I know I am supposed to be embracing technology and getting pumped for all the new applications and tools that I am learning how to use. I have been completely in awe of how fast Ontario teachers adapted to this new reality and created engaging learning opportunities on many different platforms for their students. However, I am facing a problem that many of the students in Ontario are currently challenged with. We are both having difficulty accessing reliable technology and the internet.
Last year, I bought a laptop and have had nothing but problems over the past couple of weeks. It has crashed multiple times, has had problems with the speaker and generally just caused me a lot of frustration. I have had to apologize to colleagues and students when our Google Meet has crashed mid sentence because of my laptop. However, I also have a tablet and a phone as emergency backup for continuing my student’s learning and connecting online with my colleagues. Many of the students in my class, school and around the province do not have the same access to technology in their home.
The thing that will stick with me from this time that we are learning from home is the number of students that required technology to complete school work. In my board alone, over 14, 500 students required technology and 2000 required internet to engage in any form of learning at home. That is an absolutely staggering number. In my classroom and my school, 20% of all students requested technology to be delivered because they didn’t have enough technology in their home to support their learning needs.
I think back now about how many messages I have sent through Google Classrooms, or assignments that have been more easily completed with internet and a computer that I have assigned. I realize how disadvantaged some of my students were every time they left the classroom and were starting behind their fellow classmates. I also think of schools where that same number was under 5% or over 50% and how monetary situations are impacting the student’s ability to access the same tools and resources required to be successful at school.
There is no doubt that students need to be confident in using technology in their daily life for many different purposes. Technology will most likely play a fundamental role in acquiring or maintaining employment as students become adults. Technology is also the primary way that many students communicate with each other. I see many of my fantastic colleagues teaching amazing lessons with the limited resources available to them to build the skills the students require. However, there is a major gap that exists between students that can go home and practice the skills regularly and those that rely on limited and sometimes broken school technology.
I am fortunate that I teach at a middle school. Working with the students there keeps me current and up to date on trends and innovations in technology. But over the last month, I have been thinking about those amazing grade eight students in my knitting club and those who assist my students with such kindness. Did they fall in the 20% at my school? If so, will they have any chance at being successful in e-learning courses in high school?