Native American/Alaskan/Hawaiian

K12 Innovations Using Computers and Internet


                            A Report for USAID

Available online with a additional clearinghouse of
related resources at:


                                           by Frank Odasz

Lone Eagle Consulting

2200 Rebich Lane

Dillon, MT 59725

Ph/Fax: 406-683-6270





                        TABLE OF CONTENTS


Overview and Organization of this Report                        

On the Frontier of Online Learning in Galena, Alaska

National Overview of U.S. School Access to Technology

Native American Schools Use of Computers and Internet

Economic and Infrastructural Issues

Overview of the Technologies

Computer Aided Instruction

Internet via Satellite

Internet Language Translation Capabilities

Internet Radio and Telephone

Wireless Alternatives to Expensive Copper Wire


Web compatible Word-processors, Laptops and Desktop Computers

Computer Recycling

CDROM’s as Interim Alternative to Internet

Caching and Webwhacker as Interim Alternative to Internet

Email Access to Web Pages

Interactive Video

Cable TV and Wireless Cable Systems

Keys to Building Telecommunications Infrastructure in Native
American Communities

Social Implications of Collaborative Internet Technologies

The Convergence of School and Community Networking

Building Learning Communities

The Necessity for Intergenerational Teleliteracy

Cultural Impacts of Internet Technology

Cultural Entrepreneurship

Electronic Democracy and Transnational Activism

Cultural Impacts and Cultural Survival Issues

Authenticity and Privacy Issues

Overview of Lessons Learned

Community Technology Center Models

One Computer Strategies for Villages and Classrooms

Public Access Issues

Distance Learning Key Issues

Online Mentorship Issues

Early Adapter Case Studies (Bottom-Up Innovations)

Computer Innovations (Non-Internet)

Web-based Innovations

Collaborative Project-Based Learning Innovations

Information Age Carpetbaggers

Key Grant-Funded Projects (Top-Down Innovations)
           Other Internet Projects of Interest

Overview of Internet Networks linking
Indigenous nations in America

Guidelines on design of programs for indigenous communities


Crosscultural Commonalities
A Cross-Cultural Internet Training Model
An Online Course Model for Teachers
      on Brokering Internet Learning Resources

Appendix and Additional Resources


Report Overview and Organization

This report begins with a first-person narrative on my experiences introducing the Internet to 10 Native Alaskan villages to set the context for the rest of the report. Many of the resources created for the villages as training models are included in this report. Many of the conclusions I’ve reached are a result of the direct experiences working with the villagers, and are to be taken in this context.

IMPORTANT: To appreciate the quality of the innovations created by students and teachers in Native schools, and to understand the content and significance of this report, it is vitally important to actually view the presented web sites referenced throughout the report. To facilitate viewing these exemplary innovations, this report is online at which allows for the convenience of clicking on the imbedded web addresses while reading the report via computer.

Included in this report are:

  1. An introductory essay relating the key visions, issues and context of the full report;
    "On the Frontier of Online Learning in Galena, Alaska"
  2. The body of the report, complete with referenced web addresses
    ( ) and additional exemplary appendices.
  3. A Native American K12 Innovations Web Clearinghouse with a much wider range of web sites is included as a general reference for others interested in the use of Internet for cultural empowerment and innovation.
  4. A 120 page copy of the "Native Alaskan Cross-Cultural K12 Internet Guide" which is also on the web at , serving as a structured hands-on training program showcasing the best K12 resources on the Internet. This guide was used for the 10 Native Alaskan villages as well as for 3,000 Alaskan home-schoolers.
  5. A syllabus for a 3 credit online course for teachers based on the above handbook "Making the Best Use of Internet For K12 Instruction" to be offered Spring semester 1999 by the University of Alaska, Anchorage Campus.
  6. A Thinkquest CDROM complete with tutorials and software to serve as a model for use of CDROM as a training medium and for delivery of multimedia resources and software. The project-based learning tutorial on this CD is particularly significant as a training model.


On the Frontier of Online Learning, in Galena, Alaska

Galena, Alaska is a Native Alaskan village on the Yukon River hundreds of miles from the nearest road system. They are literally on the frontier of online learning. In 1997, U.S Department of Commerce NTIA/TIIAP grant was received to install Internet via satellite systems in the ten Native Alaskan Villages of the Yukon-Koyukuk Regional Consortium. This created the opportunity for the villages to literally leapfrog ahead of even some of the best schools in the world. The villages represent an ideal testbed for discovering the greatest possible benefits thoughtful use of the Internet can deliver to remote learners.

In 1998, a U. S. Department of Education Technology Literacy Challenge grant was awarded to provide Internet Workshops for all ten villages, and I was hired to provide on-site Internet workshops. I was excited about what I could learn about the potential for Internet to make a meaningful impact, with emphasis on sensitivity to cultural impacts.

In February 1998, I ended up boarding a six seat bush plane, dressed as recommended; to withstand 50 degrees below zero, should the plane land unexpectedly during the 250 mile journey inside Alaska’s interior wilderness. Also required for village visits, was my own sleeping bag and food. During the next month, I slept in libraries and classrooms, often within feet of the new humming web server, connected to the new satellite dish in the schoolyard. I lived off of microwaveable chili-cups, smoked salmon, stale bagels and coffee.

Working with teachers, students and community members, we all experienced taking our own digital photographs and entering them onto original personal web pages. We searched for Athabascan cultural resources, specific health topics, and even found the villages were already represented on the web in various fashions. We found everyone can find something of personal interest on the Internet, and saw many examples of cultural expression and multi-classroom collaborations. Email was an instant hit, economically connecting family members scattered among the villages.

When I first arrived at the villages to introduce them to the Internet I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than that I was likely to learn a great deal. Sure enough, I learned from the second-graders that they are definitely not too young to learn to use the Internet. With their eager openness and spirit of experimentation they learned faster than their teachers, who after seeing the excitement of their students, asked for a private training session ‘at a much slower pace.’ When the elders came in the evening to try their hand, they were prepared with specific topics for which they wanted information on. Within minutes after finding quality information, particularly on personal health topics, they were asking about options for Internet in their homes and we talked of wireless options such as the innovative system which is working wonderfully in Eskimo village of Toksook;

This past November (1998,) I finished my second round of village workshops. Now wiser for the experience, I bring an inflatable matt to sleep on, for cushioned comfort. I tote along a MIDI musical keyboard and an electronic artists tablet, which open the doors to Internet art and music opportunities. The new digital camera saves pictures direct to floppies for instant student use. We succeeded in posting school web pages at every village visited leaving behind the knowledge of how to continually update them. (Viewable at Everyone knows I’ll be returning for a third time in February 1999.

Cross-Cultural K12 Internet Guide

Between my first and second village visits I’d created a WebTour of innovative Alaskan School Web sites with an emphasis on collaborative multi-classroom activities and instructional use of web pages ( This is part of a 110 page handbook titled "Native Alaskan Cross-Cultural K12 Internet Guide; online at

During our all-too-brief face-to-face November workshops, the handbook provided both the context for use, and the best K12 resources on the Internet, ordered by topics and categories such as the;

The handbook ends with an emphasis in Real-World Problem-Solving and includes a "Learning-to-Earn" Hotlist of Student Entrepreneurship Sites   and an Electronic Democracy WebTour with examples of citizens using the web for self-organizing and activism.

With 15,000 cultures slated to receive Internet via new low-cost satellite systems over the next couple decades, the issue of how best to introduce the empowering components of the Internet within the context of individual cultures is an interesting challenge. All the more so in a world where half the population has never yet made a single phone call.

The challenge becomes identification of those empowering components of the Internet that are truly cross-cultural and to present them in a common sense sequence. The following is an initial attempt to do just this:

The Three Historical Firsts the Internet Brings to the Classroom

Though the Internet is very new to most teachers, our joint mission remains the same; to do the very best we can for our students. Exactly what this entails is a broad topic for discussion. There do, however, appear to be some clear indications of what new skills and visions a teacher will need in order to meet the needs of students given the real changes the Internet has brought to communities and the world of work.

Can you name the three biggest advantages, which are also historical firsts, that the Internet brings to your classroom? Do you utilize them?

1. The Internet brings fingertip access to much of the world's knowledge base, with a little training on search engine strategies. Using keywords and searching commands, very specific knowledge can be available in only a few seconds, but most teachers are still well behind their students in their knowledge of the use of these searching tools.

2. Students and teachers can self-publish their work for an authentic global audience with the same global distribution power as the world's largest governments, corporations and universities. Multimedia authoring can be as easy as taking two minutes at to create an animated, musical, greeting card web page to email to a friend, or creating a globally accessible web page in five minutes at

3. Students and teachers can communicate globally anytime, anywhere to share information and/or engage with other learners in collaborative projects of their own design. Focusing on real world problem-solving, with new access to expertise, K12 collaborative projects are rapidly becoming more and more elegant, relevant, and motivational for both students and teachers.

While there are many issues surrounding what constitutes a quality education, it is becoming clearer that the collaborative Internet skills, combined with the ability to find specific information whenever the need occurs, are essential employment skills required for the next millennium. It is becoming clearer that renewed emphasis on developing students’ values, and character traits, is vitally necessary if they are to be successful citizens in the next millennium.

The Four Successive Levels of the Internet Style of Learning

Adoption of the use of Internet appears to follow a progressive sequence of four basic levels of awareness and incorporation of the inherent benefits. It appears that increased hands-on experience yields greater motivation and vision for more sophisticated applications as confidence and awareness of the possibilities grow.

It is typical, particularly among adults, for resistance to be replaced with enthusiasm once hands-on time has been achieved. It is also typical, for verbal descriptions of the ‘higher’ levels of benefit to not be understood until the following successive levels of hands-on experience have been internalized. While some adults very quickly see the potential, many do not until after many months of hands-on exposure. Psychological differences, such as spatial vs linear intelligences, may account for this difference which can make group training problematic when some adults learn more quickly than others.

Level One: (Awareness) - Basic browsing and searching by individuals or small groups to find specific information. This level constitutes basic awareness raising of what’s available, and how to become a self-directed life-long learner.

Level Two: (Adoption) - Self-publishing on the World Wide Web by creating graphical web pages using both Internet graphics and information as well as original graphics created using digital cameras, scanners, and/or graphics software. This level constitutes adoption of the economical multimedia self-publishing capabilities of the Internet. An individual can publish globally on equal par with the world’s greatest governments, corporations and universities.

Level Three: (Adaptation) Project-based Collaboration, using email, listserves, Internet Relay Chat and other Internet collaborative tools. Project-based learning, working with students in distant classrooms on specific structured problem-solving units, is proving to be highly motivating and exceptionally high quality education. This level constitutes adapting the collaborative potential of the Internet to specific uses relevant to the local school and culture.

Level Four: (Rising Expectations) – Real World Problem-Solving quickly becomes a logical extension for motivating students to expand their Internet searching, self-publishing, and collaborative skills to deal with real community problems and issues. Learning-to-Earn and Electronic Democracy are essential components for real world problem-solving. This level constitutes a transformational awareness of the unlimited potential of the Internet as a means for serving the local community and culture.

Home VS School Learning

Galena has this year put 80 computers into student’s homes to create the opportunity for intergenerational learning. If the elders do not learn right along with the students about what computers and the Internet offer them, an unnecessary, and culturally disastrous intergenerational rift will occur between young and old. The wisdom of the elders can now join with the passion of the youth for global cultural self-expression and renewed cultural pride.

