Students who are digitally literate know how to use computers and the Internet to find, read, organize, and critically analyze information, to compose digital texts such as infographics, blogs, or videos for a range of purposes using a range of applications, and to participate ethically on social media platforms and in other networked spaces using multiple modes such as text, image, sound, or hashtags. Teachers and parents play a crucial role in helping young people to develop the foundational digital skills and social practices that enable them to become critical readers, writers, and participants in a complex world where digital technologies shape how we think, understand and interact.
As children learn to recognize, decode and print the letters of the alphabet, they can also learn to recognize and type letters on keyboards, use digital applications to listen to and interact with e-books, use audio recording applications to record and share their ideas, and use block-coding platforms (e.g., SCRATCH) to design commands that computers can read. Young children require developmentally appropriate opportunities to make meanings with and through all of the technologies that will shape their literacies practices in life.
Creative collaboration sets the stage for students to think beyond the consumption of digital information as they negotiate and solve complex problems using a range of digital tools. For example, co-creating a digital video on a topic of social importance might require students to use cloud-based writing platforms for storyboarding, digital video cameras for recording, data management practices for organizing files, digital editing software, and online video sharing platforms with permissions set according to privacy needs. Through collaboration and peer review, students learn what it means to create, curate, and disseminate their work as active participants in networked cultures.
When searching the Internet for information, students who adopt an evaluative stance, and who read across information sources in order to compare facts, arguments, and perspectives (also called lateral reading) tend to construct more accurate understandings of topics. To develop an evaluative stance, students need opportunities to judge the relative trustworthiness of information sources using indicators such as context, author identity and credentials, point of view, evidence of funding, text genre, modality, use of emotional triggers, how the information circulates via social media and whether information can be verified. Students also benefit when they have to justify their trustworthiness rankings, through debate, with peers and when their parents and teachers model critical evaluation practices by thinking aloud as they make judgments about information.
Just as learning to read and write printed texts requires explicit instruction over many years with many types of text, and for many communicative purposes, learning to become digitally literate requires similar support. Even though people sometimes think children are born “just knowing” how to use digital tools, research has dispelled this myth. Even highly educated young adults who grew up using the Internet are susceptible to fake news, and may not know how to solve complex problems using computers. Given the importance of global digital networks to nearly every aspect of life today, prioritizing digital literacies teaching and learning in every grade and in every subject area at school is important so that students learn foundational digital reading, composition and participation practices from an early age.
Published by the EdCan Network in partnership with
On a global scale, we’re faced with complex societal and environmental challenges such as climate change, poverty, inequality and environmental degradation that we must address in order to achieve a more sustainable future for all. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lay out 17 action areas aimed at sustaining life (both human and non-human), ending poverty, and achieving social justice. These are the building blocks of global well-being.
For educators, the SDGs have enormous educational importance and potential. They offer cross-curricular relevancy and invaluable learning opportunities for students to discover their crucial role in solving local, regional, and global problems, starting in their own community. Simultaneously, education ministries, school districts and school communities will discover that engaging with the SDGs can support students in the important goal of acquiring the six pan-Canadian Global Competencies identified by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), to equip them to thrive in and shape their world.
In this issue, we explore how educators can engage students to become active global citizens and authentically address global issues in empowering and hopeful ways.
Cover photo: courtesy MCIC
Whew. We made it through the winter. For many of you it has been, professionally and/or personally, the hardest winter ever. But with vaccination underway and warm weather ahead, we think we see light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
After a year that forced educators to teach, or lead, reactively in response to a mountain of new challenges, we thought it might be a welcome change to look forward to a more aspirational approach to teaching and learning. Yes, there are ongoing and critical COVID issues. But we can also start thinking about how to re-engage students, build school community and make education the best training ground possible for our future leaders and citizens.
Taking on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whether as a school or as a class, is an exciting way to address all three of these goals. I like to think of this issue as a seed catalogue. The catalogue arrives when it’s still too cold to plant, but it conjures up big dreams for gardening season. We hope this issue will sow lots of ideas, and also lead you to the resources to develop them into a real plan. How great would it be to cover the curriculum in a way that engages students in real-world problems, encourages them to claim a stake in making the world a better place, and develops essential competencies in the process?
