Essential requirement for successful technology learning in Manitoba Indigenous Schools

August 4, 2017 • Written by

Ben Akoh, Ph.D(C), M.Ed., B.Tech
Instructor, Applied Computing Education, RRC

In 2013, I travelled by road for the first time to Thompson 760 kms north of Winnipeg, Manitoba, to present a paper at the Manitoba Education Research Network (MERN) conference held at the University College of the North  (UCN) Thomson campus. It was my very first trip to the “North” and I was very excited. This trip would eventually define the course of my life. My initial stop over was at the UCN’s Center in Misipawistik Cree Nation (Grand Rapids), 430 kms north of Winnipeg, where I experienced, for the first time, the technological challenges that Indigenous learners faced; not only with accessing content, but in pedagogy, planning, and in the delivery of learning. While I fell in love with the North and its people, I was disgruntled by the challenges that they faced, reminding me of my own humbling indigenous backgrounds. Ever since this trip, I decided I would dedicate my entire doctoral research to addressing a specific area of need – helping Indigenous learners become more academically successful. I became interested in the intersection of learning, culture, and technology among adult learners.

Since this trip, I have been to Thompson, The Pas, and lived for several periods of time in Bunibonibee Cree Nation (Oxford House), which would eventually become my research home. There, as part of my doctoral studies, I began to build deep relationships and to explore the research question, “How do adult post-secondary learners adapt and orient to learning in an Indigenous Canadian post-secondary context”.

The study was methodologically phenomenological, utilizing narrative inquiry as a means of gathering and analyzing data. Participants used digital technology (tablets, mobile phones, computers) to produce documentation illustrating their learning and adaptation. The negotiation of cultural identity, and the development of personal strategies to persist in their learning was a central finding in the study.

The study findings also indicate that there are still technological demands that could benefit learners in the North, if implemented. For instance, the Digital Canada 150 strategy document promises high speed Internet to 98% of Canadian households by 2017 could benefit homes and schools, yet the existing infrastructure is far from this target. A functional underlying telecommunication infrastructure that supports future economic growth and educational achievement is a fundamental and an essential requirement for learners in the North.

I learned that the reach of urban education is often minimal, and participation in learning that is both progressive and relevant, is challenging amongst people in Indigenous communities. I observed that Indigenous learners pursue their learning by adapting and orienting themselves between Eurocentric and Indigenous worldviews, and that this movement can be quite difficult.

I noticed that while Indigenous learning is place-based, activity-based, holistic (affects intellectual, spiritual emotional and physical aspects of being), spans life, practical, and is intergenerational, Eurocentric learning is not often so attributed, at least from the perspective of the Indigenous learner. As a result, Indigenous adult learners tend to straddle between Indigenous learning methods and Eurocentric ones. This constant demand to shift back and forth from one learning method to another is not often easy, while it arguably appears seamless to the educator.

Consequently, educators and educational systems that are fundamentally Eurocentric tend not to recognize this added demand for movement that is placed on the Indigenous learners, and also tend not to take their agility into consideration in evaluating student learning. And learners who subsequently feel frustrated in this process tend to drop out and lose interest in participation.

I argued in my thesis that this need for movement between Indigenous learning and Eurocentric ways, that is placed on the Indigenous learner, and the ensuing mismatch of perceptions of the educator and the learners, are substantial reasons for high attrition, low participation and completion rates amongst Indigenous learners.

Thus for indigenous learners to succeed, another essential requirement should concern educators, who should strongly consider Indigenous culture in the pedagogical development, design and delivery of courses and programs meant for learners in Northern communities. As educators, we scaffold learning from the “known” to the “unknown”. Scaffolding from a known Indigenous learning place to a relatively unknown Eurocentric one could help Indigenous learners make the necessary leap from low to high participation, and subsequently to completion. By doing so, we provide culture-centric accommodation for Indigenous learners.

Finally, education technologies such as mobile devices have shown interesting affordances that allow non-interested learners to socially acquire knowledge, digital competencies, and 21st century skills such as research, communication, and creativity. These devices could also help Indigenous learners to straddle their Indigenous learning ways and Eurocentric methods, and to succeed in both. Educational institutions and educators should find ways of pedagogically leveraging this technological affordance by using them as tools to link student learning to community activities that is holistic, practical and intergenerational. Predictably, it could have a strong influence on learning, now and in the future.

Today, I am hopeful and far less disgruntled as new research in the growing field of Indigenous educational technology appears to be asking the right questions about Indigenous learners’ success. My research contributes to knowledge in this field in that it leaves future researchers and educators with a Techno-Culture Adaptive Framework that helps to ask the right questions about the pedagogy of Indigenous educational technology, and to ensure that the right culture-centric frame is put in place for Indigenous learners in Northern Manitoba succeed.

BIT instructor honoured for efforts to promote government transparency and public education

June 27, 2017 • Written by

cods-award-winnerA Red River College instructor has received national recognition for his work creating online resources that promote government transparency and accountability.

