadband access for all students.
The full report is available here.
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