Podcast Slacker

Please respond to the following discussion item. “Which podcasts or weekly subscriptions do you listen/subscribe to? If you don’t subscribe to a topic – why not? What are the potential uses for integrating weekly podcasts into a learning environment?”

One of the disadvantages of working at home is that you don’t have dedicated commute time. When I drove back and forth to work I used to listened to a lot of public radio. I’ve been working at home for over seven years now which even at a 20 minute commute can add up to a lot of available listening time. I’m a terrible multi-tasker and can not listen for more than a few minutes without starting to look around for something else to do. If I’m at my desk, I look at my computer and start checking email my calendar. If I’m relaxing in the living room, I find that I pick up the iPad with the urgency to check something. When I’m exercising, I’m usually with someone else or I’m outside and don’t want to be plugged in. So, I don’t listen to many podcasts. I do listen to a lot of audio books, but they are titles that are entertaining, and not on topics where I might need to retain information. That being said, if I was taking a class that had audio lectures, I would force myself to listen and would probably need to take notes using a pen and paper instead of writing online BUT I can only image that I would hit the pause button so that I could google something that was said or a reference that was talked about in the lecture. At one time, I listened to and ED-TECH talk that usually had 3-5 teachers talking about technology. What I found was that I came away from listen for 45 minutes with an additional 4 hours of research and software exploration after each talk. I just could keep up.

I do think there is merit in integrating podcasts, or at least audio recordings, in a learning environment as an alternative or in addition to other types of media. Alternatives to reading texts or other text-based materials is always a nice alternative. I also think that an audio recording could replace many video recordings as it doesn’t always matter if I can see the speaker or not. If file size can be smaller by eliminating the video feed, than audio might be a better alternative. I don’t necessarily think the audio recordings need to be podcasts which I define as a schedule series of audio files.

Discussion Comments

Integration, not segregation

“Education is evolving due to the impact of the Internet. We cannot teach our students in the same manner in which we were taught. Change is necessary to engage students not in the curriculum we are responsible for teaching, but in school. Period.” – April Chamberlain

Access to the internet brings more opportunities to the classroom and to learning than a classroom has had in the past. Being able to access information that might answer your immediate question or curiosity is much more rewarding than having to wait until you can visit the school or community library, even if the information you seek is available in that location. I would agree with Chamberlain’s statement that it isn’t necessarily that the curriculum has to change, but rather in how students interact with the curriculum that maintains their engagement. But using technology can’t seem like an afterthought. It needs to be just another tool or option that students have access to in order to fulfill a learning objective.

Discussion Comments

Keyboard skills

Please respond to the following discussion prompt. “Should/Is it necessary to teach keyboarding skill in the classroom setting anymore?

I’m a little out of my realm with this question. I’m not really familiar with what is being currently taught or at what age level. I do know that the devices that young children have access to take most advantage of swiping and a touchscreen, of which neither would be helpful when writing in a long format. I noticed in one of the last version system upgrades on my iPhone, when I typed on the onscreen keyboard, predictive word choices appeared. I had seen this on an android tablet but it was new to me on the iPhone. At first I thought it was an interesting option, but soon found that it really slowed down my speed by stopping to select the word instead of continuing to type. If I was used to this process and was using it to type out a lesson (or a response to a discussion post). It would take me a lot longer to use that method, then just using the keyboard, regardless of how small the keyboard is.

It seems that since so many K-12 schools are moving towards Google Apps as a classroom management system, that at some point not being able to type on a keyboard is a barrier for a student being successful. That being said, my Dad was a mad two-finger typer and could make the Underwood portable manual typewriter sing. He seemed to get along quite fine. I often wonder how he might have done with his thumbs on a mobile device.

Disscussion Comments

Culture, Community and Curriculum

All of the issues we have examined in the previous units eventually have bearing in one way or another on what happens on a day-to-day basis in school classrooms.  The Ongtooguk, Stephens and Barnhardt articles listed for this unit, the video, and the last four articles in the Lessons Taught/Lessons Learned book (Volume 1, Section III) each address issues associated with the interrelationship between curriculum, the culture it represents, and the community in which it is offered. Your task for this final unit is to prepare an essay comparable to those in “Lessons Taught/Lessons Learned” (5-8 pages in length), in which you apply your own creative ideas to some aspect of cross-cultural education in Alaska.  As in the book, you can focus on issues of schooling generally, or on applying your ideas to a specific curriculum unit that will be of use to you. Give the assignment some careful thought and where appropriate, make use of the ideas we have covered in this course.

In a perfect world everyone would have good bandwidth. And everyone would have reasonable access to a computer or mobile device and the internet. Let us pretend it is a perfect world and consider how one might empower traditional students through activities and tools that take advantage of technology to enhance learning. Based on some of the characteristics of an Indigenous World View as requoted by Barnhardt in “Teaching/Learning Across Cultures: Strategies for Success” (adapted from Knudtson and Suzuki, 1992), we’ll look at a few strategies that might enhance these characteristics in the classroom, mostly in an asynchronous environment.


