A group of Brock University students were able to take what they learned studying policy in the classroom and use it to help shape the use of information and technology in classrooms around the globe.
Working with their colleagues from Niagara College, 15 graduate students from Brock’s Faculty of Education contributed to a review of a policy document created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (UNESCO-UNEVOC).
The policy document, known as ICT Competency Framework for Teachers V.3 2018 (ICT CFT 3.0), is focused on enhancing education policies and teacher competencies around the use of information and communications technology in classrooms to better prepare students for the future.
“This project really gave our Brock students an opportunity to closely study policy, but also to hear directly from people about how it’s actually being implemented at the classroom level,” said Camille Rutherford, Associate Vice-Provost Student Information Services Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education and the lead instructor in the Brock course. “We know there are always gaps between what policy says and what’s actually happening.”
Niagara College is developing a discussion paper looking at opportunities to expand the global use of ICT CFT 3.0 in Technical Vocational and Education Training (TVET). To gather information for that paper, two meetings were held in February where Niagara College invited educators, teacher educators and policy-makers from around the world to provide feedback.
One meeting was hosted at Niagara College and the other at TA Marryshaw Community College a partner institution in Grenada, West Indies.
Brock students attended the meeting and collected the feedback of policy implementers, summarizing the key themes for use by Niagara College in creating the UNESCO-UNEVOC discussion paper.
To prepare for the meetings, Brock students reviewed several policy documents on education, ICT, TVET and Sustainable Development Goal 4, Quality Education.
“This was an opportunity for us to look at policies, look at reality and try to draw the line between how policies are made and how they are effectively solving the challenges within society,” said Reuben Plance, one of the Master of Education students who participated in the course.
He said it was helpful to get insight into the process of creating a policy document by seeing policy-makers debate issues and share perspectives during the validation meetings.
“In this course we are part of a real policy and our efforts are going to be used in the research work being done,” said Jashanpreet Kaur, who is originally from India and another of the students involved in the course.
The process also gave the students opportunities to network, gain an understanding of potential internships at the United Nations and learn about career opportunities available in policy development, careers which both Plance and Kaur are targeting.
For Rutherford, participating in the policy document review has also been an opportunity for Brock students to make a significant contribution to education around the world.
“UNESCO has such broad reach and influence that it literally has the opportunity to improve the education of millions of students,” said Rutherford.
As well as studying policy, 11 of the students had an opportunity to implement what they learned in Grenada by helping to deliver a series of Future-Ready Skills workshops for 120 TVET teacher educators and teacher candidates at TAMCC.
“These workshops cover topics we know are key to supporting teacher professional development so they can support students to be future ready,” Rutherford said.
Brock’s graduate students assisted the lead instructors in facilitating the sessions with the goal of helping them to prepare and deliver the workshops themselves.
The instructors of the workshops were all Brock employees and students. Giulia Forsythe, Associate Director of the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation, instructed Coding in the Classroom; Kyle Tuck, Systems Administrator and Educational Technology Co-ordinator, instructed Hands-on STEM; Cecilia Garcia Vega, Graduate Student Support Co-ordinator, instructed Entrepreneurial Thinking; and Rutherford instructed 21st Century Learning Design.
For Plance, seeing the impact of the workshops on participants was inspiring.
“We didn’t just go for the data,” he said. “We also went there to train people to understand the way the world is moving and the kind of skills that they should have in order to shape not just their country, but also make an impact within the global scene.”
From Kaur’s perspective, the ability to use what she’s learned has been a valuable part of her experience at Brock and in Rutherford’s course.
“I really want to get back and take these experiences with me and help my society and my community in any way that I can,” she said. “I value education because I come from a place where education is a still a privilege, and I’ve got this opportunity to go to the best institutions. I think education is one way to uplift sections of society that are still vulnerable.”