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EdTech & Design, Equity, Opinion, Policy, School Community

Equity in Education and the Digital Age

Equity will only be realized when learning is personalized and every student has the ability to access information at their individual speed or learning

Canada is well known for its efforts to ensure an equitable education opportunity for its citizens. The inclusive education model is one expression of Canadian values in this regard; an underlying principle that all children should have equitable access to Canada’s learning systems. Canada’s ongoing efforts to successfully integrate children with disabilities into the regular classroom are to be lauded and emulated.

Canada is well known for its efforts to ensure an equitable education opportunity for its citizens. The inclusive education model is one expression of Canadian values in this regard; an underlying principle that all children should have equitable access to Canada’s learning systems. Canada’s ongoing efforts to successfully integrate children with disabilities into the regular classroom are to be lauded and emulated. Unfortunately, some pundits believe incorrectly that inclusive education is solely about ensuring children with disabilities receive the accommodations they need to be successful in the classroom. This thinking is both erroneous and dangerous. An inclusive education system is not solely about integrating children with disabilities into the classroom; it is far more ambitious. It is about personalizing learning to the extent that every student reaches his or her full learning potential.

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In his groundbreaking study commissioned by the New Brunswick Department of Education, Dr. Wayne Mackay of Dalhousie University underlined the fact that “inclusive education” is about designing school systems where “all” students achieve their full potential. Equity in education is not simply about gaining access to the classroom or to school activities; it is equitable access to the learning tools and resources that allow you, as an individual learner, to reach your full learning potential.

A 21st Century model of learning offers the potential to realize this vision, when learning is enabled by ICT rich learning and teaching environments. Equity in education will only be realized when learning is personalized and every student has the ability to access information at their individual speed of learning.

A 21st Century model of learning offers the potential to realize this vision, when learning is enabled by ICT rich learning and teaching environments. Equity in education will only be realized when learning is personalized and every student has the ability to access information at their individual speed of learning.

Canada has certainly deployed assistive technologies to students with learning disabilities. In one celebrated case, digital technology is ensuring a hearing impaired student in a New Brunswick classroom is receiving sign-language services linked in from Quebec. At the same time, the province’s 1:1 laptop model clearly demonstrated learning benefits for “all” involved students. While technology should never be considered a panacea for the challenges in public education, we do need to design our public education systems to inspire all our students to be as creative, innovative and digitally competent as they can be. 

The demands of an inclusive education system on teachers are great. They must plan for and accommodate a diverse range of learning needs.  ICT rich learning environments not only empowers student learning, it allows teachers to monitor the progress of a student or a group of students, and then intervene quickly and effectively.   

By definition therefore, an inclusive education system must be systemically designed to ensure that all students receive personalized learning to the greatest degree possible, recognizing that this also inherently means collaborative learning opportunities.   And for the first time in history, we have access to technologies that will help enable this vision to be realized. Creating ICT rich learning environments in our classrooms and training educators to personalize a student’s learning experience are key pillars to attaining a fully inclusive, thus equitable, education model.

Any individual or group professing to be proponents of equity in education should be calling on their governments to invest in creating ICT rich learning environments in public schools.  And if we truly expect educators to teach in an inclusive learning environment, we must give them the training and ICT tools to do so.