A K-12 Primer for British Columbia Teachers Posting Students’ Work Online

May 17, 2013

cover_capture_sm.fw  There is little doubt in my mind that web 2.0, social media, and cloud computing offer powerful vehicles for teaching and learning—but only if educators use them responsibly, abide by the rules and regulations, and teach their students to do the same. According to lawyer, Pam Portal, “BC’s privacy laws are arguably the strongest in Canada” (Cooper, et al., 2011, “Privacy Guide for Faculty Using 3rd Party Web Technology (Social Media) in Public Post-Secondary Courses”,2). These laws and regulations protect the privacy rights of the individual in British Columbia, Canada. Our unique legal context sets the boundaries for what the K-12 should be doing online with student information, work, and data. If you’re not from British Columbia, or aren’t in touch with what’s happening here, consider us the “Europe” of privacy protection in North America. If you are an American teacher or a Canadian teacher anywhere but in British Columbia–you likely have more permissive regulations in the use of Web 2.0 tools–especially those that are housed in the cloud.

The institution where I work, Vancouver Island University (Nanaimo, BC, Canada), is in the vanguard of addressing privacy issues associated with use of cloud based tools at the post-secondary level in BC education. In 2011, VIU  published “Privacy Guide for Faculty Using 3rd Party Web Technology (Social Media) in Public Post-Secondary Courses” with BC Campus,  and our Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (under Director, Liesel Knaack) has been running numerous training sessions to raise faculty awareness of their obligations in use of cloud, Web 2.0, and social media technologies—especially with regard to students. As part of that effort, and in discussions with Liesel, I began to develop some resources to streamline how faculty in our Faculty of Education and other post-secondary instructors could meet the new requirements–items like forms to guide instructors, and an information backgrounder to share with students.  As BC K-12 educators got wind of what I was doing, I had individuals from BC K-12 schools–public and private, traditional and face-to-face–contacting me to see what knowledge, resources and guidance I could share. At that point I was solidly focused on developing resources I could use with my faculty, and I kept hoping that ‘someone else’ would take on that mantle and deal with providing specific K-12 resources. I happily provided what I had–but it was from the post-secondary perspective. When I shared content, I’d repeatedly ask the recipients to share back what they developed. Many of these individuals were dealing with these issues off the side of their K-12 desks—among many other responsibilities. I checked back with a few of them and their content development had gotten sidelined in one way or another.

Working in a Faculty of Education as I do, I am reminded that I am only a step away from the K-12 context. Our Education students are doing practica in BC K-12 schools–some of them with institutionally loaned equipment—and I need to support their responsible use of technology under current legislation. In September 2013, I will be teaching a course in social media in our new Online Learning and Teaching Diploma (OLTD) Program, and I will need resources to guide my students as educators in responsible use of social media in BC’s K-12 context. Knowing my interests, parents have approached me to describe incidents where students are using social media and cloud based resources in their local schools without any permission forms or information being sent home. One parent described Googling her child’s name only to find a Prezi with scanned family photos and information—yet the parent had never been approached for permission–much less had discussions or handouts on the activity and its potential privacy risks. I have heard numerous accounts of teachers doing great things with Google docs and their classes–using Facebook or Twitter, but when I pause to ask them whether they sent out and obtained written permission slips, I either meet a dead silence or am told, “Oh, our school media waiver covers that.” The likelihood that a school media waiver meets the key criteria set down in our BC law and regulations for ‘knowledge’, ‘notice’, and ‘informed consent’ with regard to these types of activities in these technological environments is slim.

So, last month, I decided that “someone” was going to be “me”. I’ve spent about a month drafting this document I call “A K-12 Primer for British Columbia Teachers Posting Students’ Work Online“.

This document was possible only with the support of these key individuals:

  • Liesel Knaack, Director, Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia
  • Rebecca Avery, e-Safety Officer, Kent County Council, United Kingdom
  • Mark Hawkes, e-Learning Coordinator, Learning Division, Ministry of Education, British Columbia
  • Dave Gregg, e-Learning Officer, Learning Division, Ministry of Education, British Columbia
  • Larry Kuehn, Director of Research and Technology, British Columbia Teachers’ Federation
  • John Phipps, Field Experience Supervisor, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia

Consider this document Version 1.0. I hope you find it useful and that you feel moved to comment and share your insights for a future version. You are free to duplicate and share it according to the Creative Commons: Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike licensing.



