Finally, off to the editor after a complete rewrite!
It’s about the integration of technology in the classroom. Here goes:
The Northern Building Maintenance Program and the Cabinetmaking Program offered by Sabtuan Adult Education Services of the Cree School Board have integrated technology into their curriculums to provide students with the essential skills required to be on the cutting edge in their fields.
Denis Tremblay, teacher of the Northern Building Maintenance Program underway since March 2012 at the Cree Nation of Oujé-Bougoumau, strongly believes that technology and theory are as important as practical skills. He indicated a set of stairs that lead from the workshop to a mezzanine, where a computer lab was set up.
At completion of this specialized 1,320 hour course, students are prepared to provide exterior and interior building inspections and offer basic services in northern heating, plumbing, and electricity. They will also be able to create virtual reports in English and French, along with visual representations.
Once the groundwork for converting the former municipal garage into the present workshop was completed, Tremblay felt it was time to focus on educating his students in modern technology. He called France Pelletier, ICT Educational Consultant for the Cree School Board.
From her office at Mistissini, Pelletier recounted when Tremblay contacted her about acquiring digital cameras for his students. Her approach was “to talk to the teacher to assess what they wanted to do, and then do my best to meet their needs.”
Pelletier saw this as an opportunity to integrate technology in the classroom. Tremblay and Pelletier set up several meetings to determine requirements for the program and to come up with a plan on how to bring this about. With the support of Pelletier, Tremblay procured digital cameras and laptops for each student.
“This will definitely benefit the students’ employability when joining the workforce.” she said.
Tremblay recognized the importance of incorporating visual, as well as manual learning styles into his program. With their new cameras, students could photograph problems or potential problems of buildings. After students have downloaded their pictures onto their laptops, Tremblay’s method involves viewing the photos together with his students and then asking: “How do we fix this?”
In the computer lab, student Kenny John Papatie was working on module 5 of the 19 modular program, Exterior Building Work. His assignment was to prepare a report of an exterior of a building. Papatie had inserted digital photographs taken of all four sides of the building into his report to make an analysis. Areas of concern were numbered. For each concern, the problem was described and a possible solution was suggested. Hand-drawn plans were photographed and also incorporated into the report.
Sitting beside Papatie, George Bosum was scanning a bank of pictures to include in his report.
Kevin Wylde was working on module 19 on Job Search Techniques. Wylde said he had already learned basic word processing skills on a home computer. He pulled up a CV he had created on his laptop screen.
Pelletier agreed that the finished building report is an important product. After the program, the student has a portfolio he can present to a prospective employer. This digital report also acts as a reference source on future jobs. According to Tremblay, at the completion of the course, jobs can be found in community residences.
The completed report is ready to be passed on to André Bluteau, who is responsible for purchase of equipment for renovation and repair for the housing department for the Oujé-Bougoumou Eenuch Association.
This was the first time the Northern Building Maintenance Program was offered at Oujé-Bougoumou. Before, the course was taught at Rouyn-Noranda and Mistissini. Currently, it is on-going at Waswanipi.
Teaching Northern Building Maintenance is not Tremblay’s only ambition.
“My main goal is to create respect for the individual in the community,” Tremblay emphasized. He recounted how one of his students fixed the faucet for a member of the community.
“They look at him differently now.”
In the neighbouring community of the Cree Nation of Mistissini, Andy Anderson is currently teaching a Cabinetmaking Program. Like Tremblay, he has also embraced the use of technology in his classroom with enthusiasm.
“Technology is here to stay, so the sooner you become familiar with it, the better off you will be in the modern day workforce,” Anderson stressed.
Anderson noted that while teaching in Montreal, cabinetmaking businesses were using computers for planning and design, as well as for running and operating machinery.
With the support of Pelletier, Anderson ordered laptops for his students and had a word processing and a basic AutoCAD program installed for producing shop drawings and design templates.
On August 30, 2013, students were working on a module utilizing Microsoft Visio to design a cabinetmaking shop. In a module taught later in the program, students will create a viable business plan. This shop layout will be inserted as a reference.
Student Robie Nichols has a computer background in architectural drafting and IT support, but not all students are as familiar with technology as he is.
“He teaches us not to be scared of computers and we can do things we don’t normally do.”
Nichols sees a definite advantage to creating designs on his laptop. “I am able to design a shop the way I want it.”
Tyrone Dash also agreed with the benefits of using computers in the shop.
“It’s good for drafting architectural work, cabinets, mechanical work and to design shop programs. If I want to build a shop, I will know how much space I will need. It’s an all-around useful tool.”
As Anderson walked from table to table to oversee and instruct his students, Helen Moore, computer technician for the Cree School Board, came in to install anti-virus software. Moore’s job is to maintain the computers and printers in the schools and have everyone connected to the network.
“As in any community, one of the challenges is keeping up with constant changes in technology,” she said.
Anderson hopes that the introduction of technology into his program will give students every opportunity to succeed, develop skills to enable them to enter the workforce, and become valued employees and business people.
“Our challenge as teachers is to provide this expertise in as many forms as possible,” Anderson concluded.