Why Connected North brings astronauts to classrooms in remote Canadian communities
Connected North is an educational program that uses video technology to deliver engaging content and experiences to students and teachers in remote Indigenous communities. It also facilitates cultural exchanges and teacher capacity building, providing access to learning and mentorships that may otherwise have been very difficult to acquire.
The program exposes students to people and places they don’t usually have access to, because of the difficulty and costs of travelling to and from the community. With videoconferencing technology, Connected North is able to bridge that gap and enhance the curriculum by bringing exciting resources to classrooms. Live, interactive video sessions allow students and teachers to take virtual field trips to zoos, aquariums, art galleries, science centers and career fairs. Technology also brings experts to the classroom for demonstrations (such as science experiments) and Q&A sessions on a wide range of topics.
Showcasing Indigenous role models and mentors is an important part of the program. Students have had face time with the world’s first Indigenous astronaut and an internationally renowned First Nation chef, among others. Through these sessions, Connected North aims to show young people that any and every career is open to them – inspiring hope and building confidence.
‘Connected North is all about building a relationship with the communities we serve. For many young people in those communities, experiences like field trips and visiting speakers are out of reach because of the cost of travel and remote location of schools. Technology allows us to bridge that gap and bring those experiences to the classroom in a virtual way.’, Indigenous Education Coordinator, Connected North
How technology overcomes the challenges of distance to bring learning to life
To place team members closer to the three communities they serve (First Nation, Métis and Inuit), Connected North has six offices across Canada.
Weekly meetings allow them to share their ideas, strategies and successes – and are now made much easier by an NTT Ltd. voice system that connects everyone quickly and seamlessly, on one platform.
Program founder, Cisco, supplies the technology and devices for the unified communications system that connects schools to Connected North’s interactive, video-based learning program.Following a significant upgrade, Connected North’s platform moved from on-premises to the cloud. In addition, they can now connect to the system from any web browser, which means speakers and users don’t need to download special software to connect.
We assisted with the installation and upgrade and provide monitoring and firewall services for uptime and security.
While the benefits of the program are widely acknowledged by the communities that use it, the system itself is daunting to some. To help overcome this, and encourage wider adoption of the program, we provide training and support for booking and running sessions.
The (very small) IT department at Connected North also has an open line to our experts. These services are all part of our Heads, Hearts and Hands corporate social responsibility initiative.
What unrestricted technology does for young people and communities
The Connected North ethos is not to dictate the program but to partner with communities and give them ownership of it. At the heart of the program is the ‘learn, earn, return’ message – encouraging future leaders to build on their passions, further their education and shape their communities.
There are over 630 First Nations communities in Canada, and some struggle with attendance as a result of intergenerational trauma caused by forced relocations. Dropout rates can be as high as 70%. As the capabilities of the technology platform have expanded, so has the ability to grow the program and create fun, engaging and meaningful content – which has had a positive impact on attendance at schools.
No longer constrained by the limits of their hardware, Connected North can run extra sessions and deliver additional programs to more communities. A few months after implementing the new system, the average number of sessions increased from around three a day to up to ten.
For the astronaut Q&A – a premium session – 17 schools connected simultaneously, with no connectivity or quality issues.
By making education more relevant and linking it to what students are interested in and care about, Connected North can continue building hope, confidence and resilience in young people to enable these communities to resurge.
Connecting students to content that inspires them to achieve their goals.
Videoconferencing connects remote communities to leaders from across the cultural, scientific and political spectrum.
With access to mentors from other First Nations communities, students can learn from astronauts, chefs and other specialists .