In several of the articles we have read throughout the semester, and specifically outlined in Kawagley’s A Yupiaq Worldview (pg. 16), the idea that all things: human, nature, and spirit, are interconnected and that indigenous people view the Universe as a “holistic, integrative system life force” is a concept that may be best demonstrated through a presentation tool called Prezi. Prezi (http://prezi.com) is an online presentation alternative to PowerPoint. Prezi is based on a zooming feature that allows the user to move back and forth between the big picture and the finer details. As you are building a Prezi presentation, you position your text blocks, images, videos, images, or graphics, anywhere on the presentation canvas. Then you create pathways to make connections between the various elements. As a viewer, you don’t have to follow the prescribed pathways that the author has outlined, and you can follow your own pathway based on your interest. Prezi is often used for live presentations, but its real benefit may be as a powerful learning object used asynchronously. Another characteristic from the Indigenous World View, “Referring to Time is circular with natural cycles that sustain all life” would be a concept that could be modeled using Prezi to help with its explanation, allowing students to explore different aspects of the cycle in a pathway that made sense to them. Or better yet, become a tool that students use to create their own explanation. Caution: in order to use Prezi in an asynchronous manner, enough detail has to be included in order to engage the student without leaving too many unanswered questions.


Prezi How to Demonstration: http://prezi.com/8yuaqgzqz9su/beyond-open-source/ (retrieved 12/19/2013)

Prezi: Circular presentation: http://prezi.com/gco-vb9vvvy2/30-things-about-me/ (retrieved 12/19/2013)

Kinship: http://prezi.com/h2z2skvumete/family-kinship-marriage/ (retrieved 12/19/2013) Note: I’m not sure this was finished before it was posted.

Brady Bunch

In an article called “Faculty Focus,” an online website for Higher Education Teaching Strategies, Karen Edifier introduces the idea of interconnectedness through a model she calls, “What Would the Brady Bunch Do?” Another characteristic of the Indigenous World View is the idea of relationships: “Human thought, feelings and words are inextricably bound to all other aspects of the universe” and the idea that there are consequences to our actions that might not directly affect us, but will have an impact on others, nature, or the spirit. When concepts are introduced in class, instead of delivering them in a dispersed manner, or what might appear to a novice as in a random order, if a conceptual framework can be delivered, students can being to see relationships between these concepts and can begin to make connections. Eifier says, “If students approach new concepts aware that they’re related and actively seek links between them, that makes the content easier to understand and retain.” In the article, Eifier says that she took time in the first class meeting to show the “Brady Bunch Theme Song” video to set the stage for her approach. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwikvo6EZiQ)

Play it for yourself and notice that in a mere 71 seconds the lyrics give us all the relevant background information on Carol (and her three very lovely girls) and Mike (and his three boys of his own) who will one day become the Brady Bunch. While we hear the girls’ side, we observe that the characters are limited in their scope and only look at one another. But when we jump to “one day when this lady met this fellow,” suddenly whole new worlds open up to each person onscreen. No longer restricted to vertical looks, now Marcia can look diagonally to Bobby; Peter can look horizontally at Jan. Their expressions are friendly and knowing. The old connections are still there, but they are now linked in ways that make a whole new world of possible connections.

Here is an example that might be used a Desktop publishing class. Each of the nine items is a design element one must think about before creating a document. You cannot just concentrated on one of the elements without thinking about how it might affect the other eight in order to produce a nice looking product.

An example from a class taught on Desktop Publishing

The key to this approach is to introduce to students the concept that they should be continually learning about the content in each of the squares and be able to talk about the relationships that each square has to each other, not just the squares next to on another, but to all of the squares within the group.

Digital Storytelling

One of the characteristics of the Indigenous World View, “Respect for elders is based on their compassion and reconciliation of outer- and inner-directed knowledge” is very conducive to storytelling. Digital Storytelling can be a power medium, whether it is being created by the storyteller, or documenting someone else as the storyteller. Learning through stories and legends has been a tradition and way of being for indigenous people to help pass on traditions to the next generation. As Wallis says in the introduction to Two Old Women, “Stories are gifts given by an elder to a younger person…. Perhaps tomorrow’s generation also will yearn for stories such as this so that they may better understand their past, their people, and hopefully, themselves. “(Wallis, pg. xii) There are various tools and applications that might be used to create multimedia stories ranging in a variety of mediums: video, audio, or interaction, and through a variety of methods: motion, music, poetry, imagery, and in many combinations. Often letting students determine the medium and method will produce some unexpected success as students feel a strong connection to producing a quality artifact that has great meaning to them.

Another activity that might greatly benefit a class in building class community is an assignment that contains aspects of storytelling as a way of introducing students to each other in a class. This might help put into perspective what their peers’ lives are like and how it might be different or similar to one’s own life. A video shared on YouTube taken with a video camera on a mobile device might show the local geography where one lives, or a video description of what it means to “go to town” or pick up the mail. Another option might be requiring a student presentation using tools that capture your computer screen while you narrate, using a tool like Screencast-o-matic (http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/) to capture a collection of images along with a story.

