When steering educational technology towards the future, we hope to follow the road towards solutions. This essay sets to provide one potential future in response to our present context. This year presented a unique social, educational, political, and environmental setting. The first global pandemic in over a century, COVID-19, inundated the world and measures were introduced to protect citizens. In British Columbia (BC), schools and businesses quickly shifted to a distant model with parents working alongside their children learning at home. Within the first two months of the pandemic approximately 400,000 British Columbians lost their jobs (CBC 2020). The United Nations called a “global education emergency” (Fore, H. as cited in Feuer, 2020, first paragraph) as students discontinued school. Political instability lead to elections as governments need economic recover and families choked on the smoke of forest fires. Amidst this worry, there remains hope for the future.
Considering this climate, goals for a positive future must steady the turbulent present. This potential future attempts to meet goals for educational technology and increase equality while decreasing pollution (Macgilchrist, Allert, and Bush, 2020). Research has identified technology’s role in providing more equal opportunity and quality of education (BCCampus, 2020). BC’s Ministry of Education (2020) aims to provide consistent success among vulnerable students. Even Canada’s chief public officer (Tam, as cited by D’Amore, 2020) suggests a future where planning is centered around equality. Imagine a potential future where centralized, open educational resources, and internships to refurbish technology provide equal access to equal education in BC’s secondary schools.
The solutions of 2030 begin after the pandemic when governments move to recover the economy. First the minimum age to work in BC is increased to 18, thus forcing adolescents back into the classroom and parents back to work. The pandemic demonstrated that employees and students can work remotely. People with mobility limitations or chronic illnesses now maintain employment. Students also have more choice. Open educational resources (OER), centralized content, internships, refurbished technologies, and supportive policies are implemented. Philanthropic programs that were previously in the community are structured within schools. Programs like Computers for Kids and Free Geeks now use students for labour. BC’s secondary curriculum changed in 2018-19 which reduced required. Future grade 11 and 12 students will complete the language and math fundamentals (Friedman, 2020), but then get to choose four to six internships in the elective subjects of their choice.
For flexibility and equality sake, it is important to consider equal access to quality teaching and resources (BCCampus, 2020). The ministry’s proposed funding-model change and the lack of contract language for Distributing Learning (DL) teachers has already shifted DL towards centralized content (Barbour & LaBonte, 2019). In another ten years, all teachers will draw from centralized content. Having content available means teachers can focus on the relevant skills of the future and less on content specific materials. The other side to centralized content is having this content openly available. In the future, teachers create and share content (Mishra, 2017). OER also benefits students as it can “empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path” (Andrade as cited in Mishra, 2017, p. 376). Similar empowerment can arrive from hands-on, relevant, practical activities, such as internships.
Along with having equal content, there also needs to be equal access to technology. In the future, in technology-related internships, students rebuild outdated hardware or maintain existing infrastructures and programs. There are several benefits to this program. First, there is an economic as school districts no longer must source replacement technologies and technological support (Clapp et al., 2016). The benefits to internships also include better social and community skills, thereby satisfying many of the short-comings researchers identify with educational technology (Muilenburg & Berge, as cited in BCCampus, 2020). The act of working leads to community building and this social engagement further leading to higher retention (Olesova, Yang, & Richardson, as cited in BCCampus, 2020) justifying internships in the future. Kumar (as cited in Friedman, 2020) predicts that the distinction between employers and educators will be lost in the future. He also suggests that experience is more valuable than a post-secondary degree. Students having hands-on experiences with technology could shift us away from society’s obsession with consumerism and waste (Clapp et al., 2016). In 2030 interneships, students gain not only course credit but school store credit to buy their own technology or other needs. An internship program in collaboration with the IT department will help to reduce the amount of technology that is wasted. During the technological internships of 2030 students, guided by teachers and IT professionals, refurbish hardware, and build and maintain school-wide systems similar to “complex adaptive coalitions” (Friedman, 2020, p. 22).
The solution to equitable access to hardware needs to be something other than increased production or corporate funding. Refurbishing technology not only positively impacts the environment by keeping waste from filling landfills or being shipped overseas, but also benefits learning (Fosdick, 2012). Other outcomes of allowing students experience with building and fixing technology include developing agency (Clapp et al., 2016). Afterall, it is with access to technology and “tinkering” that Bill Gates become a technological mastermind (Wallace et al., 1992). Students building or repairing technology could lead to a paradigmatic shift that prioritizes environment conservation over profit (Weaver, 2000). Rather than choosing technology to fix societies problems, we can use society to fix problems caused by technologies of over consumption and consumerism. This future draws from the good will and curiosity in youth but also from the support from policy makers.
In 2030, policy demands students have equal access to learning and technological resources. During the pandemic of 2020, we witnessed how quickly the Ministry of Education was able to set new practices and how school districts and educators met these expectations. True, there was resistance among parents and educators. We know though, that if the government implements environmentally and equitable practices, the majority will comply. Just as the success of OER needs political support through policies (Mishra, 2017) so does equal access to technology through secondary school internships. Public sector spending is already shifting to sustainability (Everdene, 2018). With the support of politicians and ministry level policies, people who profit from inequality and pollution ridden policies will have limited options.
The benefits of this potential future are promising. Parents have steady employment. Schools have higher retention and completion rates. Students have the skills to attain employment after graduation. Also, by empowering our youth through hands-on, practical experiences we ensure that the optimism present in 2030 continues. After 2030 possible extensions of this model would be where employers become more responsible for specific training or skills in between shorter spurts of formal education. Internships could trickle down to lower grades. Maybe secondary students supervise or mentor middle school students. In either respect, by imagining a positive future, we will be motivated to stand by today’s choices.
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