Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay based agencies recognized for literacy work – Yahoo News Canada | Team Cansler

The Sioux-Hudson Literacy Council and Contact North are recognized for their contributions to literacy.

The two nonprofits are collaborating with four others in Ontario on a project called the e-Channel Network, which provides online literacy and basic skills programs.

In September, the e-channel network was honored with the 2022 Council of the Federation Literacy Award, presented annually to an individual or organization in each province and territory for contributions to literacy.

A medal was presented to the organizations during an online meeting this week by MPP’s David Smith and Deepak Anand, who are Parliamentary Assistants to the Minister for Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.

Linda Wright, director of distance projects at the Sioux-Hudson Literacy Council, said her organization is very grateful for the recognition of her work on her online learning channel, Good Learning Anywhere.

“It’s important to try to make learning accessible to adults across Ontario who might not otherwise have opportunities to improve their skills for school or at home,” she said. “It was really nice to be recognized [together with] the e-channel partners because we’ve been working really hard to solve some of the challenges with technology and learning for over 15 years. So it was nice to be recognized with them as a group for our work.”

Wright said they’re just a tiny community-based program that somehow got in there as part of a pilot program two decades ago.

“The project was literal [asking], can people learn literacy skills remotely? And we were taking textbooks to the seaplane and flying them to the northern communities and the ministry was actually using an online platform at the time and we thought hmm? I wonder if we could use that for learning?” she said.

“Twenty years ago, when the technology wasn’t what it is now, we tried to do online courses and pre-GED classes and teach some literacy and basic skills that way. We’ve just kept our toes in the pot and continued to grow over the past 20 years, and as technology has advanced, people have embraced the idea that people can learn online,” she said.

They had 15 learners in the first year, Wright said.

“Now we have over 1,000 learners a year across Ontario,” she said.

She said there have been many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic that have required support from in-person programs that have had to shut down. She added that places offering public use of computer terminals had access restricted or eliminated, so they saw a reduction in people taking their programs.

“[For] some families, [they asked themselves], is it the kids going to school online or am I doing mine now that there is a computer in the house? She said. “We definitely saw it as a challenge for those who already have a lot of barriers to learning.”

This is why breaking down barriers and increasing access in welcoming ways is so important to the Literacy Council, and why Wright said their services are needed now more than ever.

“We’re able to offer customers the courses for free, which is huge because our ultimate goal at e-Channel is to ignite that love of learning and take them to the next step, whether it’s them getting their high school credit or them go to post-secondary or look for work,” Wright said.

“The customer [might not have] I’ve had a great learning experience before, that’s why e-channel is so important to be the match that ignites the flame to get them on the path they will take with their lifelong learning.”

For Thunder Bay-based Contact North, his role at e-Channel is to support the five service delivery agencies, which include the Sioux-Hudson Literacy Council, by hosting and providing technical support for learning platforms.

Sarah Gauvreau, director of literacy and basic skills at Contact North (e-Channel), said: “We also provide training for trainers on these platforms, host and maintain the e-Channel web portal, coordinate professional development for the network and provide recruitment laptops and internet sticks available free of charge for learners who do not have access to hardware to complete their learning.”

Gauvreau said the recognition “demonstrates the importance of online learning as a viable, effective method of delivering quality education that enables learners to pursue their goals for employment, training, post-secondary education, secondary school credit and independence.”

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Thunder Bay Source

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