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Remote Alaskan Districts Stay Connected Via Technology
posted by: Ruthie | March 13, 2014, 06:14 PM   

Extreme weather has kept many students out of school this winter. However, Dan Walker, assistant superintendent of the 4,000-student Lower Kuskokwim School District, in rural Oscarville, Alaska, has found ways for continuing learning, even when children cannot make it to school.

The town of Oscarville is only accessible in winter via frozen river or plane, yet Walker has made learning accessible to all students. Videoconferences and 1to1 laptop and tablet programs allow students to learn remotely.

Because of Mr. Walker’s efforts, in Bethel, Alaska, another barely accessibly rural town, high school science teacher Andrea Pokzywinski can now hold classes in front of a camera, for students in classrooms across the district. She demonstrates science experiments and uses her laptop to control the interactive whiteboards in her students’ classrooms.

Classes are not limited to science. Students can take a variety of electives, including robotics and e-journalism, as well as classes in the native Alaskan language of Yu’Pik.

"Kids who may feel disengaged with some of the traditional classes, when you put the technology in their hands, it gets them excited, and they tend to do better,"
said Mr. Walker.

While Mr. Walker’s 100-megabit internet connection costs about $20 million a year, it is reimbursed from the federal e-rate program, which helps provide connectivity to low-income districts. 

"I learned never to say never," said Walker. "I am so passionate about finding ways to get kids access to technology."

This technology program in Alaska could certainly be leveraged in other districts with extreme weather.
Does your district use technology to keep students connected?

Comment below.


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