STF aware of challenges in education delivery via technology

The Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation (STF)is hearing from membership about the difficulties with education technology delivery in the wake of schools closing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

STF president Patrick Maze said that some teachers are having this problem.

Maze noted that the responsibility lies with the government in their role as funders of school divisions to help address this.

“I think it is incumbent on government through the school divisions to identify where those gaps are and where we need to provide a little better for students in order to allow them to continue learning,” he said.

“It is the school divisions that are best placed to know where those gaps are since they are the ones that work directly with the families and the students. But at the same point they also require some funding and support from government to be able to do that. It is a partnership and everybody needs to do their part,” Maze said.

In a news conference on Tuesday morning opposition NDP Education Critic Carla Beck addressed these concerns. Beck addressed gaps that might exist either due to socioeconomic or urban and rural issues around technology. Students may not have access to internet in rural and remote communities or have access to devices. Beck would like to know the numbers of students affected.

Locally, Saskatchewan Rivers School Division director of education Robert Bratvold explained that the division was aware that challenges would exist in reaching students and families through online platforms.

He explained that a significant portion of it is related to socioeconomic status but a large part of the division is rural and has challenges with bandwidth and reliability of service for online delivery.

Maze explained that there is also situations where teachers are coming into cities or other major centres.

“ (It is) because they are out in the country and they have difficulty accessing WiFi as well and have to call their rural internet provider and try to get up to speed quickly so they could continue providing for students,” Maze added.

Bratvold explained that addressing challenges is the responsibility of the divisions.

The ministry is aware that some divisions have entered into partnership agreements in order to be able to provide devices to students in order to supplement online learning.

The Ministry added that individual divisions will determine what supplemental learning opportunities may be used to meet the needs of students in their division.

According to the Ministry of Education The Response Planning Team continues to be in regular communication with school divisions in order to support divisions as they provide learning opportunities to their students.

In a separate interview Maze noted that the work of the Response Planning Team has been beneficial in building relationships between government and the Federation.

It was put in place to ensure students continue to have supplementary learning through distance opportunities and take-home resource kits; as well as logistics to ensure backroom functions such as staff assignments and payroll.

-with files from Peter Lozinski