Category: Research and Funding

Award-winning master’s student researches Indigenous language revitalization using video-chat technology

William (Bill) Cook (MEd’22) was recently awarded one of two Spring 2022 Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Awards. Bill is from wapâtikwaciwanohk (Southend, Reindeer Lake) Saskatchewan. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Brandon University in Manitoba. Bill has a BA in Cree Language Studies from the First Nations University of Canada and has taught Cree language at all levels for over 20 years. Bill’s award-winning thesis is entitled, “Indigenous Language Revitalization: Connecting Distant Cree Language Learners With Cree Language Speakers Using Video-Chat Technology.” The following is a Q & A with Bill about his research story:

Q & A with Bill Cook

Why did you chose to do your master’s degree (thesis route)?

I chose the thesis route because when I started considering doing my masters, I was told by a few people that if I were considering doing a PhD program after my masters, then going the thesis route would be beneficial to getting into PhD programs. For me, doing a thesis was much more beneficial than I thought. It taught me how to do a study, how to collect data, how to work with people as participants and co-researchers, and I learned some different methodologies both Indigenous and non-Indigenous on how to approach research. I feel that going this route prepared me to be a better researcher.

 Why did you choose the U of R?

I was a Cree sessional instructor at the First Nations University when I met Dr. Andrea Sterzuk. She had taken a couple of Cree courses that I taught. I had inquired about an EdTech grad program and Andrea mentioned a master’s program through the University of Regina’s Faculty of Education called Curriculum and Instruction, which included EdTech courses that interested me. She thought this would be a good fit. I agreed. I applied for the program and the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research and the Education Research and Graduate Programs offices were so helpful to me during this process. It also allowed for me to continue working close to home.

What were the circumstances that led to your research thesis topic?

My research topic was Indigenous Language Revitalization: Connecting Distant Cree Language Learners with Cree Language Speakers Using Video-Chat Technology. This topic was an easy choice for me to decide on. I have been teaching the Cree language for over 20 years at all levels of education from instructing kindergarten students to university courses. One question I have been asked by many language learners throughout the years has been “What do I do next to become fluent in the language?” and my answer is always to immerse themselves in the language and, if possible, to move into a community that predominantly speaks the target language. Most times, language learners are not able to move to those locations, which are typically First Nations communities. By identifying that distance was the barrier, I wanted to see if using technology to make these connections would be beneficial in language learning and also if this could be an option to anyone from anywhere for Cree speaking practice.

How did this topic become important to you?

I believe the work in Cree language revitalization is very important work. If we ever lose our Indigenous languages in this country of Canada then where do we go to learn them? This is our home, our land. Our Indigenous cultures, languages, traditions, identities stem from this land; the land is our language. This is all we have, we have nothing else, we can’t go anywhere else. We have a responsibility to reclaim, revitalize, preserve, and maintain our Indigenous languages.

What were your research findings?

In doing my research I found that having regular synchronous video-chats were effective in remote language learning in both language and culture. Fluent speakers can share their language and culture just by being themselves from wherever there is Internet access. Also, when working with non-tech savvy participants, you must assist with the technology or else find them someone they are comfortable with to assist them. Laughter was a dominant factor throughout the daily virtual conversations, having fun with your project is a good thing. It was enjoyable to see everyone getting more comfortable with speaking in Cree as much as they could. Video-chat technology is a good tool for connecting grandparent with grandchild; this grandparent/grandchild pair in my study made bannock in real-time while repeating Cree words of the process. (See video below).

What impacted you most about your findings?

What impacted me the most was that once the connections were made, the conversations began to flow naturally. The project began a life of its own and seemed to have a spirit of its own. The participants were able to adapt to technology. I am so grateful to all my participants for their work. The relationships built during this process allowed for the conversations to happen naturally. I wondered if the participants not being face-to-face would be able to achieve this connection and I was impressed that it had.

What was the highlight during the process?

The highlight for me was to get to do my study in my hometown and spend time with my family back home in Southend was a bonus. It reminded me of my childhood, growing up and doing things like netting, plucking ducks, filleting fish, making bannock, and cooking on an open fire. Another highlight was watching my participants, especially my parents, gaining confidence in using the tech tools. Lastly, hearing the Cree language being spoken between the learner and speaker was enjoyable to observe.

