Government of Ontario, TakingITGlobal, and Cisco Canada Enhance Digital Equity for Students in Remote Indigenous Communities

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Connected North Students in Rainy River District School Board

Students in the Rainy River District School Board participating in a Connected North virtual learning session.
Students in the Rainy River District School Board participating in a Connected North virtual learning session.

Toronto, Sept. 29, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — News Summary:

  • The Government of Ontario will renew funding for the Connected North program in 55 schools in Indigenous communities for the 2023-24 school year, bringing its total investment to nearly $2 million in two years.
  • Aligned to the Ontario curriculum, Connected North offers virtual learning sessions that provide students and teachers with opportunities and resources, with a focus on Indigenous content delivered by Indigenous educators and mentors.
  • The funding announcement reinforces Ontario’s dedication to achieving equity of opportunity for students in remote Indigenous communities.

TORONTO, ON, Sept. 29, 2023 – Today, the Government of Ontario, TakingITGlobal (TIG) and Cisco Canada announced the renewal of funding for the Connected North program, bringing the provincial government’s total investment to nearly $2 million in two years. This funding will continue to deliver virtual learning sessions for Kindergarten – Grade 12 students in remote Indigenous communities, reinforcing Ontario’s commitment to fostering digital equity for all students. The funding provides live, interactive sessions to students in 55 schools for the 2023-24 school year, ensuring access to a range of educational opportunities and resources.

“This investment will connect Indigenous students to programs that strengthen fundamental skills like reading, writing and math in remote communities,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, Government of Ontario. “Through this investment, our government reaffirms its dedication to keeping students in-class with new resources to expand learning and prepare students for the jobs of the future.”

Founded by Cisco Canada, Connected North leverages Cisco networking, security and collaboration technology to connect students and teachers in remote communities to live, interactive virtual learning experiences. The innovative program not only brings state-of-the-art and secure technology to classrooms but also offers a comprehensive virtual curriculum developed in collaboration with schools and communities, that is rooted in Indigenous ways of knowing and learning.

“At Cisco, we are committed to fostering digital equity and inclusion. We firmly believe that all Canadians should have access to the opportunities needed to unlock their full potential,” said Shannon Leininger, President, Cisco Canada. “We are incredibly proud of Connected North’s positive impact on students. This partnership with the Government of Ontario and TakingITGlobal strengthens our dedication to fulfilling this vital mission and together we are on the road to create even greater impact in the communities that need it the most.”

Connected North is a breakthrough in distance education in Canada. Named as one of the world’s leading and most innovative education programs by the globally recognized HundrED organization and selected as a finalist for the international WISE Awards, it now serves 35,000 students in 150 schools in northern communities and offers over 2,000 unique virtual learning experiences for students and teachers. The program focuses on building success for students in school and in life through:

  • Indigenous role models and mentoring to build hope and pride
  • Career exploration and Future Pathways programming
  • Virtual field trips to museums, science centres
  • Language revitalization
  • STEM
  • Arts and culture
  • Mental wellness
  • Professional development workshops and training for teachers

Last school year, 95 per cent of teachers who responded to an annual program survey stated that Connected North sessions helped to engage their students, contributed to attendance in class and provided motivation for learning.

“With this funding agreement, the Government of Ontario has made a strong and positive commitment to helping students in the remote north realize their potential,” said Michael Furdyk, Director of Innovation of Connected North and TakingITGlobal. “We are excited that they share our vision to ensure that students in the north have access to the same resources as students in the south.”

“As we continue on our journey of making reconciliation real, our government is committed to ensuring equitable access to education for Indigenous students regardless of where they live or go to school.” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Government of Ontario. “Ensuring a more prosperous future for the next generation starts with overcoming barriers to education, and we are proud to support the Connected North program.”

This announcement comes at an important time for Connected North which celebrates its 10-year anniversary in October. Connected North is committed to growing its footprint in the years ahead and will double the number of schools served to 300 by 2030. The success of this program is made possible through continued support from corporate partners, government partners, foundations and private donors to ensure students in remote and Indigenous communities have resources they need to thrive.

About TakingITGlobal 
TakingITGlobal (TIG) designs and delivers youth engagement programs leveraging the power of community, technology and creativity. Connected North is an interactive education program managed by TakingITGlobal that connects students living in remote Northern communities to customized virtual experiences and learning opportunities through live, high definition video technology.

Learn more: https://www.tigweb.org/about and https://www.connectednorth.org/ 

About Cisco
Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide technology leader that securely connects everything to make anything possible. Our purpose is to power an inclusive future for all by helping our customers reimagine their applications, power hybrid work, secure their enterprise, transform their infrastructure, and meet their sustainability goals. Discover more on The Newsroom and follow us on Twitter at @Cisco

Cisco and the Cisco logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Cisco and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and other countries. A listing of Cisco’s trademarks can be found at www.cisco.com/go/trademarks. Third-party trademarks mentioned are the property of the respective owners. The use of the word partner does not imply a partnership relationship between Cisco and any other company.

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CONTACT: Samantha Campana, Communications Lead Cisco [email protected] Curtis Lindsay, Director, Issues Management and Legislative Affairs Ontario’s Ministry of Indigenous Affairs & Northern Development [email protected] Isha Chaudhuri, Press Secretary Ontario's Ministry of Education [email protected] 

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