2. Technology laws, policies, plans and regulations
2.1. Education technology legislative and policy framework
2.2. Technology infrastructures, technological capacity of schools and learning environments
2.3. Technology competencies of learners and teachers
3.1. Institutions in charge of technology in education and coordination mechanisms
In Canada, education is under the exclusive jurisdiction of each of the 13 provinces and territories. There is no national/federal ministry or department of education in Canada. Provinces and territories share information and discuss issues of common interest through the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC). CMEC is an intergovernmental forum that brings together the ministers responsible for education and higher education from the provinces and territories. The council coordinates pan-Canadian work at the early learning, elementary, secondary and postsecondary levels, as well as adult learning.
There is no national or pan-Canadian definition for ICT or Education Technology. Several provinces of Canada do provide definitions for Education Technology terms in their policies, laws, plans, and regulations.
Prince Edward Island’s Minister’s Directive No. MD 2021-03 defines Communication and Information Technology (CIT) as “any electronic device that will store, retrieve, manipulate, transmit, or receive digital information, and for greater clarity, includes hardware, local and Internet network infrastructure, an operating system, networking and application software”. The Northwest Territories’ Literacy with Information and Communications Technology Infusion Guide lists information and communication technologies as including “computers, laptops, tablets, digital cameras, video cameras, digital microscopes, scanners, cell phones, electronic games, digital audio devices, global positioning systems, electronic whiteboards, the Internet, et cetera.” New Brunswick’s 2004 Policy 311 on the use of ICT (currently under revision) defines ICT as the “network services provided or managed by the New Brunswick Department of Education for use in the public school system. This includes Internet and e-mail access. It extends to any networks accessed while using these services, as well as any other networking technology or computer equipment, which may be provided, presently or in the future. Access to these services may be through use of Department provided/managed equipment or involve remote access (e.g. from a home computer). ICT also refers to any non-networked computer provided or managed by the Department of Education for use in the public school system.”
The Foundation for the Atlantic Canada Technology in Education Curriculum , adopted by the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island defines Education Technology as “the use of multimedia technologies or audio-visual aids, including computers, as tools to enhance the teaching and learning process”.
Québec defines “digital competency” as a set of skills necessary to the confident, critical and creative use of digital technologies to achieve objectives with regard to learning, work, leisure, and inclusion or participation in society. Digital competency also permits individuals to become increasingly autonomous in their use of digital technologies in educational or professional contexts as well as in everyday life.
Ontario’s Online Learning Graduation Requirement Policy/Program Memorandum defines online learning (also known as e-Learning) as “credit courses that are delivered entirely using the internet and do not require students to be physically present with one another or with their educator in the school, except where they may be needed for: 1) examinations and other final evaluations; or 2) access to internet connectivity, learning devices, or other school-based supports”.
Ontario’s Requirements for Remote Learning Policy/Program Memorandum defines Remote Learning as “Learning that occurs when classes are taught at a distance and when students and educators are not in a conventional classroom setting.” Manitoba defines remote learning similarly in their Remote Learning Framework.
Nova Scotia defines distributed learning as, “a method of instruction that relies primarily on communication between students and teachers through the internet or other electronic-based delivery, teleconferencing, video conferencing or e-correspondence. It allows teachers, students, and content to be located in different, non-centralized locations so that instruction and learning can occur independent of time and place.”
In British Columbia, online learning is defined as "a method of instruction that relies primarily on communication between students and teachers by means of the internet". It may also include other types of instruction at a distance from the learner, such as correspondence or teleconferencing, as well as in-person services.
2. Technology laws, policies, plans and regulations
2.1. Education technology legislative and policy framework
Constitution and laws: The 1867 Constitution of Canada (with amendments through 2011) states that education is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the 13 provinces and territories.The constitution makes no mention of technology.
The federal government of Canada does partner with First Nations, on a nation-to-nation basis, to develop on-reserve education systems which the First Nations fully control. Funding is provided through the Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). The Elementary and Secondary Education Program: National Program Guidelines is a policy framework for education for First Nations which is renewed yearly. E-Learning institutions may be funded by this program and online and blended learning is mentioned as a method for education delivery in a First Nation school.
