InterGovWorld’s Spotlight series profiles Executives, decision-makers and their initiatives across all levels of Canadian government.
Part 2 of InterGovWorld’s Spotlight on Marilyn Steinberg from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Steinberg discusses the impact of video-conferencing technology on learning, CSA’s agreement with Industry Canada and Alberta Education, and a memorable highlight of her job post 9/11.
Our subsidies program has been in place for about a couple of years. Students and educators come from an environment where they don’t typically have a huge number of financial resources at their discretion to go out and participate in true learning opportunities outside the classroom. I’m talking about engaged learning opportunities, competitions, and workshops at a variety of levels. This grant program provides educators and students at all levels the opportunity to come to us, and tell us how they would like to learn. We will help them out with their travel, accommodations, and registration because the one thing we want them to do is go and learn and not worry about the rest of the logistics.
With our website we have about 300,000 visits a year from educators specifically to our educator resource section; and we know that they’re downloading content that we make available to them for use in the classroom. We have educators here every summer that provide professional development via video-conferencing and distance education.
For our video-conferencing we usually work with about four or five thousand students on a yearly basis and that’s because we do a maximum of 50 workshops during the school-year. We work with the host, the educator and the technical gurus, and actually hold at least five video-conferencing meetings with them before we ever get to the workshop itself. We feel it’s very important to address the technology issues first to ensure that: there’s sufficient technology, it’s going to work flawlessly, and that everybody’s on the same wavelength. This is done so that when we get to the workshop that educator is not concerned about the technology – it simply becomes another tool.
Q) Industry Canada and Alberta Education signed a four-year collaborative agreement to enhance science education through video-conference sessions with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Is this agreement seeking to address declining interest among students to pursue science and technology learning at the post-secondary level?
A) We hope that our efforts are really going to contribute to developing a strong science culture in this country. There is a challenge right now that’s been identified which is ensuring that students are engaged and that they’re inspired by science. And we’re doing that at the Canadian Space Agency with the kind of content and the quite brilliant people we have to offer. They’re not only brilliant but also capable of sharing what they know at a level and in a way that students can not only understand but embrace. I think that we’re well-placed to contribute in a really positive and fundamental way to the challenge that’s presented.
But it requires collaboration between us and the education community, and it requires that they bridge the language and knowledge gap between the science and education community. And when I talk about a language gap I’m not talking about English and French – there’s a language of learning. One of the things we do in all of our programs, and the reason we do provide the professional development for our science and engineering expert is to ensure that they can speak the language of learning, so that we can engage students and provide the kind of support that the education community needs. We do feel that we’re contributing in a fundamental way.
Q) Can you speak about the conditions of the agreement?
A) We’re going to be using video-conferencing technology to bring our scientists and engineers into the classroom, and this is something that Alberta Education supports in a significant way. If you’ve ever heard Alberta Education Minister Gene Zwozdesky talk about our platform and the approach we take to video-conference learning – science learning in particular – they’re very excited about the approach that we’ve taken.
The second and very important part of the agreement is that Alberta Ed has put a contract in place for research to be conducted. The research will examine the impact of the approach we’ve designed here at the Canadian Space Agency. It’s also going to take a look at the change, and we hope evolution, in knowledge, skills and the attitudes of students toward science. That’s why while it’s a four year agreement; the actual research will take place over a three year period. We will work with five different schools in Alberta, covering the urban, rural and remote areas of Alberta.
We’ll work with the same school and hopefully with the same teacher for a period of three years, and we’re trying to develop a way of also following the students so it really is an interesting and very exciting bit of research.
To visit Industry Canada‘s web site, click here.
To visit the Government of Alberta Education web site, click here.
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