Example: ANTH F242 Introduction screencast http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9Xn_29eiEE

Creating community

Two final Indigenous World View characteristics that could be integrated into a class with technology, is the “Sense of empathy and kinship with other forms of life” and the “Need for reciprocity between human and natural worlds – resources are viewed as gifts” through the process of creating an open resource for collecting and sharing. As depicted in this video, Spirit of the Whale (https://vimeo.com/tommysdog/review/75428938/4b0bf2c8dd), the importance of community and working together is reflected as a highly regarded characteristic of traditional life. If information is seen as a resource, then being able to share that resource with the greater community feeds nicely into the idea of participating in a community instead of being competitive and only doing something for oneself. Learning is not done in isolation, so providing a place for students to share and ask each other questions or have a conversation is important. Something as simple as having an open discussion forum in a course Learning Management System where students would pose questions of each other, whether or not the forum is moderated by the instructor, can eliminate some of the feelings of isolation. Assigning multiple group projects with low risk can be a good way to help students feel part of a group and increase the potential for learning at a deeper level by learning from each other and from being able to “teach” each other.

If an educator takes the time to think about the different cultural perspectives that his or her students might have, it doesn’t take a lot of extra work to implement strategies that might make a big difference in retaining indigenous students in education.


Barnhardt, Ray. (1998) “Teaching/Learning Across Cultures: Strategies for Success.” http://ankn.uaf.edu/Curriculum/Articles/RayBarnhardt/TLAC.html. Retrieved Dec. 11, 2013

Brady Bunch Opening Theme – Version 4 (Feb 5, 2009) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwikvo6EZiQ. Retrieved August 21, 2013.

Eifier, Karen. (August 19, 2013) http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/what-would-the-brady-bunch-do/. Retrieved August 21, 2013.

Kawagley, A. Oscar. (1995) A Yupiaq WorldView: A Pathway to Ecology and Spirit. Waveland Press, Inc: Prospect Heights, Illinois.

“Spirit of the Whale,” (2012). Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission: Rural Alaska First https://vimeo.com/tommysdog/review/75428938/4b0bf2c8dd. Retrieved November 29, 2013.

Wallis, Velma. (1993). Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival. Epicenter Press, Seattle, Washington.

Political and administrative structures of Education

A key issue in education around the world is who determines what form it will take.  Is education the responsibility of the people being educated, or should it be the responsibility of someone else?  In the case of Alaska Natives, Native Americans and other indigenous peoples around the world, they are increasingly adamant that it is their fundamental right to determine the educational future of their children.  Based on examples from the five readings and any other information/experience you can bring to bear, write four one-page papers in which you examine the cultural and educational implications of indigenous people assuming responsibility for each of the following areas, including what you think might be different from current educational practice.

1. Political and administrative structures of education

2. Professional roles associated with education

3. Curriculum content in the schools

4. Their own cultural and intellectual property

Political and administrative structures of Education

Many of the quotes taken from the AEPS article, “The Participation of Indigenous Peoples” in section 2.3, highlight why it is important that indigenous people assume responsibility for their community’s education, ranging from administrative to curriculum development. Too often outsiders have come into an indigenous community, asked a few questions, listened only to the answers that best fit in their research, left the village and put into practice the outcomes of the research that was biased and didn’t take into account any true understanding of the culture or ways of being or forethought to the effects the outcome would have. (AEPS, pp. 6-7)

“They never told us what they were doing and we never asked why they were there.”

“They take advantage of us just like we were children and use our knowledge to become big shots in the south.”

“We just gave them anything they asked for even if it did not make us very happy.”

“Even if they were friendly we were still a bit afraid of them.”

Interacting with western political organizations poses a change in how Indigenous groups traditionally made decisions.  As pointed out in the AEPS article, speaking aloud in front of a group, making demands, asking questions, trust of western traditions, are all relatively new process for indigenous people. Groups wanting to involved indigenous people will also need to make some adjustments. Applying guidelines such as those from ANKN, Guidelines for Culturally-Responsive School Boards would be a good start. For example, including Elders as advisors to include traditional values and ways of knowing into decision making.

Having indigenous people responsible for making decisions about how the schools are run might have a big impact on how successful children are receiving an education that will help them in their future.  As pointed out in the “Coolangatta Statement,” Article 26 of the “United Nations Declaration of Human Rights” “states: i. Everyone has the right to education. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that indigenous people want a non-indigenous education.” (pp. 2-3) Indigenous people need to participate in community school boards, community advisory boards, or state-appointed education committees in order to have a voice in decisions that are being made for their children and to have access to a culturally appropriate education.

