85% of students are forced into remote learning by school closures. The early 2020s see the highest utilization of digital learning environments ever. In response to the pandemic and other uncertain future risks, schools push for the internet as a basic service and digital devices for every student. Programs such as Apple and ConnectED provide students and schools in need with tablets and other learning support devices.
Climate change researchers at top institutions have called to task the education system and its impact on the environmental crises, specifically the depletion of natural resources used in manufacturing digital devices, contribution to e-waste, and lack of electronic recycling programs. In 2016, the Global E-Waste Monitor considered Canada one of the worst contributors to e-waste, producing approximately 725000 tonnes of e-waste and only recycling 20%, there have been ambitious targets set to improve these numbers for 2030. The education sector is preparing to lead the way in Canada to bring global awareness to the abundant and excessive use of digital technologies of the past and set a better example of responsible usership for other sectors.
A needed shift in thinking surrounding educational technology has occurred to align with environmental concerns, technology is no longer presented as an infinite resource to be used in excess (Selwyn, 2021). Classroom devices are limited and shared. Students are taught about how devices are manufactured; what resources are involved and how to repair and update their devices for longevity. Schools are now managing device recycling programs in their communities. The awareness brought about by the education sector has prompted global changes including holding manufacturers responsible for planned obsolescence and demanding longer product life cycles. In 2020, the expected life cycle of a smartphone was 2 years, in 2030, the expected life cycle is now several years, credited to the rejuvenation of Project Ara by Google previously abandoned in 2016. Project Ara’s goal was to create a longer-lasting smartphone that can be updated and repaired rather than discarded (Statt 2016). With approximately 35 million smartphone users in Canada in 2030 (O’Dea, 2020), the increased longevity of the devices significantly impacts the amount of e-waste produced. Tablets, laptops, and desktop computers are now being designed with longevity as a focus across the tech industry.
O’Dea, S. (2020). Forecast of smartphone users in Canada. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/467190/forecast-of-smartphone-users-in-canada/
Selwyn, N. (2021). Ed-Tech Within Limits: Anticipating educational technology in times of environmental crisis. E-Learning and Digital Media, 2042753021102295
Statt, M. (2016). Google confirms the end of its modular Project Ara smartphone. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2016/9/2/12775922/google-project-ara-modular-phone-suspended-confirm