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UT College of Education Learning Technology Center provides leadership in connecting Native American schools to Internet

The Learning Technology Center in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin has played a major leadership role in efforts to connect the 185 Bureau of Indian Affairs schools to the Internet. This effort will be furthered and celebrated during Access Native American Net Day on May 16, when 28 schools of the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, the Pueblos of New Mexico, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi will be wired.

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AUSTIN, Texas — The Learning Technology Center in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin has played a major leadership role in efforts to connect the 185 Bureau of Indian Affairs schools to the Internet. This effort will be furthered and celebrated during Access Native American Net Day on May 16, when 28 schools of the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, the Pueblos of New Mexico, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi will be wired.

The Learning Technology Center has provided technology assistance and training to Native American schools through its partnership in “Four Directions: An Indigenous Education Model,” a technology project funded by a U.S. Department of Education Challenge Grant for Technology in Education. The five-year project helps isolated Native American schools overcome their remoteness and preserve their cultural traditions by providing training in the use of computer and telecommunications technology and its integration throughout school curricula. Other partners in the project include the University of Kansas, the University of New Mexico and Haskell Indian Nations University.

Dr. Paul E. Resta, director of the Learning Technology Center, heads the UT partnership and helps the schools plan and create collaborative learning environments. Schools have been equipped with Teachnet, collaborative communications software that provides e-mail, conferencing and bulletin board capabilities.

Other key UT players include:

  • Dr. Nancy Allen, whose emphasis is curriculum development. She provides the teachers in the schools professional development through a World Wide Web-based graduate course in curriculum design.

  • Mark Christal, who has trained students in digital photography and multimedia techniques to create cultural “virtual museums.”

  • Karen Ferneding, who manages an electronic mentoring database that matches volunteer mentors to specific schools or students and facilitates their communication.

  • Greg Jones, who administers the bulletin board systems and provides technical assistance to the schools. In all, the UT team has visited 35 Native American schools in 11 states.

In preparation for Access Native American Net Day, the team has provided the participating schools with training in the integration of Internet activities into curricula, the use of telecommunications and the design of Web pages. On Net Day, team members will provide technical support at Red Water School on the Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi and at Jemez Pueblo, N.M., which also will be visited by Vice President Al Gore as part of the White House initiative to provide all children in the country access to the Internet. After the wiring is complete, celebrations will include feasts and native dances.