The Galena City School district is extending their vision beyond the village through a new K12 correspondence program called IDEA "Interior Distance Education for Alaska." During 1998, 3000 students have signed on, from 1700 families, to receive home computers and Internet access. Alaskan schools do not offer hands-on Internet access 100% of the time as this home-based learning program does. As a result, the traditional school districts have lost a total of 10 million dollars of their budgets with the mass exodus of motivated families seeking the best learning solution for their kids.

As reported by the National Telecommunications Information Agency’s ( ) Falling Through the Net II report, 23% of American households have Internet access. Most teachers have already become aware that some of their students know far more about how to use the Internet and computers than they do. This creates an opportunity for teachers to engage these students in peer mentoring, and even to enlist students as their first line of technical support for the classroom.

Students spent 19% of their time in school and 81% outside the traditional classroom. For an increasing number of students, much of this time is spent in interactive engagement with Internet resources that match their learning interests. This creates greater disparity of learning levels in the classroom, and the disparity is growing. Those students who spend hours daily engaged in individualized Internet interaction at home are rapidly gaining skills that will make them highly valued in the workplace. These students watch significantly less television. Those students without home Internet access are dependent on the number of hours per week the school allows them Internet access, and are more likely to average six hours a day of passive television viewing than those with home Internet access.

The state of Texas is looking seriously at abandoning textbooks in favor of laptops for every student. The legislature has provided 1.5 billion in funding for community networks for the 5,000, mostly rural Texan communities. Their attitude is "we’re Texans, we can do anything!"

One of the greatest questions regarding both home schooling and online instruction is that of "what happens to the development of social skills?" Recent research shows 20% of school age children report fear of violence on their way to schools. Are schools the best place for building social skills, or are the other alternatives?

The Relationships Age VS the Information Age

One secondary impact of the information age is that people are finding that through email and other collaborative tools the quantity and quality of relationships are increasing. If every time you hear the word "information" you substitute the word "relationships," you may be surprised at the insight it provides. Instead of the "information age" we have the "relationships age." "Information managers" become "relationship managers." At the core of most Internet innovations is a collaborative relationship.

Through the use of the ten dominant Internet collaborative tools ( many new forms of collaborative relationships become possible. Online collaborative tools can sometimes accentuate relationship differences, enhance certain relationship characteristics, and diminish others. Changing the properties of the shared social space, which is often defined by the technologies, changes the properties of the collaborative potential.

People are creating new and original cultures based on shared interests, values and technologies. Networking cultural values are beginning to appear, "Network unto others as you would have them network unto you." People are learning to use collaborative tools in original ways to help others.

As search engines using "If-Then" logical systems become more sophisticated and people learn better " Here-to-There" ways of sharing information, it becomes more and more feasible to have people serve as intermediaries between what’s out there, and people’s specific needs.

The AskERIC system, which introduced the concept of using human intermediaries to assist searching the ERIC educational databases, has spawned a long listing of similar "Ask-a-Person" services which are listed on the A+ Locator at: Another version of information service, offered at $7.50/month, provides access to ZDnet’s self-directed tutorials, creating an online community of learners at

Community networks have been around for over a decade; "Stickiness" is the new strategy for successful online businesses. "Stickiness" refers to the process of having people leave a bit of themselves online. People enjoy helping other people and its become recognized that its good business to help people help others, online.

Character-Building Curriculum

While inappropriate Internet information is a key concern for many, it’s a fact that our students, who constitute the first digital generation, are growing up in a world with unlimited access to information. Character-building curriculum has begun to appear as a means of addressing the values and role models students will need to develop for making a life while making a living.

One utopian vision for the next millennium is that we’ll all learn to share what we know such that we’ll all have access to all knowledge, all the time through the goodwill of others. However, many young techno-whizzes working for computer and information companies model a very different value set; they keep what they know to themselves as a competitive advantage. The kind of world we’ll be living in will depend on which of these two models becomes the core of the global culture.

We’re all ignorant; only on different topics.

Will Rogers

If we all learn to share what we know, we’ll all have access to all our joint knowledge.

If we keep what we know to ourselves, we’ll each know only what we’ve learned individually. Which world would you like to live in? (Author)

Teaching how to Build Learning Communities

School-to-work programs have sprung up attempting to address the readiness of students to enter the emerging knowledge economy. No longer can students train for a job they can expect to stick with for life, but instead students must be ready for short term work opportunities based on a continually changing workplace with Internet collaboration becoming more and more a required skill. There’s too much information that’s changing steadily to make teaching content the core of a good education. Instead, teaching the process of just-in-time learning is most important with growing recognition that being an active participant in the emerging social info-structure is key to success.

  1. What should we teach our students about "building learning communities?" What role model do teachers today represent regarding sharing their knowledge? Do teachers post their lessonplans on the WWW for learners worldwide, or do they keep them locked away? Where do community networking visions and skills fit in today’s curriculum?

Since ongoing training is a fundamental part of most jobs today, won’t our students need to know a good deal about creating and delivering original curriculum for others? Will you be ready to teach them?

Brokering the Best of the Best

Adult education research has shown that adults prefer to have control over their own learning; selecting which learning task they take on, and when. For motivated students with Internet access, the same is true. This creates the opportunity for teachers to broker the best self-directed learning experiences available on the Internet for their more motivated students and refocusing their classroom time for working more closely with their under-motivated students to bring them to the point where they too can become self-directed, motivated, lifelong learners.

Where will a student find the best education and where will teachers learn how to be a part of delivering it? The issue of how best to broker resources, as well as brokering the best visions for the future, are everyone’s challenge. If you’re not online, you need to consider what you’re missing!

Creating an Online Course on Brokering Internet Learning Resources

The Alaskan IDEA program is gearing up to identify and provide the best possible online education opportunities. Through the Alaska Staff Development Network, which serves over 5,000 Alaskan educators, an innovative online course model has been developed titled "Making the Best Use of Internet for K12 Instruction."   The handbook mentioned above will be the basis for a self-directed online class for teachers. Teachers will have the choice of eight four-hour units which will emphasize structured hands-on activities. A second course is soon to be available titled "Designing  Online Curriculum for K12."

1.Browsing and Searching Effectively

2. Listserv Discussion and Groupwork Basics

3. Creating Instructional Webpages

4. Key Issues on K12 Internet Use

5. Project-based Learning Models

6. School and Community Networking Synergies

7. Online Instruction Basics and Design Considerations

8. School Technology Planning, Training, and Grant-writing

Mentors will mediate the course logistics of receiving and evaluating the lesson submissions of the teacher, allowing hundreds of teachers to take the course simultaneously. The instructor‘s role will be to keep the online handbook’s resources as current as possible while updating the teachers regularly via one or more listservs. The teachers will have the implicit opportunity to build their own peer learning community for sharing the best of what they’ve discovered through their hands-on experiences.

This model builds on what we know about the preferences of motivated adult and student learners. This model also creates a level of financial incentive for the very best teachers to create very high quality self-directed learning opportunities for large numbers of motivated students. No longer limited to the confines of the traditional classroom, a teacher’s impact can now extend to an unlimited number of students worldwide.

With the coming teacher shortage, and the expectation that billions will have Internet access within our lifetime through major advances in technology, optimally scaleable models of education will be necessary to meet the huge need for quality instruction. This raises important questions of the appropriateness of online instruction depending on the student’s needs, ability, motivation, and delivery mediums available.

Assessing Quality Online Education:

The graphic below represents a quick overview of considerations in designing and/or evaluating an online class. Each line represents an entire spectrum of choices.

  1. A low budget, low tech class might involve text-only using slow modems and older computers, whereas at the other end of the spectrum would be a high budget, high tech class involving advanced multimedia and interactive television
  2. A class can be self-directed or instructor interaction intensive, with a whole range of options inbetween such as small group interaction with a high level of one-to-one student interaction, or a large group interaction with a low level of one-to-one student interaction. Student motivation is a key factor for self-directed instruction.
  3. A course may be focused on teaching content and/or skills such as desktop-publishing, or may focus on conceptual instruction such as adapting the seven intelligences for multimedia instruction.
  4. A course may provide interactivity via interactive software on CDROM or Internet, or may focus on interaction with people.
  5. A course may offer a choice of learning styles, or may offer only one choice.
  6. A course can be tightly structured; defining step-by-step what the student is to do, or can leave it up to the student to partially define the structure of their learning.
  7. A course may offer the student choices in how and when to conduct the lesson, or require a predefined timeline and structure for exactly what the student will do and when.
  8. A course may be a short-term series of lessons within a defined timeframe, or be focused on creating an ongoing ‘learning community,’ thus blurring the distinction between online instruction and ‘community networking.’

courses.bmp (60062 bytes)


National Overview of U.S. School Access to Technology

Here are recent findings on technology access from the 1997 Educational Testing Service Policy Information Center report: "Computers and Classrooms: The Status of Technology in U.S. Schools."


* There are major differences among schools in their access to different kinds of educational technology.

*Students attending poor an high-minority schools have less access to most types of technology than students attending other schools.

*Ninety-eight percent of all schools own computers. The current student-to-computer ratio of 10 to 1 represents an all-time low ratio. The ratio ranges from about 6 to 1 in Florida, Wyoming, Alaska, and North Dakota to 16 to 1 in Louisiana.

*While 85 percent of U.S. Schools have multimedia computers, the average ratio of students to computers is 24 to 1, nearly five times the ratio recommended by the U.S. Department of Education. The ratio ranges from about 9 to 1 in Florida to about 63 to 1 in Louisiana. Students attending poor and high-minority schools have less access than students attending other schools.

*About three-quarters of the nation’s schools have access to cable TV. This percentage ranges from 91 percent of Connecticut’s schools to 35 per cent of Vermont’s schools. Students attending poor and high-minority schools have less access to cable TV than students attending other schools.

*Sixty-four percent of U.S. schools have access to the Internet, up from 35 percent in 1994 and 50 percent in 1995. In Delaware, Hawaii, New Mexico and South Carolina, all schools are connected. Students attending poor and high-minority schools are less likely to have Internet access than other students. Only 14 percent of U.S. classrooms have access to the Internet.

*Little more than half of our schools have CD-ROM drives, ranging from 91 percent of the schools in North Carolina to only 29 percent of the schools in Vermont. Students attending poor and high-minority schools have less access to CD-ROMs than students attending other schools.

*Thirty-eight percent of our schools are using local area networks (LANs) for student instruction. This ranges from 57 percent of the schools in Colorado, Utah and North Carolina, to 16 percent of the schools in Vermont. Students attending poor and high-minority schools have less access to LANs than students attending other schools.

*About one-third of U.S. schools have videodisc technology, ranging from 95 percent of Florida’s schools to 10 percent of Mississippi’s schools. Students attending poor and high-minority schools are more likely to have access to videodisc technology.

*Just under one-fifth of our schools have access to satellite technology, ranging from 50 percent of the schools in Missouri to only 1 percent of Hawaii’s schools. While students attending high-minority schools have less access to this technology than students attending other schools, students attending poor schools have more access than students attending rich schools.

Early indications report at-risk students benefit the most from use of computers and Internet.

