As part of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)’s Rural Leadership Initiative, we have had the opportunity to partner with Team4Tech, a non-profit organization that provides immersive service learning to technology professionals to improve the quality of education among other places, in school districts. Last May, CoSN, Team4Tech, and Pure Storage came together to bring a unique project to the Yukon-Koyukuk School District (YKSD).
YKSD is a rural school district with their main office located in Fairbanks, Alaska. The district’s ten village schools are located along the Yukon, Koyukuk and Tanana river systems, a geographic area larger than the state of Washington (encompassing about 65,000 square miles of territory). More than 98% of the district’s 315 river school students are Alaska Native (Athabascan). The district also sponsors a statewide correspondence program called Raven Homeschool of approximately 1,500 students.
The district’s vision is that “every learner will attain excellence and learn with passion in a challenging and culturally enriched environment.” The district also wants to ensure that teaching and learning occur in ways that are culturally relevant for the students. In the Athabascan culture, students learn from their parents and elders by watching and doing - they develop the skills to hunt, fish, and create what they need with their own hands. They are resourceful and resilient. Bringing modern and western skills to these students while maintaining their culture and respecting their way of learning is a challenge.
Team4Tech, Pure Storage, and CoSN partnered to bring YKSD teacher professional development from the Project Based Learning and maker movements that encourage students to build and create with their own minds and hands, aligning with their culture, and bringing in modern skills and technologies to broaden the set of skills the YKSD students need for graduation.
10 Pure Storage employees, with Team4Tech and CoSN representatives, travelled to YKSD for an 8-day immersive service-learning leadership development opportunity. The Pure Storage team offered professional development to of each of the 10 schools and also supported the efforts of the YKSD’s IT staff to prepare for the future of teaching and learning at YKSD. In total, the team provided technology workshops to 13 teachers and principals from the YKSD and 3 neighboring school districts and tailored consulting to 3 YKSD IT staff.
Specifically, the volunteers presented hands-on workshops for YKSD educators on:
In parallel, technology leaders worked with the district to virtualize their servers, performed penetration testing, a security audit and provided feedback on best practices.
The hands-on approach to educator workshops had an energizing effect. Teachers with more technology experience quickly jumped to more advanced applications of the technology while those who faced numerous new concepts and information dug in and successfully worked with the technology within a few short hours.
There were several key takeaways from the YKSD experience: