Fall 2018

Technology without Modern Technology Infrastructure

Mitchell, Cambridge Bay, Nunavet Photo by: Shawn Marriott

When thinking about leading educational technology in schools, we often think about computers, devices and wifi. What about technology in schools that do not have the technology infrastructure to support what many believe is standard 21st century technology in schools? Across Canada, in the arctic and northern provinces, the northwest regions of British Columbia and fly-in communities of Alberta and Saskatchewan, there are schools with a different definition of technology. In these schools technology infrastructure is still emerging and sporadic and even non-existent. For principals, teachers and students, technology takes on an entirely different meaning. Technology is relevant and skill building and often based on survival and food procuration.

What is technology? We might think this means the technology systems that support learning which can include:

  • Internet in schools
  • Computer, laptops, mobile tablets and other devices
  • Digital content and tools for learning and research

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines technology as “a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical process, method, or knowledge.” Thus, many schools across Canada without educational technology systems are in fact innovative in providing technological learning experiences for students, but in contrast to sitting in front of laptop or other digital device, the learners are experience technology and innovation in a hands-on approach. Through this experiential approach, students accomplish tasks through process, method and knowledge.

In the Arctic, students are exposed to many traditional learning experiences not only in school but in their communities as well. As part of the Inuit Societal Values, learners are guided by principals that are innovative yet traditional and foster a path towards the future. Of note, the Pilimmaksarniq principle describes the “development of skills through observation, mentoring, practice and effort.” The principle relates to the experiential learning opportunities students experience in their day to day life in the north. 

In Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: Education Framework for Nunavut Curriculum (2007), key features of the Pilimmaksarniq principle include:

  • To gather information
  • To understand information
  • To use information for different purposes in order to improve society
  • To use information and communication technologies
  • To adopt effective work methods in order to develop excellence
  • To analyze one’s work and procedures in order to demonstrate mastery and skilled independence (p.47)

What better way to learn these skills than through mentoring by community and Elders. Prominently skill acquisition for northern students revolves around food procuration: hunting and fishing. Food is expensive in the north. It has to be shipped from southern Canada and not without added costs. Learning the traditional ways of hunting and fishing is important in order to put caribou, seal and whale meat, arctic whitefish, atlantic cod, and arctic char on the tables of far north families. This “country food” not only helps provide a foundation of food for families, but also helps with bringing students learning experience and knowledge acquisition of a different technological variety learned through mentoring, living on the land, and using traditional technology of hunting and fishing. When thinking about how technology is used in schools, experiential learning opportunities and life skill acquisition experiences are essential components in a school’s technological framework beyond the computer classroom or the wifi centered learning experience. Rather than focusing on what can be Googled, a lack of technology infrastructure allows for a continued learning of traditional ways that are relevant and skill building.

Government of Nunavut. (n.d.). Inuit Societal Values. Retrieved from https://www.gov.nu.ca/information/inuit-societal-values
Nunavut Department of Education. (2007). Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: Education Framework for Nunavut Curriculum. Retrieved from https://www.gov.nu.ca/sites/default/files/files/Inuit%20Qaujimajatuqangit%20ENG.pdf
Technology [Def. 2]. (n/d/). Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/technology

E.D. Woodford is a former Principal and currently works as an Instructor in Indigenous Studies with the University of Lethbridge Calgary Campus and as a Special Education Learning Consultant.

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