Weekly Reading #3, Bob Heath, Online Pedagogy, ED 655

Original post.

In my article review this week I ended up at a place calling for a blended approach to learning. In my comment celebrating augmented reality I ended up at a place calling for blended learning. Accordingly, I gravitated to the “Blended Compared With Pure Online Learning” section in:

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: a meta-analysis and review of online learning studies, Washington, D.C., 2010.

Sadly, and I will save you many words: “no significant differences” were found. That is, the research conducted thus far is inconclusive when comparing blended learning to purely online learning.   Therefore, I suggest we trust our guts and go with what we think is sexy and cool in a geeky sort of way.

My two reasons for going to blended presentation for some types of instruction: first, some knowledge, some interactions are best face-to-face, second, as in the EcoMobile videos going to the pond, as a group is incredibly important and not possible in an exclusively online format.   But wait these are claims not reasons and so I need to make arguments and provide evidence.

Returning to the Passing On video I shared in my second article review: one of our narrators describes appropriate ways to approach elders seeking instruction either for her students or for herself. Alas, I cannot interrogate her. The video is a gem but it is one-way transmission. If she were online, I could interrogate her, certainly, but in text I cannot capture inflection of tone, timing, and so on, nor can I capture facial expression. Likewise, in text I cannot capture the spiral logic implicit in instruction given by elders. Certainly, FaceTime gets us closer and closer, but it struggles with buffering and is limited to the quality of camera attached to the device. This harkens back to my friend John Schumacher’s criticism of e-mail and phone calls as representations of altogether different events – face-to-face co-making of inquiry. If we were 40,000 years old in online technology, I would have to consider that our physical evolution might have adapted to information/communication technology. Nevertheless, most of these changes have happened in the past 20 years, we are for the most part the same human beings who hunted mastodons with stone tipped lances. Those human beings learned from each other face-to-face. So, let us imagine that exclusive online learning is a human-made environment rather like the inside of the Apollo space capsules, sufficient but barely. Certainly amazing and cool but when we look back on our LMS systems in 20 years they will seem as harsh and spare as the interiors of the space ships we flew to the moon. Moreover as persons facilitating learning, we have additional obligations not just content. We have obligations to civil society, to appropriate public discourse, to fostering leaders. While some of this work can be done online not all of it can be. I think this is so because these are not just about the content knowledge but about making eye contact, about nodding, or gesturing, they are about situating the knowledge in a cultural moment – why it is that TedTalks are taped in front of an audience perhaps. I have already touched on some reasons for my second claim implicitly – learning is not just about making individuals it is about making cultures, creating psycho-social facilities and ensuring survival of the individual and the group – easy to forget in post-industrial society.

Therefore, I will hazard a claim that classes that toggle between content and meta-cognition would be better in a blended environment. I suggest leadership as one example, perhaps cycles of seasonal subsistence might be another topic that would be better served in a blended class. Second, I theorize that classes aimed at younger learners K-12, perhaps even 13, are better blended. I suggest blended in part because of the force multiplier, that various online tools offer, EcoMobile/EcoMuve as an example, flipped instruction as another. The next question is how do we formulate the research question to show results more conclusive then we see in the required reading. I am a philosopher not a social scientist so forgive me the speculation: I suspect one would have to create three courses in three formats with comparable outcomes and teach them adjacently for an extended time. Probably possible at a larger University that offers classroom, purely online, and blended presentation. However, while waiting on those results what kind of decision model can we create for the rest of us in the mean time? I suspect that like cell phones, laptops, Google documents, Twitter, we have to remember classroom, online, and blended are tools in our toolkit and in our professional roles part of our excellence is our facility and artistry in using the right tools at the right time – there is an element of trusting our guts.

Article 2 Review, Bob Heath, Online Pedagogy, ED 655

Original post.

Several co-learners in this course have raised the matter of cultural diversity in online learning “environments” — particularly in Alaska. I am intrigued with this issue and so it inspired me to some greater investigation. This review will focus on a single article:

Xiaojing Liu, S. L., Seung-hee Lee, Magjuka, Richard J. (October, 2010). Cultural Differences in Online Learning: International Student Perceptions. . Journal of Educational Technology & Society., Vol. 13 (Issue 3), p177-188.

but this is only a starting point.

The authors examine seven themes that arose out of their research: Assessment, Instruction/Interaction, Asynchronous/Synchronous Communication, Collaboration, Case Learning, Academic Conduct, and Language. Students were from the U.S., China, India, and Russia. Rather, than extensive review of the article itself, the methods and so on, I would like to focus on the findings since this is practical and immediately useful. The authors offer a table that quickly summarizes these:

seven themes

One of the themes that came out of last semester’s ED 631 – Culture , Curriculum and Community class was “both-and” that is Native Alaskan youth needed to be able to navigate both Western ways of education and Native cultural practices. In the recommendations for assessment practices we see “Multiple assessment strategies: Structured and flexible assignment schedule” this strikes me as a way to accomplish the Alaskan goal for “both-and” assuming we can actually strike a balance between process-oriented vs. exam-oriented assessment for example. Turning to instruction/interaction we are encouraged to “Incorporate features that accommodate different cultural pedagogy.” And to my mind this is the rub of exclusive online instruction, however, it might also be a place for young learners to gain esteem in the eyes of elders. As an example, working with spruce roots, I can imagine a young learner setting up their iPhone and recording a video of their work with the roots, harvesting, preparing, and finally basket making. They then use video editing software to polish their product and submit it asynchronously through the LMS, for peers and elders to watch and comment on. The Dragonfly Project out of Haines has shown how this has opened doors between youth and elders where the roles reversed and the youth taught elders computer use. It is a small stretch to imagine another youth creating a video comment refining a technique and that inspiring an elder to seek out a youth to help them add a video comment with additional improvement, or at least the Instructional Technologist at the hosting institution.

Turning to balanced use of asynchronous/synchronous communication I am forced to wonder about blended courses as perhaps most appropriate for cultural content.  As I think about online instruction and Alaskan communities and schools, the role of elders is the most perplexing. This video, Passing On worth watching in entirety but particularly at minute 7:31 poses a question that has stumped me, certainly both when I first encountered it in the 1980s as a student at Sheldon Jackson College and again this past spring – why can’t a learner simply ask for what they need? “Yo, I’m a dufus. I forgot the words to the jump rope song can ya drop me a clue?” I suspect that as a white guy from away I may never understand the answer I hear. Perhaps the best I can achieve is sensitivity to my ignorance. However, there is something going on here that is subtle and culturally unique – I am not at all certain that it can be captured in online learning. I suspect then that online instruction must necessarily be in conjunction with face-to-face interaction – particularly in Native Alaska and particularly when focused on cultural preservation.

Addressing the fourth and fifth themes together, collaboration and case learning, I am reminded of a leadership training I attended for managers in libraries and IT in higher education this summer. The national statistics for CIOs show 97% are white males. We were fortunate to have a woman and two African American men in the room as instructors all at that level in their organizations. One of the most telling comments made by one of them was “if you want to recruit for diversity then you need to create your interview committees so that when I walk into the room I see people like me.” I think this is at the heart of these themes. If I as a learner cannot find myself in the course content, I can barely begin to connect or construct with the material. In thinking about Alaska Natives, we often focus on the diversity, the differences, the factors of cultural uniqueness. I suspect that in areas of politics, law, economics, and health care, tribal groups across the nation share a great deal of similarity in the problems they seek to correct. This article offers a place both for cultural diversity and shared issues through case studies in online instruction. The student interviews conducted by the authors highlight how the cultural diversity enriched their thinking about both the local and global issues.

Owen, in a comment on this blog, pointed out that in teaching remedial math he felt he had to write a guide for the guide. For different reasons I suspect that is also the case in a culturally diverse online course. The authors say: “Several international students have expressed frustration at being severely punished for their inappropriate citation of others’ work according to the academic rules of the U.S. universities. They felt that the instructors lacked an understanding of the cultural differences in regard to educational practices” (Xiaojing Liu, October, 2010). So here we see the need for both cultural sensitivity and emotional intelligence and as instructor learns from their mistakes, hopefully that increasingly involves front loading the instruction – offering guidelines for decoding educational practices rather than reactive punishment for not even understanding that a coded message was in use.

Finally, dealing with language differences, or in the case of Alaska Natives building occasions for language practice into the curriculum — the project is one of preserving languages. This is, I think, the real value of online instruction. We have an opportunity to combine the talents of content experts and instructional designers in ways that are far more rich and productive then the “solitary sage on the stage.”  I joke that English is my only language and for a non-native speaker I do ok. Therefore, in this I would need the help of a native speaker and probably an instructional designer to build language into any courses I wanted to create. However, the value is in both preserving the language and showing respect to the cultural diversity in the class. Course creation is necessarily an iterative and collaborative project.

The LMS as an aspect of the post-modern turn, Online Pedagogy, ED 655

Original post.

Use one of the following questions as your writing prompt for this week. Compose a thoughtful and complete opinion piece to post.

  1. Recall a learning experience that you found personally effective and identify the underlying methodology. Describe ways in which behaviorist, cognitivist, or constructivist techniques were employed.

My “moment” was in a Metaphysics course taught by John A. Schumacher… in 1989. John required students in his classes to keep a notebook. Each week’s entry consisted of lecture notes, (proof you were awake and engaged), and a short essay – 2000 words, more formal engagement with some aspect of the week’s work. John would collect the journal at regular turns in the semester, read and comment in them. This was before we knew about the internet and certainly before online pedagogy. However, John was grappling with fruitful concepts. He was an anarchist and as such did what he could to disrupt our roles, his as teacher, and ours as students. I remember him getting a student talking about his belief in Wikka, handing the kid the chalk, walking him to the front of the class, and then sitting down in a student desk. He did all that he could to disrupt the architecture and structure of the classroom and school. The journal was one of his strategies to “keep the conversation going” to extend it out of the classroom and into our real lives. I loved it.

Fast forward to six or so years ago I had the great fortune of taking an online course from a professor, Thomas Easton, who likewise valued “keeping the conversation going.” I was impressed by the power of learning management systems to do that – assuming the teacher understood and appreciated it. The LMS could do more, to facilitate conversations between students, indeed to the forefront what had been silenced by many teachers or back channeled by room arrangement or architecture (think lecture hall). I have taken several online courses over the years, some terrible. The best ones utilized various tools to encourage interactions some synchronous some asynchronous. One trick Tom used was to schedule a weekly chat room. Tom prepped students for the event with a couple of questions that tied the readings together or antagonized them. Then he facilitated the conversation prodding quiet folks, or dropping links to related sources, giving us time to read them, come back, and comment. Initially, I felt overwhelmed by the technology, but quickly figured out how to write aphorisms rather than paragraphs. However, that was still very similar to a classroom meeting, regular time and same people and so on.

Additionally, Tom found ways to use forums to “keep the conversation going” over the next week. Owen in this class is using many of those same tricks. These weekly readings might be analogous to John’s notes in the Journal; the article reviews are more formal and so like the weekly essays. The difference is that rather than just the professor’s comments, my co-learners are commenting on my work too. Mostly this is valuable, sometimes just rubbish, but, if I think about all the teacher’s comments I have read, and I can categorize them that way also (and I have been in both roles as well and made my share of rubbish comments, too).

We read Skinner in that Metaphysics course, and I recall John’s criticism of Skinner and behaviorist theories of learning. Therefore, in his class, there was little room for behaviorist approaches to learning. The post-modern turn impacted John, and so, he was indeed informed by constructivist notions of education.

Learning should be an active proces… Learners should construct their own knowledge, rather than accepting that given by the instructor…. Collaborative and cooperative learning should be encouraged to facilitate constructivist learning…. Learners should be given control of the learning process…. Learners should be given time and the opportunity to reflect…. Learning should be made meaningful…. Learning should be interactive to promote higher-level learning and social presence, and to help develop personal meaning.( http://www.aupress.ca/books/120146/ebook/01_Anderson_2008-Theory_and_Practice_of_Online_Learning.pdf)

I think John’s twist on this theory would be a strong emphasis on the social construction of knowledge. He would have been simultaneously suspicious of LMS systems and intrigued by them. I recall him criticizing phone and e-mail as “representation of altogether different events.” He always circled back to human interaction, to a conversation as profoundly important to human being. I suspect he would be critical of:

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning 2(1).

Critical because of the emphasis, perhaps celebration, of mediated or representational interaction at the expense of face-to-face co-making of meaning. However, he would have liked this list of questions Siemens raises:

Some questions to explore about learning theories and the impact of technology and new sciences (chaos and networks) on learning:

  • How are learning theories impacted when knowledge is no longer acquired in the linear manner?

  • What adjustments need to made with learning theories when technology performs many of the cognitive operations previously performed by learners (information storage and retrieval).

  • How can we continue to stay current in a rapidly evolving information ecology?

  • How do learning theories address moments where performance is needed in the absence of complete understanding?

  • What is the impact of networks and complexity theories on learning?

  • What is the impact of chaos as a complex pattern recognition process on learning?

  • With increased recognition of interconnections in differing fields of knowledge, how are systems and ecology theories perceived in light of learning tasks?

For myself, I like these questions as well perhaps more than the conclusions Siemens arrives at. I particularly resonate with his question about “performance in the absence of complete understanding” and his last question about the role and importance of “systems and ecological theory” in speculating on learning – both of these issues are recurrent in my self-reflection on my role as a leader in a library.

Article Review 1, Bob Heath, Online Pedagogy ED 655

Original post site.

Abrahmov, S. L., & Ronen, M. (2008). Double blending: online theory with on-campus practice in photography instruction. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 45(1), 3-14. doi: 10.1080/14703290701757385

The authors through using the online presentation to augment their classroom performance were able to add learning objectives that previously were too much for the classroom (Abrahmov & Ronen, 2008). These additions were aimed at the goal teaching basic photography and visual literacy: “Our major challenge was to promote the awareness of the connotative level of meaning, and its relation to the factual aspects, in order to foster the understanding and creation of photographs that express additional levels of meanings” (Abrahmov & Ronen, 2008). The authors describe six online exercises that they created to facilitate students learning visual literacy. This section of the paper is extensive and detailed. The authors also describe their evaluation of the augmented class.

