Monday, March 31, 2014

Exclusive: Virtual School at Risk to Close





Exclusive: Virtual school at risk to close

By Nigel Maxwell

paNOW Staff




paNOW has learned Credenda may be shutting down this year, unless school officials can find alternate means of funding.
Federal funding will run out in June. The school receives $1.4 million each year. Since 2005, more than $12 million has been invested into the school.
"They've invested all these dollars and now they are just going to walk away," said Credenda Director of Education Vince Hill.
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development would not directly comment on the situation, but did issue a press release.
"The Government of Canada believes that First Nations are best placed to determine whether or not to enter into an agreement with a third party, such as Credenda, for the delivery of education services for their students.
In 2013-2014 the Government is providing approximately $1.4 million to Credenda Virtual High School through an annual contribution agreement. This financial support is not intended to be used as core-based funding by Credenda."
Essentially the school has been told that moving forward they should approach the individual bands for money to pay for the school's services, a request that Hill said he will not do.
"There is no way they can afford it, and I don't blame them. I would never try to impose that or try to suggest that because it's just not fair. Our First Nations are underfunded already," said Hill.
Credenda is not alone in its problem. All virtual schools in Canada that are First Nations funded, are facing possible closure.
Credenda serves upwards of 40 First Nations communities in Saskatchewan--900 students were enrolled this year.
"Bottom line is when these First Nations students come out of the school system in the communities, they are ready to go into the labour force and we do need trained and skilled people in our labor force in Saskatchewan, and our First Nations are the largest population that can provide that," said Hill.
The school is exploring its options and Hill was confident they could keep the school open. Aboriginal Affairs has informed the school if they can find support, funding might be reinstated.
In the coming weeks, Hill plans to meet with Member of Parliament Randy Hoback, MLAs and the Tribal Councils.
"We do think there are possibilities with a provincial partner. We need the chiefs and councils to support us with their BCRs. We also need the corporations to come along side, we are a registered charitable organization and we can offer a tax receipt," said Hill.
paNOW has tried to contact MP Randy Hoback for comment. A spokesperson for his office confirmed they were aware of the situation and would comment once they had more information.
On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Taking a Stand Together for the Good of the People

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to be included in a meeting in Thunderchild First Nation of Chiefs and First Nation communities to strategize about next steps with regard to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC). As many of the Chief's spoke, I couldn't help but think about what a crazy situation we are in as First Nations people. Many of these Chiefs were sitting there because they were refusing to sign their next Contribution Funding Agreement (CFA). The response from AANDC is the threat of cutting off funding for the band and forcing them into third party management. Yet many of these bands have produced an unqualified audit, and finances are in order. Imagine sitting there and listening to a chief share what happened to their reserve, when they refused to sign last year, and funds were cut, and people started to get hungry. He warned the others to "store up their food." That statement shocked me. So why does AANDC feel compelled to force their way onto the reserve and manage the affairs of our First Nations?

We have a problem? I believe the basic and most fundamental issue is that the Government of Canada does not understand the treaty. The treaty was signed between the First Peoples of the First Nations and the Crown. The relationship exists between the Queen and the First Peoples of Canada. Yet the federal government believes this relationship exists between themselves and our First Nations. Not true. That is what it has become, but it is not the spirit and intent of the treaties. Somewhere along the way, the Government of Canada has assumed the responsibility and imposed legislation that the world wouldn't tolerate being imposed upon one nation from another. Just look at the outcry with Russia walking into the Crimea and taking it from the Ukraine.

So some of our First Nations are taking a stand and saying that they want to exercise the control that the treaty promised our First Nation people. It is a courageous stand. I honour them for this stand. They will be pressured and manipulated and coerced to sign. Monies will be withheld. People will suffer more than they already are in our communities. We need to stand together.

I had a friend send me a video link, which I've embedded into this post. The speaker is Russ Diabo, a Policy Advisor at Algonquin Nation Secretariat, who is speaking about the Termination Plan. He is well informed and very knowledgeable about the issues. If you really want to understand the treaties and are open-minded, please watch this.

Video streaming by Ustream

Monday, March 24, 2014

Where are all the male teachers?

Great Infographic!


Monetizing Social Media Infographic

Monetizing Social Media - http://pinterest.com/pin/516014069777052102/


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Listen to me! Linda listen!

