Mid-Term Evaluation — First Nations SchoolNet Program
Section 5: Project Findings — School Administrators
The following section outlines the findings from interviews conducted with a random sample of school administrators from First Nations schools served by the program. As noted in the methodology, there were 19 schools contacted for this study, and schools were drawn randomly from each of the First Nations SchoolNet regions.
5.1 Program Participation
The Consultant interviewed personnel that were familiar with the services and support provided by FNS in each school. Of the school administrators interviewed, eleven were principals, four were computer/network administrators, and four were directors of education. Respondents were involved in the management and/or implementation of connectivity and technology training in their school. Additional responsibilities of those interviewed include:
- general technical support, teaching students;
- professional development with teachers;
- acquisition of hardware and software through requests to the RMO; and
- related human resource issues.
Although all of the school administrators seemed to be aware of the resources acquired by the school, there were only ten respondents who could correctly identify the funding source and the lead organization directing the FNS program. These respondents were also unaware of the relationship between the RMOs and Industry Canada, and many stated that they did not realize that RMOs were a third party in program delivery. The lack of understanding of the program structure did not seem to influence later responses since all of the respondents interviewed had mentioned they had contact with their RMO even though they may have been unfamiliar with the name of the organization.
Six respondents stated that their school was involved in the FNS program prior to the implementation of RMOs. Respondents were then asked about their experience with FNS when they dealt with Industry Canada directly as well as with program delivery through the RMOs. Four of the six school administrators stated that RMOs represent an improvement in the availability of resources, personalized service, and information sharing. The remaining two respondents stated that RMOs were less effective, with one comment directed at consistent problems with obtaining reliable connectivity and another comment that expressed the desire to return to having funds from the program directly available to the school from Industry Canada.top of page
5.2 Program Delivery
The next set of questions were aimed at school administrators' satisfaction with the level of support and assistance they received through the FNS program.
Almost all (18) of the respondents were cognizant of the services provided by the RMOs through the FNS program. All of the school administrators noted that they had received connectivity as a result of the program, however many respondents noted that the connectivity was less than a high speed line, with ten of the connections listed as a satellite connection. Even though many of the respondents stated they did not have a high speed Internet connection, over half (11) of the school administrators agreed that the services they received have helped them meet connectivity challenges at their school. Along with connectivity, the school administrators reported receiving the following supports:
- Digital cameras;
- Digital video cameras;
- Educational software;
- Wireless receiver; and
- Videoconferencing hardware.
Five school administrators were not satisfied with FNS program's ability to meet the connectivity challenges of their school and with the resources provided by their RMO. Those who felt that the resources were not sufficient in meeting their connectivity challenges cited the need for a high speed connection and more up-to-date computers. Respondents that stated the resources provided by their RMO did not adequately address their school's ICT situation stated that there needs to be more frequent communication between the RMO and the school to identify the appropriate resources based on the needs of the school.
Most (13) had also received training on applications or on the use of technology facilitated by their RMO. The training mentioned by the school administrators included on-site professional development training for teachers and training on the use of the digital camera and multimedia applications. All of the respondents that had received training agreed that it was valuable. The importance of the training was highlighted by the demand for more training among staff and students. In addition to the training that some respondents received, nearly all (15) of the school administrators noted that they had contacted the Help Desk in their region to assist them with technical problems demonstrating the awareness and utility of the Help Desk.
School administrators were asked of their objectives for connectivity, e-learning, and ICT as well as any existing challenges that limit their ability to meet their objectives. The objective most commonly cited was to provide current technology to students through high speed connectivity in order to enhance their skills and learning. Existing challenges identified by the school administrators include the following, listed in order of frequency:
- High speed connectivity;
- Protection against viruses, spam, and spyware;
- Lack of a technician to assist with common computer problems;
- Staff training on Internet capabilities and applications;
- Having up-to-date computers; and
- Identifying applicable software programs for learning.
Despite these challenges, the vast majority of respondents felt that the services offered by their RMO through the FNS program were keeping pace with what students in their school require.top of page
5.3 Program Impact
Overall, school administrators felt that using a third party organization such as the RMO to deliver the FNS program was beneficial. Respondents noted that the RMO's knowledge of available resources allows them to objectively determine the school's needs. Other respondents stated that the use of RMOs leads to responsive and personalized service through facilitating the acquisition of resources and by providing technical support. Several respondents cited challenges of using RMOs to deliver the program. The most common challenge reported was the distance of the RMO from the school, preventing more on-site visits for assessing the needs of the school and for training. A few respondents suggested that they require additional assistance and proposed that the RMOs should acquire more funding from Industry Canada to allow for more communication and training opportunities.
Respondents were asked their opinion of the relative impact of the FNS program through a series of questions. As demonstrated in Chart 5-1, the most important function of the services provided by the program was the ability to provide both teachers and students access to up-to date resources. Results were mixed when considering the degree to which the program encourages students to stay in school or transition to higher grades as well as allowing schools to deliver programs in local communities.
The majority of school administrators stated that resources provided by their RMO through FNS are incorporated into teaching practices and utilized in the classroom. The resources were reported as allowing students to conduct basic research for school projects and allowing teachers to explore other learning resources through the Internet. Other applications of the FNS resources provided by respondents included:
- utilization of learning software;
- computer skill training workshops;
- communication with other schools;
- assisting special education classes;
- multimedia applications including the use of the digital camera;
- video editing and photo courses; and
- language development.
Several respondents understood the value of using the available resources for teaching purposes, however there were factors that prevented their participation. These barriers were reported as issues with connectivity, literacy issues among students, and a general lack of computer skills of the teachers hampering their ability to utilize the technology in the classroom.
The potential for e-learning to assist students was well recognized by all of the school administrators. The main benefits of e-learning were acknowledged as the ability of making more courses available to students in remote areas that may not have access to an education, thereby providing students with more learning opportunities. Although the positive outcomes of e-learning was noted, most respondents were not involved with delivering this type of education in their schools.
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