The Saskatchewan’s Education Act, 1995 guarantees the option for home-based learning and makes provisions for the registration of home-based education programs. The 1995 Northwest Territories Education Act grants the education body the power “to authorize, supervise and evaluate the use of distance learning programs in the provision of the education program”. Nunavut and Yukon also include provisions about distance education in their Education Acts.
British Columbia’s 1996 School Act and the 1996 Independent School Act set guidelines for the creation of distributed learning schools and ensures student rights to choose distributed learning. The Education Statutes Amendment Act, 2020 amended the 1996 School Act and the 1996 Independent School Act by changing the term “distributed learning” to “online learning” and allowing for online learning courses to be offered to students within their local district without needing an agreement with the Minister.
In Québec, the Education Act (last amended in 2022) supports the provision of technological devices and the relaying of technological innovation projects in schools. L’objectif est de contribuer, par des activités de formation de la main-d’œuvre, d’aide technique à l’entreprise et d’information, à l’élaboration et à la réalisation de projets d’innovation technologique, à l’implantation de technologies nouvelles et à leur diffusion, ainsi qu’au développement de la région.
Policies, plans and strategies: Each province and territory deploys different policies, plans, and strategies regarding Education Technology.
In Québec, the 2019-2023 Government Digital Transformation Strategy aims to provide easy-to-use public services for the public and improve the efficiency of government. In parallel, the 2017 Policy on Educational Success aims to educate responsible, competent and creative citizens who are prepared for the digital world, while the 2018 Digital Action Plan for Education and Higher Education aims to accelerate the shift to digital in Québec’s education system. The Digital Action Plan for Education and Higher Education also aims at effective integration and optimal use of digital technology for success, to enable everyone to develop and maintain their skills throughout their lives.
The 2013 Alberta Learning and Technology Policy Framework guides the province for technology utilization in schools with five policy directions: 1) support student-centered learning, 2) share research and innovation in education among key actors, 3) provide professional development to help teachers develop, maintain, and use technology in their classrooms, 4) establish leaders to make policies and structure to promote technology, and 5) improve access, infrastructure, and digital learning environments. The Ministerial Order on Student Learning, introduced in 2020, together with The Guiding Framework for the Design and Development of Kindergarten to Grade 12 Provincial Curriculum, requires that Mathematics and Science curriculum provide a foundation that will enable students to be functionally literate and prepared to flourish in all fields, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
In Nova Scotia, distributed learning is outlined in the 2020 collective agreement between the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood and Development and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. The agreement details teacher’s working conditions (such as maximum class size and professional development) and the responsibilities of schools and regional centres for education/Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP) in distributed learning (providing a distributed learning coordinator and creating a formal method of consultation with the department).
In New Brunswick, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development's Policy 311 on the use of ICT is currently under review. The intent is to modernize the policy, while ensuring that current terminology and applicability is up to date. The 2004 version defined standards for the appropriate use of ICT in the public school system. It stipulates that ICT is offered in the public school system to: serve as a pedagogical tool to support students in their learning; serve as a resource for staff to support and facilitate the performance of their duties, enhance their skills in the use of ICT, and encourage lifelong learning; provide new opportunities for the exploration and promotion of the province's bilingual and cultural heritage; and serve as a tool for the presentation of information about the public school system to the system's stakeholders and the general public.
The Saskatchewan Home-based Education: Policy and Procedures Manual 2016-17 asks every board of education and the conseil scolaire to prepare policies that make distance learning opportunities available. In 2015, the Ministry of Education published the Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools which provides a guideline for students to become responsible and principled digital citizens through appropriate behavior online, building and maintaining a positive digital footprint, respecting intellectual property boundaries and protecting their privacy online.
The province of Ontario launched its Virtual Learning Strategy (2020-23) to support the needs of postsecondary institutions, learners, and educators. The Virtual Learning Strategy focuses on improving access to high-quality virtual postsecondary education, supporting life-long learning through the creation of labour-market relevant resources and educational opportunities, and strengthening Ontario’s leadership within the global marketplace of online learning.
