In a recent twitter feed, @Indigeneity, this podcast was mentioned from Paradigm. The host of the podcast interviews Susan Davis from the Whitehorse, NWT, discusses various policies and practices of the Canadian Government towards First Nations people. I was fairly taken back with her examples of the recent racism incidents that have occurred towards aboriginal peoples in the last few years. She shares examples of the Whitehorse RCMP, Vancouver PD, and the Winnipeg PD, and the tragic and terrible incidents of mistreatment of first nation people in confinement, which resulted in deaths in all three cases spoken of. It is rather disturbing to hear that this disgusting behaviour is still occurring within our society. These examples of the torture/mistreatment of aboriginals can’t be justified as an isolated case, it appears that it’s happening coast to coast in Canada. How can this be occurring? Why aren’t these tragic and terrible incidents being broadcasted more nationally, is the nation afraid of the what others are going to perceive us as a nation as a whole? If individuals are dying due to the injustices of the people whom we see as the protectors and providers of all peoples regardless of race, gender, etc, than we as Canadians are doing something wrong here. NGO’S and Amnesty International can only do so much, but what ever happened to the basic principles of treating others with respect and dignity that we as a individual should be doing?
CyberCircles is a paper written by Canadian researcher, Mike Patterson of Carleton University. Patterson’s focuses the paper around many of his personal accounts of the positives that “cyberspace” and social media tools have had within the Aboriginal communities. One of the biggest concerns is what Patterson calls “Institutional Interference: academic, Aboriginal, and other organizations have varied degrees of acceptance of these tools.” Fear and reluctance of using such tools are real elements that the Aboriginal communities face, and it can be linked to the potential lack of training. “Cyber networks and communities have to develop their own technical expertise. There is an ongoing need for community capacity building to address these challenges and use video communications to its full potential.” If education isn’t available to provide assistance to successfully implement cyber/social media tools, than the value and meaning of them becomes lost. It doesn’t just stop with a “one-time” training session, the tools that are currently being used within cyberspace, are active and useable for the now but like everything, change occurs, and with these changes, retraining is necessary.
It does seem to be a vicious circle of how the in-and-outs of technologies are, but if we don’t focus on the “how” we can change the ways, the circle will remain broken, and the divide left unattended.
Patterson, Michael. CyberCircles: InternetWorking for Aboriginal Community Research. Retrieved July 20, 2011.
Community Access Program
In the last decade, numerous efforts have been made to improve the situation for the Aboriginal Canadians, in an attempt to bridge the digital divide. 1994 saw the inception of the Canadian Community Access Program (CAP) with early efforts primarily focused on rural communities where Internet access was less available. CAP, in conjunction with provincial governments and local agencies, worked to bridge the gap in “public locations like schools, libraries and community centres and acted as “on-ramps” to the Information Highway, providing computer support and training” (Industry Canada, 2011). In 2011, the Canadian Government agreed to continue supporting the efforts of CAP within local, regional, and national networks and bridge the significant technology infrastructure. Action plans, such as CAP, provide the pertinent funding needed to keep the attempts moving in the forward to interject many of the unique challenges that Aboriginal Canadians face.
Industry Canada. (2011). Community Access Program (CAP). Ottawa: Government of
Canada. Retrieved July 18, 2011 from http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cap
Killick Centre for E-Learning Research
To continue focusing on Bridging the Gap of the Digital Divide, repeated concerns have been made in regards to the culturally relevancy of what students are learning in Aboriginal communities. The Killick Centre for E-Learning Research (2011), observed the experiences of a sample high school group from Coastal Labrador. The course facilitators and participants of the study raised the concern about the content not being culturally relevant. Educators understand the importance of engaging the learner. When course content is relevant and engaging, the learner is apt to be motivated towards success. Educators demonstrated this, when adaptations to the core content of a English Grade 12 course within a pilot program were made, “We’re in the process of piloting a new course here, an English First-Peoples 12 course which is basically English 12, which every student needs to have, written exclusively with Aboriginal content for the resources. So the plays, instead of doing Shakespeare, they’ll do an Aboriginal play. The poetry is all from Aboriginal authors; the short stories are the same. The first cohort that went through here, their provincial exam results were 10% higher than Aboriginal students taking [the regular] English 12.”
(Sharpe, Phillpott, Bourgeois 2011: p.61)
Sharpe, Philpott, Bourgeois. (April, 2011). A Pan-Canadian Survey of E-Learning for Aboriginal High School Students.
Sunchild E-Learning Community
While researching possible resources for my project, I was curious to discover that there are very few (4 that I found) e-learning communities that were specifically created for students and adults within the Aboriginal communities. I was astonished that there were so few! The following is an excerpt from my paper, focusing on the Digital Divide and Bridging the Gap.