What recommendations did you make based on your research findings?

The recommendations I developed were:

  • The use of video-chat technology as a language learning tool is only one way to share language and culture.
  • Investing in tech tools that fit your language learning style is a good investment.
  • Finding ways to employ fluent speakers to share their language and culture using technology is a good step towards revitalizing, preserving, and maintaining language.
  • If you don’t know the protocols of the area then ask; there is nothing wrong with asking.
  • For communities: they can find ways to employ their fluent speakers within their organizations, training community members in technology-based language platforms is a good investment.
  • For schools, universities, and other organizations: they can help in Indigenous language and culture revitalization by incorporating fluent speakers and knowledge keepers within their education systems.

What do you hope will be the outcomes of your research?

I hope to see more opportunities like this study. When the pandemic hit everyone went online to spend time with each other, communicate, and speak, in all languages. I think I have reached an outcome of seeing more people using video-chat tech to communicate and practice language learning. Today, I see many platforms for Indigenous language learning. I hope people continue and grow.

What are your future plans?

My future plans are to continue working in Indigenous language and culture revitalization. I recently got accepted to the Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization Doctorate Program at the University of Hawaii in Hilo. I look forward to where that opportunity takes my work. I would like to create employment for fluent Indigenous language speakers with or without having Western education degrees/certificates. This is URGENT to do, as we are losing fluent speakers daily and many of them are not certified to teach in a Western setting. Why do we have to wait for fluent Indigenous language speakers to get certified to pass on their languages? I believe there is a way to incorporate and employ fluent language speakers into Indigenous language programs and courses. I am currently an Assistant Professor at Brandon University. There I will continue teaching the Cree language, creating opportunities for other Indigenous languages, and continued service work in the community and online. I have also been offering a weekly Cree speaking practice group called ‘The Cree Group’ using video-chat. We can be found through Facebook. My work continues with Indigenous languages and cultures using different platforms of technology.

What have been your experiences in the First Nations University of Canada and the University of Regina?

The First Nations University and the University of Regina were both supportive during my studies. All the professors and classmates made my experience enjoyable. The atmosphere was welcoming and I felt at home in these spaces. I give credit to the instructors for being so helpful. There were many opportunities to help me along the way which included study groups, writing groups, financial funding and other support systems that played a role in my success. I am thankful for that.

Who were your influences in deciding on a career in the field of education?

I have to give credit to my late brother and mentor Darren Okemaysim kakî-itît for influencing me in my career in teaching the Cree language. He was my teacher; I took many classes from him. He was my mentor, and gave me the opportunity to teach classes alongside him. He always encouraged me to speak the Cree language, rarely did we ever speak English to each other. He once told me “If you continue your work in the Cree language, you will never go wrong” and he was right. Also, my wife and parents are always supportive and influential of what I do. I feel I am on the right path; this is what I am meant to do. There is lots of work to be done in Indigenous language and culture revitalization.

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Links to Bill’s ongoing Cree language and culture work:

Facebook Group page (announcements) https://www.facebook.com/groups/1422458251268465

Bill’s Website where you can sign up for the Cree Group events: https://www.creeclass.com/

 

 

 

 

 

HRI-funded research on child sponsorship

Dr. Kathleen Nolan, Professor – Mathematics Education

Over the past year, Dr. Kathleen Nolan has been working on an HRI-funded research project entitled “Engaging the Public in Critical and Justice-Oriented Global Actions: Moving Beyond Child Sponsorship.”

Q&A with Dr. Kathleen Nolan

What were the circumstances that led to your research thesis topic? How did this topic become important to you?

I’ve been studying this topic of child sponsorship since about 2018, after becoming aware of the large amount of funds raised through child sponsorship and the questionable ethics involved in the process. I noticed many justice-oriented, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who were struggling to raise funds for their work in Canada and throughout the world, and yet this charity-only child sponsorship approach was raising billions worldwide. By “charity-only,” I mean that child sponsorship agencies raise funds but do not educate about poverty nor advocate for change.

