Connected North: Learning without Limits
Digitization is changing the landscape of education, introducing new tools and practices that bring true, 21st century education to life and creating enormous opportunities for Canadian educators. By securely connecting people and things over the Internet, digital schools are opening up a new world for students to learn in new ways, in new places and with new connections to resources around the globe.
In no way is the power of digital learning more evident than in the Connected North program.
Founded by Cisco Canada and now led by charity partner TakingItGobal, Connected North delivers immersive and interactive youth engagement and education services and experiences to remote Indigenous communities through high-definition video technology. With a digital curriculum rooted in Indigenous language, traditions and experiences, Connected North enables elders in Iqaluit to connect real time with students in Cape Dorset, Indigenous artists can now share their work and techniques with southern counterparts, and classrooms from the Yukon to Nunavut can now come together to discuss “climate change in their backyards.” And connected North can take students in Indigenous communities beyond our borders – visiting an archaeological dig in Peru or virtually joining a United Nations meeting. The possibilities are limitless.
We are incredibly proud of our work with TakingITGlobal and the Connected North schools. Through interactive, video-based expert sessions and virtual fieldtrips, as well as connecting with peers through ‘Connected Classroom’ experiences, the program has become a 21st century learning network that engages Indigenous students, empowering them on their learning journeys and inspiring hope and future pathways. It combines Indigenous and non-Indigenous learning styles seamlessly while promoting opportunities for Indigenous students to develop ownership of their education.
And the impact of digital learning on these students is undeniable. A study conducted by York University found that 81 per cent of students believe they learn more during a Connected North session. The University of Toronto’s Advanced Learning Technologies Lab reviewed 192 virtual sessions and found that 86% of students were actively engaged and participating in the sessions.
For example, students from John Arnalukjuak High School, Arviat; Aqsarniit Middle School, Iqaluit; and Deh Gah School, Fort Providence, recently participated in a lively session over video with Mary Simon, the special representative on Arctic Issues to Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. The Youth Engagement Session allowed students and political leaders to discuss issues surrounding culture and language revitalization, climate change, education, mental health, and reconciliation.
Since 2013 there have been more than 600 Connected North classroom sessions in 20 schools across Nunavut, the Yukon, North West Territories, Saskatchewan and Northern Ontario. But we aren’t stopping here. With the support of Territorial, Provincial and Federal governments; some of Canada’s leading corporations, NGOs and Foundations, Connected North is scaling fast and bringing more schools onto the network every day across the Yukon, NWT, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nunavut. In fact, just this month, Bernard Constant Community School and Father Megret Elementary School – both located in northern Saskatchewan – joined the Connected North Community!
We are proud that our Connected North program has been chosen as a finalist for ITWorld Canada’s #DigitalTransformation Awards. Learn more about our program: http://cs.co/900985v1B
We are also proud to work with some of Canada’s premier cultural attractions. These museums, galleries and aquariums provide virtual content to Connected North schools through our video technology. To this group we recently added the Vancouver Aquarium and Winnipeg Art Gallery, and I cannot wait to see the experiences they create for students living thousands of kilometers away.
Our vision is to ensure that ALL students living in Canada’s remote communities to have the same learning opportunities as those living in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary or any of our largest cities.
Although digitization is creating a world of new possibilities for every student, educator and researcher around the world, we have not yet reached a tipping point. Most classes are still taught in person to learners who on are on site. Textbooks and research materials are still printed in large quantities. And many students’ learning opportunities are limited to the four walls around them.
It is time to enable virtual faculties, virtual content libraries, and virtual learners and anywhere accessibility. It is time that students learn and be inspired, no matter where they live, or how, with materials available at their fingertips. It is time to transform education. It is time to learn without limits.