“Bridging digital and educational divides has enabled simultaneous growth in the technological and educational skills within the Canadian Aboriginal population. Many Canadian Aboriginals reside in rural; often remote areas of the nation. Web-based educational instruction offers an opportunity for individual success by bridging the gap within the learning environment. A Calgary Alberta based e-learning facility, Sunchild e-learning Community, is an example of an online K-12 learning program for Aboriginal Canadians. The Sunchild e-learning community provides an educational learning experience that stresses accountability and interaction amongst its participants, whether within the classroom setting or remotely. Teachers motivate and keep “students involved through synchronous voice exchanges, chat line discussions and the monitoring of student assignments” (Sunchild website testimonial, 2011). With the availability of e-learning programs such as Sunchild, participants do not have to leave their community rather, the program is delivered to them.”
When perusing the web, I came across this article “Aboriginal Youth Waiting for their Superman” around aboriginal youth in Canada and what the lack of funding for education is doing for the youth in schools. This seems pretty common and relevant for all students in the education system as of late. The article brings to attention the lack of funding for basic accessibility of the Internet, computers and other technology which are not readily available within communities. Why does it seem to still exist, this dual education modality? Regular students vs. aboriginal? It is frustrating to read especially from an educators stand-point, If I have been given the opportunity to teach students of all race, colour, gender etc, and provide them with the best education that I can deliver, why isn’t the government supporting this with the necessary funding to do so? If we as teachers don’t have the resources or means to provide an acceptable education, than yes, we will be struggling and the trickle down effect occurs right to the students.
Waiting for Superman is a 2010 documentary that provides a glimpse into what is happening in the American education system, and relates to the above article.
The First Nations Technology Council is a site that is council formed, focusing on bridging the digital divide in all 203 British Columbia’s First Nations. The FNTC’s mandate states that all 203 nations within BC will have: 1. connection with high speed broadband, 2. Have access to affordable, and qualified tech support, and 3. have the skills needed to access technologies that can improve their lives.
The Youth Cafe, is a link within the website that is targeted at aboriginal youth and provides resources that are educational. One of the links, is one targeted to language literacy. A page catered to the multiple languages spoken in the 203 nations. Fun, educational, and easy to navigate through. The Youth Cafe also takes note on how the youth are becoming the tech-savy ones and are the ones sharing/educated the elders on new technologies being used.
As I stumble upon more information about the digital divide, more similarities seem to appear in regards to how technology can be used in remote communities. In this clip, Phillip Djwa brings to the attention that technology (internet specifically) connects in three ways. Health, Education, and Economic Development. What I didn’t realize, and maybe it is just me being ignorant to the issue is, I didn’t realize that many aboriginal youth when entering his/her junior high/high school years, need to leave their home communities behind and go to school else where. Holy Smokes! Can you say a total shake up to one’s life? The emotions that one would be experiencing at this time, I can’t fathom what that would be like. Having to leave your family behind would be extremely challenging, and unless you have other adults or elders or anyone to help guide you along, its a no brainer that school isn’t a priority! Who is there to coax you along and provide the encouragement? E-learning would be something that can be a useful and beneficial tool to help youth and/or adults to be successful with learning in any circumstance. The search continues…
Came across this article that discuss the issue of remote communities and the challenges of not having proper broadband connections. The article written in 2009, brings attention to the issue about how First Nations shouldn’t have to choose having clean water or access to technologies, and that both are important to the infrastructure of the community.
One of the video clips within the article showcases an advocate, Dustin Rivers, and how he is using technologies to bridge the divide and reach within and out of the community. By using podcasting and other resources, he is able to reach out in his native language and English to raise various issues.
Question: Albeit, this article was only 2 years ago, is this still an issue within communities? Was the issue of choice ever discussed?
TakingItGlobal has a simple focus in mind; Inspire, Inform, and Involve. The site provides tools and resources for youth to reach out and connect with like-minded individuals locally, nationally, and globally. As highlighted on the site “Inspiration from a global community of their peers builds self-confidence.” When you have reached out and made a simple connection with someone “outside” your world, you are driven to continue those connections. Seeing this first hand in my classroom, students engaging in email communication with other students abroad, inspires them to continue communicating and seek more information, truly inspiring!
Within the larger site of “Taking it Global,” the Aboriginal Youth Network (AYN) is a resource that is a unique site that is created by Aboriginal youth for Aboriginal youth. When youth of all ages are using the Internet and/or other social media venues, what better way to reach out and communicate to the masses with a targeted website. The site is making attempts to promote cultural identity within Aboriginal culture specifically in Canada, making the attempt to connect across the country. The site focuses on news and events that have the youth audience in mind, and more importantly wanting youth to communicate with each other.