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Online clubs, Netflix appearances, awards abound: OISE’s 2020 in review

December 23, 2020

By Perry King

The coronavirus may have put a wrench in how the world at-large got together to collaborate and celebrate, the OISE community worked diligently to make 2020 a fruitful, connective one for students, faculty and staff.

Below is a tally of some of the achievements and memorable moments that followed the OISE community in 2020. 

In this episode of the OISE Stay at Home Club, Brittany Cohen and Shawn Matts share their journey starting a YouTube channel for K-8 kids, as well as practical tips for engaging learners and creating your own educational video content.  

We created an online club to better connect our community on Twitter

While the pandemic made in-person meetups and chats almost impossible, OISE created the Stay at Home Club, which features alumni and friends of the Institute who lead interactive lessons for children and adults alike.

From Dolf DeJong, the CEO of the Toronto Zoo, to heartfelt conversations about race (including between alumna Karen Edge and her nine-year-old son, Isaac), the club has become a landmark event for the OISE community. Check out every Stay at Home club session to date.


OISE is the fifth-ranked educational institute… in the world!

QS World University Rankings placed the OISE as the 5th best educational institution in the world – its highest ranking to date – and continued its place as the top education institute in Canada.



We launched an initiative to better support Black students and faculty at OISE

At OISE, we tightly hold the belief that education is a powerful weapon to combat racism  and discrimination. To that, the Institute wanted to walk the walk, and created the OISE Black Excellence Education Initiative to create supports for our Black faculty and students.

We established a new research centre devoted to Indigenous studies

Professor Sandra Styres, Canada Research Chair in Iethi’nihstnha Ohwentsia’kkha (Land), Resurgence, Reconciliation and the Politics of Education, helped establish The Indigenous Educational Research Centre – which will provide a key space for Indigenous specific research across OISE. It will also serve as a place where Indigenous faculty and students can meet, work on research projects and engage in critical conversations in a culturally aligned safe space.


Professor Kang Lee was featured in the Netflix docuseries Babies in 2020.

One of our faculty appeared in a Netflix series

Kang Lee, a researcher in OISE’s department of Applied Psychology and Human Development, appears in an episode for the docuseries Babies, which premiered on the streaming service June 19. The show, which follows a number of newborn and infant babies and their families, goes into great detail about developmental science and psychology – where they also interview some of the world’s top experts in the field.

In the episode “What Babies Know,” Lee introduces the Netflix audience to his research – specifically, racist bias in six- and nine-month old babies.

Kang Lee also launched a pretty cool biometrics-measuring app

Speaking of Professor Lee, his app, Anura, had its global launch in 2020 and is now available wherever you get your apps.

Anura, with sophisticated technology, can measure ones blood pressure and heart rate by taking a selfie. The app also measures stress, irregular heartbeats, cardiac workload, body mass index, and risks for cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. (Anura is not a substitute for clinical assessment by a health care professional.)

The app is the result of crucial research produced by Lee’s doctoral and postdoctoral students. Anura was also further developed and advanced by Nuralogix, a startup he started with entrepreneur Marzio Pozzuoli in 2015.

Two of our faculty were recognized with one of Canada’s more pre-eminent appointments

Marlene Scardamalia and Diane Gérin-Lajoie were appointed to the Royal Society of Canada, joining over 2,000 Canadian scholars, artists, and scientists nationwide and 400 Royal Society of Canada fellows from U of T.

Nominated and elected by their Royal Society peers, Fellows have made remarkable contributions in the arts, humanities and sciences. In their role, they will be mobilized to contribute knowledge, understanding, and insight through engagement with the Canadian public.

Earning her PhD at OISE, and working primarily at CREFO, Gérin-Lajoie’s research interests primarily focus on French minority language education in Ontario and English minority language education in Québec. Learn more about Professor Emerita Gérin-Lajoie.

Scardamalia invented the first computer-based collaborative learning environment, now known as Knowledge Forum, which is used globally. Her publications, including curriculum and policy publications and technology interfaces, have been translated into more than 15 languages. Learn more about Professor Scardamalia


Our students and faculty stood for their principles

Organized by the University of Toronto’s Beverly Bain and OCAD University’s Min Sook Lee, Scholar Strike Canada is inspired by a call to labour action for academics by Yale University Associate Professor Dr. Anthea Butler – who herself was inspired by striking WNBA and NBA players after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The labour action called for racial justice and an end to anti-Black police violence. Aligned with the American equivalent, the Canadian movement also focused in on anti-Indigenous, colonial violence.

The action included teach-ins, many of them held by OISE faculty and students. PhD candidate Janelle Brady moderated a conversation with alum, organizer, communications specialist, public intellectual, and writer Sandy Hudson

We were blessed by the presence of Dionne Brand (and Rinaldo Walcott, too!)

The R.W.B. Jackson Lecture was postponed indefinitely in the spring of 2020. But, on Dec. 8, it was back and we were blessed with a conversation between Dionne Brand, an acclaimed poet, essayist and documentarian, and Professor Rinaldo Walcott. Missed it? Watch a video this special event


It's been a challenging year, but we did it. Together, we've navigated and adapted to unexpected changes with thoughtfulness, strength and resilience. Here at OISE, we are entering the new year with a renewed commitment to supporting our community with love and care.

Until then, it's time for a little break. Watch our holiday video to see how members of our OISE community are getting ready for the holiday season! 

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