As of yesterday, little Matthew, master debater and viral celebrity, went on the Ellen Show for his performance in Listen Linda. While I find it funny, there are certainly aspects of his behavior that I would have a hard time with if he was my son. I hope that for the parents sake, he doesn't become a nightmare as a teenager. But more importantly, little Matthew wants to be heard.

I think nothing more delights us than when someone takes the time to listen to what we have to say. Whether it is our spouse sitting down with us for an hour to talk and listen. It gives us a good feeling to be heard. Or a grandchild smiles at you when you walk into a room and tells you about their day, or wants to show you what they made. Or a son or daughter walks across the stage to accept their high school diploma, and listening for their name to be called out. Each of these events can contribute to our happiness. But I think the most significant thing about happiness is that it is a choice we make. I need to be open to being happy. I need to want it. 

Imagine the countless people that are grieving the loss of a loved one, or are going through cancer treatments knowing that the prognosis is not good. There may not seem to be a lot that we can do to help or assist them, but one thing we can do is give of our time and listen. Not to give advice, but really listen. It feels like listening is becoming more and more of a lost art in society. People are too busy to give up their time for others. My wife and I have noticed how much harder it is to have our teenagers' attention, because they walk around with their iPhones in their hands all the time. They can't do dishes without earbuds in and listening to music, rather than talking with each other. Some folks would just be happy their teenagers were doing the dishes without complaining, and I am, but I am afraid we are losing out on making real connections. The task is even getting harder in the classroom to engage the learners so they are able to listen to the teacher or their classmates and participate in real discussions.

So I encourage each of you tomorrow to participate in Happiness Day. Check out http://dayofhappiness.net/. Here are some stats from an online survey they are taking on their website.

Q1. If you had to choose, which ONE of the following would you MOST prefer for the society that you live in?
Choice, Results (%)
  • ·         The greatest overall happiness and wellbeing, 87%
  • ·         The greatest overall wealth, 8%
  • ·         Don’t know, 6%

Q2. Which THREE, if any, of the following do you think are MOST important for your own happiness and wellbeing? (Please choose up to three answers)
Choice, Results (%)
  • ·         My relationships with my partner/ family, 80%
  • ·         My health, 71%
  • ·         My money and financial situation, 42%
  • ·         My friends and community, 35%
  • ·         The place/ area where I live, 21%
  • ·         My work, 15%
  • ·         My religious/ spiritual life, 8%
  • ·         My appearance, 4%
  • ·         My possessions, 4%
  • ·         Don't know, 2%
  • ·         Other, 1%

Q3. Which THREE, if any, of the following changes do you think would MOST increase the overall happiness and wellbeing of people in the UK? (Please choose up to three answers)
Choice, Results (%)
  • ·         More equality between rich and poor, 45%
  • ·         Improved health services, 39%
  • ·         Less crime, 37%
  • ·         More economic growth, 35%
  • ·         Less immigration, 34%
  • ·         Less consumerism, 24%
  • ·         More help for disadvantaged people, 22%
  • ·         Improved school standards, 16%
  • ·         Improved transport and infrastructure, 16%
  • ·         Not applicable - I don't think anything would increase the overall happiness and wellbeing of people in the UK, 3%
  • ·         Don't know, 3%
  • ·         Other, 2%
I leave you with a video from the great storyteller of our time, Malcolm Gladwell as he talks about life and happiness. Enjoy listening.




Friday, March 14, 2014

eLearning Funding from AANDC in Jeopardy across Canada: Inequity all Around, and Students will Lose!


I wrote this article recently for the State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada, by Michael K Barbour, December 2013. I felt with recent developments with AANDC, that the timing was right to blog about this today. 

Study after study tells a similar story across Canada about the low graduation rates among our First Nation population. From 1995 to 2010, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) has funded education at approximately the same level from year to year, with little or no change in the graduation rates for on-reserve students. It remains around 35% nationally. Over 106,000 First Nation students during that period did not receive a high school diploma. Many of these students never enter the workforce because they do not have a high school diploma as a minimum requirement for many of the trades and skilled labour jobs. This in turn costs the Federal government more by way of social assistance. 