The authors in this issue are in the vanguard of integrating the SDGs into Canadian schooling, and part of an international network of educators who are helping to achieve these ambitious Agenda 2030 goals while providing their students with a positive, empowering opportunity to learn about and take action on global issues that are also urgent problems here at home, such as clean drinking water for Indigenous communities, homelessness, climate change, food insecurity, and racial inequities. See how other schools have taken on one or more of the goals in our article on UNESCO Schools, from our partners at CCUNESCO (p. 11). Or dive right into the features to learn about what the UN SDGs are, why they present such a great opportunity for educators, and how to integrate the SDGs into your classroom and school.
I hope this issue inspires educators, schools, and school boards to start planning how they might get involved in this world-changing initiative – and sow the seeds for a sustainable future.
Photo: courtesy MCIC
We want to know what you think. Send your comments and article proposals to email@example.com – or join the conversation by using #EdCan on Twitter and Facebook.
Anxiety about the environment, a sense of helplessness, pessimism about the future, individualism – the world is going through a dark time and many people are concerned about the morale of young people and their ability to exercise active citizenship. However, Oxfam-Québec meets thousands of young people every year who are exercising their citizenship in the fields of climate, economics and gender justice, with both hope and ingenuity.
For over 45 years, our organization has been active in schools to encourage youth civic engagement so we can build a fair, sustainable world. We believe that young people wield citizen power and that it is crucial to treat them as what they are – agents of change – and in light of what they do – take unified action to fight inequalities.
When describing Oxfam-Québec’s current educational activities, we talk about global citizenship education, an educational approach that helps young people grow into responsible, united citizens of the world. The goal of this educational continuum is to inform youth, mobilize them, encourage them to influence the halls of power, and promote their activities. Young people join this movement by attending in-class workshops; taking part in the World Walk, which for many is their first experience of collective action; working on long-term projects like fundraising for sustainable development projects; or by engaging in calls for action as part of mobilization campaigns.
All of these activities correspond to specific elements in the Quebec Education Program (QEP), in terms of its mission, broad areas of learning, skills to be developed, and progression of learning. Oxfam is even cited as a cultural reference in the school curriculum, under the theme of wealth disparity in the Contemporary World course offered in Grade 11. All of our resources clearly identify the corresponding QEP elements. Many teachers, as well as non-teaching staff like spiritual leaders and community programmers, use these resources in class or as part of extracurricular activities. Given their demanding mandates and busy schedules, school staff members appreciate the support of our team, which offers learning activities to meet their needs. To use these resources, one can find all the information needed on the Oxfam-Québec site, under the heading Ressources pour les milieux scolaires (School resources, in French only).
The educational activities we offer are both transformative and empowering. In particular, they enable girls and minority youth to have a voice and be heard in their fight against injustice. We can build a fair world without poverty if young people mobilize to exercise their global citizenship, solve problems, and work with their peers around the globe.
In accordance with UNESCO guidelines, the Oxfam confederation believes that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations must be the priorities driving global citizenship education. In the following paragraphs, we present groups of educational activities tailored for four SDGs. These activities have been adapted to remain accessible during the pandemic, using online communication tools and interactive digital resources.
SDG 5, Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, is the heart of our work: it is impossible to build a just world if half of humanity cannot flourish and have their rights respected.
For example, the campaign Les tâches ménagères et le travail de soin. Ça compte! (Make Care Count) teaches young people about the unequal division of care work between the sexes, notably through a policy paper entitled Time to Care. A free workshop, Libres de choisir (Free to Choose), teaches high school students about sexual rights – which are a human right – and encourages them to consider the social and cultural context when reflecting on the impact of failing to respect these rights. The workshop’s title, referencing the question of freedom of choice, is significant: when it comes to choice, the inequalities faced by teenage girls around the world have major consequences on their lives. In Quebec as well, young people must make choices about their sexual rights. After taking this workshop, young people are invited to support a project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Healthy Mothers, Healthy children, which aims to improve the health of women, teens, and children. In the case of older youth ages 18 to 30, the project C’est pour elles aussi (It’s her right, too) can help develop their abilities to mobilize friends and family and disseminate positive messages using coordinated actions, digital action plans, and meetings with elected officials.