Julia’s Comments on Snapshot Study of Canadian K-12 Online Learning

July 14, 2009

You may be aware of the North American Council for Online Learning released a report in October 2008 called “A Snapshot State of the Nation Study: K-12 Online Learning in Canada”. The report was written by Michael K. Barbour of Wayne State University (Michigan) & Robin Steward of Chatham Kent Public Library (Ontario) based on existing literature and contributions of practitioners in the Canadian field of K-12 online learning. As I now teach & work in educational technology in a pre-service teacher program at Vancouver Island University (Nanaimo, BC) and as a teacher with a history of distributed learning experience in British Columbia, Canada, I am very happy to see some research materials on Canada’s K-12 online learning experiences. Overall, I enjoyed reading the report and appreciated the Canadian focus of the research/data and I will be using it for  courses I teach on educational technology.

Some interesting points of the study:

History of K-12 Online Learning in Canada

  • “virtual schooling, as we know it in North American, began in Canada in 1994”
    • Avon Maitland Distance Education Centre, Avon Maitland District School Board, Ontario (1994-1995 with first courses offered in 1997-1998)
    • first virtual school offerings by Electronic Distance Education Network (1995-1996, Ontario)
    • first virtual school offerings by  Garden Valley Collegiate (1995-96, Manitoba)
    • several offerings by Alberta school district consortia

(Author cites Barker & Wendel, 2001; Barker, Wendel & Richmond, 1999;  Haughey & Fenwich, 1996; Muirhead, 1999 for data)

Little Existing  Research Data re. Canadian K-12 Online Learning

  • “With limited government, foundation and private support for education research, K-12 online learning programmes have not received financial support for research and evaluation.”
  • “…there has been little activity in Canadian higher education towards research of K-12 online learning “
  • a key governance difference in K-12 online learning responsibilities between Canada and the US is that  responsibility for education in Canada rests in the hands of each individual province or territory– in US it is in the hands of the federal Department of Education

Canadian Regional Differences

  • eastern Canada tends to have stronger provincial programs
  • Quebec has “limited district-based programmes”
  • central Canada (i.e. Ontario) has provincial system and extensive district-based programmes as well as private school initiatives
  • western Canada tends “to have smaller or dated” provincial programs and “a varying level of district-based programmes”
  • Canadian territories leverage district-based programs in BC & Alberta

Governance & BC’s Extraordinary Situation

  • “the vast majority of provinces do not have policies that are specifically realted to K-12 online learning. Instead, online learning programmes must struggle with meeting regulations designed for brick-and-mortar schools. The main exception…is British Columbia where the Government has created a specific regime to govern the operation of distance education in that province.”

Julia’s Comments on the Research

Firstly, it is important to note that this report helps further significant research dialogue on Canadian K-12 online learning. That said there were a few areas I think warrant further work.

Leap from Correspondence to Online Models: Where is Potential Impact of Offline Computer Mediated Education?

I am interested in the way that the description of the historical context seemed to leave out any mention of the use of offline, computer-based or computer-mediated education. The research seems to jump from the use of correspondence-type materials and to online content delivery. As one of the practitioners in the 1990’s, there was a distinct phase of using computer mediated content delivery either at a distance or in face-to-face brick-and-mortar situations. This was especially true for educators wanting more multimedia & interactivity in course design than could be supported on BC’s PLNet connections of the day (low-bandwidth). I think that educators who had been participating in the computer-mediated education were well positioned to move into and leverage online education as content became available–and to call for increased media & interactivity to push online learning beyond text on screen. I can remember several computer-mediated programs like Plato, CMI Crossroads, Nelson’s The Learning Equation,  that were in use when I was teaching in the mid-late 1990-early 2000’s in British Columbia and were a way-point between correspondence and multimedia rich online learning.

