Winnipeg among the world’s most intelligent communities, says New York think-tank

Winnipeg is among the world’s top seven most intelligent communities, according to New York-based Intelligent Community Forum.  Sisler High School provided a major contribution to Winnipeg’s application.  Two other Canadian cities made the think-tank’s list: Montreal, Quebec and Surrey, B.C. …CBC News


Winnipeg was chosen because it is a model of economic and social transformation, said the group. “In the 21st Century, the city is pursuing economic growth by better connecting industry and education, while better equipping its large aboriginal population for opportunity,” said Intelligent Community Forum’s website.

Sisler High School Provided a significant contribution to Winnipeg’s application.  Please read the following excerpt:
A true renaissance—a great revival in the world of art and learning—is taking place in our schools. Many of us would not even recognize the classrooms of today. That’s especially true at Sisler High School in
Winnipeg’s North End. It is Manitoba’s largest high school with a culturally diverse population of about
2,000 students in grades 10 to 12.

It may be hard to pick out the teacher from the students in Sisler’s digital media classrooms. There’s nobody standing at the front of the class giving lectures. There’s no sign of the traditional desks that many of us grew up with. Instead, students are plugged into their laptops doing online research and exchanging project ideas with colleagues in Taiwan and Uganda. Or they may be sitting in front of a video camera, participating in a live debate about the Syrian refugee crisis with students in Austin Texas, or tracking down a cyber thief.

Welcome to the inverted classroom and the future of learning in the connected world. The inverted classroom is an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning that reverses the traditional
educational arrangement. The instructional content that was formerly delivered in lecture format by teachers is now done online, frequently outside of the classroom.

Activities that were traditionally considered homework have moved into the classroom where the teacher serves as the facilitator assisting students with their own self-directed projects. Teachers often prepare their lessons in video format and file them for on demand use by the students. This allows students to prepare for their classes in advance, and it provides supplemental resources for review at their discretion. These methods have been particularly useful as teaching aids for special needs students.

Sisler High School pioneered this new style of pedagogy, developing inverted classrooms and distance education collaborations across academic, cultural, social, and digital divides. This is made
possible by Wi-Fi everywhere, bring-your-own-device (BYOD), and high definition (HD) video conferencing capabilities. Much of the Sisler curriculum is based on live stream content viewing and video conferences with partners and industry experts from every possible field of endeavour in every part of the world. Sisler teachers have taken the revolution even further. They established new vocational frameworks to prepare students for the workplace of the future in cyber security (CS) and interactive digital media (IDM).

The Sisler Network & Cyber Security Academy is the first program of its kind in Canada specializing in IT education that focuses on training students to think critically to solve real world business solutions as they master the technologies. It prepares graduates for positions such as IT Helpdesk Support, IT Analyst, Data Centre Operator, Network Administrator, Information Security Analyst, and System Administration, right out of high school. During their Sisler years, they participate in local, national, and international technology competitions, such as Cyber Patriot (a hacker contest for the good guys) and Cisco NetRiders, where they compete to solve network and cyber security problems.

The IDM program trains students for careers in film production, animation, visual effects, gaming, app design, and web programming. Students attend video conferencing lectures and workshops with industry partners who are active in the field. The assignments they complete for grading are structured as client projects. The students also participate in intern workplace positions with real companies, and they are eligible for post-secondary scholarships and credits at the University of Winnipeg. Sisler IDM grads have gone on to build careers with leading entertainment companies like Disney, Complex Games of Winnipeg, and Skybox.

Sisler’s Digital Voices Project (DVP) was developed within the IDM program in 2011. Its purpose is to encourage Indigenous students to explore cultural stories and traditional Indigenous sacred teachings and to document and digitalize their stories using cutting edge digital technology. Students enroll in two digital media courses where they learn how to plan, create, and promote a project of their choice (an animated feature, an app, a game, a short film, etc.) while experimenting with cutting-edge digital technology. They learn about game development, digital sound recording, 2D and 3D animation, multimedia production, web design, and blogging.

Beyond Sisler: Modern schools are no longer confined to their bricks and mortar, and Sisler strives to share its rich digital legacy beyond its own student population. Video conferences with high profile speakers are fed out to interested schools everywhere. Over the past four years, it has connected with about 120,000 students in 120 schools around the world, and the staff is frequently called upon to mentor other schools in adopting these practices. Sisler teachers also reach out to middle and elementary school students in their catchment area, teaching coding to younger students through classes, lunch and learns, and competitions. To enrich the learning experience, it enlists the support of local new media industry leaders like Project WhiteCard, Complex Games, and Kindoma, and local universities and community colleges.

In 2015 for example, Sisler students interacted in personal and meaningful ways with scientists and experts from the Math Museum in New York City; Canadian Space Agency shuttle astronauts; and industry leaders from Disney, Facebook, Twitter, Weta, Pixar, Sony, Microsoft. They even observed a live surgery and spoke directly with the surgical team and patient during the procedure. They attended virtual conferences and participated in live debates on the environment, sustainable development, alternative energy solutions. This is a normal day in the life of many Sisler students.

The Sisler Network and Cyber Security Academy was established in 2015 to prepare students for jobs as cybersecurity professionals, a highly sought after skill set in the emerging broadband economy. The Manitoba government invested $300,000 in upgrading classrooms and installing a new virtual network and cyber security data centre where students will gain hands-on, real life experience with IT security. Sisler students won first place in the CyberPatriot International Exhibition, a youth education program spearheaded by the United States Air Force. The school also works closely with local companies like MTS, EPIC, Seccuris, and Octopi Managed Services to arrange paid internships, work experience, and full-time jobs.

In 2015, Sisler developed a partnership with the Vancouver Firm School. “We invited the film school to partner with us in the program,” says Jamie Leduc, Department Head of Business Education, Information Technology, and Interactive Digital Media. “When they audited our program they told us it was the best they had seen for preparing students for careers in the industry.” Leduc has spearheaded the Sisler technology program over the past 8 years and has been the driving force behind the inverted classroom and vocational training initiatives Over 50 partners were involved in the Digital Voices Project, including Microsoft Canada and Polycom. Microsoft went on to name Sisler as one of the world’s most innovative schools in 2011. Sisler also offers Digital Voices Summer Institutes where teachers are trained to deliver that program and numerous other high school technology programs. More than 120 educators have participated in these professional development programs since 2012.

Sisler has earned international recognition as an award winning proof of concept school. It was a winner of the Adobe Educators Choice and the Apple Distinguished Educator Awards. Nine Sisler staff members have earned the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching since 1997.