Canada’s Digital Divide: How Wide is it and Can it be Solved?

Written by Kajeet on October 01, 2018

 Canada-Digital-Divide-Blog

Educational technology—how we use it now, how we’ll use it in the future—is of paramount importance to any discussion of education. Teachers, students, administrators, and other key stakeholders in Canada are passionate about the role technology plays in supporting how students learn.

An infographic on “Technology in the Classroom” created by Nelson, an educational publisher in Canada, revealed 71 percent of students feel positively about technology in the classroom.

Technology in the classroom has even more of an impact when students can continue their ed tech use at home. However, not all students have the same access to technology due to a lack of Internet access.

The Digital Divide in Canada

Writing on the digital divide for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, author Brad Stollery notes that while 96 percent of Canadians had access to broadband Internet (with a minimum download speed of five Mbps) in 2015, that number drops to 79 percent for Canadians living in the North. Only up two percent from the infographic created in 2014.

As he writes, “The 96-percent figure is as pernicious as it is impressive, moreover, because it will foster public complacency at the expense of those final few. There are people across the country who lack a utility that is vital for 21st-century life. Many of them live in indigenous communities, where gaining reliable and affordable broadband access is a matter of survival.”

However, a different source, Statistics Canada, reports 58 percent of low-income households lack Internet access at home. Similar to the U.S. statistic from Pew Research that states, “Some 5 million school-age children do not have a broadband Internet connection at home, with low-income households accounting for a disproportionate share,” low-income families in Canada face similar circumstances.

These school-aged children that lack Internet access at home feel the impact of the Digital Divide more and more as tech use continues to increase inside – and outside – the classroom.

The annual “State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada” study by the Canadian eLearning Network (CANeLearn) examines K-12 online learning such as distance, online, and blended learning. This 2016-17 report revealed around 16 percent of K-12 students were engaged in E-learning. The report states, “The overall e-learning activity was based on the number of K-12 students engaged in distance and online learning, combined with the number of K-12 students engaged in blended learning.”

As more students engage in distance learning, online learning, or blended learning, they will need Internet access at home to be successful in school.

The Impact on Digital Literacy

The Digital Divide also refers to students’ technical skills. For example, in a recent report by Radio Canada International, there’s a growing concern about the Digital Divide, especially among the country’s population under 30 years old. Central to their story is an illuminating study by the Brookfield Institute that takes readers on a deep dive into digital literacy education in Canada.

The study, “Leveling Up: The Quest for Digital Literacy,” pulls together nearly 100 interviews with Canadian tech trainers, teachers, school board representatives, academics, and policymakers to help explain the current state of digital literacy programs for K-12 and post-secondary students.

According to the study’s authors,

There has been an exciting growth of programs across Canada supporting the development of digital literacy at all ages, both within the formal educational system and delivered by non- and for-profit actors working alongside and in partnership with schools, colleges, and universities. However, the landscape of opportunities for learning digital skills remains fragmented and difficult for some learners to navigate. Many people in Canada are at risk of falling through the cracks, uncertain of the skills they are missing, how to develop them, and how to make sure they are not left behind.

The study continues to describe the current state of digital literary in Canada, including the following topics:

  • Coding in Schools. In Canada’s K-12 systems, coding education revolves primarily around building websites, creating games, and (in grades 10-12) computer science and robotics. However, some policymakers worry this heavy focus on coding may end up replacing traditional literacy and stream students into exclusively high-tech careers.
  • Tech-Infused Curriculums. Rather than focus on coding, some Canadian territories and provinces choose to infuse their entire school curriculums with technology. The goal is to have a student body that understands the responsible, ethical use of concepts and tools like data analysis and social media across different academic subjects.
  • Train the Trainers. According to the report’s authors, some Canadian jurisdictions are “employing ‘train-the-trainer’ models, with digitally adept teachers receiving formal training and serving as peer mentors and facilitators within their schools or school districts.”
  • Third-Party Partnerships. The non-profit organization Brilliant Labs is just one of the many ed tech organizations collaborating with Canadian schools and educators through the use of training programs, teacher development, summer camps, equipment, and technical expertise.

 

Despite the advancements and uses of technology in the classroom, this study also touches on bridging Canada’s Digital Divide. 

“A lack of consistent access to hardware, software, the Internet, and cellular data was reported by a number of interviewees as a core barrier to developing and maintaining digital literacy. This lack of access is deeply intertwined with income/wealth, geography, and other socioeconomic factors including housing stability. Without consistent access, learners can fail to progress or falter in their digital progression and in building confidence using technology.”

Accelerating Canada’s Learning Goals

Canadian schools currently employ a fascinating range of programs, tools, guidelines, initiatives, and other resources to help maintain a student body that’s prepared for the future.

CANeLearn provided suggestions for teaching tools such as Cram.com and GoConqr for online flashcard sites; Infogram to create infographics, reports, and maps; and Plickers to make fun classroom quizzes. Some programs, like the coding boot camps from Lighthouse Labs, are based in Canada while others still, like the hour-long coding activities in The Hour of Code, are part of larger, global ed tech movements.

Last fall, EdSurge reported on how the Ottowa Catholic School Board had undertaken the mission to “ensure that the technology in classrooms is being used to accelerate the district’s learning goals, including personalization, differentiation, and deeper learning.” The school board adopted Google Chromebooks, used Google’s educational suite as their platform, and incorporated Google apps including Dashboard and Workspace. Then the tech integration team for Ottowa measured results to see how students were using these devices and create an action plan for the future.

Bridging the Digital Divide with Kajeet

Designed to help bridge the Digital Divide and allow K-12 students to safely explore and learn in the online world, Kajeet provides schools and districts filtered connectivity and device management solutions.

And now, both of our leading solutions are available in Canada.

Kajeet SmartSpot®

Filtered, Wi-Fi hotspots allow students to access the Internet anytime, anywhere. Keep students safe and on task while connected to the largest Canadian wireless network. These devices help close the Digital Divide by providing students without Internet at home to keep up with their well-connected peers.

Kajeet SmartBus™

School bus rides can span anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour just going to school. When you add up all the time students spend on a school bus, you could turn their travel time into instructional time. Filtered Internet access on the school bus provides students additional time to work on homework, increasing their productivity and keeping their attention to help reduce behavior incidents.

The core of every Kajeet solution includes:

  • Safe, secure access to online learning.
  • Compliant, customizable Internet filters.
  • Visibility into student device usage.
  • Detailed data reporting and analytics.

 

For years, Kajeet has helped school districts across the U.S. Now, we’re excited to extend a helping hand into Canada. If you are interested in learning more about Kajeet services in Canada or want to join our mailing list, please fill out this form here.

Topics: Homework Gap, Canada, WiFi for Students


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