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Press Release -- April 21st, 2016
Source: Cisco Systems

Cisco Canada Welcomes Saskatchewan to Connected North Virtual Education Program for Indigenous Communities

Black Lake’s Father Porte Memorial Dene School becomes first in Saskatchewan to join immersive program driving student engagement

BLACK LAKE and SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN and TORONTO, ONTARIO – April 21, 2016 – Cisco Canada, along with education program manager TakingITGlobal, and provincial service provider partner SaskTel announced today the expansion of the Connected North Program into Black Lake, Saskatchewan. The launch was also made possible through the support of the Prince Albert Grand Council, Black Lake Denesuline First Nation, Cameco, AREVA Resources, Athabasca Basin Development, and West Wind Aviation. 

The Connected North program began in Iqaluit in September 2013 with a single school and has since grown to include 15 schools including the Father Porte Memorial Dene School in Black Lake – the first in Saskatchewan.

Connected North delivers immersive and interactive virtual education and mental healthcare services to remote Indigenous communities through Cisco’s high-definition two-way video communication and collaboration technology. The aim of the program is to offer a fresh approach to student engagement, allowing teachers and administrators to expose their students to people, experiences and ideas that bring learning to life.

Connected North is founded on three key principles:

1. Customized content for each school – On-demand, interactive content and virtual field trips for JK-Grade 12 students. Teachers choose from a range of subject experts and virtual experiences to meet the needs of their students.

2. Two-way student exchange – the Classroom Connect program brings together students from across Canada. Classes are matched to work on group projects, allowing all students to share their knowledge, culture and values so that the learning goes both ways.

3. High quality video experience – Cisco provides a reliable, high definition, live video experience that brings video into the classroom like never before.

To show the many ways video technology is used in Connected North classrooms, the launch event will feature a live, virtual visit to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta, followed by an interactive literacy exploration between the Father Porte Memorial Dene School and West Point Grey Academy.

Cisco provided the video collaboration technology and overall ecosystem management while SaskTel donated the Internet connection and service required to power the video connection. Cameco, AREVA Resources, and Athabasca Basin Development donated the funding to cover the programming costs, and West Wind Aviation supports the air travel required for the installation of technology. This provincial partnership joins a strong network of Connected North supporters from across Canada, including: SSi Micro, the Royal Bank Foundation, TD Bank Financial Group, Scotiabank, Tech Data, Ingram Micro, The Learning Partnership, Canadian North, The Samuel Family Foundation, and The Hospital for Sick Children, among others.

TakingITGlobal (TIG) has taken on the role of education program manager for the Connected North program. TIG is a charitable organization that empowers youth to understand and act on the world’s greatest challenges through their global virtual network of teachers and students. TIG is responsible for program development, fundraising, and working directly with schools to create and deliver customized, curriculum-linked programming.

In a study conducted by the Advanced Learning Technologies Lab at the University of Toronto in 2015 on the overall Connected North program, researchers found 86% of students actively participated during the virtual sessions, with students reporting that the program enhanced their cultural understanding and strengthened their feelings of citizenship.

Supporting Quotes:

“It is a priority in our community to ensure the children of Black Lake receive a well-rounded education,” said Chief Rick Robillard, Black Lake Denesuline First Nation. “Connected North is a powerful way to help us achieve this goal, by both introducing students and teachers to a new world of opportunity, while also providing an outlet to share their pride in our culture, tradition and values.”

“SaskTel has always maintained a strong commitment to investing in remote Northern Saskatchewan communities,” said Ron Styles, SaskTel President and CEO. “The enhanced connectivity and access to technology this program brings will enrich the community of Black Lake from an educational, economic and social perspective, while providing much needed services to local youth.”

“Travel is limited for the children, so video sessions like this provide a unique opportunity for students to be exposed to new people, places and ideas, and also share their culture with others to build understanding.” Steve Thatcher, Principal, Father Porte Memorial Dene School.

“The launch of Connected North in Saskatchewan marks the continued growth of a program that is having a positive impact on remote Indigenous communities,” said Bernadette Wightman, President of Cisco Canada. “We are proud to have founded the program, and are excited to continue to contribute our expertise in collaboration technology to this phenomenal ecosystem of partners to drive the delivery of needed education and healthcare resources.”

“We’re thrilled to bring together so many committed partners to deliver high-quality content to engage Blake Lake students” said Jennifer Corriero, Executive Director of TakingITGlobal. “Through professional learning and virtual classroom connections, educators will also have opportunities to collaborate nationally and globally to bring the world into their classrooms.”

About Cisco

Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO, news, filings) is the worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow by proving that amazing things can happen when you connect the previously unconnected. Cisco products and services are supplied in Canada by Cisco Systems Canada Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cisco Systems, Inc. For ongoing news, please go to and

About SaskTel

SaskTel is the leading Information and Communications Technology (ICT) provider in Saskatchewan, with over $1.2 billion in annual revenue and over 1.4 million customer connections including over 618,000 wireless accesses, 437,000 wireline network accesses, 258,000 Internet accesses and over 103,000 maxTV™ subscribers. SaskTel and its wholly-owned subsidiaries offer a wide range of ICT products and services including competitive voice, data and Internet services, wireless data services, maxTV services, data centre services, cloud-based services, security monitoring services, advertising services, and international software and consulting services. SaskTel and its wholly-owned subsidiaries have a workforce of approximately 4,000 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). Visit SaskTel at

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