This evaluation study was based on the analysis of the data extracted from the following sources:

  • Students’ online activity and their performance in the theoretical tasks (content analysis).
  • Students’ performance in the practical final project.
  • The peer evaluation records of the final project (content analysis).
  • Students’ reflections as expressed in a questionnaire administered at the end of the course.
  • Interviews with a sample of students from each class.(Abrahmov & Ronen, 2008)

The content analysis focused on the student’s use of six professional terms. The analysis showed the adoption and use of these terms over the course. The peer evaluation was likewise subject to content analysis. Here the authors were looking for students to seek and identify the second level of connotative meaning in the images submitted for peer review. Sixty percent of the students did this. “All students reported that the study of theoretical aspects of ‘reading photographs’ had contributed to the development of their practical skills, while most (70%) stated that it had a significant impact on the photographs they have produced”(Abrahmov & Ronen, 2008). The authors seem pleased with their results and even recommend that this model may have relevance for other “similar instructional challenges.”

I selected this article for review precisely because it combined the technical skills of making something and the intellectual skills of interpretation and appreciation of the object. I suppose this course has elements of a flipped class. However, even that is stood on its head because the online instruction is about peer interaction and about keeping the conversation going outside of the classroom extending the learning outward into real life. I likewise chose the article because it was about more learning; more content added to the course, rather than more courses added to the curriculum or worse how a course could be dumbed-down because “Young people these days…”. I selected it as well because of the higher-level learning accomplished in the tension between the how and why of the inquiry.

I will now examine more closely two of the six assignments as the authors identified them as particularly effective. The second assignment was conceptually central and pivotal, and students themselves acknowledged this. In the first, the notion of “focal point” was developed and explored in this way:

  • Implementation format: open submission as a file attached to a message in a designated discussion group board.
  • Scaffolding: explanation and examples of the concept of ‘focal points’ was hyperlinked to the task page, as well as the opportunity to view peer examples.

This implementation is deceptively simple, and unfortunately, that is real all the authors give us. We are left to speculate on the conversations that ensued between instructors and students and between students. We have to imagine that the instructors have a particular knack for explaining the concepts, but they do not give away their trade secrets here. The students identified this concept as the most revelatory and the most transferable piece of theoretical knowledge learned in the course. I wish the authors had spent more time exploring and explaining this success.

The final project was the submission of a series of four to six printed photographs – thematically related. The subject was left open to the students but the goal of the project “to create pictures with a developed second level of meaning” was assigned. Each student was expected to submit two written evaluation on peers’ work. This text, as already mentioned, underwent content analysis by the authors focused on the use of terms and ability to identify and relate the two levels of meaning.

The article itself is not overwrought with theorizing or professional jargon dumping, and I like that. The authors use “writing” and “reading” as tropes, as general categories for the two sets of tasks they assign students. Writing speaks to the physical, technical skills of making pictures with cameras. Reading speaks to the interpretive and aesthetic notions that the instructors add to the class, that speak to achieving a “second level of meaning.” This is a simple provisional theory to get the practice up on its feet and see if it grew legs.

I struggled a bit with the course evaluation because it smacked of academic rigor rather than sustainable self-reflection. Content analysis is a labor-intensive research technique, certainly to write an article and for scholarly rigor it was necessary for getting published. However, I suspect the authors returned to simpler and more sustainable course evaluation tools for following classes. In truth, I would have preferred to read about those techniques – alas, their article probably would not have been successfully peer reviewed in that case.

I do recommend this article to my classmates particularly if they are dealing with presenting technical skill. However, I wonder if there is a way to make an abstract and theoretical subject more tangible by pairing it with a practical one. I recall once buying a book on framing roofs. The author did an admirable job of connecting geometry and trigonometry to the actual problem of building roofs. I would have learned the concepts in high school if the math had been taught in an application rather than just rote.

Unit 6 – Models for Educational Reform and Renewal, ED 631

I must limit my scope seriously on this assignment, as I am no place to propose school reform for the State of Alaska. Rather I will focus on the source of my most recent experience: Haines, AK, and consulting with the Chilkoot Indian Association. Similarly, I am going to focus on elements that I have knowledge and expertise. James W. Kushman in his paper “A Study of Community Engagement and Educational Reform in Rural Alaska” identifies four factors important to reform:

  • shared decision making, or the extent to which community members (parents, elders, and others) have greater influence and decision-making power in educational matters
  • integration of culture and language, or the extent to which Native language, culture, ways of knowing, and a community’s sense of place are woven into daily curriculum and instruction
  • parent/elder involvement in educating children, or the extent to which parents, elders, and others have a strong presence and visibility in the school and participate in their children’s education at home
  • partnership activities, or positive examples of the school and community working together to share responsibility for student success

Two of these, shared decision-making, and partnership activities are topics that I will focus on in the following discussion. Another key text in the following discussion will be the Guide to Implementing the Alaska Cultural Standards for Educators. This document focuses on assessing teachers and schools in their attempts to build culturally relevant curriculum. Said differently it is on the outside looking in and this is the same perspective I have as a non-native, consultant, from away. I suspect that what I am looking for is less school reform and instead something more like social reform. So part of what I am getting around to is that responsibility for accomplishing the AK Guidelines is borne by more people than just the classroom teacher.

Standard A: Culturally-responsive educators incorporate local ways of knowing and teaching in their work.

Standard B: Culturally-responsive educators use the local environment and community resources on a regular basis to link what they are teaching to the everyday lives of the students.

Standard C: Culturally-responsive educators participate in community events and activities in appropriate and supportive ways.

Standard D: Culturally-responsive educators work closely with parents to achieve a high level of complementary educational expectations between home and school.

Standard E: Culturally-responsive educators recognize the full educational potential of each student and provide the challenges necessary for each of them to achieve that potential.

Each step of these guidelines progressively and increasingly blurs the boundaries between town and gown. Perhaps “home” itself antagonizes the traditional boundaries most intensely. Where does “home” start and stop? Probably it could be said to include a church, perhaps medical practitioners, and social services. If the boundaries of home are in question then where does family start and stop? Certainly, the Native community in Haines answers that question differently than the dominant culture. Likewise, where does local community start and stop? Does this only include social programs or can it include ones emphasizing the culture and the arts? On the other hand, does it include business owners as well? Finally, do we make some people sitting at the table wear several hats? Therefore, a parent is that and a business owner; an educator is both teacher and community organizer.

In my last paper, I speculated that between school/library/tribal government there existed, in Haines, a place to begin to do this work. I think that a tribal government has a leadership role in opening up these conversations in rural Alaska communities. The Dragon Fly program offers a case study of the issues I aim to address here: shared decision-making and partnership activities. A Google search resulted in the text of the 2009 IMLS grant and the document Museums and Libraries Engaging America’s Youth (pages 115-118) which appears to be some of the of the 2003 grant text augmented with interviews (this mentions a 2001 round of funding as well, alas I was unable to find that document). From the library website, we also see two key stakeholders the Library and the Chilkoot Indian Association. In particular, Greg Stuckey CIA’s Tribal Administrator at the time and Dan Coleman then Director of Haines Public Library at the time were the original people behind the program. Linda Moyer was the Library education coordinator at that point as well, and Warren Johnson IT consultant for CIA is among the original participants. From the library website, we learn that the initial objective of the grant was to focus on:

Tech-savvy young people from ages 11 to 21 are the teachers, sharing their computer skills with others by becoming mentors. They learn how to use the library’s technology and resources, develop materials and techniques to teach concepts and skills, do community outreach, and work one-on-one with a wide variety of people.

The ambiguity of the roles is immediately striking a young person becomes the teacher. It is no stretch to imagine an Elder coming to the library to learn how to use e-mail or to set up a Facebook page and being coached by a young person. Perhaps nothing comes of it, or maybe a friendship and the exchange of cultural knowledge results. Out of this, we see the importance of the library in the community as a site of learning and socialization.

As the project marked successes and grew, there seems to see a broadening of mission first the project focused on information technology and on training young people to be trainers themselves. From the library website, we learn:

The Dragonfly Project is a partnership program with the Chilkoot Indian Association. Originally funded by an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant the project focuses on helping individuals gain skills related to using technology. The program is multi-faceted and continues to grow and evolve.

First, I detect some ambiguity in the term “technology, ” and that needs teasing out. Certainly, they refer to information technology, but they also refer to “technology” in a broader way, “the art, skill, and cunning of hand” that we see in their pole carving and dugout canoe projects. This is important in part because it points a critical eye towards the DOE Technology Standards, which focus only in information technology (computers, and mobile devices for examples) and misses broader reflections on a variety of technology relevant to daily life for all Alaskans. Here, I am thinking about transportation, navigation, food gathering and much more. I am also thinking about the ethics of appropriate technology (a compass and a solid body of knowledge may trump a GPS in a particular moment). This playfulness between notions of technology is less apparent in the language of the 2003 round of funding however, the 2009 grant freely treads in this ambiguous space:

The project will create two films, each documenting and preserving an elder’s knowledge, experience, and practices in a traditional life skill. Another key component of our proposed project is inviting partner organizations to share information about topics as renewable energy sources, recycling, barter of goods and services, nutritional value of local foods, and garden plants and techniques appropriate for our climate…. We will provide technology programs in an informal setting, partner with the schools to develop lifelong reading skills, and bring the community together for forums and panel discussions on topics that impact daily lives.

From the 2009 IMLS grant, we find a nice summary about the community, geography, demographics and economics. Haines is remote, with a small population (3,000 or so); Natives comprise 15.6% of that. The unemployment rate is nearly double the state average of 9.3% and 1/3 of the Native households report annual incomes of less than $20,000. We also learn that the library is a focal point in the community and is widely valued and appreciated within the community. In the MLEAY 2003 report we learn about some of the market research that Chilkoot Indian Association had done in preparation for strategic planning:

In 2000, we developed a strategic plan using a written questionnaire asking members to rank priorities. In 2005 the McDowell Group conducted a telephone survey that included 137 tribal households capturing 183 tribal members. Computer skills were identified as needed by 20% of respondents, by far the highest percentage for any single skill category. An overwhelming 62% of survey respondents wanted to develop technology literacy and other job-related skills to help them find employment or earn more. Members are very interested in improving opportunities and program availability for Chilkoot Indian youth. Staff and Council revised the Strategic Goals according to survey results…. The public input gathered in planning sessions indicated a strong interest in partnering in a variety of ways to meet tribal and community needs. An important aspect of our quality of life in this remote rural area is a well-staffed library facility that offers needed and valued services and programs in a culturally responsive manner…. Our five-year plan enables us to identify library programming goals to meet a range of documented tribal needs through cultural programming.

Out of this research grew the original 2001 project funding request. And of this: “Greg Stuckey, Tribal

Administrator for the Chilkoot Indian Association said the Dragonfly program is “the most successful thing I’ve been a part of.” This accordingly explains 2003, and 2009 rounds of funding and the broadening of scope and methods we see suggested on the library website. The MLEAY 2003 report does a nice job capturing some voices celebrating the success of this project. I think it is important for our purposes to explore these because they offer some insight into shared decision-making and partner associations in creating this kind of programming.

So the question turns now to how was this success achieved? Again, I am looking at Haines, and the Dragon Fly Project from a distance, therefore, many details are unclear. However, based on the evidence available to me I have some questions about who was at the table originally and as the project unfolds into the future who will come to the table. First, in all of our curriculum readings, we hear about engaging with parents. Alas, I do not see parents clearly in this project. For me, this raises some alerts. First, Haines is a multi-cultural community, and I can easily imagine kids from ethnic and dominant culture having an interest in participating. It seems unsafe to assume that these parents share values and assumptions. Second, as we know from Robert Putnam’s work in “Bowling Alone,” and “Better Together” and Charles Murray’s books “Coming Apart,” and “Losing Ground,” civic engagement and social capital are low and dropping in American society for Americas’ working class (this linked video offers a nice summary of their work). In my work as a Boy Scout leader, I saw this first hand. Many parents do not understand their shared responsibility for creating and continuing these kinds of programs and projects. Moreover, class expectations regarding participation in such programs differ widely – this too was clearly visible in Scouting, sports, and other extra-curricular activities. Rather, like much else in our consumer based experience, we imagine that we contribute some money, drop the kids off and pick them up and some good is done. Hence, parent involvement is at once nearly impossible to recruit and second a real obligation to grapple with as projects like the Dragon Fly Project offer us a way to provide adult-education on civic engagement and social capital for parents – and we miss opportunities for community renewal if we overlook this.

There are adult participants we see them pictured on the website, yet we do not have any details about their place in the program. However, we do know that Chilkoot Indian Association has a Youth program coordinator and the library has an education program coordinator. From the 2003 grant, we learn more about the adult energy the project needed for a successful startup:

Throughout the Haines community, mentors responded to the needs of business owners and professionals. Lynn Canal Counseling Services is a case in point of how the Dragonfly Project served the community by engaging more than one level of a business. Lisa Carter recalls “a major collaboration” they worked on with Dragonfly staff and mentors to support women doing artwork in her art therapy group. “The women wanted to publish a holiday journal with their artwork. I contacted Linda [Moyer] and she agreed to let us use the library scanner and provide a tutorial in the computer program we needed. Printing the Journal in color on their color printer made producing the journal affordable.” For the business itself, Dragonfly staff helped with technology issues as they came up. As a small, grant-funded agency with little technology, Warren Johnson, Dragonfly Technical Coordinator, acted as a technical consultant for the agency. Lisa recalled, “We had a grant for new computers and he spent some time with the office manager to help figure out what to get. Other times something would go wrong so we’d call over to the library and they were always nice about helping us.”

Here we also glimpse the cross-pollination where other community members become partners and supporters in an organic and natural way. In the 2009 grant, we see clear self-consciousness of relationships and partnerships that open up because of this funding.

Goal 4 – Objective 3: Maintain and nurture partnerships that will enhance this project: Examples: Friends of the Library, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, Haines Friends of Recycling, the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center, the Alaska Arts Confluence, (ANB/ANS), the Rasmuson Foundation, local Master Gardners, Haines Energy Commission, and Lynn Canal Conservation….