In 1995, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment released the first, and last, federal report on Native Americans and Telecommunications: " Telecommunications Technologies and Native Americans; Challenges and Opportunities." ( )

This OTA study reports: "There are 330 federally recognized Indian tribes in the contiguous 48 states and 220 Alaskan native tribal or village governments (Indian, Aleut, or Eskimo). There are 1,875,000 American Indians, 86,000 Alaska Natives and 211,000 Native Hawaiians, totaling 2,172,000 persons."

Note: Use of the term "Native Americans" throughout this report is intended to be inclusive of Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiians.

Native American Schools Use of Computers and Internet

William Mehojah, director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Indian Education, ( PH: 202-208-6175) says that of the 185 BIA Native schools serving 53,000 students, 106 have been wired for Internet with 79 remaining. An "Access Native America" initiative is underway as a National Performance Review lab effort to get all remaining schools connected to the Internet by the year 2000. Teacher training and developing local skills in computer and local area network (LAN) maintenance are current major challenges.

In 1995, when the above OTA report was written, the World Wide Web was only beginning to become popularized. While this OTA report represents a thorough overview of multiple technologies and uses, since the date of its release there has been a virtual explosion of Native American Web sites and innovative applications of telecommunications in many Native American schools.

Already it is clear, that given basic Internet access and training, Native Americans will innovate broadly adapting the self-publishing and collaborative capabilities of the Internet to their own uses and benefits in direct proportion to their perception of the benefits. It is highly plausible that this will be true for indigenous peoples worldwide, even with minimal literacy. One major advantage of the inherent motivation of easy-to-use Internet web browsers is they provide the incentive to learn higher reading and writing skills. The opportunity for individual and tribal control over global self-publishing is inherently motivating.

Historically, indigenous peoples worldwide have suffered from lack of quality information, which often put them at a severe disadvantage when confronted by colonialists and change, allowing them to be easily manipulated. Many indigenous groups have already discovered the inherent empowerment that Internet information access, and Internet-based collaboration, offers. For example; Native Alaskans are using the Internet to coordinate among themselves an electronic lobbying effort against pending state legislation regarding subsistence living regulation.

The self-publishing capabilities of the WWW have provided a forum for bottom-up innovations, particularly through the use of web pages, for cultural expression, teaching Native languages, cultural entrepreneurship, and much more.

The importance of what Native Americans are learning about culturally appropriate innovations has direct relevance for 15,000 cultures, worldwide. In question is; "How can Native youth and educators best use the Internet to teach others how to replicate their innovations?"

The context of this report is that while Internet access may be economically achievable for indigenous cultures sooner than was previously anticipated, the appropriate pedagogies, and culturally appropriate implementation strategies sensitive to the diverse possible cultural impacts, are still being identified and developed..

Economic and Infrastructural Issues

The issue of preventing a class of 'have-nots' in American society has created a special emphasis with many foundations and federal agencies regarding the creation of funding resources for those historically last to receive telecommunications technologies. Given the extremely harsh economic realities of most Native American schools and communities, grant funding has typically been necessary in order to secure the requisite connectivity, equipment, and training.

Government funding has been made available (then recalled, now still pending) via the E-Rate, and multiple funding initiatives such as the NTIA TIIAP program, the Technology Literacy Challenge grants, NSF initiatives, and others.

In the past, telecommunications technologies have been very expensive and often difficult to implement. Today’s Internet technologies have quickly become ubiqutious throughout much of American society, making implementation options much more accessible, understandable, and affordable. A modern computer with high speed modem, a phonecall and the total cost of $12 to $20/month are all it takes to sign up for home Internet access in most larger communities for unlimited hours of use per month via local phone access. For those smaller communities without local Internet access, long distance Internet access typically costs $5/hour. Included in this report are examples of high levels of Internet innovation from schools with minimal resources.

Widespread popularization of the Internet has created many new services such as free email and web page hosting, which are supported by online advertising. It is possible free Internet service will become available supported by this same advertising model.

In addition, the technologies are changing rapidly, creating exciting, new, affordable options. A number of exciting options exist which allow regular use of a broad array of Internet resources without requiring actual Internet connectivity in the schools and will be presented in the next sections. Importantly, the costs for computers and Internet access have also been steadily dropping.

Overview of the Technologies

Computer Aided Instruction

The high price of individual software programs limits the number of software programs a typical classroom can afford, (averaging between $30 and $49 per program,) particularly for use on multiple computers. The extensive curricular resources available free on the Internet provide a viable substitute for purchase of multiple educational software programs. It is clear the increasing interactivity of web pages is allowing many of these interactive software capabilities to become available via the Internet.

Over one hundred thousand free software programs are also available via Internet, but the expertise to "download" and "install" software from the Internet, though not extensive, is generally lacking in the training of most teachers. These programs tend to be applications-based as opposed to being specific educational curricular units. Because matching multiple specific educational software programs to a given curriculum is often problematic, due the time requirement for reviewing multiple software programs, most computer use focuses on the basic software applications which can be readily adapted to any content area such as word-processing, desktop publishing, graphic production and manipulation, web-page authoring, spreadsheets and databases.

Internet via Satellite

Just as systems for TV reception have evolved from 10 foot dishes to 14" dishes, we can expect VSAT two-way satellite Internet systems to become more affordable within the next few years. $2700/month is the current cost of GCI Internet Satellite systems in use by the 10 Native Alaskan villages of the Yukon-Koyukuk Consortium (NOTE: These GCI systems function at speeds of T1 down, and 256kb up). ( )
Tachyon systems has a new type of satellite system which promises higher speeds at dramatically reduced costs ( ).

Multiple Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite systems, within 3-5 years, will allow high speed two-way Internet connectivity using hand-held laptops from any point on the globe. The exact costs will depend on the competitive environment for these planned global satellite networks and the continuing improvement of the related technologies. These companies include Motorola, Microsoft, and Hughes Aircraft.

The lowest-cost satellite Internet option is DirectPC, which for $30/month offers a 14 inch dish with downlink Internet speeds of a T1 line. This system uses phonelines for outgoing data transmission, such as entering the URLs and sending email.

Internet Language Translation Capabilities

Easy-to-use, free, language translation options on the Internet allow any English language web page to be quickly translated to or from Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and Japanese with roughly 85% accuracy, depending on the use of idiomatic phrases. ( Translation for other languages are also available, with more anticipated. Many commercial translation products exist, such as "Universal Translator" which can translate between 33 languages.

Internet Radio and Telephone

The Internet is now able to transmit radio and telephone services, which has tremendous implications for homes and communities without telephone or radio service. Such access to international radio stations is unprecedented for those living in remote areas! Equally important is the ability to create one’s own Internet radio station, affordably! International telephone service, without additional charges, is now possible between persons with Internet access using specialized free software (Iphone.) In Galena, Alaska, the local dentist can browse the web while listing to National Public Radio via Internet. Mexican radio stations are offered to migrant workers via their web page;

Wireless Alternatives to Expensive Copper Wire

Cost-effective wireless solutions to prohibitively expensive copper wire infrastructure have been effectively demonstrated through the National Science Foundation’s Wireless Testbed project ( One-time investments in wireless systems can replace monthly charges by phone companies and offer much higher speed access than the typical copper wire service used by most phone companies. Successful project reports are available at

Wireless systems can replace the need for wiring within schools, and can connect homes without phonelines with school Internet systems and can even link communities together over great distances with dramatic savings over copper wire alternatives. The Toksook Eskimo village story in the appendix is an excellent example. ( )

Web TV

From a strictly economic standpoint, there is question as to which technology model for an Internet access device would provide the greatest lasting benefits. WebTV units currently offer the lowest cost Internet access option for those who already have a television and a telephone. A WebTV costs roughly $199, and consists of a small black box which connects the TV with the telephone. Web browsing is possible using a TV remote control unit and/or a keyboard. While reading fine print can be difficult, the font size of text can be adjusted. Incoming phonecalls will be announced on the TV screen to avoid blocking incoming calls.

One advantage of WebTV’s is potentially dozens of community members could view the WebTV unit at one time, creating an exciting option for building community Internet awareness. Thoughtfully used, one computer per village can be a lifeline to medical expertise, funding resources, ongoing training, government services, global expertise, and unlimited multimedia information, including radio and video.. The degree of benefits is likely to depend on the quality, skills and commitment of the personal contacts available via email, and the skills of the local user. While many U.S. communities have local phone call access to WebTV services, use of an 800 number at the cost of $5/hour is the alternative. Email capabilities are included with WebTV subscriptions costing $20/month. WebTV users can easily email web pages to each other with full color images and graphics.

The MECHA Migrant Educational Technology project ( is using WebTV’s with mobile migrant students and families to link them with mentors and ongoing curricular activities. Their web site demonstrates sample curriculum, student discussion forums, resources identified by students as exemplary and much more.

Disadvantages of WebTV’s are the lack of memory storage of any kind, other than the ability to save messages online. Also lacking is the ability to run computer programs or CDROMs. It is expected that next generation WebTV’s will include these features, which raises the question concerning the steadily dropping prices of computers ($800 for a full-featured desktop computer) as to whether a WebTV or a desktop computer is the best investment over even a relatively short 2-3 year timeframe.

Web-compatible Word Processors, Laptop Computers, and Desktop Computers

The Brother company produces a web-compatible wordprocessor that looks like a laptop computer for $399. Portable word processors, without web capability are available for $99 and up. New Pentium laptops are available for $1000, with prices continuing to drop. New desktop computers are commonly available at U.S. discount stores, like Wal-mart, for roughly $800 which include high speed modems (56kb), high speed CDROM drives (24X) 2 or more gigabytes of memory storage, 32megabytes of RAM memory, and typically come with half a dozen CDROM’s with dozens of software programs including word-processing, spreadsheets, databases, telecommunications and various educational applications such as encyclopedias.

When planning a technology project, the costs of training should match, or exceed the costs of the hardware. The risk exists of saving a few hundred dollars initially and dramatically limiting the available benefits for years to come. Since high quality training is broadly available, free, on the Internet, the extra initial investment to purchase a desktop or laptop computer would allow a person to obtain potentially thousands of software programs and to learn to store and produce multimedia information of many types. Someone with a WebTV or web-compatible word-processor would not have this ongoing self-empowerment opportunity. Optimal empowerment of the early adapters in a given village would be severely curtailed without a fully functional computer.

Laptop leasing programs are another viable alternative. For $50/month a high quality laptop can be leased with the advantage that it can be exchanged annually for a brand new laptop, thus avoiding obsolescence. Older new or used laptops (386 or higher,) if available, can be obtained for roughly $500 each. The Texas legislature has proposed abandoning use of printed textbooks in favor of providing each student with a laptop.

Computer Recycling

Computer recycling programs can be a source of affordable computers, but can also be problematic depending on the intended uses and whether technical work is required to make the ready for use. The federal government has just implemented a computer recycling program;

The CompuMentor program supports non-profits and schools with skill development, developing a local support volunteers program and a variety of mentoring services, including locating used computers.   A mentoring handbook is available.

