Beyond Traditional Vocational Education:
Best Practices for Use of Computers and Internet
for Native Communities
By Frank Odasz, Lone Eagle Consulting
*This paper was written as part of a consultation contract regarding a U.S. Department of Education grant to the Northwest Indian College to conduct a survey on Indian Vocational Education programs and to produce a manual and toolkit on best practices using computer and Internet technologies for Indian vocational education program administrators and training faculty.
Increasing levels of Internet access, and dropping prices for computer technology, are creating new opportunities for Native American Vocational Education programs. The challenge is to stay current with these evolving opportunities and to recognize the need for widespread, ongoing, community Internet awareness programs regarding these new and yet emerging Internet employment and training opportunities.
Too often, technical programs are elitist and separate from the community. Too often, computer labs are maintained by a tribal organization that is not dedicated to sharing these resources as broadly as possible. For communities to truly benefit from use of computer and Internet, as many citizens need to become engaged with a broad range of hands-on uses as quickly as possible. This has never been more true than with computers and Internet technologies! Vocational education students need a formal structure by which they routinely share what they are learning about computers and Internet with their communities.
It is typical in rural communities for those who don't understand computer and Internet technologies to shun, instead of celebrate, those with technical skills. Often, citizens don't believe they are capable of learning these skills. This can, and should, be reversed. Technology can become an important social communications link with the local community if skills are routinely shared such that citizens also feel empowered by the skills vocational education students are learning.
The Native Vocational Education survey results, recently reviewed by the Northwest Indian College, included a fundamentally key question "Where is the online technology training?!" In fact, it exists in profusion, and the immediate opportunity exists to gather the best-of-the-best for distribution to Native Vocational Education programs and staff.
While online technology training is freely available via Internet, few Indian Vocational Education administrators, program directors, and training staff, are aware of what's available. Staff training is a common need which can be met via online instruction on an ongoing basis, and the opportunity exists for convenient ongoing sharing of expertise and resources via Internet. The opportunity exists to provide awareness training on current resources as well as how to learn via online classes and tutorials.
Below are a few examples of the extensive online technology training resources available on the Internet, taken from "Echoes in the Electronic Wind; A Native American Internet Guide." http://lone-eagles.com/nativeguide.htm
Gearing Up With Free Web Tools:
Adult Literacy Web Tour, and 15 other topical web tours;
Online learning courses, tutorials and directories of online learning
New Internet Entrepreneurship and Ecommerce Opportunities
Free Ecommerce web sites are readily available. The opportunity exists to provide ongoing updates on the best of these opportunities, along with examples of successful Native American entrepreneurs and businesses, to everyone on the reservation as an outreach component of vocational education programs.
Easy Ecommerce Start-up Training Resources
Culturally appropriate Ecommerce Models
Native American Business Listings
Native American Ecommerce Sites
Native American Art Sites
Organizations Supporting Native American Businesses
Many income-producing technology skills require a minimum of training. Anyone can quickly learn to create digital images using digital cameras, and art tablets, which can be printed on quilt panels, T-shirts, and many other products. There are new local markets for images for web pages to promote local businesses and other purposes. In Wolf Point, MT, the local embroidery business can produce from digital images embroidered patches and logos for hats, shirts, jackets, and much more. Business is booming with the creative applications of new digital imaging and printing technologies.
There are an increasing number of telework opportunities that can allow working from anywhere; graphics artists, web page designers, medical transcriptionists, insurance underwriters, and virtual assistants, to name a few. Ongoing identification of the best telework opportunities and training resources for local employment, whether online or offline, is needed, viable, and conspicuously absent.
All tribes have a unique opportunity to qualify for federal sole source contracts. The Salish-Kootenai won a $300 million dollar federal contract providing SGML mark-up services. Such successes and opportunities need to be brought to the awareness of all tribes. http://www.skc.edu
Clarification on Best Practices
"Best practices" can refer only to what practices exist, not to which practices would indeed be best, given full knowledge of what's needed and what could be provided. The isolation of most Indian vocational education programs keeps most such programs out of the loop of the genuine best practices known by those who are better informed. They don't have a means to know what they really need to know, on an ongoing basis!
Vocational Education Staff often find themselves isolated from peers, when Internet listservs could resolve this barrier and provide for ongoing sharing of resources and expertise. The "culture" of Internet sharing needs to be brought to tribal trainers to allow them to deal with the many issues they face on a daily basis.