Each year AANDC reviews their spending and measures it up against the graduation success rates. They want to see better results. But as First Nations people, we want better results too. However, there are no easy solutions to address these challenges. Some might think that the fix is a First Nations Education Act. While we would not disagree that standards need to be implemented to ensure our children receive a quality education, the methodology for implementation has been wrong spirited. A collaborative approach  is necessary, with First Nation education specialists taking the lead for dialogue and development.  AANDC Minister Bernard Valcourt in the House of Commons stated on November 22, 2013 that instead of throwing money at the problem, we are suggesting that we work together to find a solution that will bring about results. Working together is not unilaterally determining  how the funding will be dispersed to educational authorities and service providers, before legislation and policy is even developed and vetted through Parliament. 

When it comes to eLearning funding, the landscape becomes more complicated than standard BOFF (Band Operated Funding Formula) funding that each of the First Nation schools receives to operate.  Keewaytinook Internet High School (KiHS) receives nominal roll funding for each of the students they have enrolled with their program. Prior to KiHS delivering online classes, most of their students would have had to leave the community. KiHS delivers a full program to their students. Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate has received funding through New Paths for Education funding since its inception. It was created primarily to supplement local school programming.  Credenda was originally funded based upon actual expenses up until 2013. How AANDC funded Credenda was based on the percentage of FN student classes out of the total number of classes. If Credenda had 75% of the student classes being FN’s, then AANDC reimbursed 75% of the high school budget. 

However, in 2013, AANDC changed how they funded Credenda Virtual High School. This change was precipitated by the shift in their own thinking about funding.  In their documentation to Credenda, they stated  that eLearning was considered a method of delivery, and that Virtual High Schools (VHSs) that deliver eLearning are not considered to be band operated schools. In fact, they suggested that VHSs do not have any students that meet the requirements of the standard nominal roll process which is applied to Band Operated, Provincial, Private or Independent Schools. As a result, AANDC does not believe they have a legal obligation to fund VHSs or to use the standard tuition methodology or nominal roll processes to determine funding levels.

In order to ensure First Nation students have access to specific classes, AANDC did make the decision to support the utilization of VHSs. However, in order to continue this practice, they needed to draft specific guidelines in order to continue to support this alternative delivery method while ensuring value for money and control over program costs. As part of the agreement, they established the following guidelines: 

Eligibility: According to AANDC a VHS can receive funding for course fees for a student, if a student is enrolled in and attending a band-operated school in Saskatchewan recognized by the Province of Saskatchewan; has an established pattern of attendance (minimum 50% attendance), and attending on the last instructional day of the census dates; is aged 4 to 21 years on December 31 of the school year and be in grades 7 through 12 and; is ordinarily resident on a Saskatchewan reserve. Ironically, even though VHSs are not considered to be band operated schools, they are still required to follow the standard eligibility requirements for all band funded schools. 

Furthermore, AANDC requires that all students must be taking the majority of their classes at their local band operated school and are only enrolled in no more than 40%  of their total classes offered by the VHS.  Virtual High Schools are eligible for funding to provide courses and support for students residing on Saskatchewan First Nations, in grades 7, 8 & 9, for maths and science classes and students in grades 10, 11 & 12, for literacy, maths and science classes. The band operated schools must have a certified site teacher in place to supervise the students. The VHS will not receive funding from AANDC for a course where the band operated school already provides the class at its band operated school. This last part is rather shortsighted  on the part of AANDC, since a student who may not successfully complete a class in the first term and will not be funded to take their class from the VHS and only short one class for graduation purposes. As a result, the student is often required to return the following fall and take the class along with two additional classes, in order for the local band operated school to receive full nominal roll funding for the year, instead of paying for one additional class with the VHS in the previous term or the student does not take the class and does not receive their Diploma.  The VHS also does not receive funding for classes outside the maths, sciences or literacy, such as Psychology 30, even though the student may require the class to graduate and move on to university and the class is not offered by the on reserve school.

AANDC will not fund students who live on reserve but attend a provincial, private or independent school and are taking classes via a Virtual High School or if the student is home schooled, even if on reserve.

AANDC now funds VHSs in Saskatchewan based on the tuition rate of the nearest provincial school to the student residence. This means that with 18 public school divisions in Saskatchewan, and each tuition agreement different with the provincial government, depending on where the students are living is the class rate paid by AANDC for each student. This makes it more and more difficult to administer. Accuracy in data management is imperative, otherwise, AANDC disallows the funding for a student if the information is not correctly entered or invoiced properly. 

