Poor academic achievement among language learners continues to be the focus of international debate, particularly in countries with a high influx of newcomer and refugee students, such as Canada. Among the proposed causes, not mastering the school language is a key factor. Language learners need at least five years to catch up with their native-speaking peers in school. During this time, language learners invest a substantial proportion of their efforts in learning the school language, while struggling with the academic language demands of content subjects. As a result, some fall behind academically. In addition, results of various studies show a clear decline in the interest of the general school population in STEM in the middle grades and a reduction in the opportunities to practice outside school hours.
In fact, the closure of schools across Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed significant gaps in educational provision for both ‘mainstream’ and ‘vulnerable’ school populations. Teachers across grades K-12 have struggled to find learning resources in English and French that connect with the curricula they are mandated to teach.
Furthermore, up to this point, most teachers have had minimal opportunity to develop expertise in delivering curriculum using online technologies and to find learning resources that connect with the curricula they are mandated to teach. The challenge has been daunting even in the case of students who have access to computer technology at home and who speak English and/or French fluently. However, the challenges are even more acute for students who could be classified as ‘vulnerable’ as a result of their families’ precarious socioeconomic situation, the recency of their arrival in Canada, or the fact that neither parents nor children may speak English or French fluency.
Following our SSHRC funded partnership development grant (#890-2019-0057), we work collaboratively with Binogi, a Halifax-based company that has developed and implemented innovative web-based learning resources for students, to address these challenges in exploiting this opportunity to examine the feasibility and efficiency of this tool. We investigate how this innovative online platform support academic progress of students, increase their interest and practices of STEM, support the involvement of parents as well as reinforce the digital skills of teachers.