These professionals must also consider themselves role models, much like described in Shawn Wilson’s article, “NOT JUST KNOWLEDGE, BUT A WAY OF LOOKING AT THE WORLD GWITCH’IN NATIVE ELDERS.” Elders also act as models for the way people should be living their lives. Not only do they tell the people what they should be doing, but if they are going to be respected Elders, they must be living that way themselves. By modeling correct behavior, Elders are able to set community standards of behavior” (Wilson, pg. 20)

Professional roles associated with education

Indigenous people looking to become school superintendents, principles, or teachers who have not had experience with western-style politics or education processes, will also be faced with a huge learning curve when obtaining credentials needed for these roles, until colleges and universities also implement indigenous viewpoints within the traditional western academic system. In many cases, such as in higher education in Alaska, attempts have been made to help prepare future teachers and administrators for roles in indigenous communities. Unfortunately, according to a Jan 2013 report from CAEPR, “ Why Aren’t They Teaching? A Study of Why Some University of Alaska Teacher Education Graduates Aren’t in Classrooms,” many of the graduating teachers aren’t employed as teachers the Fall after graduating. In this study only 41% were in the classroom, and only 30% were working as full-time teachers in Alaska, and only 17% were working outside of the Big 5 Districts (Anchorage, Fairbanks Mat-Su-, Kenai, or Juneau). And in looking at the percentages of new hires outside of the Big 5 Districts, the report suggests it is still difficult to find qualified teachers for rural communities.

Retrieved 12/09/2013 from http://www.iser.uaa.alaska.edu/CAEPR/home/docs/2013_01-WhyNotTeaching.pdf

As pointed out in the “Coolangatta Statement,” section 2.4.3, “The teacher is a facilitator of learning, one who promotes achievement and success. In this context culturally appropriate environments are employed to reinforce knowledge being imparted to the learner, reaffirming the learner’s significant place in the world.” If the community has chosen to provide an indigenous education, it’s the responsibility for that decision to be respected and carried out by the academic professionals. “The question should not be one of “who knows best” when discussing the relative merits of these two information systems, but rather how to use both systems in a way that will maximize an understanding of the environment and ecosystems of this vast area.” (AEPS, pg. 10)

Because non-community members are tasked with administration and teaching roles, its important that they be exposed to traditions and ways of knowing through orientation programs such as described in ANKN’s Guidelines for Cross-Cultural Orientation Programs or Guidelines for Preparing Culturally-Responsive Teachers for Alaska’s Schools. The new hires must understand that they may need to go above and beyond what they might expect in a more urban school where there isn’t an indigenous population. Being open to new understandings and taking the role of facilitator rather then classroom dictator will be good first steps.

Curriculum content in the schools

Having more content specific curriculum in schools would clearly strengthen a community’s culture and provide appropriate training for students to become productive citizens of that community, being able to provide for themselves and others in a responsible manner. As mentioned in AEPS article and in other articles that we’ve read for this class, Indigenous people understand that their culture is always adapting to new situations and new understandings. Incorporating both an indigenous point of view along with a western point of view needs to be balanced so that students with different types of long-term education goals can be met. Unfortunately, due to financial resources, this can’t always be done in all communities and some students aren’t always prepared for their future.

This quote from the “Coolangatta Statement,” indicates the importance of indigenous people within their community to be in a position where they are advocating for a curriculum that is based on their traditions and values.

“Volumes of studies, research and reports dealing with Indigenous peoples in non-Indigenous educational systems paint a familiar picture of failure and despair. When measured in non-Indigenous terms, the educational outcomes of Indigenous peoples are still far below that of non-Indigenous peoples. This fact exists not because Indigenous peoples are less intelligent, but because educational theories and practices are developed and controlled by non-Indigenous peoples. Thus, in more recent times, due to the involvement of Indigenous peoples, research shows that failure is indeed present, but that this failure is that of the system, not of Indigenous peoples.” (pg. 2)

One of the biggest hurdles in learning and education is the definition of success. Too often that definition is held to western academic standards resulting in an advanced degree. Often students feel successful when they have learned enough so that they can provide for their family and share with their communities without living in an expensive house or being the caregiver to numerous material objects. If the curriculum was offered in a way that gives students choices about pathways, success might be achieved at a higher level.

Cultural and Intellectual property

Maintaining responsibility over one’s own cultural and intellectual property means that, from a cultural perspective, whatever medium is being made, the product accurately represents the culture itself and is not being interpreted without collaboration or knowledge of the final outcome. This does mean that there needs to be some kind of definition or at least some guidelines so that people of the culture, as well as outsiders, have an idea when to ask for guidance and “permission.”  Documents such as the UN Commission on Human Rights, “The Mataatua Declaration on Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples” and the AKNK’s Guidelines for Respecting Cultural Knowledge can be really good starting points. It is often hard to define intellectual property and often even within the responsible group, there can be disagreements about what needs to be credited and what can be used freely as public domain. Keeping the conversation open and being respectful when there might be a question can go a long way in creating a good relationship.

In education and curriculum development, using the expertise of the community Elders seems like the perfect opportunity on many levels. The Elders will know what is appropriate to be shared depending on grade level, sex, maturity, and audience. Using Elders as resources will also almost always result in placed-based activities that help to deepen the student’s learning experiences. Also using Elders as recourses for professional development training for teachers, aides, and other administrative personnel within a school district can help to authenticate the learning experience.

