By Hali Mautbur
Ontario’s four main political parties have very different visions that could drastically change the future of Ontario’s public education system.
That future is something we’ve been thinking about a great deal here at ORION.
At our annual THINK conference earlier this year, we invited teachers, professors, researchers and innovators to #THINKforward and plan ahead for Ontario’s continued place at the forefront of innovation in the years to come.
We discussed some of the opportunities presented by online learning, mobile technology, intelligent communities and cloud services. We also received some great feedback and ideas from participants at the conference, which will be released shortly in a follow-up report to the THINK conference.
Many participants also raised some important questions, including:
- Are we throwing money at shiny new objects or using technology to augment learning in meaningful ways for students?
- Are teachers being provided with the professional development they need to use technology effectively?
- Should younger children be learning with technology, or should they be starting off with, for example, dumb phones instead of smart phones?
- Are today’s generations going to fall behind if they aren’t better prepared for tomorrow’s broadband economy?
And that’s just for starters.
Here at ORION, we’ve also been wondering whether the different parties will help school boards afford internet connectivity infrastructure. Will they support “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies? Will they evaluate how the curriculum should prepare students for our increasingly digital world?
For the most part, we have a lot of questions. After reviewing the political platforms, however, we are still wondering what the answers are. For example:
- The Green party says it wants to merge the Catholic and public school boards – what impact will this have on both students and teachers?
- The Conservatives announced a plan to cut government jobs – how many educators will that include?
- In 2011, the NDP pledged to fund internet connections for rural schools – why is that no longer part of their platform?
- The Liberals mention funding for new devices – have they planned for how that device will complement the curriculum to truly improve learning?
We hope that today’s debates on education in schools across the province will help draw out the answers to these questions, and we strongly encourage everyone to attend tonight’s debates or take part in online conversations.
The education policies each party is discussing – or not discussing – could drastically change the way classrooms look a year from now. And that could have a startling impact on Ontario’s future. One that we believe is worth some big ideas.