In 2011, Montreal's Lester B Pearson School Board (LBPSB) launched an innovative new initiative called The Digital Citizenship Program, making it the first and only school board in Quebec to officially recognize the importance of media education and technology in the classroom. The program calls for all 56 of their elementary, secondary, and continuing education schools to implement media literacy training into their curricula in order to provide students with a productive experience with technology that can be very beneficial outside of the classroom and later in life. As technological interfaces become increasingly present within a child’s everyday experiences it is important to teach them that screens and interactive media are not merely a distraction or a reward, but are something that can be used to learn and create.
A school board recognizing the importance of teaching its students how to appropriately and positively interact with different technology is a major feat as many schools today not only exclude modern technologies in their schools, but ban them altogether. Instead of being treated as something dangerous and disctracting, LBPSB acknowledges that technology is a powerful teaching tool and that it is time to bring education into the contemporary era. As they explain, "Digital citizenship can be described as the norms for appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use." Some incredible (and free) digital literacy resources found on the program website can be found here!
While we were very excited to find out about the Digital Citizenship program, we wanted to see if and how the schools in the LBPSB had implemented any technologies or media tools into their curricula. After some digging we were surprised to find that only 25 out of 56 (44%) of the schools had implemented the technological requirements, according to their latest annual reports. Many of the schools are using iPads, Smartboards and laptops in various classes but some have gone even further, creating a media-based program or class. For instance, Macdonald High School has a whole class dedicated to Digital Citizenship and Westwood Jr High School has a ‘Matrix’ program which has implemented technology in all core classes. Though the schools that are following the school board’s recommendations appear to be on the right track, there are still 31 schools that either have plans to incorporate the Digital Citizenship program or do not mention it at all.
Hands On Media workshops are a great start for these schools and would also benefit those which already teach with technology. Our workshops teach students how to think critically about the media we are consuming and creating, while simultaneously providing teachers with effective educational tools to continue to incorporate media into their curriculum long after we have gone.
We applaud the LSPSB’s Digital Citizenship program as a model for the education system in Canada, and are here to help other school boards across Quebec and Canada embrace media in the classroom, using these powerful tools to create a media and digital literate generation.