CD-ROMs as Interim Alternative to Internet

CDROMs are a means of economically providing the best of the Internet for those without direct access and can be effectively used to teach Internet concepts, terminology and specific skills, such as browsing, searching, web page authoring, and manipulation of digital multimedia information to prepare for eventual direct Internet access. One CDROM can hold 10,000 web pages and many products exist providing extensive K12 curriculum, prescreened and organized for immediate classroom use. (

Caching and Webwhacker as Interim Alternative to Internet

Due to the high memory storage of modern computers, and the availability of software programs which can easily capture multiple web pages, it is very feasible for extensive collections of web resources to be conveniently available on classroom computers without direct Internet connections.

Programs such as Webwhacker and Webbuddy can be used by a teacher with a home or alternative Internet connection to capture on a floppy disk, or ideally on a 100 megabyte zipdisk, those web resources relevant to a given day’s instruction, on a daily basis to bring to the classroom for immediate student use. Webwhacker is easy to learn and time-efficient for ongoing use. Added advantages are:

1. Minimal wait time for display of captured pages,

2. No risk of students accidentally accessing inappropriate resources,

3. No risk of the Internet connections going down during classtime.

4. All captured pages can be automatically updated with current information during night time hours when Internet use is lowest through Webwhacker’s automated settings, thus allowing current collections of the best of Internet to be instantly available during classtime despite slow connections on a daily basis.

Webwhacker allows for control over time-efficient presentations of web resources for classroom presentations, reducing dramatically the time required for display of web pages as compared to a "live" Internet connection. Curricular web sites could feasibly be matched with specific curricular goals and disseminated to multiple schools to save teachers preparation time. Webwhacker costs $49 ( )

NOTE: Webwhacker is an important time-saving presentation tool even for those with full Internet connections.

Email Access to Web Pages

The most powerful online communications technology, Email, does not require a high speed connection. Those with low speed connections can send an email message containing a web address to Email Web Servers which will send a return email message containing the specified web page with full color and graphics.

The entire realm of ‘educational collaborative interactive reading and writing online’ can be thoroughly explored without high speed connections. The use of the Web, however, because of the intense use of graphics, requires high speed connections, though common browsers allow turning off the graphics display features to achieve a 10 fold increase in speed. Lynx web servers exist which are text-only, though not all web pages are authored to allow for text-only display. This feature is extremely important for blind and visually impaired users.

Interactive video:

Interactive video is possible at very low cost via Internet. A $99 color video camera ( mounted on top of the computer screen allows two-way color video and sound. The camera allows easy creation of color still images and color video files complete with sound, suitable for posting on web pages. The quality of the interactive video experience depends on the speed of the Internet system in use, but at worst, the motion is jerky. While this can be distracting and hampers instructional applications, it can also be inherently motivating as a communications option for those unable to type or write. Free software and tutorials are available, ( ) along with information on how hundreds of schools are using this capability for instructional collaboration. General consensus, however, is that this technology is not yet ready for serious instructional use, but eventually will be a viable medium once better quality is achieved.

Dozens of schools connect these cameras to their web pages so global viewers can literally look out the window of their classrooms to see images updated every 15 sections to 15 minutes. Similar cameras are on the web from over 100 countries; see Leonard’s Cam World at:

Cable TV and Wireless Cable Systems

While access to cable TV is likely to be limited in third world countries, U.S. cable systems are rapidly becoming a conduit for integrated TV and Internet services. Wireless cable systems are being developed which have serious positive implications for third world countries. Cable-based community network models are appearing in the U.S., but none have yet proven successful from a consumer acceptance standpoint.

With so many technological options, planners must be clear about their instructional goals in order to choose the appropriate technology. Achieving acceptance of a given communications technology depends on the cultural appropriateness of the implementation approach, as discussed in the next section.

Keys to Building Telecommunications Infrastructure in Native American Communities:

An OTA survey of New Mexico tribes and pueblos identified 12 keys to successful introduction of telecommunications technology in traditional Indian communities:

  1. Form collaborative relationships with key participants early in the telecommunications infrastructure development process and emphasize perceived community needs.
  2. Determine individual and community goals before proposing specific telecommunications service options
  3. Provide specific information about the strengths and weaknesses of new telecommunications technology and how the technology can contribute to individual and community goals.
  4. The new telecommunications technology—and the participants and partners involved with implementation—must be "culturally appropriate" if the technology is to become valued in the community.
  5. Exercise sensitive and appropriate interpersonal cross-cultural communication skills and behaviors when working in and with Indian communities.
  6. Demonstrate an awareness, sensitivity, and appreciation for issues related to the preservation of traditional cultural and sacred places.
  7. Tell the entire story about an operational telecommunications development project, including the role local participants played in changing the living and learning environment of the community.
  8. New telecommunications technology and/or services should be sustainable and should build on existing capabilities for addressing community needs, desires, and goals.
  9. New telecommunications technology should be targeted at increasing total benefits to the community. Long-term benefits to providers, partners, and entrepreneurs will also be optimized if this strategy is employed.
  10. Knowledge about new telecommunications technology should be disseminated with care so that the effectiveness of the technology is fully and accurately understood.
  11. Communicate all anticipated outcomes of telecommunications projects to clients, decision-makers, and the broader public in a culturally influential and comprehensible way.
  12. Design and implement telecommunications development projects in partnership with others so as to maximize benefits and minimize costs at the community level.

Social Implications of Collaborative Internet Technologies

Ideally, optimal empowerment of indigenous peoples would involve helping them quickly develop a "Level Four" vision for the specific implementation skills required for building local learning communities and for participating in electronic democracy activities, including transnational activism, on behalf of their cultures, physical environments and key local and global issues.

The community networking movement in the U.S., as well as internationally, is over ten years old, and holds many interesting lessons regarding social adoption of a new communications behavior, and the challenges of broadly disseminating a vision and innovation across communities. Basically, people learn new communications behaviors via ongoing direct experience and personal discovery of the benefits; not by being told. When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, his vision was it would be used to deliver entertainment, such as opera. Citizens adapted it for uses they found more appropriate to their needs.

A "Web Tour" of the best community networking, electronic democracy and participatory decision-making is at In addition, for the Association for Community Networking an "International Community Networking Models and Resources Clearinghouse" has been created: This site includes rural economic development resources as well as tutorials on rural online entrepreneurship, telecommuting, and related topics.

The Convergence of School and Community Networking

In American society in general, school and community networking themes are merging around the necessity for ongoing lifelong learning. Schools are often the first place computers and Internet become available in a community and community understanding is necessary to sustain support for the school’s required equipment and maintenance for Internet access.

Due to extended families being a part of their culture, there is considerable evidence that Native Americans will have much to teach our general society about the use of Internet for community building. Online communication such as email, chat, etc., have the characteristic of written speech, providing for a natural transition from the oral tradition of Native Americans. The spatial and visual thinking skills required to perform well on computer networks, particularly with the rapidly growing visual multimedia components, is typically part of the natural heritage of most Native Americans.

Preliminary findings from many Native American Schools using Internet suggest the readiness for adoption of the use of Internet is less of a problem than previously anticipated, even for those with minimal literacy. Use of email and chat is already very popular in many reservation schools, though some prohibit students from use of email for fear of inappropriate communications. Native Americans are already demonstrating innovative synergies between school and community through the use of multiple Internet collaborative technologies as demonstrated by the case studies included later in this report.

Building Learning Communities

Since young people of all cultures seem to have a natural affinity for use of computers, they are the key change agents with their respective cultural groups. The most effective means of motivating adults to get involved with use of technology is when they see their children benefiting. Since the greatest potential benefit of Internet access is the economic potential; youth entrepreneurship in a "School-to-Work" cultural context is an increasingly frequent programmatic emphasis.

Two web sites focused on Native youth web conferencing are the Aboriginal Youth Network  from Canada and Planet Youth from the U.S. government. The latter site has a listing of government-created kids sites from many federal agencies, which is an exciting curriculum resource;    

Once adults have enjoyed hands-on exposure to the Internet using the local school’s equipment, they are likely to ask ‘How can I get this access at home?" Once community members have convenient, regular Internet access they are likely to wonder "What processes will make best use of the ten dominant collaborative tools of the Internet for realizing personal and community benefits?"

A primer on community networking, written for AT&T in 1996, is available as a sample of an easy-to-read non-technical introductory essay; Other related community networking articles are available at  

Current technologies, such as web browsers, can be easily taught to first and second grade children along with use of search engines for finding specific information. The use of email, and many of the ten dominant collaborative Internet tools, is self-motivating, particularly when interaction with tribal members and family is involved. The biggest single barrier appears to be the fear of technology by adults, (NOT by children!) which is overcome by direct hands-on experience in an informal, friendly setting.

The author of this report spent February 1998 providing three day Internet workshops for teachers, students and community members of ten Native Alaskan villages. It was a major surprise to learn that second-graders can learn faster than most adults. Within one hour, students were able to learn web browsing and searching basics and were highly motivated by the graphics and their ability to control what they accessed. They were quickly learning new skills on their own by experimenting with the on-screen buttons.

It is vitally important to start children as young as possible using computer and Internet so they can grow up being comfortable exploring and experimenting with these important survival tools. This "self-teaching" play-based behavior is the main reason kids quickly outpace adults in learning computer and Internet skills.

The teachers who witnessed this particular class session later asked for a private training session, at a slower speed, as they were unable to assimilate these skills as fast as the second-graders. They were far more motivated to learn Internet skills after seeing the enthusiasm of the students and the rate at which the students learned to access quality educational resources.

Workshops can easily be focused on a given culture. The workshop for the teachers began with a hands-on search for pictures of Athabascans. Within seconds over 1000 sites with pictures were identified. The excitement was instantaneous! Teachers were surprised to find information on their specific villages was already online, as well.

Handouts with Alaskan web sites and the best educational web sites were given out for hands-on self-directed exploration along with examples of how other Alaskan native groups were self-publishing on the web. Teachers need to know explicitly where they can go for technical help when necessary, if they are expected to continue to use computer and the Internet.

When the community, particularly the elders, came to the school in the evening to learn about Internet from the students, many had specific information in mind they wanted to access. (Examples: H Pylori Stomach Infections, Snowmobile parts, National Headstart Conference Schedules, Horoscopes.) Within minutes, highly specific information was retrieved which created instant approval of the Internet as a desirable community resource. The adults browsed for hours finding more and more information of interest while developing their browsing skills. Discussions quickly focused on how wireless technologies would be the most cost-effective way of bringing the Internet from the school into the homes. (See the Toksook Wireless Story in the appendix.) Students showed their web pages created during a 50 minute period that same day.

Early adapters exist in every tribal group. In Ruby, Alaska, the school janitor showed the greatest personal interest in using the Internet. He literally held the keys to keeping the school lab open to the community during the evenings, under his supervision.

Most of the innovative Internet applications in this report were lead by a local leader, typically a teacher, as the driving force. One dramatic finding is that Native youth have demonstrated a great affinity for use of computers, Internet and instructional technologies in general. Students quickly learn to teach themselves computer and Internet skills and to create original innovations.

Many of the examples presented in this report include instructional resources, created by students, to help others learn to emulate the student’s innovations. Students are likely to prove to be the most important change agents within their respective cultures where computers, Internet, and technologies are involved, particularly in relation to global marketing and online entrepreneurship.