New Zealand Alaska Connection

In this unit we will be looking at education in the broader sense of how it contributes to the formation of individual and cultural identity.  To do so, we will journey to New Zealand and Australia to find out a little about how education is viewed in the Maori and Aboriginal worlds.  Even though Aboriginal and Maori people are situated on the other side of the world from Alaska, you will see as you go through the readings that many of the issues they face are interchangeable with those of Alaska Natives. Using examples from the readings, your task for this unit is to describe some of the common issues/themes that indigenous people face around the world, and then offer some thoughts on why people from such different cultural and geographic origins would have so much experience in common.  What implications does all this have for their cultural/ethnic identity.  You should be able to condense your insights on this topic into no more than 3-5 pages.

There are many commonalities between the three groups described in the readings assigned for this assignment: Maori of New Zealand, Aboriginal of Australia, and Yupiaq of Alaska. All three communities, Maoris, Aborignials, and Yupiaqs, have become minorities groups in a land that was once the land where their ancestors began. These communities were beset by sea-faring Europeans, who were not always looking for ways to be accepted into the foreign communities they visited, but rather tasked with taking resources for profit; driven by money and not necessarily being nice or fair about it. These three communities share many things that have contributed to a struggle in trying to maintain their culture and worldview. Isolation, dominance by European practices, hunting and gathering or subsistence lifestyle, storytelling and the oral tradition, language as more than a vocabulary, but as a cultural identifier, and all struggle to keep traditions alive while living in a western-European majority.

All three authors emphasized that enlisting guidance at the local level as an important method for increasing success in allowing the minority groups to take responsibility and giving them the “power” to participate by eliciting more invested buy-in from the community (Merge, pg. 12). Village or community oversight of the local school is one example. Kawagley also states “Close coordination and consultation among the various people within and outside the school system are necessary to produce appropriate information-gathering tasks for school students.” This results in a “team” approach to learning that is more aligned with the Yupiaq worldview. “Self-esteem and self confidence will rise as the students deal with things that they know about and that are a part of their life. When they can learn about others through their own worldview.” (Kawagley, pg. 113). The Keeffe article also suggests that non-aboriginal teachers, who were unfamiliar with the culture, often feel equally unprepared to lead appropriate cultural learning “…as cultural outsiders, need to have some point of access, through which they might gain some understanding.” (Keeffe, pg. 4)

In many instances there is a struggle with actually identifying and agreeing on the actual issue. Gaining experience with aspects of a culture (arts, dance, food) is much different from teaching in a cultural method (how you learn – emphasis on active learning without a lot of talking, interconnectedness between many subjects, cooperative learning as opposed to competitive learning (Metge, pg. 32)) or teaching in a culturally responsive way that complements the culture.  “A people’s culture is woven into the fabric of their lives. It cannot be understood in the abstract, but only by encountering people linked in a web of social relations, as they interact in the light of their cultural beliefs.” (Metge, pg. 9).  It is also important to be able to differentiate between ethnicity and culture and determine what the curriculum needs to teach. “The theoretical ground is important, because a critical understanding of the way that ethnic theory shapes our educational practice is necessary for informed practice.” You can’t solve a problem without identifying what the problem is in the first place. (Keeffe, pg. 6) Until the issue of identifying the issue is addressed, keeping students engaged and progressing to a higher academic level will continue to be difficult. Keeffe talks about the Aboriginal retention rate as being very low, which is endemic across many minority cultures who might feel disillusioned and whose schools are  “failing to respond to cultural differences. (Keeffe, pg. 3, 26)

A recent Anchorage Daily News article, written by Kathleen McCoy, talks about a research project that is looking for reasons why Alaska’s students are unprepared for high education. A representative from UAA’s Center for Applied Economic and Policy Research (CAEPR) talks about some potential reasons, but also brings to point that not all students are college-bound and that some school districts have identified that, “Many of them say it’s not enough just to have kids ready to go on to college. Are they also a good member of their community? Being a good subsistence hunter is part of how you are a good member of your community. That’s a piece of this conversation.” Influenced by the North Slope Borough School District and how it has incorporated Inupiaq learning into school curricula, she goes on to say, “They’re talking about what it means to be a whole person,” she said, “and academic learning is part of that, but so is spiritual knowledge, and community participation in subsistence and cultural activities. All of that is what makes you a whole person.”  (retrieved 12/09/13 from http://www.adn.com/2013/12/07/3218953/hometown-u-fortifying-the-pipeline.html).

It is interesting that Metge cautioned about “idolizing” the Maori culture. Historically it wasn’t always perfect, “they by no means always achieve ecological balance; and whatever their ideals, their practices often alter the environment (for instance, burning forests for horticulture, as the Maori did). (Metge, pg. 31) Kawagley references Netting, 1986, that a worldview “is a summation of coping devices that have worked in the past and may or may not be as effective in the present.” (Kawagley, pg. 8) Because most indigenous worldviews are based on survival there must be adaptation. With adaptation and the acceptance of modern technology, Kawagley talks about “hidden costs” of such modernization that affects the fragile landscape: plastic packaging, fuel spills, ill-conceived construction, etc. (Kawagley, pg. 105-6). You also can’t remove the experiences that technology has brought into the community or the change to a cash society. Kawagley also talks about the need to “reconstruct ourselves by replacing missing pieces to engender a new Native identity, its infrastructure built around valued Native traditions. (Kawagley, pg. 110-111)

In the Australian article, emphasis is placed upon the urban native bridging two worlds. “It is idealistic to believe that Aboriginal people in Canberra, for example, share intimate and familial a relationship with land and with the natural world as do Aboriginal people leading a hunting-gathering lifestyle.” (Keeffe, pg. 11) “Generalisations about kinship, mortuary rituals and multilingualism gloss over the complexities of geographical and historical differences, and express the ideal of behavior as the essence of group identity, help in common by all members of the group.” (Keeffe, pg. 11) This makes me think about how many K-6 classrooms across the country have adopted units about the Iditarod as a way to teach about Alaska.