“My participation in the Oxfam-Québec project ‘C’est pour elles aussi’ (It’s her right, too) helped me understand that my voice is valid and that I have the right to be heard. Social networks are powerful allies for raising people’s awareness and advancing the debate. […] The team introduced me to theoretical concepts related to cyber activism and gave me the courage I needed to use my voice! I was even empowered to develop my own platform of inspiring resources on Instagram (@lesensduchaos) to counter the psychological stress caused by the lockdown.”
– Laurence C. Germain, participant in the Oxfam-Québec “C’est pour elles aussi” project
SDG 13, Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, plays a key role in Oxfam’s educational outreach efforts. This issue is intertwined with all global issues of inequality: historic, socioeconomic, and gender inequalities.
The campaign devoted to this topic is called Climat de justice (Climate justice). Like the content in the free workshop offered to young people ages 12 to 30, the campaign highlights the injustices associated with the climate crisis, and the outsized impact this crisis is having on the people who produce the fewest carbon emissions. Since indignation can be a powerful driving force, the young people involved can then participate in the 50th World Walk for Climate Justice. The World Walk is the culmination of a year of action. To highlight these efforts, the Oxfam-Québec team has asked the young people preparing for the walk to meet several challenges, from filming a video to speaking to the media. At the beginning of the school year, young people can also organize a symbolic, united action in their respective schools called Stand Up for the Planet to tell decision-makers they are committed to climate justice.
“To everyone who says that we can’t accomplish anything, look at us – 6,000 young people marching for the world! I am really proud to see this! It is our place, meaning that, regardless of our age, gender, colour, or religion, we have the right to use our voice.”
– Estelle Lafrance, age 17, member of the Oxfam-Québec Youth Seat, participant and spokesperson for the World Walk
Of course, SDG 1, End poverty in all its forms everywhere, underpins all the others. It is important to talk to young people about the economy and deconstruct dogmas that hinder a real understanding of possible solutions so everyone can live with dignity on this planet.
Along these lines, there is a free workshop for young people on the new economic model created by Oxfam. L’économie du beigne (Doughnut Economics) rejects the obsession with infinite growth at all cost and proposes instead that the economy target the well-being of humanity by respecting a series of social indicators without overshooting any planetary boundaries. This new model has already been adopted by many cities around the world, including Brussels, Amsterdam, and Nanaimo in Canada. This workshop is part of the campaign Taxing wealth: Flattening inequalities. Young people are invited to sign the petition addressed to the Canadian government asking it to rebuild an economy that is capable of tackling inequalities. In anticipation of the upcoming municipal elections, young people could ask candidates if they are interested in applying the doughnut economics model to their city. A wonderful way to learn about politics!
Doughnut economics also refers to SDG 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.
An innovative Oxfam-Québec project started some 15 years ago introducing young people to the values of innovation, creativity, and sustainability advocated by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC): Magasin du Monde (World Shop). This initiative has students create social economy businesses to promote fair trade. Participants create a shop, sit on a board of directors, and share the tasks involved: market research, inventory management and sales, activities to educate the school community, and internal and external communications. The shops do not sell ordinary products, as everything is certified fair trade and a percentage of the profits are used to support a sustainable development project. In some cases, the entire local community participates in the project, which becomes an engine of development. This happens, for example, when local farmers’ markets and tourism agencies help to promote these extraordinary shops.
“The work we accomplished on the committee for a sustainable City of Mont-Saint-Hilaire has increased my desire to have an impact on the world in which I live. It is proof that when you work at it, anything is possible!”
– Émile Chapdelaine, founding member of the World Shop at École Ozias-Leduc, member of the Oxfam-Québec Youth Observatory, and a member of the committee that helped get Mont-Saint-Hilaire recognized as a Fair Trade Town.
Research on and assessments of student participation in these so-called “civic engagement” activities reveal many benefits for the young people themselves. Those interviewed report improved self-esteem and a greater sense of responsibility. In addition, they exhibit an increase in positive social attitudes and a decrease in risky behaviours. This is mainly due to a greater sense of belonging to their school and improved academic results.
