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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Education, Research, and Development

Working in Western Alaska as an educator and technologist I have learned a lot about educational issues in the Bush and across Alaska in general over the past 8 years. One thing is constant: the complaints that the system is broken and that there are unique difficulties in every school and student population.

We all realize that there are things that need to be fixed. We all agree on the existence of half a dozen issues at least. Legislators, Governors, Mayors, and administrators come and go, all well meaning, but nothing changes.


When was the last major educational upheaval in the Bush? When was the last time we tried something truly, fundamentally different? Molly Hootch, RUS grants and VTC deployments statewide bridging geographical gaps in the late 90's?


I personally have had my educational philosophy altered irrevocably by the one-to-one initiative of the early 2000's. My ideal classroom will never be the same again. My students had voices in the learning and experienced being the teacher to their peers as much as I did. Multimedia projects offered ever-present opportunities to succeed. With culture, language, and place-based standards infused with the content I presented from text and online resources, the students formed their own opinions. The joy of exploratory learning and satisfaction of self discovery made every theme, date, and name "sticky" (as Seth Godin would put it).


Leveraging academic concepts in organic solutions is what problem solving in the real world boils down to. Complex issues, like Bush education (or American education in a broader sense), require complex solutions. There is no blanket to cover all. There is no silver bullet to win every battle. 
The cure for polio was not a happenstance. Interstate highways are not America's oldest roads. Trails were blazed and it cost blood, sweat, and tears. Risk and reward built American industry and created the one great Superpower.

What experiments are we trying to affect learning outcomes in early childhood education? 
How many risks are we taking "flipping" classrooms and districts nation-wide? 


Defense budgets through the 80's and 2000's were nothing short of disgusting to the average American. R&D projects led to (relatively) positive outcomes for our troops, though. Predator drones, laser guidance systems, body armor...

Energy independence in the US is a noted priority of both parties. Though rarely agreed upon in form and function, this goal is funded by billions annually. We now supplement power in the village of Alakanuk through wind energy. Solar cells in the siding of the new schools offset a percentage of the heating costs during winter, however small...


What cutting-edge educational RESEARCH is being done in Bush Alaska? 
How many dollars are we spending on DEVELOPING Alaska's future... our children?