Further to this, Credenda received a letter from AANDC detailing their role and involvement in a supporting Credenda since 2005. In the letter they added that due to the proposed education legislation, which will impact Regional funding methodologies and processes. To that end, we anticipate that the resulting governance structures will secure and pay for e-Learnìng services directly through a method of their own choosing using existing education resources, not unlike Provincial models. We anticipate draft legislation by the end of this summer and potential implementation beginning September 2014, at which time AANDC will work towards providing all education resources directly to First Nation or education authorities.

However, they stated that they would… work with Credenda towards a new funding arrangement, for the period of September 1, 2013 to August 31, 2014, based on the revised AANDC VHS management regime. Regional staff will meet with Credenda representatives to again clarify eligible students and classes, and the new delivery and reporting requirements.

As discussed at our May 16, 2013 meeting, we advise Credenda that it should assess how it will work with First Nations to transition to a direct fee-for-service model. We expect that, as of September 1, 2014, AANDC will no longer make direct payments to Credenda or any other service provider as AANDC will provide resources directly to First Nations or educational authorities, whom are in the best position to make decisions on the educational needs of children in Band-Operated schools.

Suggesting that our agreement will cease due to proposed legislation, before a draft legislation has even been produced, seems rather presumptuous on the part of AANDC. They appear eager to find ways out of supporting students from receiving equitable access to subject specialists and course content. If we are to address the low achievement results across Canada, the last thing we should do is reduce the funding for school programs such as Credenda, KiHS, and Wapaskwa. 

I'll update you next week. 


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Saskatchewan eLearning Course Developer in Namibia

Prince Albert, Saskatchewan – Credenda Virtual High School and College's Nancy Carswell has relocated her office from Saskatchewan to Namibia. Carswell is an eLearning Course Developer who is collaborating with the Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL) to help them put their early childhood courses online.

The Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), the Government of Namibia, the Ministry of Education, Saskatchewan, and Credenda Virtual High School and College have signed a partnership agreement to support early childhood development in Namibia. In particular, they have agreed to share knowledge, models, tools, experiences, lessons learned, innovation and best practices with one another through IPAC’s $5.821 million Democratic Governance Program funded by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.

"Education is key to securing the future of children and youth," said the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie. "Providing educators with training in early childhood development will help ensure that children in Namibia receive the best possible education at an early age in order to improve their opportunities in the future."

Carswell explained her role, "While Credenda teachers and instructors deliver in real time in the Elluminate virtual classroom, the course content in the learning management system is available 24/7 to students and teachers. It acts as a backbone for the teachers to adapt to meet student learning needs and it is a valuable student resource. I have eight years of experience with Credenda taking course curriculum and developing it in the Credenda learning template. When in Namibia, I will be using our learning template as a model, helping them develop a learning template to meet their needs, and providing training in content creation. Once they have content, I will help them put it into a learning management system."

Credenda Director Vince Hill has been to Namibia twice. "I have loved every visit I've made to Namibia. The people are great, the country is beautiful. I had hoped to be going on this trip, but am very grateful that Nancy volunteered to go and serve the wonderful folks of NAMCOL. She will have a great experience. We feel honoured to be able to work in collaboration with NAMCOL and bring Early Learning and Child Care program development to Namibia that will aid in child development across the country."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My 21st Century Educational Philosophy

“The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursuing his education.”  John W. Gardner



Even though I've entitled this my 21st Century Educational Philosophy, many of my ideas are not new. They've been around for years because learning is not a new concept. The means by which individuals have attempted to reach levels of learning have varied.

From the earliest moments of systematic knowledge acquisition, Aristotle classified the pursuit of knowledge into three categories: the theoretical pursuit of truth for truth's sake, the productive discipline of making things, and the practical discipline of making judgements. All of these disciplines point back to the individual learning for learning's sake and transferring this knowledge into something useable that leads to action and yet guided by principles of what is good for all. Learning from that point forward encouraged the individual to pursue knowledge through inquiry that centered around the constructivist principle attaching meaning to learning outcomes or concepts. But somewhere along the way, education was restricted to the elite upper class, limiting many from accessing formal learning opportunities.

That was the past. As learning theories have swung like a pendulum over the years, we have moved into the 21st Century, and it is imperative that we base all educational philosophies upon proven theory of understanding and knowing truth (knowledge) that places the burden of learning squarely on the individual learner.

Much is being written about Personalized Learning, the 21st Century version of student-centered learning that places the learner at the centre of all learning experiences aided by technology to increase engagement. Some suggest that Personalized Learning is just another educational fad, but it has tremendous merits, for the following reasons:

  • Learners developing skills, knowledge, and competencies that will benefit them in school and life,
  • Outcomes and standards are established, and learners are supported in attaining these outcomes,
  • Learners are supported in the construction of knowledge that links past and present knowledge with new outcomes in meaningful ways,
  • Greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy skills for lifelong learning,
  • Assisting learners in developing learning pathways based on intrinsic motivation that integrate personal values, interests, and goals,
  • Each learner is considered unique, allowing flexibility of where, when and how they are able to learn,
  • Engaging parents as an active and essential role of creating meaningful opportunities for the learner,
  • Supporting teachers in their role as facilitators of learning through professional development, and Professional Learning Communities (PLC's),
  • Engage learners through technology connecting them to a world of information,
  • Incorporating technology into the learning experience that embraces creativity as the highest order of thinking (illustrated below or click on link for larger view).


This is a brief overview of my educational philosophy. I'll share more in the days and weeks ahead.







Tuesday, March 4, 2014

To be Followed, or UnFollowed? That is the Question!

followedAnybody else get totally annoyed with individuals or businesses following you on Twitter and the next day unfollowing you. Twitter etiquette suggests that when someone follows you, you typically follow them back, unless you don't share their views or the content of their tweets, which in that case you should probably block them. This is particularly important now that Twitter posts who follows you, or who you follow under the Activity tab for your followers to see. You might consider blocking them to prevent these names from being posted as something you endorse.

I don't know about anybody else out there, but I'm not interested in having my name associated or affiliated with someone's views I don't share, or could harm my reputation.

So that challenges the notion of automatically adding back everybody who adds you. The first thing I do is check to see how many followers the individual has, how many they are following, and most importantly how many tweets they have posted. Often, individuals who have one or two tweets and are following huge numbers and have low numbers of followers are not legitimate users.

Twitter has a policy of suspending accounts where the followers and following list are disproportionately matched. It's okay to have low numbers which you are following with high numbers of followers. This is common for celebrities, politicians, and major players in social media. But if the numbers are reversed, accounts are suspended.

So back to the issue of Twitter users following a user, and then unfollowing the next day. They do this to build this following list, because they have little interest in reading the tweets of individuals, instead they want to control the flow of information making it strictly one sided. I have no interest in the flow of information being one sided. I am equally interested in the opinions of others, as I would hope they are about reading my tweets.

So how do I determine whether people are doing this to me, because using Twitter doesn't give you that information on who you follow and who doesn't follow you back?  I use UnFollower. It's a great tool that notifies me of who unfollows me, who follows me, who I follow, and doesn't follow me back, and more. Even more importantly, it allows me to add more than one account to maintain with the mobile app.

In addition, it can be set up to automatically send a Direct Message (DM) thanking them for following you. I realize there are other tools out there that people are using, but I've been very happy with this tool. In any case, use a tool like this to keep things clean and tidy.

New Record set for Twitter Retweets

Probably one of the best Oscar nights I've ever seen. Ellen pulled out all the stops and made history with Twitter. We now have a new record for retweets, and I was a part of history in the making. Actually, it was a pretty cool experience. It's not often that I get to be involved in something so unprecedented. But it does speak to the influence celebrities have on social media, and calling fellow tweeters to join in the task.

In one of Ellen's random moments, she pulled a number of celebrities and tweeted it to her followers. She challenged everyone to retweet and break the former record of retweets previously held by Barack Obama.
At last count, this image was retweeted over 3 million times.
Prior to last night, Barack Obama's touching campaign hug with his wife, Michelle had held the record at a whopping 781,823 retweets. No small task in the world of Twitter.

Even more unexpected was the impact all the tweeting had on Twitter central. The servers were so overloaded, that the site went down for about 15 minutes.

So what are the lessons learned from last night's Twitter event? Twitter has incredible reach around the world, and enables us to connect with one another in a way that we have never seen before. It's been used to keep the world informed of the crisis in Venezuala and the Ukraine. And the reports are instantaneous from the general publics vantage point. Great to see how the world is getting smaller with tools like Twitter.