Digital competency frameworks: The Foundation for the Atlantic Canada Technology Education Curriculum describes technology competence as being able to “use a variety of technologies, demonstrate an understanding of technological applications, and apply appropriate technologies for solving problems”. There are five general outcomes for technological competence: 1) Technological Problem Solving, the ability to design, develop, evaluate, and articulate technological solutions, 2) The ability to operate and manage technological systems, 3) Understanding the history and evolution of technology and it’s social and cultural implications, 4) Understanding technology in the workforce and their effects on the nature of work, and 5) Demonstrating technological responsibility.
The Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools uses Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship.
The Northwest Territories’ Literacy with Information and Communications Technology Curriculum teaches students how to use ICT to problem solve, make decisions, inquire, collaborate, demonstrate, and communicate; how technology applications and systems often have similar designs and functions that can be learned transferred to new devices and contexts; how ICT can positively impact relationships; and how to determine which processes, tools and techniques are appropriate for various contexts.
British Columbia’s Digital Literacy Framework defines digital literacy as “the interest, attitude and ability of individuals to use digital technology and communication tools appropriately to access, manage, integrate, analyze and evaluate information, construct new knowledge, and create and communicate with others.” The framework includes skills such as technology operations; information literacy; privacy and security online; digital footprint online; legal and ethical aspects; and learning about and with digital technologies.
In Québec, the 2018 Digital Action Plan for Education and Higher Education is in line with Orientation 2.2. of the 2017 Policy on Educational Success, which aims to integrate 21st-century competencies and digital technologies more effectively, and more specifically to harness the potential of technology. The 2022 Reference Framework for Professional Competencies for Teachers also envisages the use of digital technologies in the full range of teachers' cultural practices and productions and the 2019 Digital Competency Framework conceives digital education as a form of literacy and social practice, under the responsibility of teachers. This responsibility requires teachers to develop and constantly update their skills. The scope of this competency goes beyond the technical skills needed to use digital tools for pedagogical purposes in the classroom. Teachers must be aware of the impact of these exchanges on the nature and value of learning, taking into account not only the digital tools that support them, but also the cultural context in which they are shared. Furthermore, in the 2017 Policy on Educational Success, it is mentioned that : « In addition to discipline-specific skills, students develop cross-curricular skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, entrepreneurship, ability to exploit the potential of technology, creativity and innovation. »
In Ontario, digital literacy (Curriculum and Resources Website: Program Planning) is one of seven identified transferable skills and it involves “the ability to solve problems using technology in a safe, legal, and ethically responsible manner. With the ever-expanding role of digitalization and big data in the modern world, digital literacy also means having strong data literacy skills and the ability to engage with emerging technologies. Digitally literate students recognize the rights and responsibilities, as well as the opportunities, that come with living, learning, and working in an interconnected digital world.”
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: In 2020, the federal government announced a Safe Return to Class Fund which provided funding for provinces and territories to use to support distance learning and the health and safety of all students and staff.
The Ontario Ministry of Education issued the Requirements for Remote Learning Policy/Program Memorandum in 2020 to ensure consistent learning when conventional in-person learning is interrupted.
Manitoba developed its Remote Learning Framework in December 2020 to guide the education system through remote learning. The framework is based on three guiding principles: students should feel community belonging; students should have a sense of efficacy in an online environment; and students should feel a sense of autonomy and responsibility through student voice, self-regulation, and metacognition.
2.2. Technology infrastructures, technological capacity of schools and learning environments
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: While the federal government is responsible for energy matters on federal and frontier lands, most electricity infrastructure is managed by each province and territory. Under Canada's Constitution, each province controls the electricity generation, transmission, distribution and market structure within its borders.
As of October 2022, the federal government is in the process of developing the Clean Electricity Regulations (CER) which will help Canada transition to a net-zero electricity grid.
Computers and devices: Nova Scotia’s Information Economy Initiative (IEI) and the Information Economy Initiative—Extended (IEI—E) have helped provide schools, universities, and communities with technology, technical support, and professional development opportunities.
