Our rural northern community struggles to attract and retain health care professionals. Access to necessary health care is even more limited in the three surrounding First Nation communities. The First Nation Health Authority is promoting eHealth as a solution to challenges rural communities regularly face. Its purpose is to:
1. Reduce the burden of reporting
2. Improve access to health information (via telephone and video-conferencing)
3. Provide complete, accurate and transferable health records
4. Improve the referral process
Many of the students I teach who have learning disabilities also have significant health concerns. By improving access to health care and health education, I believe that we can simultaneously reduce some of the learning difficulties experienced by our at risk youth.
First Nation Health Authority. (2010). Developing community ehealth – Starting the eHealth discussion with BC First Nations. Retrieved from http://www.fnha.ca/Documents/Developing_Community_eHealth_Starting_the_eHealth_discussion_with_BC_First_Nations.pdf
As part of federal initiative First Nation SchoolNet, regional management organizations have been delivering information, technology services and connectivity support to federally funded First Nation schools (Whiteduck, 2013). In BC, the First Nation Education Steering Committee (FNESC) has acted as the regional management organization. Other regional management organizations throughout the country have partnered with Cisco’s Networking Academy training program to bring IT educational opportunities to remote First Nations communities. The resource materials have been tailored to First Nations and are delivered via blended approaches by First Nation instructors. Upon completion of the program, many graduates continue on to serve their rural communities’ connectivity and ICT needs.
First Nation Education Steering Committee. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.fnesc.ca/
Cisco’s Networking Academy. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.netacad.com/
Whiteduck, T. (2013). First Nations SchoolNet and the migration of broadband and community-based ICT applications. Retrieved from http://apr.thompsonbooks.com/vols/APR_Vol_6Ch7.pdf
This spring I had the opportunity to visit the iCount School in Moricetown, BC. Launched in 2012, the iCount school was created to attract students (primarily First Nation youth from Moricetown and Smithers) who were unsuccessful or not attending the public school system. While it follows the public school curriculum, it specializes in incorporating traditional knowledge and practices into the curriculum and personalizing educational outcomes to suit individual circumstances and learning disadvantages. There is a huge emphasis on belonging, acceptance and healthy life choices. The community of Moricetown benefits from many initiatives the school has helped to implement including an out outdoor gym, a ice climbing wall, vegetable towers, a rope course and a snowboard park. Since the launch of the school, local police have reported a considerable decrease in youth crime and a significant increase in community involvement and volunteerism. This experience showed me how beneficial it is for schools to make community connections; our efforts as educators can reach well beyond the school walls.
iCount School. (2015). iCount Facebook page. Retrieved from www.facebook.com/icounthighschool
One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is an international non-profit organization that strives to bridge the digital divide for Aboriginal youth by providing them with laptops and tablets. OLPC Canada distributes laptops and tablets to Aboriginal youth through partner organizations, such as schools and community centres. The devices are distributed with programs and apps designed to enhance students’ knowledge, skills and interests in language, literacy, fitness, nutrition, safety and sound. To date, OLPC Canada has provided 4000+ Aboriginal youth with laptops and have 10000+ more requests within 80 Aboriginal communities and educational programs.
One Laptop Per Child Canada. (2014). Educational technology for Aboriginal youth. Retrieved from http://www.olpccanada.com/#!home/cm3n
Several initiatives are being taken to improve broadband connectivity in BC. Such initiatives are intended to increase the percentage of rural residents who have access to the internet. The BC Connectivity Map shows how far broadband connectivity stretches across the province. I find it particularly interesting that, while 100% of residents within my town’s municipality have access to broadband coverage and mobile coverage, only 50% of the population within the surrounding First Nation reservations have broadband coverage. Mobile coverage is still virtually non-existent. Observations and anecdotal evidence within our school suggest that the technology skills of our First Nation students are continuing to lag behind. How much does this lack of connectivity contribute to this digital divide and does it limit the implementation of new teaching approaches, such as flipped classrooms and BYOD initiatives?