The Necessity for Intergenerational Teleliteracy

Most innovations in this report demonstrate an awareness of the importance of bringing all the generations along on this Internet journey by engaging parents and elders with students in creating cultural content for Internet and computer projects. Many of these projects have grown rapidly and demonstrate a surprisingly broad array of innovations; suggesting strongly that once basic Internet access and web-authoring skills are achieved, the stage is set for unlimited local innovation and cultural expression. The motivation appears to be self-reinforcing.

Cultural Impacts of Internet Technology

Cultural Entrepreneurship

Never before in human history have individuals had the power to self-publish globally on equal par with the world's greatest governments, corporations and universities. Many Native American artists and crafts persons have their own web pages allowing global marketing direct from their reservation. Digital cameras and new types of software programs allow economical creation of 3-D object images which allow anyone on the Internet to rotate an image of an object, such as a Native craft, and view it from all angles. This capability has enormous significance for global marketing of locally produced crafts and products.

Similar software allows the creation of 360 degree panoramic images. To produce an image that would allow anyone on the Internet to literally use their mouse to turn left or right in a full circle, one would simply take pictures in a circle and easily run a program to "stitch" them into one seamless image. These images also allow the viewer to zoom in and to look upward and downward.

Historical sites, local cultural museums, eco-tourism locations, tours of the school and community, and the even interior of classrooms could all be viewable worldwide with minimal effort and expense. Since an increasing number of travelers use the web to gain information prior to traveling, eco-tourism and cultural-tourism opportunities, as well as Bed and Breakfast accommodations have proven the web exceptionally effective as a means of promotion. (See the Appendices article; "Developing Virtual Museums in Native American Schools"

Recent advances in software have made these multimedia-publishing capabilities easy enough for primary students to use. With the current emphasis on School-to-Work programs, many Native students have created exciting entrepreneurship models. Here are a few example sites:

Red Lake High School Student Entrepreneurship Project;   (Select "Mother’s Ways")

The Cultural Survival Quarterly has an online crafts market; Many tribal groups have web pages with photographs of their artwork and native crafts as an economical means of global marketing. Many similar sites are available in the Cultural Entrepreneurship section of the web site accompanying this report. (

High quality entrepreneurial training is available via the Internet. A hotlist of student entrepreneurial resources is available at

Here are two examples taken from the community networking clearinghouse at and the associated WebTour at;

The United Nations offers global trade training tutorials,

The Kauffman Foundation offers Spanish language youth entrepreneurship curriculum at (Select "Resources" to find.)

Electronic Democracy and Transnational Activism

While initially many indigenous persons may not understand why access to global information might be in their best interests, the greatest benefit we can hope they will be able to understand and realize is that of their participation in the global community, particularly regarding issues of their own survival. Modern communications is literally reducing the importance of nationalism and physical borders. As demonstrated for decades by Amnesty International, those who share concern for a cause can collaborate effectively, and on an ongoing basis via email, without regard to physical location or time available.

As an example; Amnesty International sends out via email "urgent alerts" to its local groups and participating K12 schools with details on human rights violations, requesting its members to write informed email and printed letters of protest to specific government officials in the offending governments. Hundreds of lives have been spared from wrongful incarceration due to these coordinated efforts. Children are thus able to learn at a young age the power of thoughtful Internet collaboration. Many resources on the Internet exist which teach activism skills and list global causes who are aggressively using Internet collaboration.

Netizen teaches how to become an electronic citizen at

WebActive.Com included a searchable database of activist causes on the web at and NetAction has curriculum for virtual activists

See the WebTour for "Electronic Democracy and Participatory Decision-Making" at

How the quickly the vision for such empowerment can be adopted by indigenous peoples is an open question, but is likely to be a combination of their connecting their caring for their culture, with their understanding of the real risks to their culture, and their perception of the necessity for education in communications skills and technology.

Motivation often comes from feeling one is capable of success. Learning simple Internet browsing has a noticeable positive impact on self-esteem within a very short time frame. Successive positive experiences of this type could be structured into a step-by-step "People First, Technology Second," "community curriculum" combining emotional needs with technology skills.

The author’s experience providing two-day workshops to migrant educators and teachers of indigenous students has been very encouraging, revealing that when properly presented, teachers can conceptualize the higher levels of collaborative empowerment very quickly. An informal friendly hands-on workshop learning environment, where teachers feel they are primarily in control of their own learning, appears to be most effective. Online follow-up discussions and structured group activities are essential to help teachers internalize the collaborative and instructional potential of Internet distance learning through direct experience.

For teachers to continue to grow on their own, they need computers in their homes, which prove to be the only places teachers will have the time for ongoing skill development and exploration of Internet resources. Laptops for teachers should be standard equipment, allowing teachers to literally carry their retrieved Internet resources into the classroom for student use.

Cultural Impacts and Cultural Survival Issues

The historical disadvantage Native Americans have suffered is primarily one of keeping informed, and having a voice, where federal decision-making is concerned. Using the Internet, Native Americans are learning how to keep up-to-date on important legislation, how to share information among themselves, and how to use the Internet to exert political pressure on decision-makers. Once indigenous peoples understand what’s at stake, and how to use these information and collaborative tools, they quickly understand that they are essential to their survival and wellbeing.

Unlimited information access will inevitably change and evolve a culture. The realities for survival in the modern world preclude the luxury of being oblivious to outside forces.

How a given cultural group will deal with their responsibility to minimize the potential cultural risks of Internet access to other worldviews, addictive pornography, hate literature, etc., will depend on their level of acceptance of the reality that they can not delegate their ultimate authority in dealing with these very real challenges to the strength, integrity and future of their own traditional culture.

Authenticity and Privacy Issues

"Sensitive Native religious and spiritual information, if computerized, could more easily be accessed by unauthorized persons and used for inappropriate purposes." "Computer networking makes it more difficult to verify the authenticity of users; some non-Indians have been using Indian names and computer addresses on the Internet. Native arts, crafts, and traditional practices are especially vulnerable to misuse and misrepresentation. Non-Natives may use or sell Native artwork electronically without authorization or fair compensation, or may advertise and sell non-Native art as Native. These kinds of activities are clear violations of privacy and intellectual property rights and also compromise Native cultural identity and self-determination." (OTA)

No one from the "outside" of a cultural group can take responsibility for monitoring the authenticity and privacy issues as this is an essential role for the cultural group itself as a fundamental source of self-identity and purpose.

As an example; pornography is accessible via the Internet and while there are software programs which can screen out much of this material, such programs are far from foolproof and also block access to extensive desirable resources such as information on AIDS, planned parenthood, women’s health, etc.. While Internet access may be implemented with good intentions, as is the case in the Native Alaskan villages, without serious tribal control of the implementation process, the primary use for home-based Internet may well become access to pornography.

Just 15 years ago, when television was introduced to the 10 Alaskan villages of the Yukon-Koyukuk Consortium, the social activities changed dramatically. Traditional tribal activities were replaced with gatherings at the homes with TV’s to view favorite sitcoms. Today, the youth identify with urban gangs and are often fixated on the violence they witness daily via their TV’s. Due to their isolation, they are unable to differentiate between reality and what they view on TV. In this example, there was little the tribe could do to control the impact of this particular technology. The same may well prove true for the Internet. Though many cultural and social issues exist, most current concerns focus on how to provide citizens with initial Internet access. Many models have evolved over the past ten years of international experimentation.

Community Technology Center Models

Over two hundred community technology centers (CTCs) are members of CTCNet, a non-profit supporting the needs and issues of creating sustainable CTCs. ( )

Models for public Internet access include;

    1. Public kiosks located in public places such as plazas or markets,
    2. Dedicated rooms with staff to provide training and assistance,
    3. School computer labs open after hours to the public.
    4. Public offices with set hours for public use of office computers.
    5. Loaner Laptops allow for home Internet use.

When home PC’s are unavailable a CTC, located in schools, libraries and/or public offices, is the most viable alternative. As computer and Internet use increases, community networks can evolve from citizens regular use of the Internet’s collaborative tools.

Case Study: Thanks to the initiative of two retired teachers in their early seventies, Dillon, Montana, Population 4,000 has 10 public offices with Internet-connected computers available to the public, a CTC where old and young gather to share skills, and a loaner laptop program where anyone can borrow a laptop which they can take home and connect to the Internet via local phone calls at no cost to them. The community web page is a forum for community members web pages; but only after two years of implementation have collaborative activities begun to evolve.

The visions for "community networks" fall into four main categories;

  1. Community Publishing; emphasis is on encouraging citizens to create web pages to broadcast their business or organizational information to the community.
  2. Service Provider model; emphasis is on providing public access via libraries, schools and public gathering places.
  3. Skill Provider model; emphasis is on teaching people how to get online, how to use computers, and other skills such as reading, job skills, etc. The focus is on "people," not technology.
  4. Shared Discourse Model; this is the least common, but potentially the most beneficial; emphasis is on creating the opportunity for people to meet online and discuss issues with the ongoing convenience of electronic mail. Open discussion can be dangerous legally, politically, and culturally. Such discussions need strong leadership and posted protocol to minimize the risk of negativity dominating and destroying potentially beneficial discussions.

    Those in positions of political control will often work against such public discourse opportunities for citizens as use of such systems will reduce the control of hierarchies and empower those at the bottom of these hierarchies. Because the collaborative empowerment is generally intangible until citizens have had considerable exposure to these collaborative tools, it is likely these discourse models will require some time to evolve. A WebTour of the model sites demonstrating applications of "Electronic Democracy" is available at

During the past ten years of community network evolution and experimentation, the biggest problem for community networks has been economic sustainability. The individual and community benefits of networks created for the public good are often not understood by enough community members to create an economic support base. Networks created in the ‘for-profit’ model often do not focus on the public good, such as providing access to have-nots. At issue is how to rapidly generate widespread understanding of the benefits in order to create a user-supported economic model.

One Computer Strategies for Villages and Classrooms

Effective benefits can be delivered through a single computer in a village, or classroom, by literally providing a window to the globe’s information resources.

Many projects have been conducted in Chile, Peru, Guatemala, and Venezuela connecting indigenous communities with Internet access. Often one computer per village is all this is economically feasible. Used wisely, one computer can make the difference between access to the world’s knowledge base and remote expertise, or the lack of it. The key is in having someone properly trained in how to leverage the full potential benefits of a single computer. The benefits to a village of a single Internet computer will be in direct proportion to the skills and personal contacts of those trained in its use. There is no inherent upward limit of the potential benefits to global information and expertise.

Here’s a brief testimonial on the benefits of a single computer in an indigenous village:

From: Martha Davies
Subject: Follow-up: Guadalupe-Peru
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 14:26:28 -0700 (PDT)
Follow-up of the ONE COMPUTER TOWN by Martha Davies
Remember I wrote about Guadalupe, a small town in Peru? Remember their story of buying ONE computer for the whole town?

The last few days we have received about 5 messages from them giving thanks and thanks again for ALL the things they have been getting BECAUSE of their ONE computer.

Like: Help in the form of instructions on how to cope with disasters.

Monetary help during the same period allowing them to buy necessities.

Donation of a box with several computer programs from a former Guadalupano.

Donation of medical equipment (a long list) in response to their plea for help.

And the most important: A life-giving gift of a valve for a little girl who is in need of a heart operation.

Do they think their investment was worth it?...You bet!
Do they have a "Window to the World"?...It is wide open!

More to come...Martha Davies

Quipunet ( A Peruvian Network with indigenous resources.)

