Support our students, providing help when they need it
Like many educational administrators in Canada and around the world, I can be guilty of spending too much time staring at a computer screen. In my role as Development Manager for the Six Nations Polytechnic STEAM Academy in Brantford, Ontario, this time is critical to my work. However, I also recognize that if we, as educators, truly want to see value in what we do, we need to get away from our screens and talk to our students.
On one such occasion, I came across a student working on something for an upcoming robotics competition: “What is your favorite part of our school?” I asked. Considering that this student was sitting in our robotics lab, clearly engaged in their work, I expected them to say robotics, or perhaps something about our soon to be launched prototype lab. Instead I heard: “I get help when I need it.” One of the many incredible aspects of working with youth is that they usually subvert your expectations and constantly impress. The answer I received was not at all what I expected to hear, but it reinforced for me the value of our program and its student-centered approach.
Talking with this student again showcased for me that technology isn’t the critical hinge of our school; the important part of their experience is the access that students have to it. Critical to our institution is the integration of the Hodinohsó:ni ̚ values of Ganigohi:yo/Kanikoriio (translating to Respect and the Good Mind). These values include responsiveness, cooperation, and openness: key tenets that guide our development of a learning environment that is supportive of students both academically and emotionally, and an environment that fosters connectedness, innovation, and responsibility.
Although Six Nations Polytechnic (SNP) has been a part of the education landscape for over 25 years, the SNP STEAM Academy is a relatively new addition to the growing list of lifelong learning opportunities that we offer. Now in its third year, the SNP STEAM Academy pairs our unique perspective as an Indigenous Institute with technology focused learning opportunities.
The SNP STEAM Academy works closely with IBM to integrate their Pathways in Technology Early College High School(P-TECH) model within our school, but we also use it to enhance and support the overall student experience. Each student is issued a laptop which utilizes our learning management system, giving students and their families the ability to connect to course content and progress updates anywhere using the internet. The text to speech software on the laptops helps students who face learning challenges find solutions to these challenges though technology. Our experiential learning approach enables students to learn how to code by working with IBM engineers on site, gaining industry relevant skills with an eye towards their futures.
We endeavor to give our students help when they need it. At SNP, technology is enhanced by our values system and the compassion that it encourages. We believe that this approach helps to build on the existing success of the P-TECH program model, encourages learners to engage with their educational experience, and creates a positive impact for our students, and eventually, the technology landscape.