by Frank Odasz
Big Sky Telegraph

Synergy with the following
                   is inevitable:
- Internet networking
- Local School/Community Networking
- Science, math, and technology literacy online support
- Lifelong learning for everyone online from the home or library
- Entrepreneurship education beginning at K12 covering the
  dynamics for creation of employment and learning opportunities
  through network access and activities.

To turn around the rural economic decline we need to identify
specific opportunities for our own kids to find meaningful
employment locally. To sustain our communities requires an
initiative to find out just what the known benefits of Internet
and community networking might be for rural citizens,
K12 science and math education should reflect synergy with what's
known about applying math, science and technology education to
employment through telecomputing. Internet access to satellite
photography, federal research and development archives, global
niche markets, community networks, and vast resource archives,
all relate directly to success in an rapidly emerging information
Public understanding of networking benefits is vital for the
public support necessary to sustain any school networking effort.
Community awareness and involvement in networking is necessary
for the success of school networking initiatives that apply to
students integrating their science, math, and technical knowledge
toward community issues and eventual personal employment.
Educational reform must include programmatic approaches which
link science and math teacher training, classroom activities,
community science and math literacy, and school/community
networking as necessary integrated components for lasting
educational reform.
In our electronic society, students are being taught to be
citizens, and citizens are being taught to be lifelong learning
students. School and community networking efforts on inevitably
on a convergent course.
Our shared mission, of some urgency, is to find what works
employing citizen's through telecommunications and teaching
how to do it through K12 education, using various
telecommunications technologies to the home, as well as to the
school, on an ongoing basis. Within this context, the tangible
benefits of science and math education need to be showcased with
an emphasis on creating employment opportunities, and other
community benefits.
Multiple, diverse public access testbeds are needed to "research"
methods for online teleliteracy training and showcasing science
and math resources gleaned from the Internet, in a "community
benefits" context. Articulated as follows:
The Clearinghouse for Rural Excellence at Western Montana College
of the University of Montana exists to foster connections,
communication, and cooperation between rural entities including
schools, libraries and businesses. The Clearinghouse seeks to
develop in every community catalysts to promote sustainable
connectivity/networking and to champion economic development,
enhance access to information, and further lifelong learning
among citizens.
The greatest need for citizens is how to earn a living to replace
rapidly disappearing traditional vocations. The opportunity
exists to kickstart the proliferation of online jobs and small
business "win-win" relationships, globally, without having to
wait for the natural evolution of such opportunities to unfold.
An online teaching model similar to Mind Extension University is
needed. Minigrants will be used to sponsor demonstration online
telepreneurial enterprises, with sponsorship of additional course
creation projects.
A model is needed for a "Entrepreneurship Cooperative" to provide
training, certification, and joint marketing of skills and
entrepreneurial online services for citizens. Model online
interactive instructional methods will be demonstrated for both
K-12 and Higher Education Entrepreneurial replication.
Lifelong learning has become an employability survival necessity.
The distinctions between what should be taught in K12 schools,
and in the current workplace, are blurring, as more powerful
connectivity and information management tools are proliferating
at every more affordable prices, and with easier to use
interfaces. As mentioned, K12 students have an attitudinal
mindset that allows them to typically outlearn adults, if given
hands-on access to the appropriate technologies. In short, what's
good for K12 is good for training the current workforce in most
instances; basic literacy, teleliteracy, and infoliteracy.
The need exists to create initial free entry-level training
materials, and create a "for profit" series of instructional
courses centering on entrepreneurial skills and models for
success in the emerging knowledge economy. Citizens need an
affordable means of learning how to create online courses and
services, and to potentially market them.
A entrepreneur training, support, and co-marketing online
cooperative will help deliver citizen-created, non-credit
lessons, and service delivery models exploring how citizens can
learn-to-earn, to stimulate even greater interest among citizens
in creating their own ventures. The goal will be to create
self-fullfilling knowledge-economy models that respond to
existing needs.
  - Identify what trainable skills best result in employment.
  - Give "good idea" businesses free publicity to assure their
    success and replication/competition.
  - Allow citizen's to hang an entrepreneurial shingle from
    a "marketplace" system that already has a critical mass of
  - Publish awareness infomercials to expand citizen's visions of
    what's possible.
  - "Non-Academic Certification" by competency level; graphics,
     desktop publishing, writing, organizing, info-searching,
     condensing, multimedia authoring. Progressive levels of
     certification to enhance employability.
  - Successes sharing; Ongoing showcase of innovations that work,
    and failures to learn from.
  - Share current "inside track tips" on new technologies,
    efficiency tricks, entrepreneurial trend profiles.
  - Identify appropriate entrepreneurial instruction for K-12 and
    Higher Education
  - Facilitate education/business online collaborative opportunities.
  - Provide working models of successful decentralized workteam
Lack of community-wide awareness of the options and benefits of
"Inner-net" and "Internet" telecomputing is the biggest barrier
to proliferation of community/school networks. The economy and
convenience of self-directed, mentored online learning
opportunities has yet to be exploited for ongoing training of
citizens. Specific benefits, particularly those related to income
producing opportunities, must be identified and widely promoted
to generate interest in the online participation by citizens.
Today's technologies make it possible for everyone to get
involved in networking at some level.
"Expectations increase with connectivity,"
we need to focus on ubiquitous
engagement of all citizens with multilevel testbed projects
measuring the benefits associated with the successive
connectivity models. The prevailing themes in support of
widespread community networking are;
1. Widespread awareness raising of networking options and benefits
2. Development and promotion of self-help training models
3. Local control and economic sustainability