Are any of your favorite apps in English only? If so, read this!

On the eve of the start of the new school year, discussions are circulating on social networks to the effect that school service centers (CSS) in Quebec will prohibit the use of certain applications by their teachers when they are only available in English. The École branchée presents you with an update.

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On the eve of the start of the new school year, discussions are circulating on social networks to the effect that school service centers (CSS) in Quebec will prohibit the use of certain applications by their teachers when they are only available in English. The Seesaw communication platform is particularly targeted.

Over the past year, teachers have had no choice but to turn massively to digital tools in order to maintain distance student learning and communications with parents. However, some of the applications designed for this are only available in English. However, some teachers choose to use them because of their pedagogical potential and their ease of use.

On Facebook, we noticed that several teachers are looking for alternatives; this is particularly the case for Seesaw, an application widely used in Quebec, which allows quick and easy communication with families of young students, but whose interface and the automated communications that it sends to parents and young people are not not available in French for the moment. 

A complaint to the OQLF

After checking with the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), the organization confirms that it received two complaints regarding the use of the Seesaw platform in the fall of 2020 at the Center de services scolaire Marie-Victorin (CSSMV). "Administration organizations, such as school service centers, must ensure that the texts and publications they write and publish are in French," we were told by email in response to our questions. .

“The Office contacted the school service center targeted by the complaint to inform it of the situation and assist it in finding solutions that respect the right of individuals to receive communications in French. The decision as to the measures to be implemented to correct this situation rests with the school service center. In this case, following the intervention of the Office, the school service center chose to stop using this platform and identified other platforms, available in French, to replace it. The complaint file could therefore be closed ”, indicates the spokesperson for the OQLF.

Alexandre Kozminski Martin, communication and media relations advisor at the CSSMV, indicates that at the end of this intervention, "the schools concerned were invited not to retain the services of Seesaw for the next school year". He adds that "steps are being taken with the supplier of the Seesaw application in order to obtain an entirely French version". Right now, CSS Marie-Victorin schools "are exploring other means to communicate with parents, according to their needs, while respecting the Charter of the French language".

Options to overcome the inconvenience

Primary school teacher Myra Auvergnat-Ringuette has been using Seesaw for several years to keep track of her students' productions and communicate with parents. She tells us that, even if the application is unilingual English, it contains very little text. Since it is mainly aimed at elementary school students, its interface is made up of many pictograms. In addition, the teacher indicates that “many of the communications can be translated into French, directly in the application”. Likewise, the procedure for parents to register at the start of the school year is available in French. Some automated notifications can also be disabled. 

“The idea is not to promote English-speaking applications, but rather to highlight applications that have real potential to meet the needs of the school world,” she says.

As for them, the teachers affected by the ban on using Seesaw must nevertheless turn now to other applications. Among those, ClassDojo and My Blue Print space are suggested. Others are simply turning to Google Classroom features they were already using.

On the CSSMV side, Alexandre Kozminski Martin indicates: "We are currently thinking about proposing alternatives to our schools and we will be inspired by the work of the national service of the RÉCIT to preschool education to choose the best" portfolio "application".

What does the Quebec Charter of the French language say?

In Quebec, the public administration, which includes school service centers, must comply with the Charter of the French language which “makes French the language of the State, of education, of commerce and of business as well as the normal and usual language of work”. 

As stipulated in the Charter, offenders are liable to fines. Thus, anyone who considers that their language rights have not been respected can submit a complaint to the Office québécois de la langue française, which will then carry out the necessary verifications. If a Charter violation is found, the Office will contact the organization to correct the situation. The process is part of a collaborative approach.

When it receives a complaint, the Office works with the entity concerned to find solutions for the situation to be corrected. If the entity refuses to make the necessary corrections, the case can be referred to the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) who determines whether to initiate a criminal prosecution relating to the Charter. Only a court can then impose a fine. 

In this case, no fine has been imposed on the CSS.

A translation coming soon?

In addition to the CSSMV, some teachers who use Seesaw have contacted the California company directly on social networks. The representatives answer that they are aware of the problem, that the French translation is foreseen in their future developments, but that they cannot put forward a completion date for the moment. In short, nothing suggests a version in French in the short term.

We reproduce here, with her permission, the response sent privately on Twitter to Myra Auvergnat-Ringuette: “This has been shared with Carl, one of the co-founders at Seesaw. This topic has been discussed and we want to share a few updates with you. First of all, we want to make sure you know we hear you. We know how devastating this can be. We wish this was an easy, overnight fix but it's not. We appreciate your feedback and our team views it as very important. It's on our product roadmap and we will have more info to share with you next year. ”

Some teachers now hope that Quebec developers will be asked to contribute to a French version or that a Quebec company will take the opportunity to develop a new application that will meet Quebec needs and standards.

At the time of publishing this article, we had placed a request for information with the Quebec Ministry of Education, but we had not received an answer to our questions. We will update this text as soon as we have new information.

Update: Since the publication of the article, we have learned that the Trois-Lacs School Service Center and the English Montreal School Board are also banning the use of Seesaw by their staff.

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About the Author

Martine Rioux
Martine Rioux
After studying public communication, Martine worked as a journalist for various publications, before pursuing her career as an interactive communications consultant at La Capitale, a financial group, then at Québec Numérique, an organization she took over as general manager before making the jump. as political advisor in the office of the Minister for Digital Government Transformation. Today she is the online Editor-in-Chief and Special Projects Manager at l'École branchée. Her dream: that everyone has access to technology and can use it as a tool for learning and opening up to the world.

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