While using technology in the classroom to enhance student learning is very rewarding, there are things teachers need to consider before diving in. We often hear statements such as;

  • it’s not about the tool

  • teachers don’t need to know how to use the tools, students will figure them out

  • our students are “digital natives”

While these statements have truth in them, teachers ultimately DO need to understand how the tools work. Teachers are responsible for student safety and well being. While it may not be necessary for teachers to be experts on the fine details of all digital tools, a certain level of digital literacy and capability is essential. Teachers need to know how personal information may be used and shared using a digital tool. Or, how students may interact with others using the tool. This requires a shift in how educators prepare for class. Instead of spending time preparing and photocopying multiple pages for class, teachers may need to spend that time checking out a new digital tool for a classroom activity.

As teachers develop the skills required to quickly understand how digital tools work this task becomes much less cumbersome. This skill is the same as those of classroom management, assessment, etc. It can be developed and mastered over time. Starting with digital tools that have been vetted or approved by schools, boards and the province is a great way to start. Ultimately, teachers should work towards developing the skillset required to quickly assess a tool when students suggest a new tool to connect, collaborate, share or demonstrate understanding. Assessing digital tools for safety and appropriateness can be done by asking a series of questions including (but not limited to);

  • is there a school, board or provincially provided tool that accomplishes the same thing as this new tool
  • do students need to create an account? If so,
    • what is the age limit?
    • what personal information is being shared?
    • where is this personal information being stored?
    • do I have parental approval?
  • is the tool “more open” than your physical classroom? Will others beyond your class or school be able to interact with students and see their work? If so, special considerations need to be made.
  • do you have parent permission? Generally, this is required if any personal information (name, age, contact information, etc.) is going to be used, or if student work will be made public. Teachers should check school and board policies to ensure all requirements are met. If ever unsure, get parent permission.
  • will student work, creations or conversations be shared publically or privately? Who will be able to see student work?   
  • is there a commenting or social feature in the tool at all? If so,
    • is there the ability to “moderate” comments (control which ones show up)
    • who has control?
    • can it be turned off?

Privacy and Safety Online

Schools and school boards will have guidelines for the use of online digital tools. It is important that students and teachers have a thorough understanding of these guidelines and follow them.

Other guidelines to consider include;

Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship

In the front pages of the Ontario Curriculum Documents, there is information on the use of Information and Communication Technologies. This information addresses digital safety and citizenship and makes it clear that every teacher is responsible for this.

Digital Literacy and Citizenship includes;

  • the ability to be safe and responsible online,

  • the ability to have balance and well-being in life,  

  • the ability to be a positive contributing member to online communities,

  • the ability to use digital resources effectively to support their own learning and well being

There are many educator resources already created and available online. Some of these resources include;

Equity and Access

During the transition to technology enabled learning environments teachers need to be cognizant of student access to devices and internet connections. A lack of access could impact student achievement. This is not new for teachers - it’s part of getting to know our students. The new part is finding creative solutions to a lack of access. Some solutions used by students and teachers in Ontario include;

  • group work in class

  • providing choice on learning activities

  • having extra device(s) in classrooms for student use

  • accessing free internet from places such as McDonalds and Tim Hortons

  • creating pods of devices available for student sign out

  • recycling old devices for basic access