“To make the basic concepts understood in the elementary grades, one has to use all the sensory tools …and apply to them to experiences with which the student can readily identify.” (Kawagley, pg. 115) This brings to mind the “Doodling in Math Class “series of videos by Vi Hart who takes mathematical theory and attempts to explain the concepts behind a particular theory by doodles, drawing, and irreverent dialogue. (Retried 12/9/13 from http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF7CBA45AEBAD18B8)

If some of these issues aren’t address there is no hope that the Maori, Aboriginal or Yupiaq culture will survive as they are assimilated into the majority western or European mainstream  “…all cultures are fluid and adapt overtime, but enforced adaptation will destroy the very process of cultural renewal…New Zealand will either draw its flavor from the peaceful coexistence of plural lifestyles, or it will have no flavor, and possibly no future” (Requoted from New Zealand at the Turning Point, Metge, pg. 4). This seems very relevant to other minority cultures in their struggle to define and identify their worldview, and then incorporate that identity in teaching and learning.


Cultural Influences

Different cultures organize their view of the world in different ways, each creating their own categories, rules and templates for ordering their universe.  Sometimes these differences are explicit and obvious and sometimes they are so subtle and implicit that they go un-noticed.  The four readings for this unit provide illustrations of different ways that culture influences how people make sense of the world around them.  Your task is twofold:

1.   Read each of the four articles and then write a one-page paper on each (for a total of four pages) in which you critique some aspect of the article in terms of how it relates to some aspect of your professional life.  Please keep each paper to one page.

2.   Write another one-page paper in which you reflect on your own knowledge system and how your behavior is influenced by the categories, rules and templates that you learned as a child.  Give examples to illustrate your points when possible.  When finished, you should be sending in a five-page document altogether.


One thing I noticed on the AKNK website is that when I went to retrieve some of the articles, there weren’t any dates for the articles that are provided as html documents. You can’t tell if they were originally printed for AKNK or repurposed or when they were published. Sometimes there was a date within the text of the document but often not.

I don’t recall that any of the readings were recent publications from the last five years. Most of the articles were published 20+ years ago. Since I’m not in the classroom, I’m assuming that the issues are the same but I would hope that some successes have been made in rural schools. It seems from some of the content I’ve found online, mostly through YouTube videos, rural classes are sharing their experiences and that there are successes.

I really missed not having any kind of discussion with other students or even knowing if there were others who were working at a similar pace. Having someone to confirm or conflict my ideas would have been a good learning experience and might have given me more insight. I felt I got some of that from the readings. As I worked through the assignments, it felt like some of the readings confirmed my thoughts so I felt I was on the right track. It would also have been nice to have more first-hand accounts. Audio interviews would have been great to listen to. I like to learn through storytelling and first-hand accounts can make a great impact.

Once I got going, it was easier to stay on track. Your feedback was helpful and timely so that really helped motivating me to finish up.



In this unit we will look at how our worldview influences the way we think and what we do.  The way we make sense of the world around us is intimately bound to the culture in which we are raised.  As we encounter other cultural systems we carry our original set of cultural filters with us and interpret what we see within our own frames of reference. The misinterpretations, misunderstandings and misrepresentations that can result are the basis for many of the problems we experience with schooling in cross-cultural situations. What might schooling look like if it were to be viewed through the lens of an Alaska Native worldview?  Oscar Kawagley and Shawn Wilson give us a glimpse by describing how we might rethink schooling to make it more appropriate as a vehicle for nurturing a Native form of consciousness.

Your task for this unit is to read the three items listed above and then prepare three short papers (5-6 pages altogether) in which you respond to each of the following questions:

1.   Using the study by Kawagley (particularly Chapter I) as a jumping off point, interview (informally) a local elder or other resident authority in your community (not a relative), and take some time to observe everyday living and survival practices of the people around you.  How does the worldview reflected in your community compare with that of the Yupiaq, as described by Kawagley and the general observations outlined in the article by Kawagley and Barnhardt?  You may define “community” in any way you wish – just be explicit about who you are referring to in your write-up. (2-3 pages)

2.   Identify three examples from your own experience and observations that illustrate how different worldviews can impact the way we approach educational practice.  (1 page)

3.   How does Kawagley’s approach to the role of culture in education fit with that described by Wilson among the Gwitch’in?  (1 page)

1. Using the study by Kawagley (particularly Chapter I) as a jumping off point, interview (informally) a local elder or other resident authority in your community (not a relative), and take some time to observe everyday living and survival practices of the people around you. How does the worldview reflected in your community compare with that of the Yupiaq, as described by Kawagley and the general observations outlined in the article by Kawagley and Barnhardt? You may define “community” in any way you wish – just be explicit about who you are referring to in your write-up.

