The CHENINE Charter
1. The Primacy of Schools and Teaching:
Physical schools and teaching are essential for the vast majority of students and communities.
Learning at home during the pandemic has taught us that most children and families need physical schools, with in-person teaching and learning. Physical schools promote equity of access. They flatten out the most extreme inequalities by supporting both individual and collective achievement. They also provide mutual support and common purpose in a diverse community. They are essential because they enable children and teenagers to gather together as members of a community and develop identities in relationship to others. Physical schools are places where certified professionals can know and respond to their diverse students as whole human beings with distinctive talents and needs. Teaching is an emotional practice, not just a cognitive one, and online learning will always struggle to engage with this vital aspect of the teacher-student relationship. As the Covid-19 pandemic revealed, physical schools are also necessary because children’s parents need to go to work.
2. Enriching Good Teaching:
Educational technology can enrich good teaching, but can't replace poor teaching.
Technology is often presented as the shining knight that comes to rescue education. Television was heralded as the end of teaching and learning as we knew it. The VCR promised to deliver unparalleled expertise into classrooms globally. Technophiles were also confident that the computer would radically transform schools and learning everywhere. In all these cases, technology experts assumed that technology and related content made good teaching. Yet, research repeatedly demonstrates that innovation transforms teaching and learning only when teachers are front and centre in the reform. Teaching is first and foremost about relationships. The most important relationships are between and among teachers and students. These relationships are not easily replaced with technological solutions. So, technological innovation must be guided by pedagogical expertise. Digital technology can support, strengthen, and further stimulate the great teaching and learning that is embedded in strong and caring relationships, in understanding how young people think and learn, and in connecting students’ learning to the wider world. Technology is never a substitute for the art, science and craft of inspiring and effective teaching, but technology can enrich good practice.
3. Universal Public Access:
Educational technology access must be public, universal, and free.
The COVID-19 pandemic made everyone acutely aware of the need for equal access to computers, high-speed internet services, and educational software. The swift and widespread move to online education laid bare longstanding social, economic, and political inequalities that continue to plague kindergarten through to postsecondary education. Some households have the most advanced personal computers, phones, and other devices. In other households, children and teenagers compete with parents and siblings for access to a single device. Some children live in communities with reliable high speed internet access and distributed Wi-Fi service while others have access only to exceedingly slow, very limited, or absolutely no access at all. These disparities are magnified by ever-increasing social and economic inequalities. Even when the technology is available, not all families can afford it. Reliance on expensive technologies makes an already unequal playing field in education even worse. Public, universal, free access to suitable technology and internet access for all students and their families is therefore essential as a human right.
4. Unique Value Proposition:
Educational technology should be adopted when it offers unique value.
Technology use within and outside of schools must be guided by determining its unique value proposition. What aspects of learning and wellbeing can be provided, uniquely, through digital technology, that cannot be provided as easily, as effectively, or at all, in any other way? For example, many students with special educational needs can access and express their learning through the use of assistive technologies that they are unable to do by any other means. Students in minority communities that are small in size can make virtual connections with minority peers elsewhere as part of belonging to a larger world. Teachers in remote rural schools are able to collaborate routinely with their colleagues to plan curriculum, or undertake professional learning together through digital platforms, compared to in-person collaboration that is at best infrequent and also expensive. There is also great potential to transform assessment and reporting through technology, especially through digitally assisted self-assessment and peer assessment that can be shared quickly between students and their teachers, teachers and colleagues who have students in common, and schools and families. Educational technology should be used when it extends, enhances, and engages students’ learning.
5. Disciplined Innovation:
Technology use should be evidence-informed, inquiry-driven, and impact-assessed.
The design and development of the digital technologies used in systems of schooling has been largely driven by corporations. A new paradigm of collaborative development must include, engage, and empower teachers and students as the primary design drivers of learning. Before schools adopt digital tools, all designers and developers must assume the responsibility to show evidence of impact, established through rigorous, impartial research and inquiry that includes honest assessments of both students’ and teachers’ needs. Technology designers must be aware of not only digital technology’s desired effects but also its negative side-effects such as the time and resources it redirects from other endeavours and priorities.
6. Risk Reduction:
Educational technology strategies should address risks (such as excess screen time).
Digital technologies and their implementation come with considerable risks as well as benefits. Risks include the impact of excess screen time on young learners, the development of digital addictions, adolescent anxieties arising from online identities and interactions, algorithms that reinforce existing preferences and prejudices, surveillance of student activities, misuse of personal data, and digital displacement of other valued activities such as outdoor play and sleep. The overarching presence of the English language on digital platforms can also contribute to the marginalization of knowledge and participation in other languages and cultures. Innovation is sometimes hailed for being creatively disruptive. But there are risks involved in disruption when digital innovation is implemented too quickly and many months of student’s learning are sacrificed as a result. Risks can be addressed and mitigated by bringing learners into critical conversation with one another and with their teachers about digital learning issues – through technology watchdog groups in schools, districts, governments, and technology companies themselves. Responsible innovation with technology must devote time, resources and attention to transparent and reliable risk-management. Technology use should be informed by evidence of known risks, and should equip individuals and learning communities to be more resilient, more supported, and more empowered in digital learning environments.
7. Inclusive Design:
Educational technology should foster understanding and collaboration across cultures, identities, and languages.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our ways of communicating, consuming, and connecting, altering our relationship to technologies and the digital world. Inequitable access to digital landscapes has limited participation in these conversations for many. The shift to more virtual ways of connecting offers opportunities for identity-based groups to share experiences and resources, mobilize advocacy efforts and feel a sense of belonging. How can we build on these ways of coming together to promote understanding across groups as well as deep connection within them? How can all learners of different cultures, languages, and identities participate in learning through digital technology? Building virtual collaborative networks within and across school systems can provide structures for students and educators to engage in meaningful social and learning activities, with colleagues and partners working in different contexts and communities than their own. It is critical to ensure that digital tools and environments are designed by, with and for diverse groups of educators, students and families. Digital tools and platforms are not neutral and need to be considered through multiple lenses of language, experience and identity in their creation and be responsive to the experiences of communities who use them.
8. Teacher Professionalism:
Educational technology should value, include, and enrich teachers' professional judgment.
Digital technology cannot and should not replace teachers and bypass their professional judgment, expertise, and skill. Algorithms may be able to provide digital feedback for some kinds of skills or tasks, but few learners will pour their hearts out for writing assignments that will never be read by another human being. Digital technologies can and should enhance, enrich, and expand teachers’ knowledge, skill and expertise, but they are no substitute for teachers’ professional judgment. Inclusive and enriching learning environments contain digital tools and processes, as well as manipulative materials, outdoor learning resources, paper, pens, glue, scissors, musical instruments, play and sports objects, science equipment, books, and, of course, the vital human resources and supports of students, educators, and other adults. Although some resources have digital equivalents or can accommodate digital supplements, others do not. Teacher professionalism is about having and being encouraged to develop the valued professional competence and confidence to use all available and necessary resources–including digital ones where appropriate—in an integrated and flexible way that benefits all students and their communities.
9. Public Responsibility:
Educational technology companies should pay fair corporate taxes.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought the need to rethink the social contract of national and global economies into focus. Enormous profits have been accrued by many technology companies during this time as more leisure, work, learning, and consuming have been occurring online. Socially responsible technology companies, especially those that provide products and services for children and their families, have a responsibility to contribute a share of their revenue and profits to the public good through fair taxation. Tax subsidized philanthropy directed to causes determined by corporate leaders is no substitute for properly assigned taxes prioritized and distributed through civic means for public benefit including public education. Educational institutions and digital technology providers should therefore set and agree on shared ethical standards regarding transparent payment of fair corporate taxes.
10. Social Benefit:
Educational technology should aim to improve society.
Education has long been seen as a means for addressing social problems, pulling the poor out of poverty, pursuing economic and environmental justice, offering social mobility and creating the promise of a better life for new generations. At the same time, researchers, teachers, and media pundits have often faulted schools for failing to combat prejudice, and rectify inequalities in Canadian society. The hopes, dreams, and disappointments accompanying new technologies have followed a similar path. Technological solutions have had a spotty record when it comes to ameliorating stubborn social problems on a large scale, and have in some cases created digital inequalities that parallel and amplify those that already exist. Thoughtful digital engagement, however, also offers immense possibilities for the equitable and inclusive development of digital skills and access, democratic participation, and critical engagement with shared and conflicting worldviews in ways that transcend social status or immediate location. Educational technology can and should be a powerful driver to strengthen social institutions, increase civic engagement around issues of public concern, build community resilience, and improve teaching, learning and wellbeing for all.