Therefore, this offers us a brief and incomplete summary of a very productive project. In what follows, I will first explore issues of shared decision-making and partnership activities. Then turn to some reflection on how this project represents a journey up the other side of the mountain of culture/community/curriculum. This journey originated in the community and grew towards other organizations including schools. The Haines I recall was a politically conflicted community. People were acutely aware of numerous fault lines dividing the community. Alas, most of the occasions for addressing these divides only served to etch them deeper. I wonder if parental involvement in a facilitated conversation that follows the guidelines offered by the AK Cultural Standards guide might be a place to practice a different kind of engagement and an opportunity to practice building bridges. Starting from a point of agreement: our children share a need for a facility with information technology and our kids share a need for hands-on practical learning opportunities – from this what kind of consensus can be achieved? It seems impractical to hope for a sea change in the local community, but many small incremental changes are far more likely and achievable – and we miss opportunities for community renewal if we overlook this.

Business participation in schools has likewise been a conflicted discussion. Some businesses seem to be acceptable, Apple computers, yearbook and class ring providers, as well as companies that specialize in fundraising. Some businesses or business practices and products are controversial, advertising, McDonald’s or soft drink vendors competing with the school lunch programs, for examples. Nevertheless, the Dragon Fly Project is not a school and that opens up both opportunities for fund raising and for a conversation with business leaders that perhaps would not happen in the academic context. One significant threat to Haines is brain drain as the communities’ young people head off to college, military service, or just seek employment. Earlier I mentioned two successful Haines businesses that might be recruited to join the conversation Bear Star Web Design and Kingfisher Consulting. Indeed, in the example above about adults involved with the program, we find Warren Johnson mentioned he is the principal of Kingfisher Consulting. These two companies show that it is possible to create successful information technology businesses in Haines and simply being exposed to that possibility creates an opportunity for an alternative to simply leaving town. Going beyond that and having these owners speak to the skills they see needed in the industry reinforces the goals of the project but also potentially enriches them. Reaching back to the AK guidelines setting the expectations for the discussion upfront goes a long way in establishing trust. Approaching the business owners and inviting them to the table, saying: “This conversation is not about fundraising, that conversation may happen, but not in this situation, this conversation is about curriculum and about role modeling information technology business success to young people in our community with hopes of slowing our brain drain.” What a business leader hears in this is something like this: “I am not being asked for money; hence, I am not being offered a controlling interest. This is a chance to gain prestige in the community through visibility and credibility and this is an opportunity to market my services, though subtly, and there may be a multiplier effect where the local economy grows hence I do too.” Their involvement hinges on how they value the “in kind” transaction.

Turning to the schools as an additional voice in the conversation, I have no personal insight in the Haines schools, so what follows is speculative. I suspect that they are feeling the second pressure of both the NCLB standards and the Alaska Cultural Standards Guidelines pulled in two directions. Also, the tense local politics may have them in a defensive posture since schools are expensive and easy to flog publicly. Given that, whether they would even take a seat at the table is in question in my mind. Probably, my approach would be very informal and grassroots initially. My aim would be to learn the landscape and the players. Not only who has authority but who is influential as well and I would try to understand potential benefits and costs for the schools. On the one hand, it makes sense that kids participating in the Dragon Fly project receive academic credit for their work both regarding information technology but also regarding the culturally relevant learning. Indeed, from the 2003 text, we learn “Mike also received high school work-experience credit for his Dragonfly participation.” On the other, this may be an incremental accomplishment rather than something done all at once. I can easily imagine identifying a single project champion on the school staff and building the relationship and progress on that. However, if the doors open and principal’s and board members resonate with creating a connection, I would not hesitate to make that move.

There may be other stakeholders in the community that should be in on the shared decision-making. At a distance, I cannot know who those are, however, working the project or consulting on it keeping eyes open for such potential stakeholders would be a recurrent theme for me this project already has legs and is running so this discussion is about growth and sustaining success.

Turning to partnership activities, which in a sense we have all along been talking about but only implicitly, the partnership is about several shared features, shared the cost, control, and profit. First, gain, in this case, is intangible, learning, teaching, good will, credibility, cultural preservation and transmission, creating shared cultural and community values. As such, the value of the project can be measured and should be but not regarding dollars. Rather, we are talking about social capital predominately in this case study. The World Bank website offers an interesting summary of this particular question. Recurrent themes are surround improved, trust, and participation along with economic benefits that result from the social network. They offer a page devoted to tools measuring social capital as well.

Because I see this from a distance, I contacted some involved parties in Haines. Most successful was a phone conversation with Jessie Morgan, the Education Coordinator at the Haines Public Library, and an alumna of the Dragon Fly project herself. It was interesting to hear about the positive and significant impact that the role reversal of young people becoming teachers had on self-esteem and on building community – relations between younger and older persons that might not otherwise have occurred. We also talked about the connections between the program and the local schools. Indeed, one aspect of this was receiving academic credit for “community service.” However, Jessie also talked about the current work of the project and one aspect of that involved working with the Klukwan library and schools to gather data to inform the project. Klukwan is a nearby community, home of the Chilkat Indian Village. In particular, video cameras were used to collect place name data and stories or information about places. Along with the native community, watershed lobbyist and government conservation officers were involved in these conversations creating multi-dimensional learning opportunities. Jessie was also able to clarify for me the relationship between the information technology and the traditional technologies portrayed in the videos linked on the library website. This is actually an intersection between two programs. The Chilkoot Indian Association offers a program for troubled youth one aspect of which is canoe construction project. The plans came together at the need for the Dragon Fly Project to create videos as a grant goal. Jessie indicated that one young person who worked on the video went to college and earned a degree in film-making, just recently graduating. The canoe itself will be paddled to a large cultural event, and one aspect of participation is sobriety another kind, yet still significant, success for those young people. Because the Dragon Fly Project is involved in another round of grant, funding the future of the program was harder to discuss. However, Jessie and I agreed that the questions I was asking were the right questions and issues they were addressing in the latest grant proposal. An interesting aspect of this phone conversation was that before it I was theorizing in a vacuum. However, after our chat, I was able to review my notes and see that many of my “what if” scenarios either were accounted for or were being built into the future iterations of the project. In summary, then we see that many of the criteria for successful school-based initiatives reviewed in the readings for this course and successfully addressed in the Dragon Fly Project, yet the effort was driven not by schools, but by tribal government and public library. I think this aleatory space between culture, community, and curriculum has to be accessed in a variety of ways, school initiatives are very important, but so also are other approaches. The success of the Dragon Fly project is proof in part. However, one motivation for me to explore the Dragon Fly Project more genuinely came from reading Jim Vait’s essay in Lessons Taught Lessons Learned, Vol. 1, and “Obstacles to a Community-Based Curriculum”. His closing paragraph in particular:

This project was too large to undertake without related experience. I am not prepared to facilitate the restructuring of an entire education system. I have experienced some positive results with projects such as the yearbook and the ongoing project of the school newspaper. However, these have been school-centered rather than village-centered activities. I believe that for starting a more community-centered teaching/learning program, it may be appropriate to expand smaller and/or existing projects to include village activities.

Vait offers a large and real assessment of the frailty of focusing solely on schools and teachers as the source of innovation and energy in these kinds of initiatives.

A teacher, particularly one young in the career, is awkwardly placed to take on this role of community leadership. This is not to say they should not be at the table or that schools are not among the partners. Rather, those schools as a solution in curriculum, community, culture collaboration are one possible run up on the problem. Alaska has some interesting resources available through Tribal Governments, the ANB/ANS, numerous non-profit social and cultural programs, and many state and federal funding sources. In the task of community building and culture preservation, I would argue that everyone has a stake and everyone has a role. In the particularities of examining the Dragon Fly Project as a case study through the particular lenses of shared-decision making and partnerships from Kushman, we see a way to approach the issues of curriculum, culture, and community from the community side. Not as a replacement of these initiatives coming from the school side but as a complement to these initiatives and one just as important since it opens up opportunities to develop leadership in adults, adults outside of schools. I think back to Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” and our loss of social capital and loss of self-consciousness of the community as something we construct together each of us benefiting from both the process and the outcome. We realize an opportunity to remediate ourselves, all of us, as community leaders, teachers, and participants in our traditions, when we engage in shared decision-making and partnerships when we participate in community building enterprises.

Unit 5 – Technology and Culture in Rural Schools

Alas, I am going to twist this assignment a bit, this because I find many of the “Atlases” to be static and imitative rather than innovative and participatory.  For me the key is precisely the Alaska DOE – “Technology Standards” in Alaska Student Content Standards web site and the call for “both and” we saw in the First Alaskans Institute – “2006 Alaska Native Student Vitality: Community Perspectives on Supporting Student Success“.  The Technology Standards are brilliant – look at the verbs: “use, manage, diagnose, choose, select, solve, create, convey, evaluate, discriminate, demonstrate, examine, and integrate.”  Perhaps these are pedantic in a way that a Grandmother or Grandfather’s language would not be but these are the behaviors they seek in a young person learning to subsist on the land.  Alas, when I look at many of the Atlases, I am looking at just so many books – sure, books published on the web, but they remain books.  Perhaps the process was incredibly valuable yet not reflected in the product and hence many of these would fail the technology standards.  The assignment calls for me to evaluate various atlases from the technology standards.  I choose instead to re-write the assignment.  Most of the required readings miss the fun, fascination, satisfaction, and amazement that “geeking out” on technology offers the human spirit.  In addition many of these I see a simple mapping of an older way of thinking onto a newer technology, for example, steel replaces slate but it is still an ulu.  Culture must be transformative, adaptive, and innovative if it is to remain vibrant and yet often we react like Luddites and reject outright or as I mention above simply adapt the new technology to an old solution.  In truth, I too am casting about in the dark here because I understand the corrosive effects of change for the sake of change and yet I cannot help myself “geeking out.”  So none-the-less one additional criteria that I am looking for is “geek appeal.”  To make sense of this let me offer a technology curriculum from my own experience.

I will first introduce the work of Chris Dede using augmented reality with middle school students in Boston throught his EcoMuve and EcoMOBILE curriculum modules.  For me the EcoMOBILE program touches on and offers solutions for so many of the concerns we have encountered in our readings throughout this course.  These two units address A: 1-4 explicitly we can see the learners doing this throughout the videos.  A:5 is more difficult to see, but, it is no stretch of imagination to see how it would play out, computers always need to be restarted, or reconnected to Wi-Fi, mobile devices too, or they lose track of satellites and need time to reconnect.  In the later part of the EcoMUVE video we see learners creating posters or concept maps and we get a sense that the work of B is being done.  Certainly, we see C addressed in the EcoMOBILE video where students use a variety of data gathering tools, not just the phones, to observe, analyze, interpret, and draw conclusions.  Likewise, we see the learners doing D: 2-3 and we can imagine them engaging in 1as well.  We see nothing of E occurring in the videos but most of this is a matter of being self-conscious of the technology and the learning and talking about that self-consciousness.  Although cultural bias that is overly accepting or overly critical of technology could either, preclude this self-reflection or bog the entire curriculum down with extreme self-reflection.

Nevertheless, all of this misses just how much geek appeal augmented reality has.  It is easy to imagine another layer in both these experiences where cultural knowledge is part of the augmentation.  Recall the man in the video “Passing On” talking about how visiting a place reminded an elder of stories and knowledge connected to that place.  The elder was the mobile device and his memories the augmented reality, the hotspot the particular place.  Dede’s two curriculums lack the ability to be re-written or enhanced as they learners use them but such a technology does not seem too far-fetched.  Actually, the software offered by Wikitude shows one way to do a portion of this work.  Said differently, the student actually contributes to the knowledge base adding richness and complexity to the data set.  Therefore, a second criterion that is emerging is that educational technology be plastic enough to be informed by the user.  Dede’s two resources offer high geek appeal and high interactivity.

Returning to the required reading several “atlases” catch my attention as meeting the state criteria, having geek appeal, and being participative and innovative: MapTEACH, Aboriginal Mapping Network, Project Jukebox, and the Virtual museum.

MapTEACH, has real geek appeal potential hence my initial interest and resonance.  I immediately searched the site for examples of student work, and, was disappointed.  The maps presented are not interactive in anyway, simply static images.  This was quite disappointing since I wanted to “unpack” the learners’ process in my own process of discovery.  I turned next to the Curriculum tab.  Here we learn of the two central goals: “(1) understand the physical and cultural features of their environment, and (2) use mapping technologies to enhance and portray that new understanding.”  This is accomplished through five sections: Place Names and Landmarks, Remote Sensing and Geology, Global Positioning Systems, Geographic Information Systems, and Google Earth.  The sections on GPS and GIS are most obviously relevant to the state technology standards.  Moreover, when I view the individual lesson plans the authors include the correlation to Alaska standards.  So much of this work is done for the teacher and given the time, pressures teachers operate under I think this is very valuable.  Similarly, the website provides data sets to use with the software.  The instructions for download and installation are quite good and even a technophobe should be able to execute them.  Most schools have access to Mac or PC desktop machines and so the site provides software for both systems.  In addition, the curriculum authors realize that not all schools will have access to GPS and so they indicate that the curriculum can be modified for individual circumstances.  However, they do detail a make and model of GPS that they recommend for use with the curriculum.  This resource has good “geek appeal” and good potential for interactivity.

Turning to the Aboriginal Mapping Network this is a Canadian focused resource.  This is not so much a curriculum as clearinghouse of materials focused on this method of knowledge creation and transmission and cultural preservation.  It also offers a forum to registered users, however, activity seems limited.  The most recent post on the general forum was more than six months ago.  Following the link to “The Living Atlas” we find six sets of data for groups across Canada.  Review of a couple of these was mixed.  One map had navigation that worked to refine ones search and the interactive links on the maps worked popping up embedded YouTube videos with interesting content.  A second was simply a mess and nothing meaningful could be gotten from the interface.  In truth this is a web resource in decline back in 2006 the content was fresh in 2014 it is looking neglected.  Perhaps a teacher looking to augment their work could find resources to use here but, unlike the MapTEACH this site is aimed at a different audience and so would require a lot of work to be translated to the classroom and even more to show how it connects to the technology standards.  Too, from the eyes of my consulting role at CIA I am forced to be critical of this resource as well.  This site in its heyday could well have been useful to a tribal government both for cultural programming and educational programming as this resource is aimed more broadly at communities and adult learners.  This resource had low “geek appeal” and low interactivity.