So, I began a journey to educate myself and others about child sponsorship by reviewing the research literature around child sponsorship and publishing a critique article entitled Better Than Nothing? (https://doi.org/10.33448/rsd-v9i8.5574). The title was selected because that is the question I was asked many times as I conducted this review and critique: “Well, isn’t it better than nothing?” At first, I thought that the article would be the end of my research into the topic but, of course, if you tell people it is NOT better than nothing, you are leaving things rather unfinished. It begs the question of, “If not this (CS) then what?” That led to me applying for an HRI Fellowship to respond to that question.

How are you sharing your findings?

WEBSITE: Your Global Action Tackle Box: Moving Beyond Child Sponsorship: https://www.beyondchildsponsorship.ca

In this educational tackle box, I provide materials and resources designed to tackle child sponsorship (CS) through education and by proposing alternative critical and justice-oriented actions aimed at moving beyond CS. The contents of this tackle box website are drawn from research interviews conducted with academic researchers (in the areas of international development studies, sociology, education, anthropology, and global citizenship education), directors and coordinators of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and independent consultants and global fund raising managers.

ARTICLE: “Please Continue To Not Sponsor This Child” published in the New Internationalist. Read at: https://newint.org/features/2022/04/04/feature-please-continue-not-sponsor-child

Published in the May-June 2022 issue of New Internationalist, this feature article marks the 40th anniversary of “Please do not sponsor this child,” an article published in New Internationalist in 1982. In “Please continue to not sponsor this child,” I revitalize that 40-year-old story with new information from my research study that demonstrates how, over these 4 decades, the more things have changed, the more they’ve stayed the same. That is, the same set of misguided motivations for sponsors, the same lack of public education around issues of global poverty and inequity and the same level of denial of the role played by the Global North in (re)producing problematic historical patterns of thinking and relationships.

PODCAST: HRI Let’s Talk Research: Episode 3, Moving Beyond Child Sponsorship, with Dr. Kathy Nolan: https://www.humanitiesresearch.org/podcast/

In conversation with Dr. Charity Marsh (Director, Humanities Research Institute (HRI) at the University of Regina), I share information and reflections on the ‘Moving Beyond Child Sponsorship’ research project that was funded through an HRI Fellowship award. The podcast, which is 35 minutes in duration, challenges the listener to reflect on their own views about child sponsorship and the importance of engaging in alternative actions which are critical and justice-oriented.

RADIO INTERVIEW: Garth Materie show on CBC radio (6 minute recording). Listen in at: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-103/clip/15916615

What impacted you most about your findings?

This was a very unique research project for me to do because I began at ground level with my knowledge, not like my usual research in the area of mathematics education. This means that my learning curve was steep and while I still have lots to learn about all of the topics related to child sponsorship—global citizenship education, international development, etc.—I have come a long way in my understanding. I share with people that the audience for the article, the website and the podcast is the general public (your average citizen), and I know this because I’m right there learning with them! Such a new and important topic to learn about.

What recommendations do you make?

This is an important question because the research project’s aim was to propose alternatives to child sponsorship in the form of justice-oriented actions. The website—or what I call the “tackle box”—is structured around 4 drawers, each having a key focus question that is responded to through the voices of interviewed research participants. Drawer 4 in the tackle box, the one that most directly addresses the question “If not CS, then what?, proposes 5 specific actions that people can engage in as alternatives to the charity-focused approach of sponsoring a child. The actions are not easy, but that is to be expected since the issue of global poverty is not easy either; it is highly complex. Actions suggested in this drawer include, for example, deeper reflection on how the goal to be a ‘good person’ can translate into thinking that the Global South needs to ‘catch up’ to the North (which is just not true) and it can do so by just receiving more money, and that we have no role to play in global poverty; this is a tough one because it means deep examination of one’s privilege and complicity.

What are your future plans?

At the moment, I am thinking that these “Moving Beyond Child Sponsorship” resources could be connected more explicitly to high school and university curricula and to the actions of students who are striving to be better global citizens. Potentially, I will place a call for social studies and social science educators to help me with this task. I think that would be a very important follow-up action for this project.

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Don’t forget to join Dr. Nolan today, June 1, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. on Zoom for an unpacking of the “Tackle Box” developed through her HRI-funded research.
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Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Programs appointed

Dr. Xia Ji has been appointed the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Programs for a five year term, beginning July 1, 2022.

