Board not yet able to provide equitable access, trustee says
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is moving with the times with a new 21st century learning and technology policy that no longer eschews the use of smart phones and other digital media in the classroom.
Peter Joshua, superintendent of student achievement, said the policy and three related directives instead now embrace technology as a way to enhance student learning, collaboration and creativity.
They focus on ensuring students understand the expected standards of behaviour in areas like privacy, social media, digital downloading and use of online research material.
“There’s more of a positive approach to use of technology or approach to learning,” Joshua told trustees during a presentation on the policy, expected to receive final approval later this month.
“Rather than being a, ‘You shouldn’t be using devices,’ it’s really more of a, ‘Here’s the effective and appropriate way of using devices.’”
Joshua said the policy was revised in response to feedback during a public consultation phase that criticized an initial draft as being too technology-centric.
He said the final version now makes it clear that digital tools enable, rather than drive, learning and places an emphasis on global, instead of digital, citizenship.
Ward 5 trustee Todd White, chair of the policy committee, said the new policy and directives replace previous ones that didn’t address the appropriate use of social media like Twitter and Facebook.
“That’s really taken off over the past couple of years,” he said, noting some of the revoked directives were 10 years old.
“It’s important for the board to monitor the use of technology for our entire school communities and promote the effective use because, as technology is ever-changing, we’re seeing the greater responsibility and effects it has on students.”
While the policy states that the board believes all students “should have equitable access” to new ways of learning, White said it won’t see the board give every student access to an iPad or interactive smart board.
He said some schools have raised money to buy enough computer tablets to allow classes to share them on a rotating basis, but such devices are seen as an enhancement rather than a must, unlike textbooks.
“We’re not at the stage yet where we can offer that board-wide to all students, but that’s a direction I think we’re starting to move,” White said, adding a new equity fund may help level the playing field for schools unable to raise money to buy tablets and the like.
“That’s a really exciting opportunity,” he said, expressing hope the fund will be in effect by the end of the year.