Critical Reflection #9
Cummins, J., & Sayers, D. (1997). Internet Resources for K-12 Education: Selected Annotated Listings (pp. 211-242). Brave New Schools. New York: St. Martin's Press.
November 20, 1997.

Education in Ontario in the midst of a crisis. Teachers, students, and parents are being told that schooling needs to get "back to the basics" and that province-wide testing of all students is the only way to ensure that students are learning what they need to learn in order to survive and be productive in today's society.  It is a popular mantra for those who believe that our current education system is not working. This is indeed a crisis, but not the kind that these naysayers believe. Of more pressing importance than fiscal restraint is the education of the children in our educational system. We need to ensure that in these changing times our students are provided with opportunities that go beyond the memorization of facts and figures. They need to question, explore, investigate, inquire, reason, deduce, and communicate. Collaborative critical inquiry addresses these concerns.

Educators can make learning relevant and personal by engaging students in activities which give them an outlet for creative problem solving. By working together on the "big" questions, students experience reality. The work is not contrived - it is driven by a desire to actually make a difference in their environments. Key to the experience is collaboration with peers. It is so important that students respect the opinions of others and work with individuals without bias.  We should examine how technology can help promote this respect.
The most important aspect of technology in this process is the facilitation of communication between students and their peers.  A principal tenet of collaborative critical inquiry is working with others. The Internet provides a forum for many voices to speak in unison. Common links and insight can be gleaned from those that are geographically or culturally different yet situationally similar.

A second benefit of current technology is the reduction of geographical limitations on collaboration. When students are given the power to work together from great distances it generates a better understanding of how we are all citizens of "Planet Earth."  Local issues give way to global concerns and global concerns become local issues. With videoconferencing, email, digital photography, and word processing, students can engage in meaningful discussion with those affected by their inquiry, not just people that happen to be close by.

The third way that the Internet and technology promote collaborative critical inquiry is that in its present form it enables democratic participation. Citizens in many countries can bypass stifling local laws by connecting to the world via the Internet. Connectivity is giving those that are oppressed an opportunity to have their voices heard.  Technology is giving people the chance to interact with an increased number of people over vast distances without prejudice.

When we look at the giant leaps forward that educators and students are making in this quest to improve our collaborative world, it gets frustrating watching those in power using their resources to convince us it would be better to take a step back.