At the second day of training, Chris Freure (one of the course leaders) started us off with an article, “E” Is For Embarrassing. In it a retired teacher criticizes the eLearning going on in Ontario. As pointed out in the class, what their experience, background, etc is no one knew so who can say how true or valid the points are. The bigger point brought about is that eLearning is only as good as the teacher.
eLearning is a potentially fantastic tool for the classroom. Note, FOR the classroom NOT THE classroom. Whatever else it is, it is only a tool. When a house falls down you don’t blame the hammer and nails, you blame the builder. eLearning isn’t failing our students. A system that doesn’t understand what it is or how to use it is failing our students. A system that is looking for an easy out is failing our students. A teaching federation that does not have any kind of strategy for eLearning is failing our students. That is a tremendous threat to the teaching profession in Ontario. If OSSTF does not start acting on eLearning, eLearning will be used to replace us.
An article in this month’s Forum magazine Paths To Prosperity or Privatization? (pg 30) talks about the neo-liberal agenda of turning public schools into a for-money, private business. eLearning will be part of this discussion. Free-trade and technological advancement killed the manufacturing industry in this country. Why? You can either outsource manual labour jobs to cheaper countries or replacement them with new technologies like robots and computers. The only jobs left are those that require a highly skilled or educated labour force. Even those can be questionable. In education, teachers who deliver content are the manual labourers. And technology will replace them entirely. You do not need a teacher to deliver content. You can find out who won WWII with a five second google search rather than taking a five month high school course. What you can’t google is someone to challenge you to question and understand. That’s where a professional teacher comes in.
D2L can be the resource that gives us the flexibility to address the variety of individual student learning styles and needs we are expected to accommodate everyday. By allowing the student to take more responsibility for their learning, we can take more time addressing their personalized needs. Will this miraculous event happen overnight? No. It is going to take time for everyone (students, parents, teachers, educational assistants, administrators, etc) to understand and adapt but it will happen. Correction: it is happening.
As said before, you do not need to be in Ontario to teach an Ontario curriculum. All you need is a government or school board willing to approve the process. An uneducated public will allow this to happen. Expecting OSSTF, EFTO or other education unions to just automatically protect us is foolish: unions are only as strong as the support they have from within and without. We need to build support by educating our members, parents and the public about the new role of teachers in education and the place of new technologies in that role. If we don’t speak up for ourselves no one else will.