Ontario provides funding to school boards through the annual Grants for Student Needs funding formula for classroom resources, such as classroom computers and student technological devices. School boards can use this funding to purchase learning materials that support teaching the curriculum. In addition, Ontario introduced the Technology and Learning Fund (TLF) from 2014-17 that helped schools acquire digital technology such as tablets, notebooks, camera, and software to further enrich the classroom experience. Ontario has also supported educational access to computers and internet devices through its funding of Contact North|Contact Nord (CN). CN is a provincially-funded non-profit organization that promotes and facilitates access to online education and training for Ontarians living in underserved, rural, northern, Indigenous and Francophone communities without direct access to educational and training opportunities. In 2021, as part of Ontario’s Virtual Learning Strategy, CN launched its Laptop and Internet Loaner Program. This program provides learners across Ontario enrolled in online courses or training access to laptop computers and mobile internet modems free-of-charge.
In Québec, the Education Act (last amended in 2022) stipulates that students have a right to the free use of instructional material required for the implementation of programmes of activities or for the teaching of programmes of studies. The instructional material includes laboratory equipment and technological devices.
In response to COVID-19 and school closures, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador provided devices to students with limited or no technology at home. Ontario provided school boards with funding for the procurement of technological devices and connectivity in the 2020-21 school year, as well as additional targeted supports for 24 school boards in high-priority regions. Starting in the 2021-22 school year, funding was added to the annual Grants for Student Needs funding formula to help replace some devices that may be out of date and for the procurement of additional student devices. Newfoundland and Labrador invested $20 million for the purchase of laptops for all teachers, and Chromebooks for all junior high and high-school students across the K-12 education system.
Internet connectivity: The Government of Canada’s High Speed Access for All: Canada’s Connectivity Strategy aims to connect all Canadians with access to the internet at higher speeds in order to bridge the digital divide. The strategy is funded by a new $2.7 billion Universal Broadband Fund and focuses on rural and indigenous communities with plans to have 100% of all Canadians connected by 2030. Previous federal plans on universal broadband access include the Connect to Innovate Program, the Rural and Northern Stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, the Accelerated Investment Incentive, and connectivity projects from the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
Ontario has a suite of programs and initiatives in place to bring faster and more reliable internet service to communities provincewide by the end of 2025. It also has a legal framework in place to help these projects get built faster. The Ontario government has made it clear that enabling access to high-speed internet is a priority and that no community will be left behind. All students attending Ontario-government funded schools in Ontario, including those in rural, and northern communities, will have access to high-speed internet.
Québec’s Operation High Speed (Sections Éclair I, Éclair II, and Éclair III ) seeks to ensure that all households in Québec have access to high-speed internet. Launched in March, July and November 2021 respectively, Flash I, Flash II and Flash III targeted a total of over 181,000 households.Operation High Speed will ultimately give Québec the highest connectivity rate in Canada, i.e., nearly 100%.
In New Brunswick, after instructional hours, the public-school library assumes the status of a public library. Internet access via computers is available to all persons, within the constraints of the New Brunswick Public Library Service policies.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, distance-education policies and infrastructure varied greatly among provinces and territories. In 2006, the Ontario Ministry of Education started a pilot program to allow school boards to offer courses through online learning. The ministry provided pilot school boards with access to a learning management system and a school board staff resource to support the effective use of the learning management system. After the online learning pilot, school boards were able to offer online learning courses to their students and adoption steadily grew. The ministry continues to provide access to a Virtual Learning Environment (a learning management system) along with secondary online courses and a school board resource (currently called a Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching Contact). In addition to online learning offered by school boards, TVOntario, an agency of the ministry, has a mandate to provide distance learning to all Ontarians. Through its Independent Learning Centre, online learning courses are available using the same Virtual Learning Environment learning management system as publicly funded school boards. In 2020, as part of its plan to modernize and expand online learning, the Ontario government introduced a new requirement for secondary students to earn two online credits to graduate. For higher education, Ontario’s Ministry of Education has Contact North|Contact Nord and eCampusOntario to support the digital learning needs of learners across Ontario.
In Quebec, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry set up a directory of pedagogical resources for students and parents:
- The OpenSchool.ca platform offers a variety of resources that allow parents and students to carry out different types of activities in several subjects and at all grade levels;
- Educational activity kits to consolidate certain learning in compulsory subjects, including simple and fun activities;
- Special programs and educational content on enclasse.telequebec.tv thanks to a partnership with Télé-Québec, a Quebec public television channel with an educational and cultural vocation;
In addition, the services of Alloprof, an organisation that develops professional services and digital school support resources, are available free of charge to all Quebec students and their parents.