Government of British Columbia. (2015). BC broadband connectivity map. Retrieved from http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=07995D6F9B7947E2AD602A101FBCAFA6&title=BC%20Broadband%20Connectivity%20Map
Walking Together is an interactive website that was created to promote First Nation, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) content and perspectives in Alberta curriculum. It contains many personal perspectives from various members of Alberta’s FNMI communities and is intended for teacher, administrator and adult stakeholder use, not classroom use or student instruction. Three of the project’s goals are:
- increase teachers’ understanding of the expertise and knowledge held within the rich and diverse FNMI cultures in Alberta
- strengthen teachers’ confidence to include and infuse FNMI content and perspectives in their daily instruction
- encourage teachers to explore teaching and learning from an Indigenous perspective.
Talking Together is a discussion guide that accompanies Walking Together. It provides sample workshops and activities that are designed to promote dialogue among teachers, administrators, school board members, school council members, parents and community members.
The Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School is a teaching farm intended to raise awareness around sustainable alternative food production that is linked to community. The Tsawwassen First Nation and Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Institute for Sustainable Food Systems have partnered to create a 10 month educational program that blends the science, business and indigenous perspectives of food systems. Once the farm is fully operational, it will have a traditional medicine garden and food forest, an orchard market garden and incubator plots for farm school students to use. What a great example of what can be created when multiple groups with various backgrounds and expertise, work together!
The BC government publishes the annual report How Are We Doing? on the demographics and assessment outcomes of Aboriginal students in BC. Its intentions are to open dialogue and to make recommendations for improving the education for Aboriginal students.
To become more informed of the services available to Aboriginal and ELL students in public schools, educators should also access the following BC Ministry of Education policies:
K-12 Funding – Aboriginal Education
K-12 Funding – English Language Learning
Brown and Nicholas (2012) suggest that by developing their own digital content, First Nations communities can better protect and preserve their culture. The Reciprocal Research Network, for example, enables communities, cultural institutions and researchers to collaborate together on research and project pertaining to Northwest Coast culture. Although it was created by the Musqueam Indian Band, the Stó:lō Nation/Tribal Council, the U’mista Cultural Society and the Museum of Anthropology, other First Nations organizations, researchers, students, academic and cultural organizations etc. can request an account. In my travels, I have also encountered the A Journey into Time Immemorial, an interactive website based on the Xa:ytem Longhouse and ancient village of the Stó:lō people. It was developed by the Xa:ytem Longhouse Interpretative Centre, SFU’s Museum of Archeology and Ethnology and the Learning and Instructional Development Centre. Sadly, within my own community, there is great fear that the Carrier culture is being lost. An interactive source similar to A Journey into Time Immemorial would be a fabulous collaborative effort that could perhaps connect our three surrounding Carrier First Nations communities, promoting unity and cultural pride. Within the school, I see it being such a valuable cross-curricular project. It would promote culture preservation and be an excellent teaching tool for our First Nation Studies courses.
Brown, D. and Nicholas, G. (2012). Protecting indigenous cultural property in the age of digital democracy: Institutional and communal responses to Canadian First Nations and Māori heritage concerns. Retrieved from http://mcu.sagepub.com/content/17/3/307.abstract
Reciprocal Research Network at https://www.rrncommunity.org/
A Journey into Time Immemorial at http://www.sfu.museum/time/en/flash/
Working in a rural high school that serves three remote First Nation communities, I am particularly interested in the digital divide that exists amongst BC’s First Nation peoples. Last week’s debate regarding the cultural neutrality of technology further sparked my interest. Koncan (2014) provides a thorough literature review of research pertaining to the global digital divide amongst indigenous people. While much of the research I have found so far focusses on limited technology and usage access in remote First Nations communities, Koncan acknowledges other forms of access that may be contributing to the digital divide: motivational access, material access, and skills access (van Dijk, 2005 as cited by Koncan, 2014). I have also come across the First Nations Technology Council, a not-for-profit/social enterprise that was created in 2002 to support the technology needs of BC First Nations. Their goals are to improve connectivity and capacity. They offer all sorts of programs and services to improve digital skills and continue to play a key role in the Pathways to Technology Project, working towards connectivity to all of BC’s 203 First Nation communities.
First Nations Technology Council. (2015). About the First Nations Technology Council. Retrieved from http://www.technologycouncil.ca/
Koncan, A. (2014). Literature survey of the global digital divide and Indigenous peoples. Retrieved from http://dtpr.lib.athabascau.ca/action/download.php?filename=scis-07/open/alfonzkoncanEssay.pdf
Pathways to Technology Project. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.pathwaystotechnology.ca/home
van Dijk, J.A. (2005). The deepening divide inequality in the information society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.