A Collaborative Sharing Case Study Example:
For over ten years I've been teaching online courses to teachers on "Making the Best Use of Internet for K12 Instruction." http://lone-eagles.com/asdn1.htm I'm enjoying a subtle, but very relevant dynamic with my online teachers, they review my best resource hotlinks in the context of topical lessons, and then exercise their newfound searching skills to find and share with the class listserv NEW links on the topic of the lesson.
Hence, I'm sent great new links daily, to weave into the semi-permanent tapestry of my online web tours and self-directed learning resources. This is a replicable methodology for teaching 'community collaboration and resource sharing' to save everyone precious time, and to effectively keep everyone abreast of the best resources on an ongoing basis.
This type of collaboration can also be promoted locally to provide an opportunity for everyone to share their discoveries and innovations to support community sustainability.
Here's a free listserv service offered by an Adult Literacy program. http://www.philaliteracy.org/initiatives/listserv.html and here's a listing of major peer-mentoring program models http://lone-eagles.com/mentor.htm
Extensive resources for "Building Learning Communities" within a cultural context are available to be shared without restriction at http://lone-eagles.com/teled.htm
Eleven Specific Recommendations:
1. Create a web tour of the best free online tutorials, listed by topic, specifically for Indian vocational education administrators, program directors and staff.
2. Create a listserv with a skilled moderator and resource librarian to
create a culture of sharing to meet the needs of vocational education staff. New
resources, online training opportunities, training resources, and ideal practices would be
shared on an ongoing basis. Free listservs with web-based searchable message archives
3. Teach Indian Vocational Education Staff to create online curriculum to share with peers. Vocational education staff need to learn to take online courses for professional development, and to effectively broker existing online tutorials, resources, and instruction for students. They also can easily learn to create their own online instruction, in partnership with their students, to allow their expertise to become available to all other vocational education staff and students, nationally.
One example of a site offering free online course authoring, requiring a minimum of
technical skill, is http://www.blackboard.com
My listings of this and other free online tutorials on course authoring and free
course-authoring tools are listed in the following course lessons, freely available to all
Designing K12 Internet Instruction" http://lone-eagles.com/currmain1.htm
4. Maintain a frequently updated web site presenting the very best free
online instruction suitable for Indian vocational education, with emphasis on new
curriculum and resources created by Indian vocational education staff and students.
Here's a list of web-based curriculum created by educators with a bare minimum of previous technical knowledge http://lone-eagles.com/teachercreated.htm during their participation in the online course
"Making the Best Use of Internet for K12 Instruction."
The lessons for this course serve as a proven format for effective online instruction.
5. Provide online grant-writing instruction and mentorship: Nearly all
Indian vocational education programs need funding for technology, Internet infrastructure,
and staffing. Online instruction in proposal-writing, complete with template proposals is
available, but needs to be explicitly brought to the awareness of those who would benefit
most. Online mentors for budding grant-writers is viable and needed.
Example grant-writing curriculum http://lone-eagles.com/asdnl8.htm
An easy Proposal Writing Tutorial http://lone-eagles.com/mira2.htm and Grantwriting Hot Tips and Funding Sources http://lone-eagles.com/granthelp.htm
6. Emphasize Local Employment Opportunities to Sustain Local Communities
Traditional vocational education should avoid promoting social dislocation by teaching skills for jobs that require students to relocate. Vocational education programs should consider teaching those skills which strengthen, not weaken, the local community.
Indian vocational education needs to provide skills for jobs that can be realized locally, or it will directly undermine the sustainability of tribal communities.
As Internet infrastructure becomes more common in tribal communities, the opportunity to teach skills that allow students to provide services remotely, from anywhere, to anywhere, increases. More and more online training opportunities for knowledge workers is appearing such as the Virtual Assistant training program http://assistu.com
The best of these opportunities should be made easily accessible!
7. It is vitally important to create vocational education programs that strengthen the community's technical capacity. Social bonds need to be more central to the local marketing of new vocational education skills to generate awareness and demand for these services locally, particularly where computer and Internet technologies are involved.
Vocational education students should become community trainers, providing near immediate skill training successes for local citizens such as how to use email, search engines, digital cameras, etc. This is an important service to the entire community, and benefits both the student's learning, and the social acceptance of their technical skills.
It has been common for students who have attended off-site colleges and universities to be shunned by the local community upon their return. Strategies for avoiding this divisive dynamic also present an opportunity for raising community awareness regarding citizen applications of computer and Internet technologies.
8. Create a motivating local environment to generate social recognition and motivation regarding the importance of computer and Internet skills.
Too often, technical programs are elitist and separate from the community.