Order number 2022-031 of the Minister of Health and Social Services dated May 11, 2022, also specifies that when an elementary or secondary school teacher is unable to attend school because he or she is isolated because of COVID-19 but is fit to work, the teacher must, at the employer's request, provide distance education services from his or her place of isolation to students present in class who are supervised by an adult, who also provides technical support to the students. The Appendix to this Order sets out the minimum thresholds for distance education services. On July 1, 2022, in Québec, the lifting of the state of health emergency meant that distance education services could no longer be offered, in compliance with the frameworks in force. However, section 459.5.3 of the Education Act provides that the Minister of Education may establish and implement a pilot project to experiment or innovate in the field of distance education, or to study, improve or define standards for distance education. In this regard, the Minister may provide distance education services or authorize a school service centre or an educational institution governed by the Act respecting private education to provide such services or a person to receive them. Thus, the Minister has put in place pilot projects in distance education. To date, two pilot projects have been carried out: the 2018 distance education pilot project and the ADF pilot project - prevention component. The pilot project - innovation component is ongoing. All the pilot projects have the same objectives: 1) to experiment or innovate with ADF in the general education of young people; and 2) to document the process in order to enrich distance education practices.
Alberta had the most students engaged in distance learning in 2018-19 through the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC) and the Centre francophone d’éducation à distance (CFED). However, the ADLC was discontinued in September 2021, which left school boards responsible for offering their own distance learning programs.
Prince Edward Island did not have an established distance education program prior to 2020. An inter-provincial agreement allows students to enroll for online courses from the New Brunswick Department of Education.
Saskatchewan announced a new model of delivering online learning in October of 2022. The new model of delivering online education in the province will provide greater choice and more opportunities for all students in the province, while ensuring that all students accessing online learning are receiving a consistent high quality education experience. As part of the implementation process, the Government of Saskatchewan established a new Treasury Board Crown, the Saskatchewan Distance Learning Corporation, to deliver centralized online education in the province. Starting in September 2023, all Saskatchewan students will have access to the Saskatchewan Distance Learning Corporation and as with face-to-face education, it will be at no cost to students. Most students enrolled are expected to be from public school divisions but all students in the province will have access to courses through the central organization. Separate school divisions, the Conseil des écoles fransaskoises and independent schools may become approved online learning centres via an application process to the Ministry of Education. The Quality Assurance Framework for K-12 Online Learning is the roadmap for educational authorities offering and accessing online learning in Saskatchewan and will provide expectations for approved schools and application procedures for schools seeking to be approved.
2.3. Technology competencies of learners and teachers
Ontario’s Ministry of Education has been modernizing elementary and secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related curriculum to ensure students have the cutting-edge digital literacy and modern technological skills to lead the global economic, scientific and societal innovations of tomorrow. Recently revised curricula include increased mandatory hands-on learning in STEM, applications of engineering design processes, learning on the applications of coding and emergent technologies, explicit connections to the skilled trades and technological education and career exploration, and learning about emerging topics such as artificial intelligence systems and machine learning. All students begin learning to code in Grade 1 through the mathematics curriculum.
The Foundation for the Atlantic Canada Technology Education Curriculum, which includes the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, is a foundational document that seeks to develop students' technological literacy (being able to use, manage, and make informed decisions about technology), capability (being able to use technology to produce a desired result), and responsibility (understanding the consequences of technology and being willing to take appropriate action). There are five General Curriculum Outcomes: Technological Problem Solving, Technological Systems, History and Evolution of Technology, Technology and Careers, and Technological Responsibility. In New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, media literacy is included in the Atlantic Provinces Education Foundation’s English Language Arts curriculum. In grades 7 to 9, media literacy is seen as a form of critical thinking that is cross-curricular and relates more directly to the students' culture and lifestyle. In grades 10 to 12, students examine the reliability, accuracy and motives of sources and explore issues of power and control. In Nova Scotia, digital learning, ICT outcomes, and the use of technology is incorporated into all curricula.