(Recommended Book: Great Teaching in the One Computer Classroom, by David A Dockterman, published by Tom Snyder Productions, 1-800-342-0236.)

Public Access Issues

School computer labs can be a valuable community Internet training resource if access after school hours can be arranged. Often such resources are locked away because no one is willing to invest the extra time to keep the doors open and to assist community members. The U.S. Dept. of Education as initiated the 21st Century Schools program to provide funding to keep school computer labs open in the evenings for the community. ( )

It is common for computer resources to not be shared due to territorialism. For example; in one Alaskan village school teachers complained that the teacher in charge of the computer lab actively discouraged others from using "her" computers. Within most tribal school systems there exist competing entities. For example; the tribal college might have a computer lab which it views as its own and may be unwilling to share it with K12 teachers and students.

Public offices may have computers and Internet which could be shared with local educators and the public, but may be unwilling to do so due to the inconvenience, the added work, the risk of computer breakdowns, or simple rivalries. It can not be assumed that such resources will be generously shared within any community. Specific accountability for such sharing should be part of any implementation program.

Those with a vested interest in control of information (top-down power structures) can be expected to attempt to restrict the dissemination of information through public access to the Internet, by the bottom-up beneficiaries of enhanced access to information and empowerment.

Local Area Networks, (LANs) consisting of multiple computers linked together and connected to the Internet require ongoing competent maintenance or problems arise. Many Alaskan villages with LANs are discovering that tasking a local teacher with this responsibility, but without providing adequate training and compensation, doesn’t work. In response to this problem, a new "Microcomputer Coordinator" course at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, has been created to train on-site individuals how to maintain village computers and LAN’s. This curriculum is available at with the course competencies listed at

Case Study: In Taos, New Mexico, the technology coordinator for the district, Ed Ramsey ( has taught students to upgrade hundreds of used computers to create computer labs in six regional schools at a cost of $150 per computer. The schools are connected via wireless systems which allow for very cost-effective, very high speed Internet connections. The Internet connections were obtained from the La Plaza Telecommunity Community Network

Funding for teacher training and for ongoing technical maintenance depends on his administrators understanding the necessity of these components for successful implementation and curricular integration. Sustainable ongoing training and technical support is a major issue as it is common for planners to think in terms of initial physical infrastructure costs instead of the ongoing social ‘info-structure’ costs.

Having overcome key economic and infrastructural challenges, one of the key barriers for Ed is the weak understanding and support for his initiatives by local administrators who have minimal personal experience with computers and Internet. This is a very common problem since computers can be intimidating and as a result many administrators actively avoid decision-making regarding computers and Internet. The hands-on training required for administrators to internally conceptualize the potential is generally not perceived as needed, which creates an ongoing barrier to those attempting to implement computer and Internet systems. For example, the new elementary school was built without any wiring for Internet, so Ed had to get a group of volunteer students to install wiring which should have been included in the initial construction.

In Green River, Wyoming, technology coordinator Jim Rogers had students run the wires for the district schools, service and maintain the district Internet network of 400 computers, maintain an 800 number technical support hotline, and provide community Internet training. Such use of students helps keep costs down and provides meaningful community-related activities for students which often result in student employment within the communities, such as creating web pages for local businesses or providing technical services and additional training.

Distance Learning Key Issues

While the 10 dominant Internet collaborative tools have great potential for providing distance learning services with great scalability and economy, the understanding of the most effective pedagogies by educators for each respective technology option is generally minimal. As a rule, if a student is motivated to learn, and the instructional content is provided in a self-directed format, great numbers of students can learn with minimal interaction with an instructor. This model demonstrates the greatest overall economies and scalability.

Students requiring an instructor to motivate and monitor their online learning will be faced with the very new experience of creating and sustaining a relationship through Internet collaborative tools. Measurement of the effectiveness of creating, sustaining, and growing a meaningful student-teacher relationship has recently been identified as a key research area, as the quality of a distance learning experience can depend heavily on the strength and meaningfulness of this relationship.

Online Mentorship Issues

If instructional content is provided in a self-directed format, and a student needs someone to motivate and monitor the instruction, this role does not necessarily have to be performed by a expert in the content area. An online mentor’s role is primarily to encourage, motivate, and monitor the student’s learning, and can be performed adequately by a peer or someone without previous expertise in the content area.

There is no upward limitation of the degree of benefit a student can receive from a mentor who has Internet access and information retrieval skills. Mentors for the MECHA project’s migrant students, for example, can potentially provide the student’s entire family with assistance identifying available medical and social services programs, psychological counseling and more.

Research into just what online mentoring is, and can become, is a rapidly evolving area of interest, upon which the future of effective distance learning depends. Building learning communities around the theme of ongoing lifelong learning requires an approach more familial and social than the traditional disciplinarian approach.

A listing of mentoring resources and programs is included in the Migrant Education Technology and Curriculum Clearinghouse at and is part of the Native Alaskan Cross-cultural K12 Internet Guide at . The first resource listed is a course outline for "Creating Collaborative Learning Communities" by Paul Resta ( at the University of Austin.

The MECHA migrant technology project offers a Mentoring Guidelines Handbook at

The CompuMentor program offers a Mentoring Handbook with emphasis on technical support through developing volunteerism programs.  The Compumentor homepage is at

"Mentoring Online" is an online course at (Select "Lessons" for this course and two others titled "Beginning Internet" and "Creating Collaborative Multiclassroom Projects." These demonstrate a dual format for online courses allowing for both self-directed and mentored use of these courses.) Other online course creation resources are listed along with professional self-development resources at

Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, in his book "The Road Ahead" says the three biggest economic growth areas for the next couple decades are 1. Entertainment, 2. Social Services and 3. Education. "Fun, Social, Learning" appears to be central to both building learning communities and to building local economies. We can already see implementation of these "building learning communities" themes in many school-based early adapter model programs.

Early Adapter Case Studies (Bottom-Up Innovations)

The following thirteen case studies are presented as representative of the range of different innovations from rather basic applications to very sophisticated applications. The "Native American/Alaskan/Hawaiian K12 Innovations" web site, created specifically for this report, serves as an expanded roster of additional specific innovative applications, related resources, and cultural curriculum. (

Computer Innovations; Non-Internet

1. At the Taos Pueblo Day school, fifth-grade students used fax machines and regular mail to exchange their artwork with indigenous students in Australia and other countries in association with the I*EARN network of K12 schools in 80 countries. Students used word-processing to write stories to accompany their artwork. I*EARN’s First People’s Art Project: These students also have used Hyperstudio software to create computer programs that literally pronounce Native words and teach their Native language. (Taos, New Mexico.)

The significance of this "First People’s Art Project" is it allows students to identify with other indigenous peoples and to communicate their differences and similarities. The author visited the Taos Pueblo Day School in January 1998 and the students were eager to show their artwork and desktop published stories. The motivation of the students was very high and it was obvious they felt they had participated in a significant global sharing activity.

3. Many examples exist of students creating multimedia CDROMs; The Honakaa High School students on the island of Hawaii created a CDROM teaching about their culture. (Contact Person; Jim Hunt jhunt@kalama.doc.Hawaii.Edu) The Zuni Watershed CDROM project is another example. (Contact Person: Roger Anyon, Pueblo of Zuni, Zuni, NM) The significance of these projects is that students learn multimedia self-publishing in a cultural context and are able to complete a finished product. The boost in self-esteem is evident in the pride taken for their achievements and they become very aware of the cultural empowerment and entrepreneurial potential of their newfound multimedia skills.

Web-based Innovations (Level Two – Self-Publishing)

Dozens of Native American schools have their own web pages. Using digital cameras, which are capable of creating an unlimited number of images without any additional costs, they are able to share a wide variety of school and cultural activities. Students have published web pages globally via the World Wide Web sharing Native language instruction, Pow-wow traditions, Native drummers via sound files, dancers can be viewed via video files and virtual museums can be navigated in three dimensional worlds by anyone with a mouse and the appropriate browser software. Three dimensional image files of local crafts and products are demonstrated as well as 360 degree panorama images of their schools, classrooms and surrounding environments.

The following school web sites are examples of sophisticated innovations by teachers and students. The breadth of innovations at these sites testify as to the diverse grassroots applications potential for cultural expression once Internet access and basic training is available.

4. Fort Peck Reservation school fifth graders, in Poplar, Montana have created their own web pages, lead by Native teacher Anthony Shields, ( and are representative of the beginning levels of web authoring; These web pages are examples of what can be created in just a few class periods and while they are not sophisticated, they represent the beginning level of web self-expression as a significant first step. The Poplar school system has received a bilingual federal grant to teach the Dakota language as part of the regular school curriculum. Hyperstudio software has been previously used by the Poplar Middle School to teach the Dakota language. Students are able to take pride knowing they have created multimedia training materials for their tribal language. This is a popular application used by many tribal schools. ( Contact Person: Anthony Shields, Fort Peck Reservation, Poplar, Montana, )

NOTE: A similar site well worth the time to review is

5. Waianae High School, Honolulu, Hawaii Includes student-created tutorials on web page design and authoring as well as demonstrations of panorama files and advanced multimedia applications. Exceptionally broad examples of diverse innovations! While this is not specifically a Native Hawaiian school, it is intensely multicultural. On this web site they stress they do not have much funding or support, but were able to innovate broadly, regardless. This site demonstrates many community outreach activities.

6. The Mount Edgecumbe Native Boarding School in Sitka, Alaska has a student-created tutorial on how to create student web-based electronic portfolios. Click on "Student Electronic Portfolios" at Entrepreneurship is an emphasis of the school. Todd Bergman is a key lead teacher. Students come from many different tribal groups from all across Alaska and technology training is an important emphasis.

7. Select the Wolverine Chatter student newsletter from the following Alaskan Native 7-8th grade school in Juneau, Explore the Tlingit Language resources, the Student Projects Gallery, and see the tour of the school! Devin Jones is the lead teacher behind this site. ( ) With seriously limited resources, students have learned to self-publish their own electronic newsletter and to represent their cultures in diverse multimedia formats.

8. Leo Ussak Elementary School, Rankin Inlet, Canadian Arctic William Belsey ( is the lead teacher behind this exceptional site with a broad range of innovations. This site is a key model for rural Native schools! See also; for related global indigenous resources this innovative teacher has collected in support of the innovations of others. Three years under development, this site is a prime example of the broad number of innovative applications that have also been created by other Native, suggesting that given basic Internet access and training, similar breadth of innovations will be likely to occur in other schools, as has proved to be the case.

9. Hawaiian Language Immersion Schools

This year, two high schools will graduate their first classes of students who have attended schools where the Hawaiian language was the dominant language for all 12 years. Twelve language immersion schools are in operation currently. An entire K12 printed curriculum has been translated into Hawaiian. Academic scores were 30% higher than English-based comparable schools. Six hundred Native speakers use electronic communications to exchange information in their Native language on the project’s First Class BBS. This BBS is also used by elementary students. The software for this bulletin board system (BBS) has menus in Hawaiian. The Netscape web browser will be modified so all its menus are also in Hawaiian.

Seven hundred hours of oral histories of Native elders will soon be posted on the Internet as a means of sharing their cultural history. Keola Donaghy, at the University of Hawaii, Hilo Campus, is the lead teacher ( and has written the following summary of this work: Many components of Keola’s work are absolutely the first such innovations for Native languages and intense interest has been show by many other Native groups.

