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8. Summary and concluding remarks

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According to the ICTSS, schools have the necessary infrastructure to integrate ICTs into the learning environment. During the 2003/04 school year, virtually all schools in Canada had computers and nearly all were connected to the Internet, with rates ranging from 91% in Manitoba to over 99% in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick. Moreover, all elementary and secondary schools in the territories reported having Internet-connected computers.

Not only are schools connected to the Internet but access to the Internet within schools is also pervasive. Overall, nine out of ten computers were connected to the Internet and available to students, ranging from a low of 88% in Nunavut to a high of 96% in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

An overwhelming majority (86%) of schools used broadband technologies to access the Internet, while only 9% used a regular dial-up telephone line. While there are many ways to connect to the Internet, not all types of connections are available in every geographical area. The type of connection may in fact be limited to what local providers can offer. The Northwest Territories and Nunavut, along with Prince Edward Island, had the lowest proportions of schools connected by broadband, while the Yukon, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan were leaders in broadband connectivity.

School computers were generally available to students and teachers, opening up a wide range of opportunities for making teaching and learning more effective. Typically, there were about five students sharing a computer in schools, while there were slightly more students (5.5) per Internet-connected computer. Quebec had the most students per Internet-connected computer (6.5), followed by Ontario (5.8), and British Columbia and Prince Edward Island (5.6). The Yukon had the least number of students per computer and Internet-connected computer (2.9).

Many principals reported having computers with dated technology. Just under one-quarter of the elementary and secondary schools in Canada had at least half of their computers running on the most recent operating systems, ranging from a low of 7% in New Brunswick to a high of 41% in Alberta. However, the use of older operating systems may not always indicate a problem since many software applications available to students in schools may not require the most up-to-date system to operate efficiently.

Furthermore, more than half (54%) of the computers in elementary and secondary schools were equipped with medium processor speed, while only 16% were considered high speed computers. School computers in Saskatchewan were most likely to have high processing speeds (25%), while a smaller proportion of computers in Prince Edward Island (5%), Nunavut (8%), and in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador (10%) were reported to be as fast.

Results from the ICTSS suggest that the extent to which ICT is being integrated into teaching practices needs to be further explored. Training opportunities for teachers were also cited as an extensive challenge by 40% of schools, and teachers were perceived to be more skilled at using ICT for administrative purposes rather than for engaging students in learning.

Despite the widespread availability of ICT infrastructure and high rates of connectedness in schools, maintaining current systems and infrastructure can be challenging. Indeed, one of the biggest concerns among school principals was the cost of technology. Slightly more than two-thirds of principals reported that getting sufficient funding for technology was an extensive challenge to using ICT in their school. While at least threequarters of principals in Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick felt that ICT funding was a major area of concern for their school, less than half of principals in the Yukon, Saskatchewan and Manitoba reported that such funding was an extensive challenge.

Notwithstanding the perceived financial challenges, more than nine principals out of ten agreed that ICTs are worth the investment. Now, more than ever, these measures for infrastructure and reach need to be followed by data on the use and impact of ICT in education. Moreover, issues such as ICT training and development for teachers need to be further explored to ensure the effectiveness of such technology for student learning.