British Columbia’s curriculum, which is also used by Yukon, includes a course called “Applied Design, Skills, and Technologies”. The course mentions competencies such as being able to use familiar tools and technologies to complete a task, identify the impacts and consequences of the technology they use, and know the history of technology and how to safely use it.
In Québec, the 2019 Digital Competency Framework takes into account the continuum of educational levels. It aims to promote the development of digital competence throughout the educational community so that Québec women can be autonomous and critical in their use of digital technology. To facilitate the implementation of the framework, a Pedagogical guide and a Digital Competency Development Continuum have been developed.
In New Brunswick, in the Anglophone sector, the Technology education curriculum (2001) for K-12 focuses on the development of students’ technological literacy, capability and responsibility. Its primary strategy is to engage learners in the design, development, management and evaluation of technological systems as solutions to problems. The curriculum: engages students directly in constructing technological solutions to everyday, real-world problems; 2) builds technological knowledge in context; makes connections beyond school. Information computer technology is also part of the curriculum, focusing on cybersecurity and computer science. New Brunswick’s 2018 Policy 703 Positive Learning and Working Environments includes cyber bullying as an example of serious misconduct.
Alberta’s new Kindergarten to Grade 6 (K-6) Physical Education and Wellness curriculum provides students opportunities to learn about digital citizenship, safe online practices, risks of digital technology, including bullying and misinformation, and the influence of media on decision making. The current grades 7 to 9 Health and Life Skills curriculum and the current Career and Life Management curriculum for students in grades 10 to 12 address technology and media influence on decision making. The new K-6 English Language Arts and Literature curriculum (grades 4 to 6 being implemented in fall 2023) provides students opportunities to interact with digital text as well as the draft K-6 French First Language and Literature and draft French Language Arts and Literature curricula. The new K-6 Mathematics curriculum (grades 4 to 6 being implemented in fall 2023) provides students limited opportunities to interact with technology. While technology may contribute to students’ learning experiences, the learning outcomes in the new K-6 Mathematics curriculum are intended to be met without the assistance of calculators. The new draft K-6 Science curriculum, currently being piloted, includes a focus on computer science. Students will engage in coding activities and consider the impacts of computers, coding and technology. A number of optional programs available in grades 5 to 9 focus on technology use in a variety of occupational contexts. The current grades 5 to 9 Career and Technology Foundations program enables students to explore technology specific to the occupation they are studying. The grades 10 to 12 Career and Technology Studies program provides students opportunities to study technologies across the five career clusters of Business, Administration, Finance and Information Technology; Health, Recreation and Human Services; Media, Design and Communication Arts; Natural Resources; and Trades, Manufacturing and Transportation.
In New Brunswick, the 21st Century Standards of Practice for Beginning Teachers stipulate that teachers should “know and understand student-centred pedagogies and how to integrate current and ICT to meet the learning needs of 21st Century students in an inclusive education setting”. In Québec, the 2022 Reference Framework for Professional Competencies for Teachers envisages the use of digital technologies in the full range of teachers' cultural practices and productions. The 2019 Digital Competency Framework complements the latter and conceives digital education as a form of literacy and social practice, under the responsibility of teachers. To operationalise these two frameworks, the Ministry of Education has been organising annual Digital Education Days for teachers since 2019. The objective of this day is to increase the training resources available to school staff working in public and private educational institutions as well as Indigenous education organizations. Since 2021, the Management and ”leadership pédagonumérique” training programme also offered by the Ministry of Education aims to consolidate the skills needed by school administrators to implement the measures set out in the Frameworks. This 40-hour training course guides them in the development of digital action plans at the level of their educational institution, which also has an impact on the development of teachers' competencies.
Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia and Yukon all announced some form of professional learning for teachers during or as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2011, the Ontario Ministry of Education has funded a school board staff resource (currently called a Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching Contact (TELT)) to support the effective use of the Virtual Learning Environment . This funding has continued through the pandemic. The TELT Contact supports educators in the effective use of the Virtual Learning Environment, a learning management system that is used by for online, remote and blended learning. The ministry also delivers live webinars for teachers on virtual teaching and learning and makes self-guided modules, recoded webinars, and other resources for teachers through the Virtual Learning Environment. Quelques jours après la fermeture des écoles au Québec, le Gouvernement du Québec a mis en ligne la plateforme l’École ouverte pour offrir des ressources variées permettant aux parents et aux élèves de réaliser des activités de différentes natures, et ce, dans plusieurs matières et à tous les niveaux scolaires. Nova Scotia’s 2020 collective agreement states that certified (licensed) teachers who participate in distributed learning programs will be provided with professional development in distributed learning.
