CURRICULUM SERVICES CANADA
Fosters High Quality Learning Resources
An Ontario organization has created a web-based service for reviewing learning resources according to Ontario and Canadian standards, and a place where teachers can find commercially available and free resources for all grade levels.
By Lois Browne
If teachers across the grades have a common lament, it’s the lack of teaching and learning resources suitable for the Ontario curriculum. The problem has been compounded by the rapid changes made each year to what is being taught in schools, increasing the need for supplementary materials that relate directly to current content.
Curriculum Services Canada (CSC) is a non-profit organization that is targeting this problem, trying to ensure a steady increase in Canadian resources for teachers and making them easy to find through the CSC web site.
"We want to create a catalogue of resources for teachers," says Kathryn McFarlane, who is executive director of CSC, the parent organization for a range of agencies involved in providing teachers with better access to teaching aids – the Ontario Curriculum Centre (OCC), the Ontario Curriculum Foundation and pdstore.com.
The OCC reviews commercially produced resources for a fee, using trained and knowledgeable professionals. pdstore.com sells and delivers learning resources that have been reviewed by OCC and are commercially available. The Curriculum Foundation uses the money earned – and what it can raise through public donations – to support the development by classroom teachers of even more resources and make them available online free of charge.
R E V I E W I N G R E S O U R C E S
The resources that OCC reviews come from a wide range of commercial and non-profit enterprises – the Royal Bank, the Toronto Stock Exchange, educational publishers, the Canadian Red Cross and the Rick Hansen Institute.
A positive review of an educational resource earns it the OCC’s red and white Seal of Recommendation. The seal guarantees the quality of the learning materials.
"Our ultimate goal is to be like a consumer’s report or the Canadian Standards Association for educational resources," says McFarlane. "We want teachers to look for our seal."
Classroom teachers and subject-area specialists trained by the OCC conduct the review process. They use professional evaluation tools to assess each resource against Canadian standards. There are currently about 400 assessors on the organization’s roster of reviewers.
A prime criteria for these resources, says McFarlane, is that they relate to the curriculum, whether using pan-Canadian criteria developed in consultation with the provinces or Ontario criteria developed using Ministry of Education input.
I D E A S T O S H A R E
With the money earned from its review process, the Curriculum Foundation has begun to support Ontario classroom teachers in developing their own resources. A condition of the awards is that the developed resources will be made available to teachers free of charge on the CSC web site.
Grants are typically small – sometimes just a few hundred dollars, covering the cost of a few days release time and supplies – which enables the foundation to do more with less. To date, $35,000 has been awarded but CSC hopes to make as much as $150,000 available over the next fiscal year.
A project that has created a lot of interest is one of three that were announced recently – a resource guide to native literature being developed by Renate Eigenbrod, a professor of aboriginal literature at Lakehead University, and Georgina Kakegamic and Josias Fiddler, at the Thomas Fiddler Memorial High School in Sandy Lake. The three are working on a project that will draw on native resources from across the country.
F U N D R A I S I N G
The possibilities offered by the project on native literature have prompted the foundation to enlist the help of fundraiser Chonče Dennis to look for corporate donors who want to support the development of additional materials.
"We’re starting to see a growing interest among people looking for an opportunity to contribute to improving education," says Dennis. Her current focus is on finding financial support for a needs assessment program for teachers’ resources and to raise up to $100,000 for the Janice Thomson Award.
The annual award was established last year in memory of Janice Thomson, a well-known Ontario educator and staff member of the Ontario College of Teachers who died of cancer in 1999.
Although the first teacher-developed resources are not likely to be available on the web site until September, the CSC web site already carries information about course profiles provided by the Ministry of Education for all grade levels and supplementary resources, in both English and French.
For more information, visit the Curriculum Services Canada web site at www.curriculum.org or for French-language resources, visit www.centre-leadership.on.ca . The next deadline for Curriculum Services Foundation awards is September 30, 2001.
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