I have lived in Juneau now for almost seven years. As I’ve gotten to know people and the surrounding area, I’ve engaged with several different communities and have started to determine different mindsets for groups of people around me. In many ways, the mindset could be compared to a “worldview” such as Kawagley describes in A Yupiaq Worldview. In reflecting on the values that are important to the groups of people I am most involved in, I can make some parallel connections to a number of values that Kawagley outlines supporting his Yupiaq worldview such as sharing, cooperation, respect for elders, reliance on the extended family, and an awareness of what is happening around the community in the natural world. (pp. 18-22). The community I will use as comparison to the Yupiaq worldview would probably best be described as environmentalists/naturalists, those who feel a moral obligation to preserve and protect the natural world around them. More specifically, the group that I’ve been most closely observing also happen to be lesbians of whom, most have lived in the areas for 30 or more years. For reference in this paper, I’ll be calling them LEN.

Immediately, the most common feature for both the Yupiaq and the LEN would be the respect for nature and Kawagely’s reference to holding nature as a “sense of sacredness,” described by Richard Nelson, as a value that holds significant worth in both groups (pg. 23). The LEN prefer to be out on the trail, kayaking on the water, or observing wildlife at a respectful distance, regardless of the weather. While camping or picnicking, leaving no trace of their presence would be important, and cleaning up after someone else would not be uncommon. Protection of this area would be strongly supported and any kind of attempt at development would be protested. Although the LEN do not live a subsistence lifestyle, I do believe that this group does have a more respectful appreciation for the culture of subsistence, or the religion of subsistence, then do other groups of life-long Anglo-Alaskans who argue for hunting and fishing as a way to supplement their food budget.

People of the LEN tend to walk rather then drive, recycle what they can’t compost, buy locally rather then pay for shipping, even if the costs are higher, are conscious of their carbon footprint, and would generally agree with this statement, “…to have little or nothing is to treasure everything, and it fit very nicely into their [Yupiaq] ecological mindset. They found that to restrict wants was to always have enough, and they created ways to enjoy to the utmost that which they had.” (pg.19) Living in smaller homes, limiting purchases of material goods, especially those over-packaged in plastic, re-using, re-sharing, re-gifting, and appreciation for gifts that were hand-made, would all be attributes of the LEN that might closely match those of the Yupiaq.

Sharing is another value that Kawagley recognizes as an aspect of the Yupiaq worldview that is also a practice of the LEN. (pg.18) Being observant of those who are less fortunate or are facing a difficult time is perhaps a result of being observant in the natural world and seeing what is going on around you. Sharing of resources, either financial or food-related, as well as sharing of time is a trait of the LEN that includes volunteering for a variety of organizations that include preservation of the natural world as well as organizations that feed the soul like the arts and humanities.

Within the community of LEN, you do see elders sharing experiences with the younger generation, and a welcoming generosity to newcomers who have expressed similar interests. And respected elders, aren’t just the older generation, but are those whom have had an impact within the larger community and have proven, and continue to prove their dedication to nature.

The extended family in LEN is largely made up of a family of people who are not blood related, but are related in attitude and what they value. As with many communities of people in Alaska, you probably don’t have any blood-related family living nearby and through the years, have developed an extended family with whom to share experiences. Often LEN have been isolated from their families because of their chosen life-style so finding an extended family that accepts them for who they are is a bonding experience. The LEN would strongly support the social structure of the Yupiaq that Kawagley describes as maintaining a certain population balance to avoid chaos and give their community stability. (pg. 21)

One of the biggest differences between this community that I have been describing and the Yupiaq worldview is based on spirituality. Unlike the tetrahedron that Kawagaley describes containing a Natural, Human and Spiritual realm, the worldview of the LEN would be a two-legged stool consisting of only the Natural and Human realms. (pg. 16) Within LEN, there are Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and non-believers. The common thread would be the religious of “doing what is right” and being an advocate for those under-represented or without a voice (rivers, trees, wetlands, animals, bugs) by the mainstream. When looking at the differences between the Indigenous and the Western Worldviews in the Kawagley-Barnhart article, “Education Indigenous to Place: Western Science Meets Native Reality,” I feel like there needs to be a middle category bridging the two worldviews for the Naturalist/Environmentalist communities. A worldview that honors the nature world, yet I’m not sure it feels as strongly as the Kawagley-Barnhardt describe for indigenous people, in that “They believe all plants, winds, mountains, rivers, lakes, and creatures of the earth possess a spirit, and therefore have consciousness and life.” (pg. 9)


I had an interview set up with the author of Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir, lined up but we’ve had to reschedule until after the New Year. I was really looking forward to talking with Ernestine Hayes, about her life growing up in Juneau. She is a respected elder in the Tlingit community and I’m sure she will have an interesting perspective on her worldview. Since we were not able to meet up I’ll be using her book to help answer question #2.

2. Identify three examples from your own experience and observations that illustrate how different worldviews can impact the way we approach educational practice.