In Alberta, teachers and teacher leaders, including principals and superintendents, are held to professional practice standards. The Teaching Quality Standard, Leadership Quality Standard and Superintendent Leadership Quality Standard were developed to ensure that Alberta’s teachers and teacher leaders demonstrate high standards of competence in their professional practice. The Teaching Quality Standard describes the professional competencies that teachers must demonstrate when working directly with students. One of the professional competencies is, “Demonstrating a Professional Body of Knowledge.” This competency references indicators related to technology such as incorporating a range of instructional strategies, including the appropriate use(s) of digital technology (according to the context, content, desired outcomes and the learning needs of students). These indicators also refer to incorporating digital technology and resources, as appropriate, to build student capacity for acquiring, applying and creating new knowledge, communicating and collaborating with others, critical thinking and accessing, interpreting and evaluating information from diverse sources.
2.4. Cybersecurity and safety
2.4.1. Data privacy
Canada’s federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) ensures that individual consent must be acquired for their personal information to be collected, used, or disclosed. Alberta, British Columbia and Québec have similar private-sector policy laws. PIPEDA applies to employees of schools in the provinces and territories, but not students. Personal information collected by public schools is protected under provincial privacy legislation. For example, the Manitoba Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) (updated in 2022) protects personal information by setting guidelines for use and guarantees individuals the right to access their own information held by public bodies, such as schools. The federal government also has a national safety awareness campaign called Get Cyber Safe which informs citizens on cyber security and teaches them how to stay safe online.
In New Brunswick, the 2009 Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act includes educational bodies, but does not apply to teaching materials of an employee of an educational institution.
In Quebec, as early as 1993, the Direction de l'adaptation scolaire et des services complémentaires of the Ministère de l'Éducation published the Information document on the protection of personal information at school, but it did not explicitly address the digital data collected. School service centres have privacy policies that define the use of the personal data collected and privacy rights.
In Ontario, students learn about protecting their privacy online, including through mandatory learning in the Grade 10 Career Studies course. Ontario’s Grades 1-8 Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum includes learning about online safety in all grades. All grades of the HPE curriculum include learning related to Personal Safety and Injury Prevention to equip students with the skills to recognize, assess, and manage potentially dangerous situations. Personal safety topics focus on developing skills to identify, prevent, and resolve issues in areas such as bullying (including cyberbullying), peer assault, child abuse, harassment, and violence in relationships. These skills can be applied in both face-to-face situations and online environments. In Ontario, since 2020, the province and school boards have collaborated on an annual cyber protection awareness campaign. The timing of the Ontario campaign aligns with the internationally recognized Cyber Security Awareness Month and includes messaging on improving cyber safety, cyber security and privacy protection for minors.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
Canada’s Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act (2014), was created to address the problem of cyberbullying and applies to adults and those under 18. The bill introduces offenses and penalties for cyberbullying and was primarily intended to protect children and youth online.
The student expectations found in Prince Edward Island’s Minister’s Directive No. MD 2021-03 states that students must not use Communication and Information Technology (CIT) to cyberbully and that students who do receive messages that are threatening or harmful must report it to a counselor, teacher, or administrator.
Several provinces and territories have laws specifically on online and offline bullying.
Ontario’s Safe Schools Act and Policy Memorandum 144 include information on cyberbullying and acknowledges that it may intersect with sexual exploitation. Each school board is mandated to develop its own bullying prevention and intervention plans, policies and guidelines. The board is also required to provide annual professional development for educators to be knowledgeable about bullying prevention and strategies to promote a positive school environment. Students in the province may be suspended or expelled for cyberbullying. The 2012 Anti-Bullying Act, which amended the Education Act, also includes a specific definition of “cyberbullying” and requires schools to provide “instruction on bullying prevention during the school year for every pupil,” “remedial programs designed to assist victims of bullying” and “professional development programs that are designed to educate teachers in schools within its jurisdiction about bullying and strategies for dealing with bullying.” Each school board is also required to “establish a bullying prevention plan for bullying in schools within the board’s jurisdiction.” Students also learn about healthy relationships and consent beginning in elementary school through the Health and Physical Education curriculum.
