Sunday, November 24, 2013

Answers to Government Survey, Part 5 (Questions 6 and 7): Technology and Partnerships

Here is my answer to Questions 6 and 7 of the government survey on the future of education in Ontario. (For an explanation of the survey, and the public consultation process of which it is a part, see here.)

Question 6: How can we use technology more effectively in teaching and learning? 

I think technology is a bit of a red herring in the debates about the future of schooling. Systems that do very well internationally (such as Finland's) are quite low-tech. I'm not anti-technology, but given the expense of introducing new educational technologies, we should keep a close eye on the evidence of their effectiveness. Often there is none. I'm also concerned about the corporatization of schools that the introduction of technology makes possible (or perhaps inevitable). After all, no one stands to gain more from schools' wholesale adoption of technology-reliant pedagogy than huge tech companies. The question is, what will the students gain and at what expense?

Question 7: In summary, what are the various opportunities for partnership that can enhance the student experience, and how can they benefit parents, educators and our partners too?

 I can’t be certain, but I suspect that by “partnerships,” the writers of this question mean corporate partnerships. If that is the case, my position is that there should be no partnerships with schools. Corporations are in the business of making money; schools are public spheres where we set aside the money-making goals of the surrounding corporate world so that our children can be educated, as opposed to trained.  (Let the corporations train their own employees—why should taxpayers foot the bill for such training?) I think if politicians and administrators keep in mind this essential distinction between education and training when making curricular and other policy decisions, education in Ontario would start to move in the right direction. The title of this consultation project is From Great to Excellent, but nowhere is “excellence” defined. For me, an “excellent” education system is not one that trains excellent corporate employees, but rather one that educates future free-thinking citizens. Maybe hoping for a truly “excellent” education system is a bit utopian, but I’d choose utopian over Orwellian any day.