Kyle Geske, a Business Information Technology instructor at RRC, was in Edmonton this week to pick up an Open Data for Democracy Award at the Canadian Open Data Summit.

He accepted the award on behalf of Open Democracy Manitoba (ODM), a citizen-run community organization that helps educate voters by empowering them to understand the roles and visions of their elected representatives, in order to create a more accountable and respectful democracy.

Geske (shown above in front row, third from left) co-founded ODM with fellow BIT instructor Jody Gillis in 2010; he now serves as its executive director and oversees operations alongside RRC grad Ken Harasym (Digital Media Design, 2006).

Since its inception, OMD has launched two election portals — and — that have allowed hundreds of thousands of voters to research their candidates and learn about local democratic processes.

The sites feature ward/constituency maps and statistics, historical information about past elections, candidate profiles and social media links, and links to media coverage of candidates and election issues.

ODM’s latest project,, was launched last November to provide Winnipeg residents with easy access to city council decisions on reports, motions and bylaws. was developed in partnership with the City Clerk’s office; with only a few tweaks, ODM was able to update the city’s existing record-keeping processes, allowing council decisions to be posted on the city’s open data portal.

In addition to the Open Data for Democracy Award, ODM has been recognized previously by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, the City of Winnipeg, Mayor Brian Bowman, and a host of national and local journalists and media outlets.

Photo credit: City of Edmonto

Penguin & Stone – Part 2

June 26, 2017 • Written by

Penguin + Stone

Prior to this project, potential vendors had to email staff with products or services they wished to sell and staff had to enter data manually into their online store as vendors have no way of registering with the website or tracking their sales or products/services.

Vendors can now register an account with Penguin & Stone online. An easy to use electronic form was created for submitting products/services with Penguin and Stone which now allows for all products/services to be uploaded into the online store automatically with portals to view their products/services and orders.

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Autonomy Health

June 26, 2017 • Written by

Autonomy Health 2No more waiting room anxiety! Autonomy Health is a privatized telemedicine platform that allows patients to communicate with online medical practitioners in the comfort of their own homes. Our users will be able to communicate with the practitioners through an embedded web video chat where they can explain their conditions or concerns. They will also be able to look at previous consultations and their current medications.

Autonomy HealthAutonomy Health 1

We are responsible for creating the very foundation of this new project. Our objective is to develop the main features of this web application and create the website to access this application. Since this application may deal with sensitive data, our task also includes researching compliance when dealing with medical data from our web host to our database.

Manitoba Genealogical Society

June 26, 2017 • Written by

The Manitoba Genealogical Society currently has a website where users can search curateManitoba Genealogical Society cemetery records. Currently, they have volunteers who record the cemetery transcriptions on paper, which is a lot of work and can cause inaccuracies.

The updated website will provide:

An easier process for recording cemetery transcriptions.

A more updated Entity Relationship Diagram so future developers can more easily understand the structure of the project.

The ability for volunteers to create a formatted
report of cemetery transcriptions.

The Windows application will increase the efficiency of the recording process in regards to
readability compared to handwritten records. The application will also add the functionality to upload records in bulk to the database.

Spence Neighborhood Association

June 26, 2017 • Written by

Currently, the data for the Spence Neighborhood Association is tracked in
many different formats. Aggregating the data for reporting is tedious and timeSpence Neighbourhood Association
consuming. Volunteers are using an arduous paper and manual recording process to track
participant and volunteer attendance, making the data disorganized and inaccurate.

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Mortgage Bidder

June 26, 2017 • Written by

Mortgage Bidder is Canada’s first mortgage interest rate marketplace. Whether you are in the market for a brand new house or looking to renew or refinance, Mortgage Bidder is designed to help users find the lowest rate.Mortgage Bidders


When using the Mortgage Bidder website, users need to be able to perform mortgage calculations without leaving the website.The main goal of this project is to develop many different kinds of online calculators that will help users fully understand the numbers before making commitments. Clients will be able to know everything they need using these calculators before buying.


June 26, 2017 • Written by


Innovine is a website that provides a space to steward ideas and innovations from all levels.

Senior leaders will have the ability to clearly define the issue they want solved.

The ideas going forward that have been approved will be visible to all teams, so that stakeholders will be able to track thinking and concepts across the organization.

Manitoba Association of Food Banks

June 26, 2017 • Written by

MB Assoc of Food Bank

Students created a web-based application to enhance the current process of collecting food bank related information.

The collection of information for the Hunger Count Report is made easier with forms that
are filled out with a couple of clicks. A report summary can also be generated automatically so statistics about clients can be viewed at a glance.

Skills Base – William Rae Industries

June 13, 2016 • Written by

skillsBaseSmallCompany founders Dillon Perron and Kendra Garagan are former competitive swimmers at a national level and they created their company to help recreational and competitive athletes to develop their technical skills. As swimming coaches they recognized an area where it is difficult to track an athlete’s skills as they become more proficient in their sport.

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