Alberta’s Education Act (last revised in 2019) requires students to, “refrain from, report and not tolerate bullying or bullying behaviour directed toward others in the school, whether or not it occurs within the school building, during the school day or by electronic means.” The act notably mandates students to report bullying and has penalties for those who do not do so.
The Saskatchewan's Action Plan to Address Bullying and Cyberbullying contains four themes and many action steps to ensure safe, caring, and accepting schools. The four themes are to build consistency across the system to prevent and respond to bullying; work across government to align priorities; support students to develop responsible and appropriate online behavior; and engage children and youth in creating solutions to foster positive relationships. Example actions include supporting the instruction of responsible and appropriate online behavior for kindergarten through Grade 12 students; enhancing restorative justice approaches; and supporting risk-assessment training for all staff members.
In Québec, Article 75.1 of the Education Act (last amended in 2020) stipulates that the governing boards in schools are responsible for adopting the anti-bullying and anti-violence plan, and any updated version of the plan, proposed by the principal. The plans must include the procedures for reporting the use of social media or communication technologies for cyberbullying purposes.
New Brunswick’s 2004 Policy 311 on the use of ICT (currently under revision) stipulates that users shall not “create, access, store, publish, send or print text, images, sound or any other files which are generally considered to be unlawful, obscene, pornographic, erotic, abusive, discriminatory, hate-motivated, seditious, harassing, counter to a positive learning environment, demeaning or otherwise objectionable”. It defines standards for the appropriate use of ICT in the school system (including cyberbullying). Information computer technology is also part of the curriculum, focusing on cybersecurity and computer science.
Manitoba’s Public Schools Act (2022) defines cyberbullying as engaging in the above behaviours through the use of the Internet or other communication technologies, including email, social media or text messages. Article 47.2.1 stipulates that “a person who is subject to a duty under subsection 47.1.1(1) must, if they become aware that a pupil of a school may have (a) engaged in cyberbullying; or (b) been negatively affected by cyberbullying; report the matter to the principal of the school as soon as reasonably possible”.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Safe and Caring Schools Policy describes Digital Citizenship as the norms of safe, respectful and responsible behavior with regard to the use of technology. Within this policy, schools must develop and implement a plan to teach digital citizenship.
In the Northwest Territories, the Education Act provides examples of cyberbullying including impersonating someone online or sharing harmful content online. It requires school divisions to create Safe Schools Plans that address bullying and cyberbullying.
3.1. Institutions in charge of technology in education and coordination mechanisms
Ministries or departments of education in each province and territory determine their own technology in education policies as well as the coordination mechanisms.
In British Columbia, Focused Education Resources, a not-for-profit, shared-services organization, works to build capacity and advance education for school districts, independent and First Nations schools. This includes negotiating key enterprise licensing agreements, leveraging the collective influence of the K-12 sector to achieve better outcomes from vendors, developing privacy impact assessments, and providing professional and technical support for the deployment of licensed resources.
In Québec, the Ministry of Education has a “Numérique et information” sector . This sector is responsible for systems and technologies, strategic support for digital governance, implementation of the digital action plan and security, projects, architecture and funding for digital and IT.
3.2. Roles of schools
Ministries or departments of education in each province and territory determine their own policies on IT devices in schools.
In Ontario, personal mobile devices are restricted during instructional time for personal use, with exceptions made by teachers; however, most schools encourage Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) in some way for learning purposes. In contrast, Alberta, British Columbia and Québec have no ban on the use of mobile phones in elementary and secondary classrooms. This is a pedagogical decision that is left to teachers and school teams.
Prince Edward Island’s Minister’s Directive No. MD 2021-03 allowed for students to make use of “Personally-Owned Mobile Devices” in classrooms for educational purposes so long as they agree to abide by student expectations and sign the responsible use agreement.
This profile was reviewed by the Council of Ministers of Education and the Québec Ministry of Education, through the coordination of the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO.