Ontario teachers turn to free online resources amid budget cutbacks, study finds

By:  | Published Mar 31, 2014 by The Toronto Star

Ontario teachers are turning to free online resources in droves — more than textbooks and e-textbooks — marking a “significant change” in learning, says a new report that raises questions about how to ensure the quality of web materials used in the province’s classrooms.

The survey of 1,349 Ontario schools by People for Education found when elementary teachers need new materials, 36 per cent of school report they turn to the web for freebies, 31 per cent say print textbooks and 19 per cent online resources produced by publishers, for which there would be a cost.

Among high schools, one in three report teachers using print textbooks and one in four free web materials, says the report, to be released Monday.

“The world has changed very quickly and a lot of us assume you can find the information you need online — which you can. But a discerning eye for the information is very important,” said Annie Kidder, executive director of the research and advocacy group.

“…We do feel as if it’s a bit of a wild west out there in a lot of different ways. We’re not saying it’s wrong or bad, but we are saying we need to think how we can be assured that kids are getting really high quality material, whether it’s free online or not.”

Part of the move to free online resources is budget cutbacks. But unlike buying textbooks that must be on a list approved by the province, “(there’s no) well-established system for vetting the quality of the free online resources that is widely used,” says the report.

Read more: http://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2014/03/31/ontario_teachers_turn_to_free_online_resources_amid_budget_cutbacks_study_finds.htm

One Comment to “Ontario teachers turn to free online resources amid budget cutbacks, study finds”

  1. It is worse than this. The ministry, through school boards, is actively pushing teachers to eschew textbooks and e-books in favour of free online material. At the same time, they are making life impossible for textbook publishers, with ever more occult standards for things like ‘sensitivity and bias’ that make it increasingly difficult to get a book on the Ontario Ministry of Education’s ‘Trillium List’ of approved textbooks. The crazy thing about that process is that the reviews themselves are confidential Ministry property, meaning that the reviewers are themselves entirely unaccountable for their reviews which makes it difficult for publishers to predict with any accuracy whether or not a book will be approved. Faced with this uncertainty, publishers make their books as anodyne as possible so as to reduce the chances that an anonymous reviewer will find some stray comment or fact insensitive or biased.
    At the end of the day, publishers are probably going to get out of creating textbooks altogether. For myself, I am the distributor of a Canadian high school economics textbook/workbook that is very affordable ($17 per student copy purchased as part of a class set) but still I get a lot of teachers ordering one student copy and one teachers’ guide so that they can make worksheets (and of course have the answer key). Many of these teachers aren’t doing this by choice though – they would love to be able to order the books for their students but their boards have often passed edicts that no textbooks are to be purchased. I am very thankful for those teachers and administrators who have the courage to do the right thing in the current educational environment and order good materials for their students.

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