After reading through this unit’s documents, it was clear that there is a disconnect between the Ministry’s pronouncements and the current realities within our schools (something that isn’t particularly surprising). The ministry has targets that it wants schools to achieve. However, as is often the case, they have failed to provide the necessary supports in order to achieve those targets. I’m reminded of a previous Master’s class where we spent a great deal of time analyzing the targets outlined in the ESSP. By 2020, the province wishes to improve reading levels, increase graduation rates, shrink the achievement gap between FNMI/non-FNMI students along with a variety of other goals. Admittedly, these goals largely make sense. The problem? These goals have not been taken into account in recent budgetary decisions. It’s hard to shrink the achievement gap between FNMI/non-FNMI students for example if supports for FNMI students are going to be reduced. A classic example of talking the talk but failing to walk the walk.
But I digress.
Focusing now on ed tech. It would appear as the same issue outlined above (talking the talk, not walking the walk) is present here, albeit on a smaller scale. Looking at the government’s “technology in education framework”, the ministry expects:
“Saskatchewan’s educational system will foster the comprehensive and systematic development of knowledge, skills, dispositions, and judgments essential for digital fluency in educators and students. The ministry and school divisions will work together to improve the digital fluency of all educators and students” and that “educators will develop the expertise required to effectively use appropriate technologies to assist students in achieving curricular outcomes”.
One of the strategies used to develop digital fluency includes “Influencing new and revising existing K-12 curricular outcomes and indicators to require the development of digitally fluent learners”
The two curriculums that I’m most familiar with – English Language Arts and Social Studies have yet to be updated to include the development of digitally fluent learners. The high school ELA curriculums were last updated in 2012 and while that’s relatively recent, a lot has happened from a technological standpoint throughout the last 7 years. Social Studies, on the other hand, is a completely different beast. The bulk of the secondary social sciences have not been updated since 1994. How are we supposed to develop digitally fluent learners if curriculums haven’t been renewed since before the internet became mainstream? This is especially troubling when you consider the lack of choice students tend to have regarding course selection. The space for electives is limited due to the value placed on ‘readin, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmitic meaning that those subjects (the humanities in particular) are going to be relied upon to develop “digital fluency”. Yet, as I mentioned, those curriculums haven’t been updated in years (or in some cases, decades). It is worth noting however that the Social Studies curriculums are in the process of being renewed and it will be interesting to see where the ministry’s apparent desire for digital fluency fits in.
Another strategy that the ministry apparently has in place in order to achieve digital fluency is to “support the growth of educators’ digital fluency through professional learning”. Something I’ve discussed multiple times throughout this semester (and will continue to do so since it is the basis of my major project) is the lack of ed-tech training that many teachers have. The ministry expects teachers to be digitally fluent. That’s great and I would agree! Unfortunately, they haven’t really done much to back that up. As I mentioned in a previous post, what limited PD time teachers have is shoved together at the start of the school year. From there, only a handful of PD days exist. Given the lack of PD days combined with funding cuts, when is the “professional learning” going to take place? Now, this isn’t to say the responsibility for developing these skills falls entirely on the government – teachers and schools share this responsibility as well. However, the ministry mentioned in its own framework that they have the role/responsibility to:
- Support delivery of professional learning opportunities related to provincial infrastructure initiatives
- Facilitate and supports professional learning opportunities delivered using the provincial infrastructure
- Facilitate the coordination of professional learning options into a provincial strategy.
That hasn’t happened on a wide scale so it’s safe to say that they’re not living up to their end of the bargain.
Like they did with the ESSP, the government has set some lofty expectations in their “Technology in Education Framework”. Unfortunately, just like the ESSP, the funding no longer matches those targets. It will be interesting to see whether digital fluency is infused in the upcoming Social Studies curriculums (plus any other curriculums) and how much if any, further dollars will be restored to education so that some can be allocated to PD. For now, however, this framework looks like a classic example of talking the talk and failing to walk the walk.