A listing of Native American language sites is available with online dictionaries for the Cherokee and Eskimo languages, included many other exciting models for teaching and preserving Native languages;


Collaborative Project-based Learning (Level Three)

The next step beyond posting multimedia web pages is to engage others in collaborative learning communities…most importantly the local community. The major benefits are students feel a part of the global community and learn to use the Internet as a resource for collaborative community problem-solving.

A special "Web Tour" of Alaskan-specific collaborative projects and innovative web sites was created for the 10 Alaskan villages and incorporated in the training handbook; Alaskan winning entries for the Thinkquest and Cyberfair competitions (referenced below) are included!

Many project directories are appearing on the web giving teachers a broad variety of project participation options, from simple activities for one to three class periods up to multi-week projects which can become quite involved. (See

Many Native teachers and students understand that it is important to avoid unnecessary generational rifts by assuring all community members learn together about what computers and the Internet has to offer the community and culture. Adults of all cultures seem to be initially intimidated by technology, yet most adults, when allowed to explore topics of their own interests on the Internet, quickly warm up to the Internet as a desirable and useful tool. Students have an important role to play providing such awareness and training opportunities for the local community.

I*EARN develops project-based learning models involving k12 schools in 80 countries, many in the Spanish language. One compelling project has students raise funds for a $200 bicycle wheel water pump to bring fresh drinking water to Nicaraguan villages.

Webquests; a template model for developing project-based learning activities:

One of the more significant formats for project-based learning is that of Webquest.

The Webquest homepage,, offers teachers a highly customizable format for creation of their own online projects. Teachers can start by using webquest activities created by other teachers and then use template web pages to easily design their own projects. Online recertification courses for teachers are available during which they will create their own webquests. Rich collections of teacher-created webquests are available via web pages created as a result of previous classes, giving teachers a model for sharing their creative lessonplans with other teachers.

In a typical webquest activity, students would use the Internet to access specific information on a defined topic, researching first as an individual, and then engaging with others in a defined small group activity to share their research results and integrate it with those of others. The activity ends with a group presentation and often a web page with the consolidated findings. Linking such activities to real world problems and issues makes this model extremely important and relevant as a necessary trend in education.

Journey North is another compelling project focused on student monitoring of various animal migrations, which instantly appeals to many Native Americans and Alaskans;

10. Choctaw Tribal Schools, Mississippi. Cyberfair is a project-based competition where students create web pages showcasing various school/community synergies. The Choctaw winning Cyberfair entry is found at: Here’s their main school homepage;  

The Choctaw Tribal Schools are also involved with the I*EARN First Peoples Art Project. The lead teacher is Bob Smith ( The significance of participating in a global competition, and winning recognition for their work, is a key, replicable feature of Internet competitions and activities. The students literally feel they are championing the cause of their cultures and develop great pride in their multimedia depictions of their culture.

NOTE: Cyberfair is a competition for students of all ages sponsored by MCI and Cisco Systems and offers a structured opportunity for students to create web pages showcasing school and community synergies among eight categories. Many Elementary School entries of extraordinary quality make the point that even very young students can participate. Cyberfair is expanding with a Community Share project to encourage students to share information and online projects with other communities.

Strongly recommended; See examples of each of the following categories in the winners listings at

  1. Local Leaders
  2. Community Groups and Special Populations
  3. Business and Community Organizations
  4. Local Specialties
  5. Local Attractions (Natural andMan-Made)
  6. Historical Landmarks
  7. Environmental Awareness
  8. Local Music and Art Forms

11. Thinkquest Winners!! Three Native students from New Mexico won second place in the Social Studies category of the project-based 1996 Thinkquest competition for their web site teaching about Powwows: Their web site includes the option to listen to drummers and singers, interact via a web conferencing system, view Pow-wow schedules, crafts listings with digital images, and learn about the different dance styles, and much more. Its an exceptional model of cultural expression and teaching about one’s culture. The range of innovations of this web site is testimony to what the current technologies make both possible and replicable.

During the creation of this web site the students had little encouragement from the tribe, who may not have understood such "uses of technology." After the team won the award, however, the tribal attitude demonstrated a complete turnaround and the tribe is now as proud as they can be. The lesson here is that proper outside recognition for the achievements of early adapters in any tribal group can be fundamental to changing attitudes across the majority of the tribe. If no one from the outside attributes significance to such achievements, it is likely such activity will cease.

Important Note:

The Thinkquest competition started in 1995 with the idea of providing CDROM’s to K7-12 students containing all the software and tutorials necessary for creation of instructional web page entries and web-based collaborative projects. Emphasis is on creating collaborative student teams matching students with technical skills and Internet access with student without technical skills or even direct Internet access. Internet access is not necessary to participate in creating instructional web page entries. It is highly feasible to translate the Thinkquest instructional CDROM into Spanish for use by USAID projects.

There are now over 900 quality instructional web sites created by students posted at the Thinkquest web site: Listed by subject area, this resource is exciting for teachers in that the resources are ready to use and that they motivate students when they learn the web sites are student-created.

This strategy of using students to demonstrate the instructional potential of the Internet created far more innovation than a similar adult initiative would have created. Its important to note students of all cultures tend to naturally be fascinated by computers and technology and that this makes them key change agents within any culture. When students demonstrate their achievements to adults, the adults often react with pride and this opens the door for cultural acceptance of the use of technology.

Eighteen countries have creating National Thinkquest competitions because of the motivational successes of this structured competition. Several Alaskan schools have won in both the 1996 and 1997 competitions.

12. The Cradleboard Project ( has developed a program for linking Native American students via Internet with traditional non-Native classrooms for the specific purpose of having Native American students teach about the history of their tribes; adding a level of authenticity previously missing regarding the teaching of Native American History. This project, and model, has dramatic implications for worldwide replication. The entrepreneurial potential of offering structured project-based learning activities via Internet, with cultural authenticity, cannot be over emphasized.

Buffy St. Marie, a well-known Native Activist, Graphics Artist and Singer, created the Cradleboard project, which she describes below;

About twelve years ago I began to develop a program to provide
accurate curriculum about Native American cultures to non-Indian teachers.
Six years ago I extended the idea to include live and interactive
curriculum-based exchanges between cross cultural classes of school
children in Hawaii and Canada, and I saw the whole curriculum come to life.
The Cradleboard Teaching Project developed out of those twelve years of
informal experience, which I funded with my own monies through my Nihewan Foundation. Two years ago we received a major grant from the Kellogg Foundation. We are presently operating cross cultural pilot sites at 33 classes in 11 states.

Briefly, Cradleboard is a nationwide, cross-cultural initiative to
help children of all races to build self-identity and self esteem through
excellent Native American curriculum and personal cultural exchange using
communications technology. The Project uses all available technologies to
empower Indian children with a richer, more profound understanding of their
own cultures by helping them share it, live and interactive, with the rest
of America's children,
who deserve to know the positive reality of Native
American culture. Our curricula in Geography, Science, Music, Social
Studies, and History all match National Standards, and we would like to add
the Arts to this list.

We are in the middle of creating three (very) interactive CD Rom3
for Science, which will be offered in the fall to our participants in
Elementary, Middle and High School grades ( that's why there are three). In
all, we plan to create 15 CDs 5 subjects listed above X 3 grade levels.

The project combines curriculum with genuine interactivity. The
interactivity part includes live chat and live video conferencing between
Native and Mainstream classes; personal visits, phone calls, letters,
curriculum exchange, and website stuff. The CD is being designed to be easy
and make sense to teachers and kids in real schools, not just to impress
those of us with T1 lines and fast machines. So many of our grantees
(schools) have a jumble of lowest common denominator, 'whatever' computer
situation - slow, limited access etc - that we are holding back on true CD
-website interactivity and concentrating on the content.
We brought 200 people to Kauai in March. Scholarshipped students,
teachers and administrators to learn Cradleboard methods. Four foreign
countries - NZ, Australia, Norway, Canada - came, as they want to unleash
us for upgrading race relations in their indigenous-mainstream countries.

Two Perks 1. Several schools have lobbied their schoolboards to
upgrade Cradleboard to full curriculum status, so that time and
connectivity is scheduled on the same basis as social studies and science.

2. NAES College in Wisconsin gave graduation credits to their teachers in
training for attending one of our regional conferences to learn Cradleboard

The White House links to the Cradleboard Teaching Project website
as an example of Promising Practices for the President's Initiative on
Race. We were recently featured at 's website; and Yahoo is doing
a print story that includes us for the fall; and plans to do a feature

We really need funding for infrastructure. Everybody wants to fund
'something else' teacher training, conferences, curriculum writing. Know
anybody who can help us pay the rent, the personnel etc.? A common problem
for projects that succeed!

Buffy St. Marie
C/O Business Support Services
1191 Kuhio Hwy.
Kapaa, HI 96746

*(Author's Note: A key point here is that despite broad participation and many successes, the issue of who will champion the growth of the Cradleboard model is very much in question. In a similar vein, the sophisticated fund-raising, promotional and organizational skills necessary for sustainability of such activities are often the reason such great ideas do not find the means for broad-based replicability.)

Information Age Carpetbaggers

In the following section, many great ideas are also presented, expertly articulated by master grant-writers. It is unresolved whether they achieved true "buy-in" among Native groups, or will be successful disseminating their innovations. The author wishes to make no implication one way or the other regarding the following projects, but is compelled to present the issues in the next couple paragraphs as they have been related first-hand by many Native administrators.


It is common for Native groups to shun those who have receive large grants, or for those who receive grants to be territorial in the use of their resources. It is also common for those from the outside to not bother to include Native groups in the grant authoring process. Most tribes find it offensive to have someone show up with a grant funded on their behalf, using their name and issues to get the money, but without their involvement. Often, most of the money goes for administration of the grant with only a token amount going to the tribe.

Many Montanan tribes, through experience, would caution other Native groups "Beware whitemen bearing grant proposals." It has been repeated many times that promises were made, equipment delivered, and no lasting benefit realized, while literally millions of dollars have been spent on grants funded specifically to benefit Montanan Native groups. The lesson learned is "Don’t get involved with projects that did not involve you from the very start."

Key Grant-Funded Projects (Top-Down Innovations)

Here are seven grant-funded initiatives related to indigenous Internet education, followed by a few others of interest. See the Native American/Alaskan/Hawaiian K12 Innovations web site for more resources like these;

  1. The 4Directions Project "Internet Strategies for Empowering Indigenous Communities in Teaching and Learning" is funded by the Technology Literacy Challenge grant program from the U.S. Dept. of Education. Their homepage is

    One very interesting component is their work on "Developing Virtual Museums in Native American Schools" (See Appendix) Their multicultural curriculum for K12 is available in Spanish and English at "The Explorer Trail;"

Contact Dr. Nancy Allen, the 4Directions project director, at She is an exceptional resource in terms of her knowledge and ability to get things done. Here’s a course Dr. Allen has created:

Curriculum Development for Thematic Instruction and Technology:

The 4 Directions Mentoring Project and related resources are available at:

2. The "National Indian Telecommunications Institute; Grass Roots Indian Teachers Inservice (NITI-GRITI)." is funded by the National Science Foundation as an Internet-training and culturally appropriate curriculum project. They have a great listing of related Indigenous instructional resources; Listed among their resources is the following outstanding collection of Native K12 curriculum resources

3. The Pueblo Project "A Global Learning Collaboratory and Virtual Learning Community," is funded by Xerox Parc.Using text-based communications Native students have become enthusiastic participants. The Longview Elementary School is a key model school for this project; The significance of this project is the high motivation for written interaction, and the context of the particular activities. Many would find the amount of training required, and specific limitations of the software, a disincentive. How broad are the benefits and how replicable is the project are two questions that remain.

