Innovative ABEL program wins two awards

York’s Advanced Broadband Enabled Learning (ABEL) program has won two ORION awards for innovative work with broadband technologies for teaching and learning.

ORION (Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network) is a regional and global high-speed, optical network linking Ontario’s research and educational institutions. This is the second year it has presented awards recognizing those who have championed the use of advanced networks and collaborative technologies in scientific research, teaching and learning. ABEL is part of the ORION network.

This year, ORION awards expanded into three categories: learning, discovery and leadership. An independent six-member panel chose six winners from 22 submissions. The panel identified one award recipient and one award of merit recipient in each of the three categories.

The ABEL program won the ORION Learning Award as an initiative that makes use of ORION and advanced networks to promote/facilitate collaborative teaching, learning and training. The ABEL program office and learning leads team won the ORION Leadership Award of Merit for an initiative that has had a transformative impact in the work of researchers, educators and learners.

“We are defining new models for teaching and learning that are enhanced by interactive resources and collaborative technologies made available to the classroom through the ORION network,” said Janet Murphy, ABEL program manager. “The ABEL program supports a teaching and learning environment that uses Ontario’s world class network and other broadband networks to provide authentic learning that is globally connected.”

York can also take some credit for the fact that SHARCNET (Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network) won the ORION Leadership Award. York is one of 12 members of the consortium of academic and research organizations that is providing Ontario with one of world’s most powerful supercomputers.

Stan Shapson, York’s vice-president of research & innovation, will present the awards tonight at a reception during the Ontario Research and Education Summit, at the MaRS Discovery District, 101 College St., in Toronto. Shapson, the principal investigator on ABEL when it first began, is Chair of the Optical Regional Advanced Network of Ontario (ORANO), the board that governs ORION. Tony Wong, parliamentary assistant to Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation, is the special host at the VIP reception, co-hosted by ORION and Bell Canada.

ABEL was cited as “an innovative Ontario-based program that makes use of next-generation interactive content and videoconference technologies through ORION and other advanced networks to bring high-impact, real-world learning experiences to students, eliminating distance as a barrier to teaching and learning. This award-winning initiative showcases the powerful potential of using Internet-based technologies and advanced computer software to transform the way that teachers teach and the way that students learn, connecting students to the world outside the classroom and raising student achievement.

“ABEL engages students in authentic learning activities that bring learning experiences and expertise from distant locations directly to the classroom, in realtime, including virtual tours, live interactions with experts and connecting with teachers and students in other regions of the province and country. ABEL is helping to shape twenty-first century leaders for twenty-first century learners, placing Ontario at the forefront of innovation in teaching and learning technologies and expertise.”

ABEL’s learning leads team consists of:

  • Janet Murphy, program manager, ABEL, in York’s Office of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation
  • Steve Smallwood, teacher, Dr. Denison Secondary School, York Region District School Board
  • Wayne Sproule, social studies director and instructor, York’s Faculty of Education
  • Anne Kerr,  principal, Ursula Franklin Academy, Toronto District School Board
  • Obadiah George, technical innovations manager, ABEL in York’s Office of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation
  • Gail Shotlander, curriculum consultant, Peel District School Board
  • Robert Finlayson, manager, Faculty Support Centre, York’s Computing & Network Services
  • Susan Spence, technical lead for ABEL, Faculty Support Centre, York’s Computing & Network Services.