Supporting Ontario’s Education Priorities
Great to Excellent: Launching the Next Phase of Ontario’s Education Agenda
One of the principles of the document is to “engage in focused innovation relative to higher-order skills and qualities”. Digital literacy is therefore an integral part of essential strategies presented.
The report concedes that after a quarter century of introducing “21C Learning”, Ontario now has the capacity to make pedagogy the foundation in learning through the use of technology and new digital resources (7).
Digital citizenship for today’s learners revolves around Great to Excellent’s “Six Cs”: Character education, Citizenship, Communication, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Collaboration, and Creativity and Imagination.
Digital citizenship is a key component in online instruction. eLearning provides students an opportunity to learn in an online or blended environment. We need to equip students with the skills they require to successfully navigate the online world, for both educational and personal purposes.
eLearning Ontario gives school boards the tools and support to help provide students with digital learning opportunities. With today’s competitive economy and ever-changing technology it is more critical than ever that students have unlimited opportunities to learn and achieve.
Safe and Accepting Schools
The Ministry of Education has undertaken many initiatives for providing a safe and inclusive learning and teaching environment. These include a focus on character education, bullying awareness and prevention, and code of conduct, and a strategy for equity and inclusion.
The Ministry’s vision for safe and accepting schools focuses on healthy relationships and a positive school culture. “Building a positive and inclusive school climate requires a focused effort on developing healthy and respectful relationships throughout the whole school and surrounding community, among and between students and adults. This involves a sustained long-term commitment to put this into practice and change school culture.”
The TALCO Digital Citizenship project empowers teachers and students to make good decisions about positive and respectful relationships as they venture more and more into digital learning environments.
Growing Success: Learning Skills
The habits of good digital citizenship are closely aligned with several learning skills for which students in Ontario are assessed. Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools identifies six core learning skills: responsibility, organization, independent work, collaboration, initiative, and self-regulation. Resources and ideas in this TALCO digital citizenship resource may help develop appropriate learning skills and work habits like:
- Taking responsibility for and managing one’s own behaviour
- Identifying, gathering, evaluating and using information, technology, and resources to complete tasks
- Independent Work:
- Following instructions with minimal supervision
- Responding positively to the ideas, opinions, values, and traditions of others
- Building healthy peer-to-peer relationships through personal and media-assisted interactions
- Sharing information, resources, and expertise and promoting critical thinking to solve problems and make decisions
- Demonstrating the capacity for innovation and a willingness to take risks
- Demonstrating curiosity and interest in learning
- Recognizing and advocating appropriately for the rights of self and others
- Identifying learning opportunities, choices, and strategies to meet personal needs and achieve goals.
The Ontario Curriculum
Information and communications technology (ICT) provides a range of tools that can significantly extend and enrich teachers’ instructional strategies and support student learning. ICT tools include multimedia resources, databases, websites, digital cameras,and word-processing programs. Tools such as these can help students to collect, organize, and sort the data they gather and to write, edit, and present reports on their findings. ICT can also be used to connect students to other schools, at home and abroad, and to bring the global community into the local classroom. (Canadian and World Studies, 2013, p.55)
With the integration of technology into the delivery of the curriculum expectations it is important to ensure that the students have had the opportunity to develop their digital citizenship skills. This resources provides teachers with practical ideas and a large selection of resources to assist students in their growth as digital citizens.
As adolescents experience a barrage of ideas from a variety of sources, including social media, online, and in print, critical literacy provides the tools to determine how to engage in, interpret, use and act on this information appropriately. The Ontario Curriculum, The Arts document points out, “With the constant stream of information and the changing realities of contemporary culture, technology and society, by being critically literate, adolescents are able to determine what information is reliable… They learn to use the information gathered to form a personal stance and to take creative risks and become active participants in bringing about change” (Ministry of Education, 2010)
“Teaching for critical literacy empowers students to be active thinkers, to look at the world from multiple perspectives and to develop questioning habits that encourage them to think and act on their decisions. Critical literacy can be applied across subject areas, modes of expression, texts and new technologies.” (Adolescent Literacy Guide, 19).
Engagement and relevance of learning for students is critical to inspiring their efforts and success. Ensuring that students are partners in the learning process and deliberately designing experiences that give them ownership and direction over their learning yields best results and honours the Ministry goals for ensuring student voice. “Explicit strategies are in place to enable students to demonstrate strong citizenship skills such as leadership, teamwork and advocacy.” (K-12 School Effectiveness Framework)
One strategy for ensuring student voice is through questions. Overtly teaching students questioning skills and building opportunities for them to shape their own learning path through questions they own, will not only build critical and creative thinking but also make learning personal and meaningful for students. Another strategy is instructional design that invites students to work efficiently and effectively in collaborative virtual environments to encourage participatory learning and to embed digital citizenship skills.
Together for Learning: School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons
Together for Learning: School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons, was published in 2010 by the Ontario Library Association, with funding from the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat of Ontario’s Ministry of Education. Together for Learning provides inspiration for schools to develop collaborative learning opportunities in physical and virtual spaces. “A Learning Commons is a vibrant, whole-school approach, presenting exciting opportunities for collaboration among teachers, teacher-librarians and students. Within a Learning Commons, new relationships are formed between learners, new technologies are realized and utilized, and both students and educators prepare for the future as they learn new ways to learn.” (Together for Learning, p. 3)
The Potential of the Learning Commons
“The information to knowledge journey is the main work of the learning commons… high level assignments and projects require learners to think critically and creatively as they build personal and collective knowledge.” (Koechlin, Rosenfeld and Loertscher, 2010). In this collaborative environment the potential of technology is realized to enable learning as never before. Multiple literacies, participatory learning skills and digital citizenship are applied to new contexts of learning. The learning commons is also about equity, which is as important now as it ever has been. “While we may think that the digital divide is a thing of the past, it is alive and well when it comes to our students’ access to technology at school. But today’s digital divide isn’t as much about how many computers the school provides – it’s more about how that technology is used for learning.” (Brooks Kirkland, 2010).
The Learning Commons is built for “reaching every student”, which is at the core of Ontario’s K-12 School Effectiveness Framework (Ministry of Education, 2010). It embraces learning partnerships, incorporates assessment for, as and of learning and evidence-based practice, and inspires meaningful collaborative professional learning across the school. (Koechlin and Brooks Kirkland, The Trillium, ASCD Ontario).
Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada
Leading Learning was published by the Canadian Library Association in 2014. It sets a framework for schools to develop a learning commons approach, and recognizes the importance of digital literacy and digital citizenship.
“A learning commons is a whole school approach to building a participatory learning community. The library learning commons is the physical and virtual collaborative learning hub of the school. It is designed to engineer and drive future-oriented learning and teaching throughout the entire school.”