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Towards a right to digital education

Students from Laval University have drawn up a Declaration of principles regarding the right to digital education to raise awareness of the urgency of better preparing young people for the challenges of a society where digital technology is growing exponentially.
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Students from Laval University wrote a Declaration of Principles Regarding the Right to Digital Education to raise awareness of the urgency of better preparing young people for the challenges of a society where digital technology is growing exponentially. 

By Quinn Johnson,
master's student in educational technology (Laval University)

When we become interested in history and imagine times past, events, people, art, we become very aware of the undercurrents that shaped those times: the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the Industrial Revolution, the fall of the monarchies in Europe after the First World War and the human rights movement in the 1960s. But today, what are the undercurrents that shape our time? What is changing all aspects of our lives right now? 

It goes without saying that one of the things that generates the most excitement and fear in our present society today is the constant and seemingly exponential increase in the capacity and role of technology on a global level. . 

A collective problem: the lack of media education

During a seminar-workshop with Thérèse Laferrière, at Laval University, my colleagues and I discussed several modern issues arising from digital technology, as well as the fears we have regarding its rapid development. These discussions were triggered by a questioning of digital identity and digital citizenship. We shared our ideas on the subject in attendance and asynchronously via the Knowledge Forum. 

Eventually, we came to a collective problem: the lack of media literacy, particularly in understanding the digital traces that affect society as a whole. Ultimately, what scares the most about technological development is how little knowledge we have about it. So what is the solution? We have determined that since technology affects us in all aspects of our lives, we should to have the right to learn more about it if we want to or if we consider it necessary to promote our well-being. This right becomes even more pressing when we consider the fact that our children are growing up in a world where they will not be fully aware of their footsteps in cyberspace, a crucial dimension in their lives. The declaration (in English) that we subsequently drafted sets out this right by mentioning several factors that justify the co-construction of a right to digital education (see the section “Digital technology: current issues”). 

To move from pessimism to confidence

The interplay between education and technology is an extremely complex issue, and so framing what “the right to digital education” means requires a broader participation of all those affected by digital evolution. 

In the middle of the quarter, we became aware of the 12 principles of knowledge co-development from Bereiter and Scardamalia. At the end of the course, we decided that these 12 principles should be included in our declaration as guidelines to better define the right to digital education. Indeed, our own awareness of these principles has allowed us to move from an initial state of fear and confusion about digital and end up more confident with a clear artifact that can answer some pressing current questions. We have evolved from a state of pessimism to a state that allows us to build our confidence in ourselves and in our communities when it comes to digital issues. 

A right to build together

Thus, we wish that The declaration of principles with regard to the right to digital education is part of the digital rights landscape. This landscape relies on several actors and organizations as well as documents targeting relevant issues. 

To identify the definitions necessary for this right:

For raising awareness of digital issues:

The promulgated documents that serve as possible iterations of this right:

Documents not yet ratified which could serve as iterations of this right:

Conclusions of EDUsummIT 2019

Finally, during the EDUsummIT 2019 conference, which was held at Laval University from September 29 to October 2, members of the working group #5, which I was a part of, explored these dangers in detail. We investigated how the complexity of our digital society creates new dangers, especially for children. These dangers include personal data security, cyberbullying, sexual harassment on social media, among others. At the conclusion of the conference, several strategies and actions that could also be used for the implementation of this right were developed. Here are some relevant examples.

Strategies:

  • Create a balance between learning opportunities and the use of protocols in e-wellness education;
  • Create an understanding of the mutual relationship between technology and humans; we shape the technologies we use and the technologies we use shape us.

Actions: 

  • Develop a consensus on a definition of well-being and cyber-well-being (at the social, psychological, physical and cognitive level);
  • Promote self-awareness of how we learn and are influenced by technology;
  • Encourage decision-makers to effectively integrate wellness (including the “cyber” component) into all programs;
  • Provide guidelines so that stakeholders can make informed choices about e-well-being;
  • Develop and integrate communities:
    • to provide peer-to-peer support in response to issues that arise.
    • stakeholders to discuss and determine the proper use of technology.

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