4. The Alaskan Native Knowledge Network (  ) collects Native Alaskan cultural curriculum with emphasis on curriculum created by Native Alaskans. While this innovative project, funded with extremely high figure grants, initially involved many Native Councils, the amount of curriculum is not extensive, which raises questions as to where the money when and how effective the strategies for encouraging Natives to create curriculum have been. This appears to be a rather typical pattern with grant-funded initiatives, for whatever reasons. The significance of this site may be that despite many millions of dollars, limited resources have resulted, suggesting top-down initiatives have serious limitations despite monetary resources.

5. "Information Technology Leadership, Technology Training, and Reservation Inreach" program at Montana State University received an NTIA TIIAP grant where fellowships are given to two individuals from each of Montana’s 7 reservation-based tribal colleges for training on how to maintain local computer LANs; http:// www..html Terri Driscoll is the contact person. A listing of MSU’s many grant supported Native American programs is available at

6. The Cultural Survival Quarterly ( published a special issue on "The Internet and Indigenous Groups" which is of exceptional quality and presents many significant case studies worldwide. The entire issue is online at The significance of this particular issue is the diversity of benefits very different cultural groups have demonstrated. See also "Reclaiming Native Education: Activism, Teaching and Leadership" at

7. MIRA: Managing Information with Rural America is a program from The Kellogg Foundation. MIRA is a new community information systems grant initiative for rural communities which provides six community workshops for ten community teams per community cluster to literally educate them in community uses of information technology before they design community information technology projects of their own. Caroline Carpenter is the director The significance of this model is the notion of preparing citizens through multiple workshops to learn to generate mini-grants within a larger 10 community initiative.

Other Internet Projects of Interest

1. Native Americans in Central and South America; resources in Spanish: and and These resources are significant as examples of the quality of online resources that can be, and have been, created in support of indigenous peoples. Sponsorship funding appears to be a constant battle while they await the significance of their work to be appreciated and supported.

2. Instructions for learning the Quechua language of the ancient Incan empire are available in both English and Spanish. 'culturas de los andes'

3. Storytelling from the Hopi from the Touch the Earth Foundation - Rainbow hoops program which serves as a great model in many ways.

Contact Katherine Cheshire AKA Dee See Mana.

4. Another storytelling site of interest is:

5. National Science Foundation Wireless Testbed Project Reports are available at such as the Toksook Eskimo Village Wireless Project; A Canadian Arctic Eskimo village has found an affordable solution bringing Internet to village homes using new wireless technologies. ( See also how the Ute Tribe has benefited from Wireless;

Overview of Internet Networks linking Indigenous nations in America

There are a number of discussion networks that have been around for many years. While the numbers of actual native users is not high, it has been steadily increasing. An unmeasurable amount of private email has been used which one can presume to be more widespread than public participation in national forums. It is safe to say that Native groups prefer their own discussion groups to those offered by large grants or federal agencies and that privacy is a big concern.

Educational Native American Network; ENAN, was created by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the late 1980’s to support educational applications.

Native-L Several listservs on Native issues are listed.

Contact person is Gary Turillo;



Listings of Native Networks:

Native American Networks

Aboriginal Youth Network  Outstanding!

Planet Youth Outstanding!

Many other networks have been listed, but the nature of online discussions is that they come and go. During creation of this report, many web addresses apparently changed and became inoperable, suggesting a high level of turnover. A web search on a given name should return a workable address in most cases.

Guidelines on Design of Programs for Indigenous Communities
The OTA report concludes:
"The role of these technologies in empowering Native Americans will be enhanced if Native communities develop their own technological understanding, expertise and leadership. An important part of empowerment is effective local planning. Only a few Native reservations, villages, and communities have a telecommunications strategy or vision; most have, at best, some fragmented planning activities but no coherent picture or understanding of what telecommunications can do to further their well-being."

The OTA report recommends: "Additional projects would be helpful, especially in defining the role of telecommunications in the areas of cultural heritage, community well-being, economic development and governance."

"If Native Americans are to have a major role in the actual development and marketing of NA multimedia, a concerted entrepreneurial initiative (with education, training and funding elements) will be needed." (OTA)

"The strategy could include use of existing or new electronic clearinghouses to provided info on relevant programs and projects, accessible by NA leaders and technology activists as well as federal personnel. An electronic clearinghouse would help ensure that federal agencies are at least aware of what others are doing." (OTA)


Logical extensions of this report would be to maintain a frequently updated web site in support of indigenous learning worldwide to include:

  1. The best success stories of indigenous self-empowerment and cultural curriculum.
  2. The best government, corporate, community, tribal and foundation initiatives worldwide supporting indigenous learning, such that similar initiatives can easily find each other and ideally work together.
  3. A complete roster of the best culturally appropriate curriculum resources, with emphasis on self-directed learning materials.
  4. A comprehensive listing of funding sources worldwide for indigenous learning projects and tutorials on the grant-writing process.
  5. A thorough listing of cultural entrepreneurship and community-building models.
  6. Exploration of mentoring programs and processes and research on the social innovation diffusion processes of various cultures would be timely.

The strongest recommendation I can make is that there needs to be more short term, small scale projects with a means for disseminating lessons learned on an ongoing basis. Much of what has been learned from ten years of community networking experimentation via hundreds of grant-funded projects has never been disseminated because after the grants run out, all activity ceases.

Despite hundreds of exciting diverse experimental projects, no one has taken the time to consolidate what’s been learned and to make the resources that have already been created available to a wide audience.

The Association for Community Networking, for example, is struggling to find funding to begin to address this need. "Whose responsibility is this?" …is a question that remains unanswered.

Crosscultural Commonalities

Key questions remain as to the scalability and optimal leveragability of online tutorials for indigenous learning. For motivated students, self-directed learning resources will often be sufficient. For less motivated students a mentor is typically needed to encourage ongoing learning with emphasis on emotional needs as opposed to content expertise. Often cultural authenticity is more important than content expertise.

Many project opportunities exist regarding demonstration of youth peer-mentoring across cultures, building on what’s been demonstrated by the Thinkquest, Cyberfair, the Cradleboard project, the First People’s Art Project and other International student web-based instructional projects and competitions. An emphasis on cultural expression and youth entrepreneurship would seem to be a natural extension of the above successes, perhaps focused on the vocational potential of Native youth delivering online skills training to Native youth in other cultures via USAID missions and projects.

A Cross-Cultural Internet Training Model

An Alaskan-specific WebTour of K12 collaborative projects and innovative use of web pages for school and community self-expression is a key component of this otherwise generic and cross-cultural guide ( ) in the customized edition titled "Native Alaskan Cross-Cultural K12 Internet Guide."

This handbook could easily be reprinted for any Spanish-speaking cultural group with the addition of the Migrant Educational Resources Clearinghouse and the creation of a cultural specific web tour such as the one referenced above. This customizable handbook will be continually updated and is available online at:

With 15,000 cultures slated to receive Internet via new low-cost satellite systems over the next couple decades, in a world where half the population has never yet made a single phone call, the issue of how best to introduce the empowering components of the Internet within the context of individual cultures is our current challenge.

An Online Course Model for Teachers on Brokering Internet Learning Resources

Through the Alaska Staff Development Network, which serves over 5,000 Alaskan educators, an interesting online course modelhas been developed;   The handbook mentioned above serves as the basis for this self-directed online class for teachers. Teachers will have the choice of eight four-hour units which will emphasize structured hands-on activities.

1.Browsing and Searching Effectively

2. Listserv Discussion and Groupwork Basics

3. Creating Instructional Webpages

4. Key Issues on K12 Internet Use

5. Project-based Learning Models

6. School and Community Networking Synergies

7. Online Instruction Basics and Design Considerations

8. School Technology Planning, Training, and Grant-writing

Mentors will mediate the course logistics of receiving and evaluating the lesson submissions of the teacher, allowing hundreds of teachers to take the course simultaneously. The instructor ‘s role will be to keep the online handbook’s resources as current as possible while updating the teachers regularly via one or more listservs. The teachers will have the implicit opportunity to build their own peer learning community for sharing the best of what they’ve discovered through their hands-on experiences.

This model builds on what we know about the preferences of motivated adult and student learners. This model also creates a level of financial incentive for the very best teachers to create very high quality self-directed learning opportunities for large number of motivated students. No longer limited to the confines of the traditional classroom, a teacher’s impact can now extend to thousands of students worldwide.

With the coming teacher shortage, and the expectation that billions will have Internet access within our lifetime through major advances in technology, optimally scaleable models of education will be necessary to meet the huge need for quality instruction. This raises important questions of the appropriateness of online instruction depending on the student’s needs and delivery mediums available.



The author has created the following three web clearinghouse resources:

1. A Native American/Alaskan/Hawaiian K12 Innovations with
    Computers and Internet Clearinghouse

2. A "Migrant Education Technology and Curriculum Clearinghouse" has been created for the U. S. Department of Education/ Office of Migrant Education, in conjunction with six migrant education technology projects - has been created with emphasis on collection of Spanish language Internet K12 curriculum resources;

3. A "Community Networking Models and Resources Clearinghouse" has been created: in support of the Association for Community Networking. This site includes rural economic development and electronic democracy resources as well as tutorials on rural telecommuting. A short self-directed "Web Tour" of the best Community Networking, Electronic Democracy and Participatory Decision-Making resources is at

4. "Native Alaskan Cross-Cultural K12 Internet Guide" is 110 page cross-cultural self-directed teachers’ guide to the best K12 Internet Curricular resources is available at

5. Current articles:

"Big Visions from Small Villages" to
be published Spring 1999 in the George Lucas Educational Foundation

"On the Frontier of Online Learning in Galena, Alaska" to be
published in the March 1999 issue of Multimedia Schools magazine

5. Additional Appendices

Cultural Survival Quarterly; Special issue on "The Internet and Indigenous Groups" (

Many exciting project reports from the National Science Foundation Wireless Testbed project are available at such as the Toksook Wireless Project; A Canadian Arctic Eskimo village has found an affordable solution bringing Internet to village homes using new wireless technologies. ( See also how the Ute Tribe has benefited from Wireless;

The 4Directions Project: ( )

- Internet Strategies for Empowering Indigenous Communities in Teaching and Learning )
   ( http://challenge/   )

                     - Developing Virtual Museums in Native American Schools
                        ( )

Hawaiian Language on the Computer Frontier 

Introduction to: Reclaiming Native Education: Activism, Teaching and Leadership. From the Cultural Survival Quarterly, Spring 1998,

Telecommunications Technology and Native Americans; Opportunities and Challenges, A Congressional OTA report, 1995, literally the first and last report on this topic by the U.S. Government. ( )

The Native American Resources Page from the above OTA report (1995)

MECHA Mentoring Guidelines Handbook

The 4 Directions Mentoring Project Description