Project Jukebox is an archive really.  And that has great value, but, it too is focused on the product the web presentation, not on the process or the interaction of learners and technology.  However, it seems to be maintained and with new and ongoing projects.  It shares the values of linking places and people through songs, and stories.  I think as a teacher I would see the value and strength of this as informing some of the MapTEACH curriculem and inspiring and role modeling what some of the assignments are about.  Seeing the interviewing techniques in action and what is possible from using such facilitated conversation approaches is one value of this resource.  On its own it touches on some of the technology standards: B: 1, 2, 3, and many aspects of E, a thoughtful teacher might be able to create additional links to other facets of the standards.  Similarly in the Tribal Government context their could be a lot of value in this initiative first as a resource but second as a way to build community through developing a project in conjunction with the Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program.  Possibly, for a deeply conflicted and divided community, Haines for example, a project might create or identify elements of common ground and open up dialogue.  This resource has moderate “geek appeal” particularly where they talk about using the old Macintosh Hyper-card database to manage the oldest resources, it has moderate to high interactivity but, that is only on the consumer side since there is no way to create or modify real time content.

Turning to the Virtual Museum site, we see a site with two clear purposes: first, a resource for the two Kalskag villages to share information about the area, traditions and culture.  Second: a resource for educators on Place Based projects in the curriculem.  I think these two purposes sit well together.  It seems like the teacher did her work on oneside of the site while the students did theirs on the other and the two work as kind of a conversation but also as way for each to be accountable.  So, in a very real sense we see the process and it is better than the product if I judge the product alone I am at once critical of the spelling, of the sloppy camara work, lack of intepretive guides, basically of the rough edges.  But, when once I explored the teachers side I found myself more generous in evaluating the entire project.  In particular in the Teachers log, May 5th “Returning to Kalskag from presenting this masters project at the University in Fairbanks; I found an afterschool program had sprouted making web pages.”  Students were motivated to perpetuate the creation of content and presentation on their own outside the classroom.  It is not an easy archealogy to find the technology standards throughout this project, however, this quote tells us volumes about the competencies the teacher was able to achieve.  Once I stumbled upon the teachers podcast section it was easier to see the details of the technology standards in action.  In the end this site is really valuable, but, most web research will pass it over on first look since on the surface it is quite… homemade.  This resource intially has low “geek appeal” but after viewing the podcasts and realizing what this teacher accomplished with such limited resources a more generous rating is appropriate.  Interactivity and customizability of the website is low, but, other evidence points to the students own process with these aspects of technology.

Above I’ve evaluated five different resources, one that I brought to the table, the other four from the required reading.  I have introduced two additional criteria to evaluate projects with and used them with each curriculem/resource.  The work remaining in this paper is “illustrate how you would be able to use technology in a similar fashion to enhance learning in a culturally responsive way.”  Again it is extremely unlikely that I will be in the classroom in a traditional “teacher” role.  So, again I am having to twist the assignment to my own ends and experience.

I see several key points of contact for Tribal government and small school in the above examples, first, is the organic outgrowth of an after-school program as a result of the virtual museum project, second, is the need for GPS equipment in the MapTEACH curriculum, and in the EcoMUVE/EcoMOBILE curriculum the software and mobile devices.  I am getting at cooperation in funding and circumstance.  Certainly an easy solution is for the Tribal government to purchase the needed equipment for the school.  But, that looses sight of the pervasiveness of life-long learning and of culture, curriculum, and community.  So, instead what if the Tribe purchases the handheld GPS devices for the library.  The library can check these out just like computers, calculators, headphones or mobile devices.  The entire community can benefit and yet the school can still access the devices as well, since many libraries have borrowing agreements with schools and teachers.  Likewise the library or community center becomes a possible location for enrichment programs or extension of school programs.  For example the EcoMUVE/EcoMOBILE curriculum is too much for a single teacher in a small school, but, with partnership between Tribe, library/community center, and potential for greater human resource eases the burden.  Running it as an after-school, or summer enrichment program builds community cohesion in part because the young people see what is possible right at home.  Certainly I am thinking of avoiding brain drain but I am also thinking about the young people telling their stories in earlier readings about going to church to sing, or the gym to play basketball and that being the scope of after-school activities, a bleak and repetitive future.  Another possibility of running a program like this is negotiating with Chris Dede to modify the software so that it is region specific and so that it might offer some sort of cultural overlay.  This has even more clout and potential if partnerships with several villages can be created.  This in turn re-introduces the Axe Handle Academy, in particular the matter of bio-regionalism.  A partnership of some sort with the Harvard graduate school of Education brings to bear some fantastic resources.  Moreover with an emphasis on bio-regionalism it casts small schools in a leadership position for a nation that seems to have forgotten its connection to the land.

Bio-regionalism is for me a conflicted school of thought.  Obviously it has impacted my thinking and can be seen implicit in the three sample curriculum I wrote for an earlier assignment: First Aid, Orienteering and Navigation, and Images of Exploration.  The conflict, for me, arises when bio regionalism is partnered with conservative or Luddite tendencies.  “Conservative” for me speaks more to a posture that one assumes towards inquiry, I call it facing the past, then to a political affiliation.  Obviously this is vexed point in this essay since we know how important the role of Elders is to cultural survival and continuity.  I see facing the past as maladaptive when it reifies the roles of teacher, or sets a particular narrative outside the critical discourse, for examples.  If instead we have an Elder who faces the past in-order to back into the future – I wonder if that keeps curiosity, life-long learning, and the give and take between younger and older persons as a central values.  Similarly I have little patience for Luddite ranting and yet I well understand the absurdity of “change for the sake of change.”  So, I think we need to go in the direction of appropriate technology.  This is a hard task since it swims against the current of consumerism and yet still participates in consumption.  In saying this I hear echos of “both and” as well as of the Amish, “in the world but not of the world.”  Appropriate technology is an inquiry classed as a kind of ethics – and so is about right living.  One element of that is diversity and variability.  And so the questions remain to be answered time and again really a good fit for this issue of small schools, curriculum and community.

I found myself drawn to the photo-essay in the virtual museum, about transportation in the village, pictured were four-wheelers, motorcycles, and snow-machines.  Notably lacking were boats, and yet in other essays pictures of fishing from boats were present.  Also strikingly absent were any human powered conveyances, so shoes and backpacks, skis, and snowshoes, or canoes, for examples.  Also missing were domesticated animals, obviously dog teams and sleds, but also reindeer which have a presence in that region.  In fairness to the essayist we do not know the challenge that he/she posed to him/herself.  Why did the teacher accept just this limited story?  Perhaps she did not, perhaps she challenged the student, as we know sometimes learners are not open to such pressures.  But one possible interpretation is that the young person put these conveyances in a privileged place and chose to celebrate these devices over others.  And to my mind this is the work in section E of the State technology standards.  Here is a perfect opportunity to have a rich conversation with the entire group of learners (young, mid-life, and old) about these technologies too. All to often we imagine that “technology” refers only to the most cutting edge devices and we lose track of knives, for example, as technology.

As a brief aside I would like to link back to the role of community center/library as a site for usafruct employment of cutting edge technology.  In particular it is easy to imagine a 3d printer in the library, and an enterprising young person downloading the plans for using the device to print a snow machine part.  And this in turn brings to the conversation the notion of “MakerSpace.”  This, to my mind is nothing but a recycled notion from the days of quilting bees or shared shop space  but none-the-less here it is and it is completely appropriate for us to wrangle with this as part of our culture, community, curriculum conversation.  I believe that Tribal governments partnered with public libraries and small schools can through judicious grant writing and program creation create reasons for folks to stay in villages with a greatly enhanced sense of self-sufficiency.

Finally, I would like to twist the conversation once more to introduce the debate between curriculum’s: STEAM not STEM.  The heart of STEAM’s logic are these four statements:

  • Arts education is a key to creativity, and
  • Creativity is an essential component of, and spurs innovation, and
  • Innovation is, agreed to be necessary to create new industries in the future, and
  • New industries, with their jobs, are the basis of our future economic well-being.

So what do we mean by “art”?  In, this case I do think it refers to the classic disciplines, painting, sculpture, music, theater and dance.  But, for our purposes I think we can twist it to mean more broadly traditional life-ways of Alaska Natives.  I believe that we have a very interesting opportunity to accomplish “both-and” when we situate bio-regionalism, STEM, and Alaska Native cultural literacy in adjacency.  Certainly, the future will not look like the past, but, we may well be able to sustain cultural identity in new and innovative ways.  The STEM to STEAM website offers a number of case studies, I offer for our purposes the Institute of Play + Mission Lab case study.  The video on that page is in many ways as heartening as the EcoMUVE/EcoMOBILE videos and in part I think this is because they share the “gamification” of content.  “Part of what we do is identify pieces of content that students have trouble learning, and when those areas come up, we work as a team to brainstorm ways to design a game that will help kids really learn and remember those content areas.”  However, more than just this is the collaboration between game designers, curriculum designers and classroom teachers.  Here we see very different ways of thinking about problems and solutions coming together focused on solving particular sticking points in learning.  Behind all of this is the resources of the Institute of Play partnered with the likes of MIT, and funded by MacArthur money.  Their website offers many free resources.  Again, Alaska runs on grants and very probably Tribal governments could take a leadership role in funding collaboration between these incredibly innovative resources and the traditional values of bio-region and cultural knowledge.  I believe with such collaborations between small schools and large and or distant resources like Institute of Play are very realistic and possible.

I think that the EcoMUVE/EcoMOBILE curriculums and the innovative work of the Institute of Play are deeply interesting.  The implications for rural Alaska are potentially quite significant as communities could reverse some of the brain drain.  They could, as well, deepen and enrich the local culture particularly if these… interventions occurred in sites of life-long learning.  In addition, in many communities these sites already exist community centers, libraries, shared shop spaces, churches even.  Moreover, I think that taking advantage of “geek appeal” in some of these amazing technologies could well inspire local economies as young people find ways to both be their ethnicity and to participate in the global economy.

Unit 4 – The Role of Elders in Education

My Grandfather, Herb Francis, grew up in the roaring 20’s and the Depression. And for me, he, his values, provided a counter point to other male role models, negative role models in my life. His presence in my life offered me the possibility of being someone other than what my conditions required of me. I owe any success as a parent, as a husband, as a professional to his presence in my life. That said, his shit stank too. And it is from this perspective that I begin exploring this unit on Elders.

I think a fruitful place for me to start this work is Wilson’s paper “Not Just Knowledge but a Way of Looking at the World,” in particular, the “survival pact” and the notion of community healing.

The pact covered such areas as sharing and distributing of food and making sure that traditional ceremonies were carried out in the correct order, with no omissions. As this survival pact was responsible for more than basic survival, but for the mental and spiritual well-being of the community, it may be more accurate to call the pact the tradition of the people (Peter, 1989). The concept of traditions implies a more inclusive base, both historical and comprehensive, for this unspoken understanding which the more narrow concept of rules may not. The traditions were not rigidly enforced or restrictive but allowed for community-sanctioned flexibility to meet the individual needs and differing circumstances faced in the community and in the environment (Berger, 1985). These traditions included psychological and sociological survival skills that were necessary for strong kinship ties, solid leadership, and physically and psychologically healthy people (LaDue, Marcelley & Van Brunt, 1981). Thus the traditions were seen as the foundation of a healthy community, rather than merely what was necessary for its survival (Katz & Craig, 1987). It was the job of the Elders in the community to interpret the rules and tradition and to ensure that these rules were passed to the next generation.

I suspect that the meaningful difference between the “survival pact” and more broadly culture is that the pact is essentially the difference that makes a difference. So, in business parlance, the mission and core values are what uniquely identify a group. But, hearkening back to my thinking in the last paper, so do the site-specific skills required in a particular ecosystem for survival and more thriving – after all “healthy community” suggests more than mere survival.

As long ago as the seventeenth century, Sagard, noted that the Native way of life was conducive to serenity and the avoidance of tensions which plagued whites. “What also helps them much to keep in health,” he wrote, “is the harmony which prevails amongst them and the older people in their tribes” (Sagard, 1939). Studies have already shown that some indigenous peoples believe that they possess methods of intervention within their own communities (Mohatt & Blue, 1982). They believe that although Native people face more social and psychological problems, they have the traditional methods to both prevent and treat these problems if given the proper environment to nourish their skills. Red Horse (1982) looks at the prevention of mental health problems in Native communities through the use of a community model. He believes that the interaction between the individual and the community is vital to an understanding of American Indian mental health. As a part of understanding the community model, it is important to understand the role that the extended family plays in the community.

In my last paper, I touched on the issue, the role of leadership. I suggested that many of us have roles as leaders. Leadership has in part the task of diagnosing problems in group dynamics, and that leadership looks different based on style, temperament, and situational needs. Much of that seems apparent as well in Wilson’s exploration of community healing. I think to understand this we have to set aside our Western theories of sense of self and explore more deeply a traditional Native sense of self. “Self” is always an aspect of relations, social and ecological, implicit to both are spiritual relations as well. For example, a person’s name traditionally was in part relational, so, “Ryan, my nephew-in-law”… or I suppose someone in no way related to me would be “John the stranger.” The point remains that my own sense of self is in no small way known through my name a part of which changes each time I am addressed depending upon who addresses me. Certainly, this doesn’t explain all of the power of “community healing” but it suggests a way to start understanding the potential.