An external impact assessment carried out last year (Sogémap) confirmed the positive effect of youth civic engagement. According to this document, Oxfam-Québec’s global citizenship education programming enables young people to develop an awareness of global issues, an open, engaged mind and an increased ability to defend arguments. Not surprisingly, young people who take part in these activities maintain their civic engagement when they become adults.
In light of the above, it is easy to understand why encouraging young people to exercise their citizenship is crucial to supporting democracy and achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Back in 2017, the United Nations Population Fund noted that meeting the SDGs relies on bold measures to ensure that 60 million girls around the globe can live a life of dignity. In this pandemic period, young people, like the rest of the world, are experiencing unprecedented crises that directly threaten their present and future lives. By working with schools, Oxfam-Québec hopes to provide them with concrete measures for overcoming this challenge and support their efforts to create a more sustainable, inclusive society.
This article is translated from the original French. Some resources are also available in English; check the websites.
Resources for SDG 5:
Resources for SDG 13:
Resources for SDG 1:
Resources for SDG 8:
Photos : La Boîte 7
Caron, C. (2018). La citoyenneté des adolescents du 21e siècle dans une perspective de justice sociale : pourquoi et comment ? www.erudit.org/fr/revues/lsp/2018-n80-lsp03532/1044109ar/
Gingras, M.-P., Phillipe, F.L., Poulin, F., Robitaille, J (2018). Étude sur les obstacles à la mise en place d’activités d’engagement civique en milieu scolaire au Québec. Canadian Journal of Education, 41(3), 661-687. https://journals.sfu.ca/cje/index.php/cje-rce/article/view/3177
Philippe, F. (2019). Projet de recherche Réussir : 15 constats révélateurs sur l’impact des activités d’engagement civique chez les jeunes de niveau secondaire au Québec. www.elaborer.org/pdf/R3.pdf
United Nations Population Fund. (2017). Worlds apart: Reproductive health and rights in an age of inequality. www.unfpa.org/swop-2017
Extraordinary times call for creative, resourceful solutions. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged educators, students and parents alike. It has also shone a spotlight on the inequities that made school closures and distance learning especially hard on some students and families, and raised new equity issues that must be addressed as we move forward. Researchers and innovative educators share their evolving knowledge, learnings and insights to create an ongoing conversation about how we can deliver equitable, high-quality education for all students through this pandemic and into the future.
Photo : Adobe Stock
When the beginning of the pandemic closed schools and left district leaders like me in a constant state of disruption, I joined a small working group of EdCan Network staff and colleagues from our Advisory Council for an important virtual planning process. We engaged in a series of sessions to get to the heart of the impact that our Network can achieve to support K-12 educators across Canada. After many iterations, our creative team wholeheartedly endorsed the following three priorities to respond to the rapidly evolving opportunities and challenges that our education systems are currently facing:
These priorities were the focus of our virtual December 2020 EdCan Advisory Council Meeting. (The first ever gathering of the CEA was in 1891 in Montreal.) We will continue to explore how we can align our focus with supporting Ministries of Education, faculty, and school district leaders, principals, teachers, and staff throughout 2021 as we strive to increase the capacity, self-efficacy, and well-being of our 110,000 members, and through them, to heighten every student’s well-being and opportunities for meaningful learning to help them discover their purpose and path in life.
For more information about EdCan’s Theory of Change, Intended Impacts and Strategic Priorities, please visit: www.edcan.ca/aboutus
For a list of the education and philanthropic leaders who serve on EdCan’s Advisory Council, please visit: www.edcan.ca/council
First published in Education Canada, January 2021
The Power of Us enters the pandemic publishing parade with a compelling message that is both challenging and hopeful. Change consultant and author David Price makes a strong case for unseating traditional hierarchical ways of organizing our businesses, schools, and community organizations. That’s the challenge. But the hope lies in Price’s illustrative efforts to show us where in the world it is already happening.
The result of nearly three years of deep inquiry, The Power of Us draws us into a story of mass ingenuity, or what he refers to as people-powered innovation. Much more than just the sharing of ideas or organizing ourselves into cooperative clusters, it is the innovation that happens when groundswells of public activity, including inspiring examples of youth activism, meet up with organizations that understand and acknowledge that the traditional divisions between producer and consumer, artist and audience are quickly melting away. It’s what happens when companies start to see their users as co-creators, when the health-care sector starts to value highly invested patients as highly invested innovators, when schools begin to see their educators, parents, and students as co-learners, imbued with a sense of agency to make a difference outside the walls of the schoolhouse.