Dr. Ji joined the Faculty of Education in 2008 and teaches in the Science and Environmental Education subject area. From 2015 – 2020, she was the Director, Professional Development and Field Experiences in Education. Over the years, she has also served as the Chair of the Science & Environmental Education subject area and Chair of the Undergraduate Admissions, Studies & Scholarship Committee. She has also served on a number of other committees including: Executive of Council; Dean’s Advisory Committee on Sabbatical, Tenure, and Promotion; Dean’s Group; FGSR Scholarship Review Committee; Research & Graduate Program Development Committee in Education; and as a reviewer for the U of R Sustainability & Community Engagement Fund (SCEF). Recently she has been invited and joined the Delta Kappa Gamma Society (DKG) – Regina Chapter, which is an international coalition of women leaders in education, and the U of R’s Working Group on China Planning with the goal to strengthen partnership and collaboration with universities in China.

Dr. Ji’s work with and commitment to graduate students and programs, her administrative experience, her ability to think creatively and strategically, and the leadership she has provided to the Faculty of Education over the last several years position her well for her new role as Associate Dean.

Dr. Jerome Cranston
Dean/Professor
Faculty of Education

 

Queen Elizabeth II Centennial Aboriginal Scholarship

Congratulations to PhD student Jessica Madiratta for being awarded $20,000 for the 2022-2023 Queen Elizabeth II Centennial Aboriginal Scholarship.
“Jessica is obtaining a Doctorate of Philosophy in Education Studies from the University of Regina. Her research is the first of its kind in the province and will explore how building a community of educators over multiple culturally responsive professional development sessions can impact instruction in the classroom and benefit the academic achievement of Indigenous students. This scholarship is awarded annually based on academic excellence.” (Source: Saskatchewan Students)

Visit the website to read the announcement: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/news-and-media/2022/may/17/2022-23-queen-elizabeth-ii-scholarship-recipients-announced

Spring 2022 Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Award recipients

Congratulations to Master’s students Willow Iorga and Bill Cook on being selected as the two  recipients of the Spring 2022 Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Award!

The Faculty of Education Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Award was established in 2021 to recognize outstanding academic performance of thesis-based graduate students (Masters and PhD) in Education.

This $2,000 award is granted to a student in a graduate program in the Faculty of Education who has exemplified academic excellence and research ability, demonstrated leadership ability and/or university/community involvement, and whose thesis was deemed meritorious by the Examining Committee.

De/colonising Educational Relationships

During 2020 and 2021, Dr. Fatima Pirbhai-Illich (University of Regina) and Dr. Fran Martin (University of Exeter) led a series of seminars on
“De/colonising Educational Relationships” and conducted research at the University of Exeter with grants received from the University of Regina’s Faculty of Education, the Centre of Educational Research, Collaboration, and Development (CERCD), the University of Exeter’s Graduate School of Education, and the Centre for Social Mobility.

The seminars were provided in two formats: As a weekend virtual retreat at the University of Regina on November 6 and 7, 2021, and as a series of monthly seminars at the University of Exeter. The topics covered for each university reflect the different audiences and contexts. For those interested in how the ideas were adapted for these specific contexts and audiences, visit the CERCD YouTube channel: Click here

Inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow Incentive Award recipient announced

Award announcement: Dr. Needal Ghadi has been awarded the inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow Incentive Award in the Faculty of Education. Dr. Christine Massing, who has co-published with Dr. Ghadi on four refereed journal articles, will serve as his Postdoctoral Fellow supervisor.
 
Dr. Ghadi completed his Ph.D. in the Faculty of Education in 2020 with the supervision of Dr. Andrea Sterzuk. Given his outstanding academic performance, the Faculty of Education nominated him for the Governor General Academic Gold Medal and he was the recipient of the Associate Dean’s Graduate Students Thesis Award in 2021. He has co-published six journal articles and presented locally, nationally, and internationally.
 
According to Dr. Ghadi his doctoral study, “documented the intersections between language learning and capital of Syrian men living in Regina; finding that their established identities were eroded or altered due to the loss of their linguistic capital.”
 
As a Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Ghadi will extend his doctoral work to study the impact of COVID-19 on the language learning of adult Syrians in urban and rural Saskatchewan.