Typically in rural communities, those with technical skills are shunned by those who feel intimidated by this knowledge. Often, citizens don't believe they are capable of learning these skills. Technology can become an important social communications link with the local community as skills are routinely shared such that citizens also feel empowered by the skills vocational education students are learning. This has never been more true than with computers and Internet technologies!
How can we best work with technology to involve as many as possible?
The need exists to provide community incentives to encourage people to step up to the next level, and then the next. Social recognition for those who learn new skills and relating these skills to the benefit of the entire community are recommended. Specific strategies are given at the end of this paper.
A step-by-step learning pathway of empowerment needs to be defined. I.E. Email,
searching skills, basic web-authoring, etc.
Example self-directed learning pathway curriculum:
"Echoes in the Electronic Wind; A Native American Internet Guide."
9. Publish students work locally on the web and in print as soon as possible.
Social recognition of students' work needs to be frequent and ongoing to connect the importance of their learning to the community. While print publications can serve where Internet isn't available, for communities with Internet access, web-based publishing is easy, economical and convenient for all concerned.
10. Vocational education programs should create experiences for both students and local citizens that provide immediate feedback and social recognition. Wherever possible relationships need to be created via peer mentoring and acknowledgement that everyone has something to teach, and everyone can learn from others. Specific implementation strategies for creating such 'learning communities' are given at the bottom of the following case study.
CASE STUDY: Hewlett Packard Tribal Digital Village
A Model for Empowering Communities by Raising Awareness of the Best Applications of Computer and Internet Technologies
The Hewlett Packard Tribal Digital Village is creating a quick-start solution to creating inspired and motivated Native communities ready to fully benefit from newly available computer and Internet technologies.
On July 12, 2001, the Hewlett Packard Tribal Digital Village held a hands-on multimedia workshop for tribal youth on one day, and presented their multimedia creations to the project steering committee the next day. Contact information on this and other major Native Internet projects: http://lone-eagles.com/adec.htm
The purpose of the youth workshop was to provide as many initially motivating hands-on experiences for the youth as possible within a single six-hour workshop.
The youth were provided hands-on experiences with eight technologies:
1. Digital art tablet and artist software featuring over 100 artists tools
2. Sony CD-write Camera which allows the easiest form of digital storytelling
3. MIDI musical keyboard and Calkwalk composition software
4. Audio recording to a laptop with hand-held microphone
to create audio .wav files, (for recording oral histories)
5. Creating first web pages with Netcape Composer,
6. HP digital camera and color printer,
7. Digital video camera,
8. Students created audio narrations for quicktime video segments
During the steering committee presentation the following day, with the youth present, their digital slideshows and artwork were shown, along with demonstrations many examples of Native American web innovations. Enthusiasm was the direct result.
Next, the Tribal Digital Village is planning a family community event with emphasis on providing highly motivating hands-on experiences for everyone with art tablets, imaging technologies and much more. The Academy youth will then serve as local trainers assisting locals in ongoing hands-on innovation. This project is helping communities learn to 'invent.' This will fast become a model for kickstarting community motivation within a cultural context.
We are thinking about something like a Technology Exposition-Fair for our
September Steering/community meeting. Where we might have "booths" set up
and people could go from one to the other and see or have hands on
demonstrations of various things; a place where people
can sit and be on the internet, do digital pictures, video, music, art
tablets, put picture on a t-shirt, see a web cam conference, web tutorial,
etc. Perhaps, have a key note & a few presentations (summer youth Academy,
etc. and good food. A family community event.
Detailed youth-driven community Internet awareness implementation plans to be shared without restriction:
Alaskan Native Youth Cultural Community Building Initiative
A three year implementation plan written for eight Native Alaskan Villages.
The Bootstrap Academy
Specific training resources and models for low-cost, short-term, community Internet awareness events to be hosted by local youth.
Culture Club: A Youth-based Cultural and Community Survival Strategy http://lone-eagles.com/cultureclub.htm A concept paper with core ideas for many youth oriented community development initiatives. Emphasis is on creating community web-based content and addressing the global need for culturally appropriate Internet training visions and resources. Includes a Lone Eagle Apprenticeship Ecommerce program. For similar themes to seed your brainstorming - See also http://lone-eagles.com/capacity.htm and http://lone-eagles.com/trainers.htm
Seventh Generation Community Initiative: A Model for Native American Sovereignty http://lone-eagles.com/7gc.htm
The Community Bootstrap Initiative "Doing for Ourselves- Together" http://lone-eagles.com/articles/boot2.htm A full USDA proposal for Dillon, Montana. This was formally submitted in 1998, but not funded.
Additional resources available at http://lone-eagles.com/adec.htm
Lone Eagle Consulting resources available at http://lone-eagles.com/