The spiral logic of Elders’ communication is at times inscrutable to Western observers. I offer for example Nutemllput – Our Very Own. Approached from either my philosophy background or my business background I can make little sense of Paul John’s arguments since the patterns of form and evidence are alien to Western logic and argumentation. Rather my ability to make sense of Paul John, or the elders in Passing On arises first from my experiences with Herb — his narrative also struggling with the bounds of logic and evidence and second John Schumacher another mentor pointing me to David Bohm:

There is the germ of a new notion of order here. This order is not to be understood solely in terms of a regular arrangement of objects (e.g., in rows) or as a regular arrangement of events (e.g. in a series). Rather, a total order is contained, in some implicit sense, in each region of space and time. Now, the word ‘implicit’ is based on the verb ‘to implicate’. This means ‘to fold inward’ … so we may be led to explore the notion that in some sense each region contains a total structure ‘enfolded’ within it”. (Holograms and implicate order, Wikipedia, Bohm, David (1980), Wholeness and the Implicate Order, London: Routledge, ISBN 0-7100-0971-2, pg 149)

The logic of synecdoche. Roby Littlefield in the essay “Elders in the Classroom” also through the use of “metaphor” shows my meaning:

Most traditional stories are like a round, crocheted pot holder. The storyteller goes round and round the subject until it all comes together and finally comes to the lesson or point. Be patient, allow the Elders to share their culture in their own way. Your students are learning how to listen. Students should refrain from interrupting to ask questions. There will be a proper time to ask questions.

It is in this way that I can make sense of what Elders like Paul John are saying and our task as learners is to unfold, to make explicit in our own thinking the meaningfulness of Elders’ teaching or our own experiences – the part manifests the whole. Hence the whole community bears responsibility for and a curative role in an individual’s substance abuse/depression/violence/suicide. Throughout our readings, a shared value of Alaska Natives has been “conflict avoidance”. In the quote above Wilson shows Sagard saying “harmony which prevails amongst them”. “Harmony” is defined as “the use of simultaneous pitches (tones, notes), or chords.” But for this to be meaningful is the fact that the tones are different and that the musical effect arrives from them being situated together – implicitly the potential for conflict, or rather discord. Too we know that “conflict avoidance” at its most extreme can be complicity, codependency, and toxicity. So let’s imagine that the Yupik value of avoiding conflict is a synecdoche that we have to unfold to understand. Conflict itself is normal in human interactions perhaps more or less pronounced but always a potential. For many of us conflict is a problem once trust and respect have been violated. So perhaps what the heart of “avoiding conflict” is about is managing you and your response to conflict so that trust and respect are preserved. Indeed the language of these other value sets often explicitly call for “respect” and “trust” but also gentleness, humor, and dignity. In the document “Additional Native Values” we find the Eskimo Cultural Values, the legacy of Paul Tiutana, saying: “Our ancestor did not know criminals/People who do wrong are corrected on the spot.” Remembering back to our first readings, Okakok, shares a story of being scolded by an Aunt for not nurturing their relationship: “When I took my father there for a visit I was soundly scolded for visiting only when I had a purpose — in this instance, taking my father to see her. Although I was living in the same town, I had not nurtured my relationship with my aunt with intermittent, spontaneous visits.” Being scolded is a potentially conflicted situation, yet I suspect, that by confronting and correcting the little stuff in a way that preserves trust and respect crime or the potential for crime is prevented – or said differently “Avoiding Conflict.”

The second part of this assignment calls for us to make something real based on knowledge of values and the importance of Elders to cultural health and survival. I will draw again upon my work with the Chilkoot Indian Association (CIA), alas, not on something that we did but something we discussed. I think that one of the most striking elements of my visit can be summarized in the question: “what does the CIA do, or make?” There was a discrepancy between many tribal members expectations, the employees of the Association, and what is feasible at that place and time (this continuum extends to Washington, DC, Juneau, and Haines, town politics, it includes socio-economics, even personalities and skill sets of particular individuals). I as the consultant from out of town viewed the CIA and its various departments and saw an organization much like any other government. There were departments monitoring or creating youth programs, there were units aimed at roads and transportation, environmental issues, and construction. Another striking feature of the conversation was a recurrent theme from the CIA employees about the absence of leadership skills and absence of a mechanism for creating the next generation of leaders. And as I pointed out previously we were also acutely aware of the advanced acculturation.

So far in our discussion of curriculum/community/culture, there is a glaring absence and that is mid-life learners. Barnhardt touches on the learning that teachers experience as they do this work in his essay, Teaching/Learning across Cultures. But, in the video Passing On, we meet Cecilia Martz a Cupik educator and for me, these questions about mid-life learners crystallized again and took me back to the work with the CIA. Obviously, we have roles and titles for children and students, and we have roles and titles for Elders, but what about all the rest of us somewhere in the middle. Russell Means offers us one possible mid-life role that of the warrior. Cecilia Martz offers us the educator self-conscious of her circumstance between her students and her Elders. My point in this is that there are roles and titles for all community members throughout their lifetime – some of these exist already and some we need to re-discover. In that work with the CIA, it was this mid-life area that we felt we could see a gap and a place to do and make.

Tribal council members are elected from those eligible and interested tribal members. Election, however, is not the same as ready to go to work. Appropriate communication skills were one example of an area needing development – both a command of Roberts rules of orders, but, on the softer side those same skills that let us navigate conflict while maintaining trust and respect. Certainly, there were other skill sets that needed development as these leaders took on their roles, but, for the sake of this discussion, we will focus on communication here.

The council is comprised of four, perhaps five, task driven roles, President, Vice-president, Treasurer, Secretary and representative to SEARCH (Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium) and three general members. Our brainstorming focused on creating a career path so that the general members were elected and then served on committees that exposed them to the work of all roles, we explored the potential of the intern like relationships between these general members and the named roles. We explored the potential for retreats, for skill building and team building workshops and as I mentioned in the last paper for SPOC (small private online course) through the tribal online learning management system. We discussed creating training that supported the work of the specialized Treasurer and Secretary roles as well. Another pathway to leadership creation was to connect the work of the youth interns hired by the Association with the work and the members of the Tribal council. This hopefully mirroring the tradition of Elders and creating a feed-forward/ feedback loop crossing generations. As I mentioned previously the connection between young people and Elders seemed limited and to flow in one direction. Our hope was to build in the next generation a relationship where trust and respect flowed in both directions. It was out of this that other elements of our brainstorming grew, for example, making more of the Dragonfly program partnered between the tribe and Haines Public Library.

As with any organization, pride and politics were stumbles that prevented crucial conversations. Part of my presence, my role as the consultant, was to say when I saw that the “Emperor had no clothes.” I have phrased this elsewhere as the task of leaders in diagnosing what ails the community. This allowed the tribal Administrator and staff to be the heroes and for any irritation to be pointed at the “white-guy-from-away.” Here, thinking back to my concerns about conflict avoidance that is actually toxic and culturally maladaptive, this was a serious concern in the highly politicized community of Haines. The Tribal administrator and the Association were seriously hampered by a Tribal council with insufficient skills for the work they needed to do and yet the Tribal administrator had no way to raise this matter. And in the end that is where the matter ended because evaluating the performance of the Tribal council was outside the purview of the Tribal association because no feedback/feed-forward loop existed and creating one required trust and respect that did not exist.

Returning to Cecilia Martz’s interview in Passing On we encounter this struggle to articulate the need for and ways to approach Elders for access to knowledge, at 4:20 -4:57 is one example. For me, the more tricky issue is the story from 7:38 – 8:50 where Cecilia had partial knowledge of a song lyric. For some reason simply asking for the rest of the lyric was inappropriate. Rather she describes approaching a group of Elders sitting and chatting. In a conversational lull she sang the lyric she remembered and stopped, then one of the Elders picked up and finished the song. Cecilia sang the whole through to show that she had it and to ask if she had it – which she did. She then gracefully timed her exit to go off and document the lyric and iron it into memory. For me, this is both a beautiful moment and an incredibly tenuous one because at this moment the survival pact can work or it can break. What if no Elder finished the song? What if Cecilia did not show perfect memory? What if Cecilia had not understood what she heard and memorized? How is she to interrogate the knowledge to make it truly hers? This was an incredibly subjective moment, incredibly fragile and I think a large part of the dysfunction that was present in Haines. When it work it works beautifully and when it fail it is catastrophic because we are talking about cultural extinction not just a point of personal ignorance. In truth I can only marvel at this I do not pretend to have solutions.

However, I can offer that in my current job one of the skills I bring to the task is building relationships with other campus departments, my counterparts in the Physical plant, in ITS, Special Programs, Communications and the list goes on. This is some of what I hear Teri Schneider saying when she talks about how to approach an Elder and taking the time to get to know them and they you before the matter of asking anything of them comes up. She talks about introducing herself in terms of her family – even though her family is from Des Moines, for example, and the Elder has no idea who they are. But what matters is the knowledge of family tree and the implicit knowledge of self-realized in a relationship, the logic of synecdoche as it were. Another point Teri makes is that of patience her examples tread in that area that I describe above trusting conflict avoidance and people to work things out in their own time. In my workplace creating personal capital through taking interest in a co-workers beekeeping, or hunting, or building banjos from scratch, allows us to navigate those higher stakes conversations, to speak directly yet respectfully. Patience, although not talked about a lot in management/leadership literature particularly in this era of decisions at the speed of light, is a particularly important attribute/skill even in Western culture. In truth, I suspect that is why my work with the CIA, described above, did not grow legs. The local-white-guys were impatient and wanted to show progress immediately. Returning to Barnhardt Teaching/Learning across Cultures, “If you encounter situations of apparent social breakdown and dysfunctionality, be especially careful to exercise discretion and obtain the views of others before you take any precipitous action.” Part of what I hear here is what Teri says in Passing On, and Barnhardt as well:

Two of the most useful steps a new teacher can take to begin to see beyond the surface features of a new cultural community are getting to know some of the elders or other culture-bearers and becoming familiar with aspects of the local language. By visiting elders in the community, you will be giving evidence of your respect for the bearers of the local culture, while at the same time you will be learning about the values, beliefs, and rules of cultural behavior that will provide a baseline for your teaching. Showing enough interest in the local language or dialect to pick up even a few phrases and understand some of its structural features will go a long way toward building your credibility in the community and in helping you recognize the basis for local variations on English language use in the classroom.

For me the lesson is to trust my instincts and once we relocate to Alaska, to begin to build those relationships throughout the community in order to have the social capital to speak directly and honestly, humbly and respectfully. These conversations will, in turn, let me know that my diagnosis is in line with local leaders’ assessments. Also to be patient yet persistent in moving projects ahead even incrementally each day. Finally remembering the importance that Herb had for me, but more, remembering his frailties and failings, that “his shit stank too” to anticipate my own potential for mistakes and my plan for making them right.

Unit 3 – Curricula Adapted to Native Cultures

Here I will first review and read critically five of the required curriculums taking into account Barnhardt’s essay, Teaching/Learning Across Cultures. The second task, more difficult for me since I am not a teacher, is to select one of the curriculums and explore implementing it in classroom/school/community.

Alas, I am not responding well to the “The Athabaskans: People of the Boreal Forest.” I struggle with how book driven the content knowledge is. I recall Ongtooguk’s criticism: “But as I became acquainted with the literature, I was also surprised at what was not included: Alaska Native perspectives about the gold miner, the commercial fisheries, the sale of Alaska, and the critical aspects of Alaskan History.” I am also struck by the rates of Alaska Natives classified as “students with disabilities:” “Of all Alaska Natives enrolled during the 2005-2005 school year, 17.5 percent were classified as students with disabilities, whereas 12.4 percent of all non-Native students enrolled were classified as having disabilities.” Reading is not the only skill affected by learning disabilities but it is often. So, taken together literature frequently lacking Native perspectives and learners struggling with reading “The Athabaskans” seems to miss a couple key points of the problem from the get go.

Too, as I read through the curriculum I was struck by the heavy weight on “Teacher Objectives”: What about learners? Most of the assignments were worded with language like: “define,” “answer,” and “understand” only a few called upon learners to “do,” “make,” or “show.” This shows an implicit bias towards Western values and schooling and troubles me whether we are talking about Native, or non-Native learners. While I am suspicious and critical of this guide I do think there are bits worth noting. For example part A, section C, asks learners to read from various sources and to consciously switch between points of view. On one hand this stretches to the “cultural eclecticism” relevated in previous course work, but, it is dependent upon reading to teach the skills and values and hence is embedded in Western schooling. I do not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are some good resources and some interesting ideas here, but, to simply implement the guide without critical thought would be, I think, a recipe for classroom failure.

I suspect the critical framework Teaching/Learning Across Cultures raises at least two issues with this teacher’s guide: first, has to do with cultural immersion, second with context of learners. This curriculum seems content heavy and that I think would make a teachers move into the community more awkward both as a pseudo-expert and out of balance in answering the tough questions of “Why am I here?” and “Who am I?” For, a “white-guy-from-away” it would be easy to fall into the pattern of reading/studying the recommended resources rather than engaging in the process of tentative generalizations and personal discovery – the misplaced concreteness of knowledge derived from books and reading.

The sheer size of the Innuqatigitt curriculum is potentially off-putting. Too, at first glance it seems to be packaged for a Western audience. A deeper look quickly gets past that snap judgment. I was pleased to see an extensive list of Native advisors. I was also intrigued by the lengthy statements of values throughout this document. One exciting goal of the authors was to emphasize the shared values and life ways of the cultural sub-groups this document was created to serve, rather than belaboring the differences. Second, this is more a sourcebook than a curriculum and as such it is very interesting to read and valuable to use. I prefer this format over that of the teacher’s guide format of “The Athabaskans.” The burden of learning objectives and lesson plans is on the teacher. They have a valuable resource but not a set of recipes and so they have to actively engage with learners and community to actually create lesson plans and projects and this accomplishes the blurring of boundaries between town and gown.

