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!

1 comment:

Karen said...

Thanks for sharing. Love your blog!!

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