On February 23, 2011, Jean Charest, Premier of Quebec, delivered his inaugural address to the National Asssembly. RECIT representatives and educational technology advocates throughout the province were surprised by the announcement that every classroom in Quebec will be equipped with one interactive whiteboard (e.g. SMART) and that every teacher will receive a laptop computer.
Mr. Charest explains his Government’s rationale for the decision to invest in educational technologies: “Today’s youth has a great interest in new technologies. It’s their universe. Schools must be a part of this new reality,” and ” [t]he blackboard of yesterday will be modernised.” What’s interesting about Mr. Charest’s claims is that he doesn’t pretend that this investment will improve student results. Instead, he is repeating a popular theme: “The Ties They Are a-Changin’.”
The QESBA’s response to the technology investment promise in education is dead on. Vice-President Carolyn Curiale states, “Smartboards [i.e. interactive whiteboards] and laptops are pieces of hardware, they don’t produce engaged students, they don’t, in and of themselves, make better teachers.” Educational technologist Chris Betcher echoes this belief in his article “10 IWB Features Every Teacher Should Know About” when he explains that “… IWBs are likely to enhance and support the good teaching already taking place within the classroom.”
The excitement surrounding Mr. Charest’s announcement among RECIT has prompted comments such as “Am I dreaming?” and “Christmas is here!” However, there are a lot of unanswered questions that I can’t ignore:
- Has the Government budgeted for the necessary training that will be required to support the huge investment in hardware?
- What consideration will be made for teachers who are resistant to teach with technology?
- Will part-time teachers also receive a computer? Will teachers on leave (e.g. parental leave, sick leave) be allowed to keep their computers until their return?
- Will teachers become responsible for problems that are inherent with the use of a computer (e.g. dropped laptop, stolen computers, viruses, computer defects)?
- Will teachers have the choice to choose their computer (i.e. PC or Mac) and their preferred software?
- Has the Government budgeted for the increased need in technology support personnel that is associated with a corresponding investment in hardware?
- Will school boards have a choice of interactive whiteboards or will a provincial standard be adopted?
- Will school boards that have already heavily invested in IWB and computers receive less money than those who haven’t invested as much?
Educator’s throughout Quebec (and especially the RECIT network) are anxious to find out the answer to these questions. Overall, it has been estimated that the Charest Government’s decision will involve a $160 million injection in the education sector.