WRITTEN BY: ALEXIS KLEIMAN
In response to COVID-19, Ontario school districts have been moving towards a model of emergency distance education and online learning. Everything about this transition is less-than-ideal but so are the circumstances that led us here. The K12 academic year is quickly evolving and every stakeholder in education has been asked to sail uncharted waters. While these sailing conditions are rapidly changing, we know that Education Technology (EdTech) is pivotal and access, safety and equity are at the forefront.
As a K12 EdTech incubator our team is versed in this space, but lately -- simply, it's complex. EdTech platforms have seen an increase in adoption & usage amid offering free licensing but will this convert into lasting users? We’re unsure. What we can tell you is when it comes to Ontario Boards, educators are the drivers and EdTech is the medium for delivery. Most EdTech companies produce products/services to improve the education experience, not to replace it. In these complex times, we're seeing EdTech built to supplement curriculum being leveraged for continuity of learning. It isn't a classroom replacement but the power of these tools is being highlighted. Online learning isn't barrier-free but Boards quickly actioning to deploy devices, resources and support teams allows us to leverage digital tools at our disposal - through an equity lens. We're also cognizant that with a plethora of free tools, online security requires extra-attentiveness to mitigate compromises to staff/student safety.
Unique to North America, ihub is situated within a K12 facility, powering our abilities is the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN), under Superintendent JoAnna Roberto. With strong Senior Leadership and an empowered team, DSBN has been leading forward in this time of transformation by necessity. DSBN launched a curriculum focused Learn From Home page refreshed weekly with curated resources for teachers, students and parents, deployed Chromebooks for device-less students, remote IT support and rolled out WiFi to families. They've leveraged Google Classroom, D2L & Microsoft Teams for engagement and connectivity, including Consultant delivered, curriculum aligned Professional Development. That's just a sample of their exemplary EdTech response.
Right now, we're educating in crisis and the restructuring of learning as we see it is part of our emergency response plan, not EdTech implementation. Post-pandemic, we hope the spotlight on EdTech, brighter now more than ever, will open new paths for innovation, adoption & development. For now, we're doing the best we can sailing these uncharted waters, together.
Alexis Kleiman is part of the team at the Educational Research & Innovation Hub (ihub), powered by the District School Board of Niagara. ihub is the first EdTech Facility in North America to be situated inside a K12 school and works to bring together the entire education ecosystem to modernize the education experience & support EdTech innovation - follow along at @ihubNiagara.
This article originally appeared in Business Link Niagara.