Is this the ‘Future’ of education?Posted: April 23, 2009
O.K. . . . so I came across an interesting online article the other day that might be part of the solution to the Ontario ministry of education’s underfunding of educational technology in Ontario’s schools.
The recent ministry announcement of deductions in GSNs (Grants for Student Needs) as related to computer technology – is already spawning some innovative responses to a growing problem.
Future Shop is donating $100,000.00 to the Toronto District School Board so it can create two computer labs. Future Shop officials hope the labs will go into schools in high-risk neighborhoods that are within seven kilometres of one of their stores. They view the donation as a way to give back to the communities they serve.
Oh ya, as part of the deal Future Shop requires that the computer labs be painted shades of gray with red trim, their corporate colors and that they be located within seven kms of one of their stores. No flashy logos though.
In 2006 I wrote an op-ed piece in my local newspaper, Step up to the cyber-learning plate, about how some of the Ontario government’s 1993 Royal Commission on learning’s goals stated in the chapter entitled Learning, teaching and information technology have, for the most part, not been realized.
Though the 1993 commission members saw the ‘writing on wall’ concerning under-funding of technology in education – the partnerships advocated by the commission between the corporate and education sectors, at least at the elementary and secondary school levels, have not materialized.
Though there are pockets of technological innovation occurring in some schools, most classrooms in Ontario still reflect a nineteenth-century model of education where the teacher contains controls and dispenses information which students then consume and regurgitate back up again in the form of paper and pencil tests.
TDSB trustee James Pasternak voiced support for the deal with Future Shop, “corporate Canada has a responsibility to participate in public education.”
Another trustee, Michael Coteau, cautioned that allowing a company to “brand a room (with corporate colors) where children are going to learn is a dangerous thing..”
O.K. – but walk into any school in Ontario and you will likely find dozens of ‘brands’ to which our children are already exposed on a daily basis. Whether it’s the junk or nutritional food in the school cafeteria, the branded insurance forms that children take home their first day of school for their parents to sign or the lunches sponsored by the local pizzeria – corporate bidders are already in the faces of our kids.
To meet the growing needs of or engage the average 21st century media saturated learner requires not only current technological hardware (computers, LCD projectors, interactive white boards etc.) and software, but a well-crafted plan to train teachers on the effective use of technology in curriculum delivery.
All that is missing are the funds and political will to make our schools the rich learning environments they should be for our children. Sometimes it really is amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do.
Photo Credit: Crazyunclejoe