Wednesday, October 19, 2016

North of 60

In the past year I have crossed the international date line, the equator and now the Arctic Circle. Not something I'll likely do in any year ever again!

Inuvik has a highly diverse population - people either grew up here or arrived here from far away places. At the local sandwich shop, two of the guys are from Tunisia and one from Jordan. (And they make a delicious schawarma sandwich.) Today at school I met one of the CUSO volunteers from Germany. I've seen more black people in my few days here than I have in Vernon. Areas like this tend to attract people from a wide variety of backgrounds and reasons for being here.  A large majority of the teachers I've met are from Nova Scotia or Newfoundland - all are making a life for themselves here - not necessarily just passing through, although I'm sure there's some of that too.
Another animal display in the Inuvik airport

Yesterday I gave a presentation about online learning to ALL the teachers in the district. The school district has some very remote schools and is harnessing technology to teach some of those students. Their e-learning program video casts lessons to students in schools that don't have the capacity for certain courses such as some of the upper level courses. So that technology was used to 'beam' me to other locations - Paulatuk, Ulukhaktok, Fort MacPherson, Tuktayoktuk, Sachs Harbour, Aklavik. They could see and hear me, and I could see (and hear if necessary) the teachers in these outlying areas. A few teachers from Inuvik had flown to some of the areas to act as "facilitators" in the schools - possibly a 2.5 hour trip in a small plane. There are many places that are inaccessible by roads, particularly at this time of year. The technology is state-of-the-art but unfortunately still subject to an often unreliable internet connection. Fortunately, things went well for my presentation.
The superintendent of schools broadcasts with 5 of the remote schools visible on the screen.

After the presentation the teachers had an opportunity to work on building their own online resources. I was impressed with the enthusiasm for taking on a task that can present some obstacles but they all tackled what they could. Hopefully some of them will be motivated to see some advantages to using the online environment to support and enhance what they're already doing.

Most of the area this far north is permafrost meaning the ground is permanently frozen. Therefore, nothing can be built that requires digging below the surface. Every house and building here is constructed above ground or on pilings. The fresh water and sewer pipes are all above ground and running throughout the town. Strangely enough the hotel we're staying in isn't on that system but has water brought in (perhaps daily) and sewage trucked away.

The school facility is new, very impressive and would be the envy of most school districts. One side is k-6, the other 7-12, joined in the middle by the library and 2 gyms. Obviously a lot of thought went into the planning because it's well laid out with areas for student to work and play. It's definitely a focal point for the community. There are several computer labs and the school has the latest equipment for activities and learning.
East Three Secondary/Elementary cost $150+ million and 500+ pilings to build.

Today we had a presentation by Dr. Angela James, a Metis who has lived in the NWT for 40 years and talked about 'indigetising' education. A large percentage of the student population is indigenous so it's important to be aware of the cultural implications and work at embedding those into the curriculum. The overall focus was to collaborate to develop cultural based lessons and add those to an online platform for sharing.

Wow - what an experience. All the educators I met were generous with their time, highly professional and extremely welcoming. I may not ever get back here again, but I'm very grateful to have had this opportunity to do so. I was hoping to see some Aurora here but tonight is slightly overcast so it seems unlikely. Maybe I will have to come back!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

You're Going Where??!!

Inuvik.  Not Iqaluit. Or Inuktitut. Or Nunavut.

Inuvik. In the Northwest Territories. Above the Arctic Circle. That's where I ended up this week to give a presentation to teachers about online learning, specifically Moodle (the online learning platform that I've been working with).

Inuvik. 4500+ km as the crow flies from the place we just spent the past 6 weeks - St. Andrews New Brunswick.  There likely are 2 points in Canada that are farther away from each other but not many.

Inuvik.  No polar bears. No igloos. But a community garden greenhouse.  Check it out on Google maps street view - you can go right inside.  It used to be the arena.

And how do you get there? Well we started from Kelowna on Friday night with a direct flight to Whitehorse. Surprisingly this is one of the few domestic flights I've been on that actually provided food - a nice little plate of cheese, grapes, sliced meats, warm chocolate chip cookie - thanks Air North! Unfortunately the flight was delayed coming out of Vancouver (stormy weather!) so we didn't arrive in Whitehorse until about 2 am.

At the Whitehorse airport baggage carousel: display of 2 elk in death lock

Spent Saturday in Whitehorse with not much to do - grabbed a transit bus downtown, wandered a bit, ended up at a tour of the Yukon Brewery - motto: Beer worth freezin' for.  They also have some distilled spirits which we got to try, along with 8 different beers.  My favourite:  Lead Dog - an ale that's almost like a porter.

Ross in his happy place.

Then bright and early for the flight to Inuvik. Well early, but not very bright as the sun didn't make its way up until well after we'd departed at 8 am. Room for about 40 on the plane but only about 1/2 filled.  Rush seating. No security check.

Started snowing in Whitehorse just before the plane departed. First stop Dawson City - we all had to get out so the plane could refuel.

Nothing fancy here - note the "luggage carousel":

Next stop - Old Crow - again everyone out for refuelling.  Then the last leg to Inuvik.

Inuvik is actually one of the larger centres in the NWT with a population of around 3500. It's the terminus of the Dempster Highway - about 750 km from Dawson City. It's situated on the McKenzie Delta - on the east channel.  From the air there were a lot of lakes with quite a few rivers snaking their way through. Soon the river here will freeze over and it will be converted into a road that goes to Tuktoyaktuk.

Temperature here today: -5 (with a bit of wind) and about an inch of snow - a lot less than they often have this time of year. Lots of sunshine today - although the sun only makes it half way up the southern sky it didn't set until about 6:40. Ross and I bundled up (scarves, toques, gloves, etc) and headed out, walking to a restaurant in the town about a km away.  Since I'm writing this now you know we survived! Actually have to get up in the morning and head to school to work. Yikes.

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