Report released: Towards Empowerment, Respect and Accountability

A report commissioned by the Québec English School Boards Association has just been released in my province about a study on the impact of the Internet and related technologies in English public schools in Québec. The results of a survey which went out a few months ago were shared – I, for one, blew a huge sigh of relief. At the time, I felt the survey was designed to stir up fear-mongering and demonization of the Internet and I said so where I was permitted to contribute in the survey.

Fortunately, the results were positively in favour of the benefits of Internet over the negative consequences. However, the digital gap between educators and students was very much apparent. This corroborates other studies I have seen about educators’ use of online tools and environments in this province (and elsewhere).

Some quotes from the report, “Towards Empowerment, Respect and Accountability”

The following statements offer a summary of these findings:
• The majority of all respondent groups do not believe that the Internet
negatively impacts students’ social lives, is causing harm to positive social
development or is the cause of the majority of social problems

• The majority of all respondent groups do not see Internet behavior as
inherently more anti-social or more dangerous than face-to-face
interactions.
• Only 4% of teachers surveyed report having been a victim of an on-line
incident by students (and only 5% of an incident by parents).
• The majority of all respondent groups do not agree that the Internet and
other technologies are having a negative impact on their school culture.

While the breadth of responses was informative, the Task
Force was most interested in the positive response by the majority as demonstrated
by:
• The majority of all respondent groups believes that the Internet and other
technologies have a positive impact on education
They offered, however, some qualifiers:
• The majority of all respondent groups was unsure or agreed that students
were unsure how to evaluate the quality and/or accuracy of on-line
sources and that students are unsure what constitutes cheating when
cutting and pasting from on-line sources.

• There was a perception gap between teacher responses (majority agreed)
and student and parent responses (minority agreed) when asked if
teachers effectively integrated technology into their teaching practice.


• The minority of all respondent groups felt that teachers, parents and
students use technology to communicate effectively with each other.

the majority of teachers disagree that:
• schools do enough to help teachers integrate technology into their teaching practice

The bold-faced text was my emphasis. While I was delighted with findings of the report in terms of results of perceived positive impact of Internet technologies, I was struck by the apparent digital gap between teachers and students. Another recent study I have seen (yet unpublished) corroborates the fact that teachers in Québec are not anywhere near as Internet-savvy as the students they teach.

This report goes on to make strong recommendations and here are some of my notable picks:

  • Intensify efforts to teach students strategies to search for, evaluate the quality of, and cite correctly on-line material. Implicate to a greater extent schoollibrarians in this key process.
  • Encourage all partners – students, parents, teachers, administrators, library and support staff and commissioners to pursue progressive and responsible learning opportunities about the Internet.
  • Encourage young technology users to work with adults to teach them more about the technologies, and show confidence in their expertise.
  • Re-think curriculum delivery in a digital age by taking advantage of the new pedagogical opportunities that technology offers. Be especially mindful that this involves giving teachers the time, resources and professional support needed to be successful in transforming their teaching practices.
  • Adapt and implement traditionally successful instructional approaches and policies that encourage learning and positive interaction in today’s technologically-evolving environment (i.e. the information tools might have changed; human nature and behavior hasn’t necessarily changed).

and:

  • Incorporate technology as an important component of new and existing policies.
  • Take a leadership role in promoting the integration of technology in the classroom
  • Require pre-service training in information literacy and related issues of technology use; and support on-going in-service school training on these same issues.

Great suggestions! I only hope that those in the right places in making education policy (small-scale and large-scale) will have the ears to hear and the will to do something.

Fundamentally, though, I suspect it is when educators themselves show initiative in becoming digital and information literate that we will see the huge digital gap shrink.

The report can be found online here.