Study informs services and supports for South Central Saskatchewan newcomers

With the considerable increase in Saskatchewan’s ethnocultural diversity, understanding newcomer resettlement and integration processes in local rural and smaller urban communities is critical to the development of services and supports that will contribute to newcomer success, to the benefit of both local communities and the newcomers who reside in them.

To fill in current gaps in understanding, a University of Regina research team partnered with Prairie Skies Integration Network (PSIN) to conduct a local study entitled, “Immigrant Settlement and Community-Newcomer Integration in South Central Saskatchewan: A Local Data-Based Study.” The team consisted of Dr. Miguel Sanchez (Principal Investigator, Faculty of Social Work), Dr. Christine Massing (Co-Lead, Faculty of Education), Dr. Daniel Kikulwe (Faculty of Social Work, York University), Dr. Oluwasegun Hassan, (Saskatchewan Health Authority), Dr. Jérôme Melançon, (La Cité universitaire francophone), Lucrécia Raquel Fuhrmann (Ph.D. Candidate,
Faculty of Education) and Stephen Davis, (Ph.D. Candidate, Faculty of Education).

The research team set out to study the accessibility of the following five key topics that have been determined to contribute to successful immigrant resettlement and newcomer integration: education, employment, health and wellness, housing, and transportation. What follows is a summary of the educational findings of this study.

The literature confirms that further education allows newcomers to mobilize their existing resources, re-establish their credentials, develop connections, participate fully in the Canadian workplace, and integrate into their new society. For increasing income and employment rates, the research establishes the value of attaining a Canadian post-secondary education.

However, newcomers can find the transition into the Canadian educational system challenging; the system is especially difficult for those living outside of the urban areas due to lack of opportunities. Some newcomers emphasized the need for additional supports for understanding the Canadian system as well as their need to feel a sense of belonging in the system.

Challenges to navigating the education system and accessing further education. The researchers found, “Nearly one-third of survey respondents indicated that ‘knowing English’ was a pathway to further education.” Learning the Language was identified as a “a significant challenge” that must be overcome for newcomers to access further education and employment and thereby to successfully integrate. This study found that several challenges affect language learning including: access to training (which is limited by the lack of transportation, time due to family commitments, and classes tailored to newcomers’ specific needs); age at the time of migration (several participants of the study felt that coming to Canada when they were school aged facilitated their learning of English); and confidence to take risks and speak to others in the new language (opportunities to practice are necessary for learning language.) Access to minority language training, such as French education in Saskatchewan was said to be “especially challenging.”

Other factors related to education and affecting integration include the major challenge of having foreign degrees and credentials recognized. In addition, a lack of childcare and the prohibitive costs of education were identified as challenges associated with attaining further education. Lack of access to childcare had a higher impact on the ability of women to further their education. The cost of education for students who come to Canada on an international student visa is prohibitive, with fees over two times higher than fees for domestic students. Supports offered in educational institutions including educators, staff, and settlement workers were much appreciated by study participants. Recommendations are summarized in the following chart:

Watch for the full report which will be published at https://psinetwork.ca/

Spring 2022 Education News

Click image to access the animated copy of Education News.

In this issue:
A note from the Dean….. 3
Change maker: Tranforming schools and society….. 4
Alumna envisions schools as environments of empowerment….. 10
Why become a teacher? To be a role model….. 16
Alumnus positively influencing change….. 20
Le Bac student helping to preserve Indigenous languages….. 22
Teaching hard truths in a positive way: Kâsinamakewin….. 24
De/colonising Educational Relationships….. 29
Study informs services and supports for South Central Saskatchewan newcomers….. 30
Equity, diversity, and inclusion research partnership agreement announced….. 32
Successful defences….. 34
Funding and awards….. 35
Published research….. 36
New book….. 38
Long service recognition….. 38
New staff|New position….. 39
Student fundraising….. 40

Immigrant Settlement and Community-Newcomer Integration in South Central Saskatchewan study

Congratulations to this group of researchers including #UREdu‘s Dr. Christine Massing and doctoral candidates Stephen Davis and Lucrécia Fuhrmann. The study “Immigrant Settlement and Community-Newcomer Integration in South Central Saskatchewan: A Local Data-Based Study” received $19, 982 from Prairie Skies Integration Network – Moose Jaw Region’s LIP.