While the authors are culturally inclusive, and while there are shared values between all Alaska Natives it is still important in the face of cultural extinction to not lose sight of the differences. Survival itself in particular bio-systems, arctic, boreal shield, temperate rainforest, to name a few, contributed to the uniqueness of cultural adaptations. So I would want to be cautious about mapping Innugatigitt onto Alaskan Inupiats for one example. Although that is probably a safer move than mapping it onto Athabaskans. Barnhardt is clear that a teacher entering a community needs to engage with that particular community and not generalizations about ethnicity. Barnhardt offers the advice:

By visiting elders in the community, you will be giving evidence of your respect for the bearers of the local culture, while at the same time you will be learning about the values, beliefs and rules of cultural behavior that will provide a baseline for your teaching. Showing enough interest in the local language or dialect to pick up even a few phrases and understanding some of its structural features will go a long way towards building your credibility….

Where I probably will not on my return to Alaska be entering a community as a teacher, but, perhaps still having a role in education, maybe higher education, I still see the value of this advice. My way of categorizing this is the political frame. One of the keys to my success in my current position is the personal connection I have with individuals in different departments all over campus. Also that I ask them what I can do to make their jobs and working with my staff easier. I suspect that librarians and teachers share, at least initially, the confusion about not understanding themselves as leaders in their respective communities.

The Dene Kede curriculum focuses on elementary education and yet is formidable in length all three sections combine to 275 pages, 100 and change more than the Innugtagitt document. It focuses and culturally related groups to the teacher’s guide “The Athabaskans” and is vastly superior in format and content. Similar to Innugatigitt this curriculum is an extensive statement of values and an extensive sourcebook of cultural knowledge.

Alas, as already noted, I dislike learning objectives that do not require learners to do, make, or show. Unfortunately many assignments and outcomes in the Dene Kede only require learners to “recognize”. I think this fails in creating the engagement, knowledge and skill that both Native and Western learners need. Another frustration along these lines arises from suggested teaching activities sections, for example: “Listen to tapes or see videos of dancing and drumming to discern differences in rhythm and to learn purpose.” Marshal McLuhan coined the phrase: “The message is the medium.” I fear that tapes and video speak louder than rhythm and performance. I think that drummers and dancers, real people from the community, have to interact with the learners for the values as well as the skills to be transferred. Barnhardt captures this concern but in a positive way: “Natural setting are more likely to foster mutually productive and culturally appropriate communication and interaction patterns between teacher and student, then highly structured and contrived situations created in the confines of the classroom.”

The Piniaqtavut Integrated Program is presented through a poorly formatted web page. I think this detracts from the usefulness of the resources and it seems less polished than some of the other resources. However, this presentation does serve as an archive and it makes the support publicly available so despite the shortcomings has merit.

I love the clear statement of goals for the curriculum:

  • Bilingual communication skills.
  • Pride in cultural identity.
  • Responsibility and independence.

Here we see the role of education being preparation for life rather than just preparation for my schooling. I like as well the seven aspects of the “interactive/experiential model invoked by the authors:

  • genuine dialogue between student and teacher in both oral and written modalities.
  • guidance and facilitation rather than control of student learning by the teacher.
  • encouragement of student-student talk in a collaborative learning context.
  • encouragement of meaningful language use by students rather than correctness of surface form.
  • conscious integration of language use and development with all curricular content rather than teaching language and other content as isolated subjects.
  • a focus on developing higher level cognitive skills rather than on factual recall.
  • task presentation that generates intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation.

This program is self-conscious of its thematic approach both in form and content. Two additional features of the classroom play out interestingly in this curriculum: multi-grade classrooms, and a curriculum that covers K-9th grade. Frequently middle school is broken apart from elementary or lumped together with high school. In my experience as a parent it seemed that a 14 year old had more in common with a 12 year-old then with a 15 year-old and yet we often lump them together with high school age learners. The multi-grade classes seem to give these 14 year-old some opportunity to be both learners and teachers keeping them engaged in a way missed in other configurations.

Like both the Inuugatigiit and the Dene Kede curriculums this one offers broad categories, and values, but, it is very thin on specifics, on learning outcomes and light on potential activities. It assumes a lot of cultural knowledge perhaps even a high level of language skill in the Native language. A teacher would have to do a lot of lesson planning and reach out to additional resources to actually create a program for a classroom.

The Effie Kokrine Charter School Thematic Curriculum website was not immediately transparent to me. It took several return trips for me to identify the links across the top of the page as links and as having supplemental material explaining the diagram. So, initially I thought the diagram was all I had to work with. Hence my first review consisted of an extensive list of questions. I would suggest that the menu bar with the links be relocated on the page beneath the title rather than above it.

That said, I really liked this curriculum. It is a thematic approach that melds spatial landmarks with temporal landmarks, embeds skills in their actual use, accomplishes the “both/and” that many of Villegas and Prieto’s interviewees value and call for in Native education, and ties values and relationships to any of these other components. I like that it spans from 7th- through early College just because one never sees that span. Too, those 17-19 year-old can serve as positive role models for the 11 and 12 year-old creating and re-enforcing community within the school circumstance.

I liked the Sample Module although I had both questions about them and intrigue with them. It seems they are written very much to address State and Federal assessments of school accomplishment and yet somehow still get learners and teachers into the equation. I was disappointed to see under the proficiency column too much emphasis upon “say” and “tell” and not enough emphasis on “show,” “do,” and “make” alas.

All said and done I think a good teacher would have to combine several of these resources and create their own guiding document. Certainly some of these are active and impressive in unique ways but also each had weaknesses as well. I wonder however, if young teachers have the skills and the self-confidence to do that kind of work. I expect that principals and school boards weigh in heavily on a young teacher’s thinking that combined with the assignment of traveling to a remote community and immersing in a different culture – where and when would a young teacher create space for themselves to do this work?

Before I turn to the work of selecting one of the curriculums and explore implementing it in classroom/school/community, I have to wonder why no examples of syllabi from Southwestern or Southeastern groups are included here. I raise this in part because my first choices in relocating to the State are these areas. As I mentioned earlier in this paper I probably will not radically reinvent myself and seek out high school teaching opportunities. Rather, I will probably look at opportunities in higher education administration. I would like to find opportunities beyond libraries – I have had enough of that work, but, higher education is a good fit. I am intrigued by the various branch campuses of the University system. So given that context I found myself resonating with two different curriculums for very various reasons: both the Inuuqatigitt and the SPIRAL Curriculum intrigued me. As I mentioned above Innugatigitt is a statement of values and a sourcebook/outline of cultural traditions and knowledge. As such it requires a lot of a teacher. Too, where I am not going to be a teacher it requires even more of me.

I think an implicit assumption that has to be made explicit is the leadership role a teacher has in the community not just the classroom. This without using these words is at the heart of Barnhardt’s Teaching/Learning Across Cultures. Though the kind of leadership described is a transformational type rather than the more familiar transactional type that we see in military or business cases. Married to this distinction is a difference in expected outcomes rather than growth for the sake of growth the goal of a community leader is balanced and optimized improvement of individual and community identity and functionality. Said differently a leader is looking for optimization of multiple variables rather than maximization of a single variable – profit in the case of most business models. I suspect that for me as an administrator on a campus like Kodiak College, UAF’s Bethel campus, or even UASoutheast in Sitka, I would be looking for points of contact with schools, Borough or City government, but, these are obvious. I would also be looking for connections with athletic programs and facilities, with public libraries, with local businesses. Probably, my approach would first be looking inward to the resources and opportunities at hand – the local talent. But, one lesson learned through my work with the Chilkoot Indian Association, “Alaska runs on grants” guides me to think about how to attract money to these points of synergy. Certainly most people are motivated by moments of altruism but they also have to put food on the table and shoes on the kids. Again, a lesson I remember learning during my short times in State is that folks do not think about a career or work in the same way as we do in the lower-48. Rather, a career gets cobbled together from a patchwork of part-time and seasonal work. So a leader needs to remember that and build some money into the partnerships as well. But money is not the only currency. In a small community reputation, authority and influence all are important as well. A program that centers and focuses upon traditional Elders adds to an individuals’ credibility in that role. Obviously this knife cuts both ways and I would need to be incredibly sensitive to how and why the local community selects people as Elders. This to reinforce cultural integrity and to avoid overstepping perhaps setting up a competing criteria or worse competing “Elders”. In larger communities like Kodiak or Sitka that would be difficult to do but in small villages it would be pretty easy to do although the consequences would be severe in either case.

Returning to the curriculum’s, the Effie Kokrine program intrigued me in part because it blurred distinctions between high school and college. The Effie Kokrine school is in Fairbanks and as such I wonder about this from the standpoint of duplicating services that UAF may either already provide or could be partnered with to provide. Rather, I am intrigued with this as a relevant strategy for villages and small schools. Distance education is in fact easy to set up. Most internet service providers offer Moodle as part of the bundle. Indeed in my work with Chilkoot Indian Association I showed them how they could save $10,000 dollars by not purchasing their course management system from a big company but rather setting up an instance of Moodle on their domain name host site. That $10,000 dollars could instead have been spent on creating content for presentation through the Moodle interface. Certainly this could have been focused on employees as was the intention of the original grant and plan. However, it could also have been a pivot point for the entire community both Alaska Native and Western. This resource can be developed to support Adult Education through the local schools and or partnered with the University system.

My own assessment of Haines, is an extremely fractured and conflicted community, all demographics suffering from issues with trust and respect – hippies to conservatives, Chilkoot to Chilkat. So as a community leader even temporarily as a consultant working with the tribal government I was seeking fulcrums to achieve leverage. That community shared pride and identity in their public library and they shared concern in the brain drain that sending kids to college had on the community – since few returned. The library was a neutral ground that young people, no matter ethnicity, shared. It was a hotspot for connectivity, for internet access that extended beyond the school. At that time MOOCs were just on the horizon. But, what I was struggling to articulate and imagine in that situation was SPOCS (small private online courses) a marriage of young people’s fascination with creating YouTube content with archiving and transmitting cultural knowledge through appropriate use of technology. Above I fret that replacing dancers and drummers with reproductions of those activities where the technology speaks louder than the message. I wonder though in instances where cultural extinction is accelerated and local knowledge is seriously threatened if archival activities supersede such compunctions — in truth, I wonder. Haines is at an ecologic transition between southeast temperate rain-forest, and interior boreal forest and cultural border between Tlingit, Eyak and Tuchone. Hence I would expect very precise local adaptations to climate and ecology and a creative site for cultural interaction and hybridization. So while I liked both Inuuqatigitt and the Effie Kokrine school programs I want to be cautious of their tendency to generalize about cultural knowledge and practices.

My stay in Haines was brief and intense, but, some of what I observed was that the Chilkat just up river seemed to have a closer knit community and a more stable connection to traditions and traditional practices. The Chilkoot seemed to be farther along the continuum of acculturation. And as I mentioned above Haines is a tense and politicized community and this seemed to include the Alaska Natives as well. One piece of evidence for this was the joint project between public library and Chilkoot Indian Association to commission a carved pole to be raised on library property. The project ran throughout the summer and local youth participated, but, the carver was from farther south, Ketchikan I believe. The tribe seemed most interested in the association generating jobs and money, particularly dividend money rather than preserving and transmitting cultural knowledge, values and practices. Another example, we explored a number of possible projects to optimize a number of variables, rather than maximize a single one. We suggested the tribal administrator purchases a couple of log splitters. These could be rented by tribe members. Or, instead if a tribe member, cut and split a certain amount of wood for an older community member, or Elder, they could in turn use the splitter for a set amount of time free. Of course there were all kinds of practicalities and liabilities to negotiate before this could be turned into a pilot however we never got that far as we asked the tribe members employed in the office what they thought about the idea. They all thought it was great in concept but felt it would never grow legs. I, interpreting based both on what was said and what was unsaid, heard them saying that lip service to values was easy but breaking wood was work and that would kill the initiative.

We actually brainstormed a variety of pilots that pulled together the technology I saw the young people working as interns using; the culture, the place, and the Elders to try to archive knowledge and engage young people. I was stuck be the disconnection between tradition and the young people. I was reminded of a saying I heard first from a career Marine, “200 hundred years of tradition unimpeded by progress.” What I take that to mean in this situation was that the “Elders” were not willing to extend a reciprocity to the young people that “both/and” that we heard among Villegas and Prieto’s interviewees. They seemed unwilling to explore the young people’s ways of knowing and learning and rather expected that to be set aside if the young people were serious about culture. To my mind a static and once-and-for-all understanding of culture. This by comparison to the Tribe of Sitka which has a very active program for youth teaching many aspects of Tlingit lifeway and values. Yet, the same community is open minded enough to spawn a Jazz/Tlingit fusion group. Or, Juneau where an English/Tlingit version of Macbeth was performed.

Returning to Barnhardt: “If you encounter situations of apparent social breakdown and dysfunctionality, be especially careful to exercise discretion and obtain the views of others before you take any precipitous action.” Perhaps I have come across more certain than I really am in this review of Haines, and the Chilkoot. I know that three days and a handful of conversations do not a deep understanding make. First, however, I was struck with how forthcoming folks were with the “white-guy-from away.” Second, it is the work of a leader to diagnose what ails the human situation he/she is engaged with. Certainly, this diagnosis is provisional and theoretical at first. Certainly as data is collected or created those hypothesis should and will modify. Part of that data are the “views of others” that Barnhardt charges us to seek out before prescription and treatment plan is made. None-the-less a good leader has solid gut instincts for what is broken, the “content” as it were, but the “context” of the dysfunction will tell us much about the cure. And that is where the work of the leader is. Actually, the first step is to understand oneself as a leader with skills, a sense of responsibility and work ethic that extends in all pursuits. This sense of self has been eroded in American culture as we see in the book “Bowling Alone” by Robert Putnam. I wonder if Putnam’s book has a place in a class for teachers learning about themselves as leaders. Too, I wonder what leadership looks like from an Alaska Native perspective. Here I am less focused on skills like diagnosis and more on communication. I recall hearing Walter Sobeloff speak — a version of his testimony before US Congress and I was awed by his oratory. But, I’m also thinking of many Native young people who preferred to say nothing in seminars – they were being respectful, in part. Communication is a crucial leadership skill and yet we often forget that most of that is listening with the goal of understanding – not just words, but cadence, omissions, a switch to gesture.

This paper has been an interesting challenge since the focus of the work and the reading is on classroom teachers and I am not one. I believe that I reviewed five of the assigned curriculums within the critical context of Burnhardt’s essay, Teaching/Learning Across Cultures. Finally, I tried to think about how one or two of these might inform my leadership in a small Alaskan community.

