ASTE Conference - Anchorage, Alaska - February 2014
I had the privilege of attending the ASTE Conference is Anchorage, Alaska last week as the HSTE representative. Over the last few years, the collaboration between ASTE (the Alaska ISTE affiliate) and HSTE (the Hawaii ISTE affiliate) has grown and we do an exchange between board members to our perspective conferences to learn more from each other. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and caring given to me at the conference. I learned so much and I am still trying to put it all together. Here were some of the main thoughts I came away with.
People living in Alaska and Hawaii have a strong connection to each other.
In Hawaii, we call the rest of the United States "the mainland", people in Alaska call it "the lower 48". Both our states have a strong connection with the land and the native people and culture. One of the keynotes was started with David, an elder from one of the Native Alaskan tribes, talking about connecting with the land. He kept coming back to this idea, "Can you hear it?"
Can you hear the land you live on, the world around you, and are you connected to it. It made me truly think about my place here in Hawaii and helped me to set a goal for taking breaks from technology and spending time with our 'aina and our families. This was followed by a Skype from Nainoa Thompson, a legend in Hawaii. Nainoa told the story about how Alaska helped to provide the spruce logs necessary to build the Hawai'iloa canoe. Nainoa's passion and spiritual being always comes through whenever I hear him speak and he brought tears to my eyes, even though it was through a video connection. Here is the detailed story of what he talked about: http://pvs.kcc.hawaii.edu/ike/kalai_waa/low_sacred_forests.html
Teachers in Alaska are Resilient!
I met multiple teachers living in the "bush" away from the necessities of life that I am so used to. I met one teacher who lives in a village of 50 people. There are no restaurants or stores in the village, and the closest grocery store is more than a 40 minute drive in good weather. He teaches in a small school to only 7 students, grades K-12. He has two aides that come in part time. He is the teacher and the principal! However, the way he describes it is with passion and excitement, and not complaining about the situation. I met many teachers with similar stories, but they have found the way to make it work through flexibility and through distance learning. I met a superintendent who told me that the public schools spend more than 22 million dollars a year to provide internet access to the schools across the state! Presenting to teachers about 21st Century learning at the conference, I heard the same challenges from teachers there that I hear when I present in Hawaii and that is that time is always an issue in bringing about change and also it is always better when you have administrative support for change.
One of the evenings of the conference was spent sharing the winners of the IdiaContest. The contest is run by ASTE and sponsored by many. It has many categories from photo, podcast, and movie submissions to a new category for an iPhone app this year. It was amazing to see the winners and learn more about Alaska beyond the city. There were documentaries about feeding and housing the dogs and racers during the Ididarod race to visiting with a native Alaskan tribe to talk about the possible loss of their language because the children aren't learning to speak it. Some of the stories were moving, while others made you laugh; however, it was a great night of sharing. HSTE is looking to start a contest like this sometime in the future and so it was nice to sit down with the lead, John Rusyniak, and ask questions about how to start something like this in Hawaii in the future. You can see the contest winners here: http://ididacontest.org
Overall, the conference was an excellent one. The speakers provided great ideas that can span the ocean to every classroom. The educators and vendors attending were friendly and were happy to share more about their world. The conference takes place in the Hotel Captain Cook (view from my hotel room below), so if you book early for the event, you won't have to go anywhere except from your hotel room down the elevator to the event. Anchorage is a easy town to walk around in, but dress in layers to stay warm! It was fun to pull out my old sweaters and long sleeve shirts to wear again. The conference is planned around the same time as the Fur Rondy (Fur Rendezvous) event - http://www.furrondy.net
, so there is lots of things to do in the evenings and at breaks of the conference. Here are some pictures below of things I go to do from fireworks to a carnival to dog sled races and rides, there is plenty to keep you entertained.
Lastly, I would like to thank the board of ASTE for welcoming me with open arms and indeed welcoming all the participants from Hawaii. I am so happy to continue this connection between our affiliates and between the people of Hawaii and Alaska, and I hope that my review of the event will encourage you to send some of your staff or administrators to this conference. It was truly a unique conference and location! For more information on attending the conference next year (February 21-24, 2015), here is the link - http://www.aste.org/conference/
If you have further questions, just email me directly.
Mike Travis, Ph.D.
HSTE President (2014)