Price examines many of the familiar themes of change literature – ethos, structure, mindset, and leadership – through the lens of people power, supported by some very robust and compelling case studies written from the author’s own commitment (pre-pandemic) to travelling the world to find the organizations, companies, and schools that were actually showing up to their work differently. The generous summary of key points and take-aways at the end of each section invites the reader to look at their own practice and their own organizations through the lens of people powered innovation.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced David Price into rewrite mode, not because he was wrong, but because his ideas were so very right. COVID-19 is cast here, not as part of the scenery but as a main character, allowing The Power of Us to make a strong contribution to our rethinking of how we want to be in a post-pandemic world.
Photo: Dave Donald
First published in Education Canada, January 2021
Thread, 2020. ISBN: 9781800191181
“Ring out the old, ring in the new,” goes Tennyson’s poem, “Ring Out Wild Bells.”
Many of us were only too happy to ring out 2020, or maybe give it a firm boot out the door. With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out, we hope for a better year ahead.
But what are we ringing in – the new and better, or the same old? After a year of disruption, the longing to return to the status quo is completely understandable. But if that’s all we do in our schools, it’s an opportunity lost. This year brought us many lessons, including wider awareness of the pervasiveness of systemic racism. We saw both the drawbacks and the potential of online learning, and we also saw how less privileged and higher-needs students suffered disproportionately from the loss of in-person classes. Some students became frustrated and disengaged – but others thrived as they became free to follow their own interests without the social stresses of a classroom. All these experiences and more should lead us to question just what school could and should be as we move beyond the COVID-19 Era.
Through fall/winter 2020, and culminating in this magazine, we tracked the learning that was emerging from the struggle to adapt an education system to pandemic conditions and still provide quality, equitable education (read the whole series on our website). One standout for me was Vidya Shah’s article (p. 15) showing how we can (and why we must) work towards greater equity in education during and beyond the pandemic.
It’s important to acknowledge the huge effort and serious stress that educators at every level of the system have shouldered during this crisis. But now we have a chance to look forward, to ring in the new. In our spring issue, EdCan will explore how the UN Sustainable Development Goals can be used to engage students with global and local issues and help them acquire essential competencies. And in June, we invite contributors to share their vision for the (near) future of education. How can we create a schooling experience that truly prepares today’s students to build tomorrow’s world?
Photo: Adobe Stock
First published in Education Canada, January 2021
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EdCan and Happy Teacher Revolution are excited to offer EdCan members exclusive access to Happy Teacher Revolution’s online training and certification program to initiate and lead their own teacher support group within their school community.
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Happy Teacher Revolution is a Baltimore-born, international movement with the mission to support the mental health and wellness of teachers. Happy Teacher Revolutions trains ‘Revolutionaries’ around the world to initiate Happy Teacher Revolution support group meetings in their own communities. The Happy Teacher Revolution is a network of teachers – a network that serves as a support system for teachers who are struggling with the shame, blame, guilt and difficulties of balancing an incredibly demanding profession with their own sense of self and happiness. Often, teachers are asked to give so much in terms of time, money, and emotional capacity. Happy Teacher Revolution strives to empower teachers to push back on these expectations in hopes of them striking a balance between excellent teaching and personal sustainability.
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Happy Teacher Revolution’s vision is for teachers to feel empowered to claim happiness as their own. Teachers shouldn’t feel obligated to sacrifice their wholeness or wellbeing in order to perform well professionally.
Happy Teacher Revolution’s online training offers the most affordable option for individuals to become certified as official ‘Happy Teacher Revolutionaries’ and thus be able to offer Happy Teacher Revolution meetings in their own community. This is an asynchronous online course that you can take on your own schedule, which includes a one-on-one capacity-building call with a Happy Teacher Revolution trainer to help you implement your own teacher support group.
Never before have teachers been able to come out of isolation to join fellow educators from diverse backgrounds in a social support group centered on the following mission: to support teacher mental health and wellness. Through the power of community, educators have the space to empathize with one another and participate in a social support network proven to alleviate the stress associated with teaching.