Unit 2 – Curricula Adapted to Small Rural Schools

My experience as a classroom teacher is limited: many years ago, I taught an English class in an Adult Education program, and two sections of Freshman Composition at the University of North Dakota during my brief enrollment in an English Ph.D. program (I was there in 1997 when the Red River flooded, no place to relocate and raise a family). Classroom instruction was an awkward fit for me. I struggled with the role of disciplinarian and motivator in a venue that I thought should be populated by self-disciplined and intrinsically motivated learners. The other closest example of “teaching” was my role as Scoutmaster for a local Boy Scout troop and I think that is closer to the models we are exploring in these writings – models that blur the boundaries between institutions and organizations and roles like teacher/student. In my “day job” I insist that we provide job training, mentoring and coaching to our 70 or so college work-study employees, but, that is not “classroom” instruction either. So for me the claims that classrooms and schools are not a good fit for learning and cultural preservation, as we read in these required readings, are self-evident claims.

Working as a supervisor I’ve noticed a number of performance issues that concern me: an inability to translate a specific work ethic (academics, athletics) to broader instances, life and work, for examples. I’ve observed an over-reliance on book learning for the correct answer as opposed to observational and interpretive skills to assess a situation and apply or modify a solution to fit. An ineptitude with basic tools and practical understanding of simple mechanics or materials. Associated with that, a notion that community and civic organizations are ready-made and something one simply consumes rather than something one participates in creating: leadership and communication skills seem underdeveloped. Finally, I see a loss of knowledge about history and historical life-ways. iPads, or whatever gadget is momentarily popular, have always been around and are the best way to get something done. Certainly, these are broad brush strokes and probably reflect the privileged demographic of an elite liberal arts college. However, I draw as well from my experiences in the local community watching parents and children as we raised ours. Below I offer three sketches for curriculum ideas: First Aid, Map and Compass, and Drawing. I believe that they gesture at learning that my background values and priorities.

First Aid

First aid is the immediate response given to the onset of illness or injury.

We will utilize the Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED certification as one component of this curriculum. This certification offers at least two advantages. First, it is commonly recognized and so students whether in the bush or the urban environment will be able to work with emergency response personnel. Second, it creates a framework on which to hang historic and pre-historic knowledge we acquire. But a provisional framework open to criticism and review based on Native knowledge.

Two insights inform this unit – first, that over the years of taking First Aid and CPR courses the techniques have changed. Second, reading about “Otzi” the mummified remains of a man found in the Alps roughly 5300 years old shows us some about first aid and medical treatment of the era. So from this, we understand that first aid changes as we learn about effective responses and it reflects a moment in time and place, for example, Otzi packing his arrow wound with a particular type of moss. Research may extend into areas of folklore, anthropology, and archeology to theorize and inform inquiry about traditional first aid.


  • simulated emergency scenarios and getting student to respond and interpret
  • interviews with elders and with emergency first responders
  • teaching younger students what we have learned



  • this may extend to include medicinal plants, or a bilingual exercise
  • Wilderness first responder, boating safety, or swift water rescue
  • Special emphasis upon hypothermia, drowning, or childbirth as driven by the learners

Orientation and Navigation

The popularity of handheld or dash mounted GPS units has supplanted and erased quickly a lot of basic navigational skills and knowledge. A consequence of the lost knowledge is excessive reliance on technology that malfunctions, for examples batteries or a forest canopy that blocks tracking the satellites. This results in ineptness that runs from following the GPS voice commands even against better judgment to injury or death because the person became lost and had no other navigational resources.

Navigation across the centuries will be explored both technology and technique. Content will vary including but not limited to Alaska Native methods of navigation, other cultures with strong navigational skills, Polynesians, Vikings, and Chinese for examples.

As with the First Aid lesson plan practical experience, scenario simulation, are vital to making these concepts and skills lived rather than referenced. Again, there is a distinction between “show,” “make,” “do,” rather than “tell” or “locate the resource.”


  • Map reading
  • Basic compass
  • Map and compass scavenger hunt
  • Research and make and use ancient navigational tools
  • Handheld GPS, GPS mapping on computers



  • Celestial navigation math
  • Marine Sextant

Images of Exploration: Painting, drawing, and photography as records of Discovery

We see a significant push to enhance our teaching in science, technology, engineering, and math, perhaps as should be. Alas, we seem to forget the importance of art in training our observational abilities. Indeed we forget the role sketching, drawing, and painting had for explorers before the advent of photography. The revolution in inquiry and representation that photography itself offered to both science and art is, as well, assumed.


  • Basic skills of drawing, cone, sphere, cube
  • History of photography, pinhole camera
  • Digital Cameras
  • Bait stations and game cameras
  • X-ray, MRI and CAT scan
  • Astronomy and space explorations


  • Cave and Hide drawings as field sketches
  • Da Vinci and Michelangelo sketchbooks
  • Paintings by Karl Bodemer, George Catlin, John James Audubon
  • Wildlife photography
  • The Art of Field Sketching, Laws guide to Drawing Birds, Drawing Trees
  • Nobel Laureates Doodle Their Discoveries http://youtu.be/2UtPGydDwVI
  • Images of cells, of organisms and of astronomy


  • 6” Newtonian reflecting telescope, homemade microscopes
  • Planetarium construction
  • Star mapping
  • Local weather station
  • Language Arts studying the journals of explorers
  • Gathering and pressing plants, plant identification

In their own right, and because of my inclination to render the town and gown barrier porous, these classes would be interesting to plan and execute, and they would create rich experiences for the learners. Remembering three points from our required reading: process emphasis, cultural eclecticism, and “school without walls, I need to become self-reflective. These three values, techniques, show up in my lesson plans. Although assumed or implicit, some of the tasks here is to make that explicit and to justify their presence. While my teaching experience is limited, it still offers me grounds for at least raising questions, if not critique.

For me “school without walls” was an important personal discovery – a chance to reclaim my experience as an independent learner and to receive credit for that. First as an undergraduate I crafted a number of Independent Studies. As a graduate student I crafted my entire degree through the Vermont College program.

The Parkway Program will not be a school with classroom or bells. The organizations around the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will provide laboratories, libraries, and meeting space. Although participation will only be required for the length of the average school year, study and work programs will be available year-round. Students and faculty will form small groups for discussion, research, counseling, and self-evaluation. Learning situations will vary from films, jobs, and lectures to special projects (Bremer and von Moschzisner, 1971: 281).

Certainly, for many learners, these programs are ideal, but for many more they are perplexing and cumbersome. Too, teaching adult education students and college first years, I did not see the intrinsic motivation, the urgent curiosity that these types of programs require. Indeed, “school without walls” probably had trouble with recruitment and retention unless it was aimed at non-traditional students, students returning to high school after dropping out and struggling with real life, hence, fueled by desperation. In this week’s readings we see three young people’s description of a day in school. And in last week’s readings the anguish and frustration of these same young people pressed to imagine suicide as an only option. I fear that saying to them “you are free to learn whatever you need” might actually be no help at all. Knowing what you do not want is not the same as knowing what you need. I do believe that some of this is at play in Wigginton’s work with students, but not the entirety. Rendering the boundaries porous and trespassing them is different from doing away with them entirely. The individual stories his students researched, built and wrote about were perhaps “school without walls” but the work itself was situated in the class, in the magazines which acted as gravity on the individual orbits. I suspect many learners need the walls too. I am afraid that for other learners what I have outlined above in the lesson plans would either be too vague too open ended or for others too content driven, both the first aid and the navigation plans could fall into this.

Alas, I see this opportunity least in my lesson plans. Accordingly, I want to make sure that learners have opportunities to follow their curiosity and passion. Obviously, these plans are at their broadest in shape and direction, and so as planning becomes more granular, I think this omission is easily corrected, however, I believe it is important too for these free places to be real rather than contrived and artificial as that, I think, would cause cynicism.

In my sources for the last assignment I tipped my hand on my own “cultural eclecticism” and that appears again in the lesson plans above. So, first what does “cultural eclecticism” mean?

Thus, we present a goal of “cultural eclecticism” for minority education, in which features of both the assimilationist and pluralist ideologies are incorporated with the emphasis on an evolutionary form of cultural diversity to be attained through the informed choices and actions of individuals well-grounded in the dynamics of human and cultural interaction processes. Eclecticism implies an open-ended process (rather than a dead-ended condition) whereby individuals or groups can adapt and define the functions of the school in response to their changing needs, assuming that they understand those functions and are in a position to influence school programs sufficiently to make them fully compatible with their needs.

It is quite generous of me to engage in multi-cultural enrichment as a member of the dominant culture and of the privileged gender. I suspect that for cultures fighting for their very survival that cultural exclusivity is a very serious matter. The Amish do not negotiate their “in the world but not of the world” from a position of privilege. And as they negotiate their roles as entrepreneurs there is always a nagging self-consciousness that this maybe the turn that takes things too far and unravels the social fabric. Cultures far down the road to assimilation already perhaps have to engage in radical and irrational disruptions to regain cultural identity and cohesion – if they can. Yet interesting that the two authors of last week’s reading Alaska Native Student Vitality, Villegas and Prieto, tell us about themselves and their multi-racial heritage, this too adds complexity to thinking about “cultural eclecticism.” Probably, for many multi-racial heritage is normal. And I feel that this is what drives the possibility of this approach and the urgency of it. If I were in the small school classroom I would want to hold these two poles as constants in conversations about why and how we were going to our learning. As a courtesy to the learners I would check the temperature of the room regarding too violent swings to either extreme regularly. I think “cultural eclecticism” or writing ethnography has been very valuable for me as a learner accomplishing the post-modern turn of never permitting a privileged discourse and enriching my life with the variety of possible solutions to similar problems.

Turning to “process” I think we can criticize No Child Left Behind for excessive emphasis and focus on measurable outcomes of schools and aggregates of students we can also criticize proponents of “process” in excess because in the end… well, there never is any end. Even for the subsistence lifestyle, there is a bottom line: fish in the boat, Caribou on the ground. However, anyone who has hunted also knows that the real work starts then. Shooting a moose is not hard, getting it out of the woods is hard. So what do we mean by “process.”

Another effort to employ process as content in school learning is that of Parker and Rubin (1966), who summarize the tasks to which process-oriented curriculum developers must address themselves as follows:

  • A retooling of subject matter to illuminate base structure, and to ensure that knowledge which generates knowledge takes priority over education which does not.
  • An examination of the working methods of the intellectual practitioner, the biologist, the historian, the political scientist, for the significant processes of their craft, and the use of these processes in our classroom instruction.
  • The utilization of the evidence gathered from a penetrating study of people doing things, as they go about the business of life, in reordering the curriculum.
  • A deliberate effort to school the child in the conditions for cross-application of the processes he has mastered the ways and means of putting them to good use elsewhere (p. 48).

I would suggest that most of these aims are inherent to the three lesson plans I offer above. And I think that is insufficient. I need to make that more explicit. I also think I need to be more explicit in learning outcomes. Certainly, point three of this definition calls for that, but so also does number four: cross-application cannot be made if there is no clarity on the application in the first place. I also think that including the learners in setting outcomes is important as that contributes to their “school without walls” or more simply ownership of the learner’s priorities in learning.

Unit 1 – Critiques of Education in Rural Alaska

The first task of this paper is to demonstrate comprehension of the required readings. The second is to engage critically with some of the issues raised therein. One facet of this critical engagement is to use two sources of data about school performance – this to ground the theoretical. Finally, for those of us in “the lower 48” we can further inform the conversation with relevant local data. In what follows I offer brief summaries of the required readings and then move into a critique. First, my biases in thinking about schooling and education, I, as a graduate student, read materials like Ivan Illich’s “Deschooling Society”, George Dennison’s “Lives of Children”, Eliot Wigginton’s “Sometimes a Shining Moment: The Foxfire Experience”, Michel Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish”, and less about school and more about learning, Gregory Bateson – indeed, everything he wrote available to the public. While I resonate with Foucault’s criticism of the panopticon and its pervasiveness in our lives, I prefer Wigginton because he was first and last about practice, about doing and making with people.

Turning to the four required readings: The Alaska Natives Commission – “Alaska Native Education: Final Report” offers a comprehensive roadmap of the issues affecting the education of Alaska Natives. Specifically, the Findings and Recommendations section maps neatly the landscape from the Native point of view: Skills Necessary for Success, Failure of the Public Education System, Failure of the Social System, Need and Issues. This report then offers fifteen recommendations I touch on the following in what follows: Total Local Control of Schools, Model Curricula for Alaska Native Students, Involvement of Parents and Community, Indian/Native Education Programs for all Native Students.

Paul Ongtooguk offers beyond these points one additional issue: “In fact, the perspective of Alaska Natives, particularly during the contact period of modern times, was almost absent” hence the title of his essay; “Their Silence about Us: Why We Need an Alaska Native Curriculum.”

Leona Okakok’s essay “Serving the Purpose of Education” is the oldest of the resources and yet a pleasure to read, perhaps because she succeeds in melding two voices, the storyteller and the scholar. She identifies: The Role of Local Culture in the Learning Process, Contrasting Definitions of Education, and Educating for Success; Teacher-Student Ratio, Skills Taught, Parental Involvement, Cultural Identity, and Bilingual Education, as key issues with which North Slope Borough School District wrangles.

The First Alaskans Institute “2006 Alaska Native Student Vitality: Community Perspectives on Supporting Student Success” is quite a long article its approach is qualitative; the authors interviewed 45 Alaska Natives, community leaders, community members, and advocates. The findings were categorized within four questions:

  • How do you define Alaska Native student success?
  • How schools define Alaska Native student success?
  • What should schools prepare Alaska Native students for?
  • What are the characteristics of effective schools?

Their Chart 1: Suggested Measures of Success provides an interesting summary and starting point for operationalizing what they learned from the interviewees.