Some Key Items in BC Context Merit Inclusion

When I reflect on the development of online learning in British Columbia, I found it quite interesting that the report did not mention the rise of the COOL Schools consortium–prior to the formation of BCEdOnline. COOL schools started out as a collaboration among several school districts–then other BC districts wanted to buy access to content. When my district joined, our membership initially required a Blackboard license brokered by the Open Learning Agency or Open School. Two other groups that had historical impact on the formation of online learning in BC were  the BC Computer Curriculum Consortium and the BC Teachers’ Federation Provincial Specialist Association, Educators for Distributed Learning.

One of the interesting issues I remember occurred when the regional distance education programs were still working in defined catchment areas.  Teachers employed in some regional educational programs were concerned re. the classification of their positions as  “markers” rather than “teachers”. If I recall properly, the issue of classification allowed for treatment of markers distinct from “teachers” re. student & course loads (e.g. in brick-and-mortar schools). Also of note was that during the rise of online learning, there were various tensions between the officially published positions & supported policies of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the positions & policy recommendations of the EDLPSA (Educators for Distributed Learning Provincial Specialist Associaion, BCTF) members with regard to teachers’ working  issues around distributed learning in the province.

The authors also missed another interesting period of online development fueled by K-12 funding  when the BC government was funding both local school districts AND distance education providers for FTE at the secondary level. Under that arrangement, students might attend a distributed learning support block at brick-and-mortar school within its schedule while working on a distributed learning course from another provider. At that time, the government was paying for enrollment in the distance education course and funding the teacher supervision FTE in the brick-and-mortar school. I believe that period lasted for 1-2 years before it was radically restructured. Likely enrollment data would show a increase in enrollments in the former and a steep decrease in enrollments under the later funding structures. I know that within my Distributed Learning Program, we began to look at leveraging existing content from COOL Schools through an opensource learning management system, ATutor ( complying with licensing constraints), as well as developing our own local content to further reduce costs.

So on what do I base my critique ?

My historical experience with distributed learning in BC schools stems back to the mid-1990’s when I developed a private program that leveraged several distance education providers like South Island Distance Education School (SIDES), Nechacko Valley’s eBus, & North Island Distance Education School (NIDES). Local parents enrolled students  in full-time distance education/distributed learning programs approved by the provincial government, and then paid me–a BC Certified teacher– to work with their children as a group in a pseudo-school.  Some content was “pizza-box” courses and some content was online. I supported  students “distance” education face-to-face with a range of subject matter expertise while the distance education programs supplied content, marking of submitted work & official course credit. Over time, I established partnerships with the providers mentioned above that allowed me to help guide instruction in a more collaborative fashion with these organizations. In one instance, a partner organization provided a computer and internet access in my rented location–that would have otherwise been made available to one of the students in their home–and with the student’s & parent’s permission– so that the students enrolled in their program might access their online content and communicate with their online teachers, advisors, etc. during our “class” days and hours–generally a 3 day week.

My local district, SD 64 Gulf Islands,  took an interest in the model I developed and asked if they might send someone to chat with me and observe what I was doing.  An administrator from one of the Gulf Island schools on Pender Island, Jean Way, met with me to observe what I was doing. My model was a partial basis for the development of SD 64’s Secondary Learning Centres, later renamed Student Learning Centres.

After running my private program for a number of years, I entered discussions with the local school district regarding potential employment working in their program at the local high school.  I applied & won the position, then closed my private program to take over the distance education program supervision at Gulf Islands Secondary School. A proponent of computers, I worked to bring in more computer mediated and online resources. In many cases, I continued partnering with my earlier contacts at the various regional distance education programs. During my employment with SD 64 Gulf Islands, I served as a member of the   Secondary Learning Centre Committee (later called Student Learning Centre Commitee, 1999-2006) to help form the directions our district was taking in regard to the provision and delivery of distributed learning programs, the district Technology Committee (2000-2001)–a natural extension as I was using computers extensively in the Gulf Islands Secondary Distributed Learning Program. I was also active at the provincial level as an Executive Member-at-Large for the Educators for Distributed Learning, Provincial Specialist Association, British Columbia Teachers Federation (2000-2003) and an Executive Member-at-Large in BC4 (BC Computer Curriculum Consortium, 2001-2003).