Education curriculum that has a different worldview from the one you have or are learning about can create a significant hurdle to the learning process. Until you are comfortable with your own worldview and are able to transfer what someone else is emphasizing and teaching, the learning that is expected to take place can be very confusing and distorted. One of the higher order levels of learning is being able to solve problems and apply solutions to new situations but a student isn’t able to reach this level unless both the student’s and the teacher’s worldviews come to an understanding, often requiring a common starting point.

I recently read, Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir by Ernestine Hayes. (2006). As a Tlingit child growing up in the Indian Village in Juneau in the 1950s, she mentions some of the difficulties she has understanding the worldview around her that was different from the worldview she was learning from her Grandmother. Throughout the book, she talks about that constant struggle to fit it and in most cases, not quite being successful, yet surviving.

At school, when it was time for reading, “Dick and Jane” books were the standard for the grade level she was in. Things like manicured lawns, fathers in a business suit, a shiny new car, roasted beef, and a table set with matching plates and silverware were concepts that weren’t familiar in the young Ernestine worldview. Her Grandmother raised her and her uncles and grandfather were often gone for months at a time fishing the various openings. Food often consisted of fish heads and other scrapes gotten from the dock or occasionally from a deer that was taken out of season in the woods nearby the Village that had to be disguised to get home. “…poached from land that once belonged to our powerful ancestors.” (pg. 10) To this girl, the story held no meaning and thus was additionally harder to read because the content made no sense and held little relevance.

One lesson Ernestine was taught by her Grandmother would be a great lesson for all children and adults to learn: “Grandmother taught me that all our relatives and friends, even the forest, can hear every word that we say. That is why we must always be careful with our words, she said. Always show respect. Remember who you are,. Watch your words carefully. Even the forest can hear you.” (pg. 6) This brings to mind the western practice of debate and rhetoric that is taught in western culture and an expected practice in higher education curriculum. In some classes, students are expected to argue with their instructors which is in contrast to how a child growing up like Ernestine, would be expected to act with an elder. You don’t cry and you don’t ask questions. (pg. 16)

Ernestine also talks about her class being divided into readings groups: Seagulls, Wrens, and Bluebirds with the Bluebirds being at the highest level. The girls in the Bluebird group tended “to grow freckles and wear pastel angora sweaters.” She thought that until she grew freckles and wore a nice sweater she would never advance. She was kept in the lowest reading level, the Seagulls, despite being able to read as well as other girls in the class. She got a different explanation from her Grandmother. “…no matter what a book or a teacher or anyone else said. I would never be a Bluebird. Nor a Wren. Not a Seagull. “Never forget,” she told me daily, “you are Eagle. Not Raven. Not Seagull.” (pg. 15). In the Tlingit culture, one’s association with one’s ancestors maintains a prominent place in their worldview and cannot be compared to status in academic skill.

3. How does Kawagley’s approach to the role of culture in education fit with that described by Wilson among the Gwitch’in? (1 page)

A central theme between Kawagley’s approach to the culture of education in A Yupiaq Worldview and Wilson’s observations among the Gwitch’in in “Not Just Knowledge, But a way of Looking at the World,” seems to be a return to learning the language of the community, which isn’t just a lesson in vocabulary and communicating, but is seen more holistically as language, values, tradition and culture (Kawagley, pg. 100). Wilson reports that the elders in the community of Fort Yukon say, “Teaching traditional values, teaching traditional skills, and teaching the culture and language of their people” is something that is missing from children’s education curriculum. (pg. 21) Both reports concur that the community needs to be playing a bigger part in the curriculum in order to strike a balance between practical knowledge that a student needs to be able to exist within the community as an adult, if the student chooses to stay, and a blending of western knowledge to prepare students who wish to branch out into the rest of the world. (pg. 95 and 101)

Wilson’s observations emphasize the importance of the role of the elder, and that perhaps, within the Fort Yukon community, that in order for the younger generation to learn about their culture, that the potential elders within the community need to become better role models. “Elders also act as models for the way people should be living their lives.” In order to be a respected Elder, you can’t expect the younger generation to respect you if you are just telling and not doing, “they must be living that way themselves,” (pg. 20)

It seems like the community of Akiak has set into motion some very positive action by maintaining village control over their school district, but they are still working “within the parameters established by the state board of education with state rules and regulations” and thus are still working on a balance between western and indigenous education. Kawagley describes a conversation with one science educator who seemed to really understand that balance one should be using when directing a classroom: one that requires students to “…learn[ing] both ways, the graduates would not be ignorant of the options available to them and be comfortable in using either way.” (pg. 57)


Hayes, Ernestine. (2006) Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir. The University of Arizona Press: Tucson Arizonia.

Kawagley, A. Oscar. (1995) A Yupiaq WorldView: A Pathway to Ecology and Spirit. Waveland Press, Inc: Prospect Heights Illinois.]

Kawagley, A. Oscar, and Barnardt, Ray. “Education Indigenous to Place: Western Science Meets Native Reality.”

Wilson, Shawn. (1994) “Gwitch’in Native Elders: Not Just Knowledge, But A Way of Looking at the World.