I think the ANC report is particularly useful for thinking critically about some of these issues:

The most thoughtfully designed education system, most current school facilities, best trained and carefully selected teachers, brilliantly conceived and unimpeachable intentions will not, by themselves, significantly improve the education situation of Alaska Native students. The environments in which many young Alaska Natives find themselves must be rid of alcohol and drug abuse, dysfunctional families, and poverty…. Ironically, improved education is part of the solution to these problems and must begin immediately if Alaska Natives are to survive as a distinct culture and the fulfilling lives to which all Americans are entitled.

This quote shows a recurrent theme that occurs throughout these readings; a kind of chicken/egg phrasing of the problem. Here it is cast as we need better schools to have better communities/we need better communities to have better schools. Whenever problems are cast as chicken/egg conundrums, I worry we are trapped in a double-bind, or, perhaps we are excusing our inactivity by falsely casting the circumstance as a double-bind to justify our inactivity.

Returning to Okakok’s article, she does some important work first in distinguishing between “education” and “schooling.” She also reminds us that real, individual young persons are the subject of this conversation. In all of the readings required for this essay the subject is present, there are learners: youth and some older people too. Villegas and Prieto offer us an important example showing the success of a particular young person. This model is useful as it also wrangles with the statistic that shows a slightly greater frequency of learning disabilities among Alaska Native learners:

One can certainly define failure in terms of not passing tests, but there are students, [student name] we have in [village name] who was diagnosed with FAS [Fetal Alcohol Syndrome]…his grandparents raised him…school was not his thing, there was no way he was going to survive in school. His grandparents raised him in the traditional way. He is now the youngest speaker of the language, the best dancer, the youngest and one of the best hunters and trappers, dog team, and I would have to say that he has been prepared to make a life for himself, that is tailor made to [student name], and he is successful at a level that exceeds…as long as you’re not limiting the definition of successfully passing a test, you have to include [student name] as someone who is successful. Academics alone would not…he would be [a failure]. Which is one of the problems in the whole [adequate yearly] progress criteria and whole emphasis on the tests as the only basis that counts any more. (E21)

My switch from “young person” to “learner” is intentional, first to disrupt the roles of teacher/student and second because part of unpacking the double-bind is realizing that this needs to be about lifelong learning rather than something we do to young persons from the outside in and all at once.

As each child shows a proclivity toward a certain activity, it is quickly acknowledged and nurtured. As these children and adults in the community interact, bonds are established that help determines the teacher and the activities which will be made available to that particular child. As education progresses, excellence is pursued naturally. Parents often stand back and let a child explore and experience things, observing the child’s inclinations. If a child shows an aptitude for skills that the parents don’t possess, they might arrange for their child to spend time with an expert, or an adult may ask to participate in the education of the child. Thus, many adults in the community have a role in the education of our children.

I think it is important to unpack this and replace Okakok’s use of “children” with “learner” and to imagine this model extending entirely throughout a life span. For example, I have a proclivity for leadership, and as I mature, the community entrusts me with greater responsibility, naturally. As this goes along, senior community members mentor me on communication, problem diagnosis, and politicking of coalition building until I am myself senior and I, in turn, look for apprentices to influence. Alas, if we have dysfunctional communities and dysfunctional personalities then we must fret about pedophiles and contributors to juvenile delinquency in this model. Therefore, when we render the boundary between school/community porous we take on the responsibility for protecting learners of all ages as they cross the border and interact.

I bridle at the notion of “schooling.” This is informed by Foucault’s critique of the Panopticon. We can easily describe the traditional classroom of ranks and rows of individual desks as “cells” and the teacher standing facing the ranks and rows as situated in the inspection house. Even if we disrupt the architecture and sit in a circle, we have not disrupted the roles of teacher/student, or warden/prisoner. Therefore, in reading Okakok, I had to read closely to understand her meaning of schooling. I take it to be this; “all the circumstance that surrounds and supports education, e.g. “the building, the equipment and materials, the quality of teaching and counseling services – everything about our schools – to ensure that education can take place in the classroom.” When I read, First Alaskans Foundation – “Alaska Native Education Study/Indicators” and Alaska Dept. of Education – “No Child Left Behind/History of Alaska School Reform” I learn about the quality of “schooling” perhaps the panopticon becomes Escheresque infinitely folding back upon itself, “wardens” in their inspection houses which become cells too, inspected by inspectors. I, however, observe little or nothing about particular learners or education in these reports and that harkens back to the coerciveness and double-bind that caused me to bridle over the term “schooling.” Bateson helps me unpack my meaning when he says:

Double bind situations are created by and within the [teaching] setting and the [school] milieu. From the point of view of this hypothesis, we wonder about the effect of [educational] “benevolence” on the [student]…. We would assume that whenever the system is organized for [school] purposes, and it is announced to the [student] that the actions are for his benefit, then the schizophrenogenic situation is being perpetuated.” (Bateson, 1972b)

I have appropriated Bateson shamelessly here, what he said: “psychotherapeutic setting and the hospital milieu,” “medical ‘benevolence’ on the schizophrenic patient,” “hospital purposes and it is announced to the patient.” Given the pervasiveness of the panopticon, this appropriation seems reasonable. Here let us reach back to my misgivings about the double bind, cast as we need better schools to have better communities/we need better communities to have better schools. Dysfunction is at the center of a complex of institutional failures, failures of families, failures of communities, failures of schools. Ongtooguk makes this point:

As recently as the mid-1970s, the teachers and counselors at my high school in Nome had quite different expectations about the future of white students and Alaska Native students. In a certain sense, they didn’t need to worry much about the future of Native students. At that time, close to half the students from Native villages dropped out well before graduating. And suicide rates among male Native students—like myself—were ten times higher than among white students. In my own school, students who had died were initially given their own pages in the yearbook—but when so many died that the yearbook was becoming a virtual obituary column, the policy was dropped.

I find myself struggling with the logic or rather illogic that seems to say schooling got us sick, so more schooling will make us better. Certainly, this is a gross gloss, yet not entirely. Most of this is evident in the literature describing school evaluation, but it also sneaks back into the 15 recommendations of the “Alaska Native Education: Final Report.” For myself, it seems that a more radical break with the forces of colonization and westernization is necessary if any of these aspirations are to be realized. Villegas and Prieto also struggle with how to operationalize the visions and goals articulated by their respondents

Thirteen of the 34 participants who responded to this question also hesitated and struggled to identify any specific examples of effective schools for Alaska Native students. Several respondents (9) wanted to talk specifically about the roles and responsibilities of Alaska Native communities rather than the characteristics of effective schools. Some mentioned their experiences in schools, others referred to what they knew about schooling in other countries, and still, others spoke about what they had experienced or heard about particular schools in Alaska.

Our required readings offer a robust theoretical framework for a better future, alas; they are lean on offering practical guidelines or detailed plans for accomplishing these goals, for realizing this vision. Certainly, there are several different ethnic regions in Alaska and within those regions varying and unique circumstances. None-the-less, if people stuck in the bind of we need better schools to have better communities/we need better communities to have better schools are to create and sustain change, then some recipes, some templates, some guidelines of best practice need to be offered. Villegas and Prieto were able to identify eight schools that respondents felt were on track. “First, there are several schools and initiatives cited that are based on community and cultural values, employ Native teachers and educators, and have meaningful community partnerships – and in some cases are controlled by the community itself.” To my mind, this offers an important starting place for examining these as case studies and potential role models. However, I think it is important to avoid the logic of confirming the content of today’s newspaper by reading the second copy. I believe it is important to look outside of Alaska for successful pedagogies and unique cultures surviving and navigating post-modernity.

I can only sketch in brief of my meaning, but I find Eliot Wigginton’s Sometimes a Shining Moment: The Foxfire Experience incredibly valuable. Wigginton was both a practitioner and theoretician and so much can be learned from him about young people; about learning, about creating school and community exchanges, and about preserving culture. Very simply Foxfire was a magazine capturing southern Appalachian folkways. It was entirely student produced. However, to be in a place to see the opportunity and build on it Wiggington had to fail and to genuinely question his educational experience to be receptive to the clues around him. The chapter, “So What Did I Learn In School, Anyway?” offers us a skeleton:

I began to make a list of memorable, positive experiences…. I found that then experiences could be grouped fairly easily … into broad categories: Times when there were visitors to our class from the world outside the classroom…. Times when, as students, we left the classroom on assignments or field trips…. Times when things we did, as students, had an audience beyond the teacher…. Times when we, as students were given responsibility of an adult nature, and\ were trusted to fulfill it…. Times when we, as students, took on major independent research projects that went far beyond simply copying something out of an encyclopedia, or involved ourselves in periods of intense personal creativity and action…. (Wigginton, 1985)

Indeed, in three of our required readings these same insights are present, but not, I think, in the same self-conscious way that Wigginton offers. The situation that framed Foxfire was parallel and similar in ways to the troubles Alaskan Natives describe: rural, poverty, dysfunction and substance abuse, the traditional life-ways eroded by the consumer society. The young people in his classes were like most young people trapped in the institution of schooling: bored — sometimes to death, de-motivated, and waiting to be old enough to get on with real life. The magazine, and later the books, was the catalyst at that place and time, which allowed Wigginton to accomplish all of the goals our required readings celebrate. Wigginton pulled all facets of the curriculum, English, business math, technology (of the era), history, social studies, and art together into a single project. He ruptured the barrier between town and gown or at least rendered it porous with knowledge flowing in both directions. His project preserved and transmitted lifeways and material culture across generations. Imitation is a kind flattery but it is also bound for failure, and that is why I emphasize Wigginton’s theoretical value. We do not have to re-invent him, rather we can appropriate and adapt to the circumstance of schools, and villages and Alaska Natives. Another strength in Wigginton’s approach is that it cuts through the Gordian knot if the double-bind school/community dysfunction. The function is restored adequately as a together step of both systems in as much as is possible through the restoration and stimulation of life-long learning.

I also recommend various works by Donald Kraybill and his co-authors, on the Amish. I am neither Amish nor particularly religious, so my admiration for these people arises from other angles. In conjunction with a course on the legal and ethical issues in technology, I wrote an ethnographic comparison of Amish and Tlingit ethics of appropriate technology. It probably was not very good, but I was struck by the self-consciousness and intentional albeit inconsistent approach that Amish had in confronting consumer technology. At the most basic if the technology threatened to erode spiritual values and community values then it was rejected. Here I think of a story that Rosita Worl told at a presentation 30 years ago where she talked about how plumbing and running water had damaged the social fabric in many Native villages because it had replaced the trek to the water source – a chore shared by older and younger men and an opportunity for them to transmit cultural knowledge, create trust and respect and hence bonds that preserved communities, for example. Certainly, plumbing is better than Cholera yet perhaps some alternatives could have been negotiated to sustain the culture if greater self-consciousness in the adoption of technology were practiced. Indeed, the Amish display at times inconsistencies or they create loopholes for themselves, yet I think the process and vigorous commitment to values offer some valuable guidelines as Alaska Natives grapple with the issues raised and goals set in these four readings. Similarly, I think the Amish offer insights into getting a living while straddling two worlds. In the 100 years between 1900 and 1992, the Amish population grew steadily. Originally, farming or trade and industry supporting farming were the only acceptable ways of making a living. However, as real estate prices rose, and population encroached on the Amish settlements, family farming became nearly impossible to sustain. The Amish have exploded into the small business economy of the eastern Pennsylvania and the US. However, they have done it with the same self-consciousness and keen awareness of spiritual and communal values. My point again is Alaska Natives will have to find their way, but I believe the Amish offer some absorbing guidelines for how to manage to live between two cultures – “in the world but not of it.”

The response to this Amish “intransigence” eventually pushed the landmark Court case Wisconsin v. Yoder…. Here it was declared in 1972 that the Amish could not be forced to send their children to school beyond the eighth grade. The Supreme Court recognized that education could continue outside the classroom and that “enforcement of the State’s requirement for compulsory formal education after the eighth grade would gravely endanger if not destroy the free exercise of … [Amish] religious beliefs.” (Huntington, 1994)

Above I worry about the illogic of taking more of the poison that makes us ill to cure the ill. The Amish, in the 1950’s, offered a workable and sustainable compromise to minimize this.

Under the vocational plan the children could work at home, supervised by a member of the community, keeping a diary of “what they worked.” One three-hour period per week the children met with an Amish teacher, either in a home or the parochial school to report on their week’s work and to study English, math, German and whatever else was determined by the local community. Attendance records were kept and forwarded to the State. In these localities where school authorities recognized the vocational program many problems were avoided. (Huntington, 1994)

I have wondered far afield, the Appalachian foothills, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania and I have only scratched the surface of both the required readings and the readings I bring to the conversation. However, I hope for a fruitful cross-pollination as these ideas inform subsequent papers. Also, whatever research and publication have been done on the eight schools/initiatives that Villegas and Prieto identify as approximating the desired outcomes should be sought and added to the conversation. While I argue for cross-pollination, I likewise see the value of local assessment and solutions. I also, appropriating the quote about the Amish, celebrate and encourage Alaska native “intransigence” both in self-determination around education, but also in response to documents like, First Alaskans Foundation – “Alaska Native Education Study/Indicators” and Alaska Dept. of Education – “No Child Left Behind/History of Alaska School Reform.” These assessments actually miss the mark and rather can be read in light of hegemonic intrusion really into all communities, not just Alaska Natives. I can, however, easily imagine a school entirely addressing the issues raised in our required readings and yet failing “No Child Left Behind” assessment repeatedly and ultimately facing re-organization.


Alaska Natives Commission – “Alaska Native Education: Final Report.”

Leona Okakok – “Serving the Purpose of Education.”

Paul Ongtooguk – “Their Silence About Us: The Absence of Alaska Natives in Curriculum.”

First Alaskans Institute – “2006 Alaska Native Student Vitality: Community Perspectives on Supporting Student Success.”

Bateson, G. (1972b). Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Ballantine Books.

Huntington, G. E. (1994). Persistence and Change in Amish Education. In D. C. K. a. M. A. Olshan (Ed.), The Amish Struggle with Modernity (pp. 77-96). Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.

Wigginton, E. (1985). Sometimes a Shining Moment: The Foxfire Experience. Garden City, New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday.