Current Trends and Perspectives in the K-12 Canadian Blended and Online Classroom

Current Trends and Perspectives in the K-12 Canadian Blended and Online Classroom

Constance Blomgren (Athabasca University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7507-8.ch006
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Canada has a history and geography that has required the use of distance education models and resources, and with its distributed population the potential of blended and online learning to further address K-12 learning needs is presently viewed by government as a means to deliver public education. These commitments have produced numerous responses and concerns regarding technical infrastructure, discussions regarding pedagogy, professional development of teachers, and establishing the means to meet the needs of twenty-first century learners. The following overview provides the Canadian K-12 context and educational trends, issues, and concerns within digital technologies and distance learning. The resulting summary holds significance for jurisdictions that have a vast geography and dispersed rural students, indigenous populations, as well as K-12 urban learners who require flexible access to educational delivery. Additionally, the overview contributes to the emerging understanding and the variety of response to digital technologies as part of the Canadian educational landscape.
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From the historical roots of distance education with ties to correspondence print offerings, delayed time and non-shared space, a contemporary, complicated and expanding lexicon has developed. Although various authors have defined distance education, distance learning, online education, e-learning, distributed, blended and digital learning, a brief summary of these delineations provides a common understanding of what is meant within this burgeoning field (Bates, 2008; Lowenthal & Wilson, 2010; Moore, Dickson-Deane, & Galyen, 2011). Distance education or distance learning reconfigures the teaching and learning approach of a traditional classroom with the qualities of a shared space and time, with the synchronous face-to-face experience for both the teacher and students (Volery & Lord, 2000). Additionally, according to Bates (2008) distance education may be defined as “less a philosophy and more a method of education. Students can study in their own time, at the place of their choice (home, work or learning centre), and without face-to-face contact with a teacher. Technology is a critical element of distance education” (para 4). The Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC), which provincially dominates Alberta K-12 distance educational delivery, defines distance learning as “teaching and learning when students may not be required to be physically present at specific locations or times. Instead, students communicate remotely with their teachers and complete course work using print and/or electronic materials” (Alberta Distance Learning Centre, 2016, para 1).

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