The National Indian Justice Center's involvement in distance learning for Native people has been ongoing since 2005 when we applied for and were awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Public Telecommunications Facilities Program, to study the distance learning needs of Native people in California. Under that grant, NIJC conducted a planning study (Planning Study Results) in collaboration with an expert Advisory Committee (see list below) and a number of Native American communities that are already using advanced telecommunications and technology for distance education.  The goals of the planning study were to survey the distance education needs and interests of California Native Americans and to study how distance education services may be delivered to California tribal communities in a culturally appropriate and cost effective fashion using broadcast and/or non-broadcast technology.  Analysis of data provided by over 500 respondents and research on existing culturally appropriate education programs for Native people revealed the following findings:

  • Native people in California are very interested in receiving distance education
  • There is a dearth of culturally appropriate educational opportunities (by this we mean those created and provided by Native Americans);
  • Technology training is one of the top three priority distance education courses across age groups (youth, adults, elders) and locations (on-reservation and off-reservation);
  • Seeing, listening and doing was the preferred learning style across age groups and locations; and,
  • The Internet is the preferred modality for receiving distance education courses across age groups and locations.

This new, 12-month project will develop, test and evaluate a culturally appropriate distance education course for Native people on “How to Be a Distance Learner”

The course will provide Native people with information to help build awareness, understanding and proficiency in the basic technology skills needed to participate in distance learning across three distance learning modalities:  the Internet, video-conferencing and mobile technology.  Participants aged 15 and older are targeted. Both the hardware and software programs associated with these modalities will be addressed. By “culturally appropriate education program”, we mean one that is created by and for Native people, using symbols, languages, examples and assignments that reference Native cultures and teaching methods that are consonant with Native learning styles and traditions.

The course will be designed with guidance from the same Advisory Committee that participated in the NIJC distance education planning study described above.  It will integrate the recommended best practices discovered by the NIJC planning study and suggested by Committee members, all of whom who work in the distance education field.  This includes:

  • Offering the course using the preferred modality indicated in the planning study (the Internet);
  • Enriching the content with audio, video and graphic files so that it offers opportunities to “See, Listen and Do”;
  • Nurturing community and interaction online by providing a moderated discussion board with visual recognition and listserv for ongoing contact between the student and the teacher, and between peers;
  • Providing individual and group assignments to encourage peer interaction; and
  • Perform trainings of trainers to sustain skills in the community post-project.

We will also draw upon research in Native American learning styles that shows Native people tend to:

  • be holistic learners who think in a non-linear fashion;
  • be visual learners and benefit from myriad presentations such as graphs, films and demonstrations;
  • be reflective learners; and
  • respond better to content and instruction that is representative of or sensitive to their cultures.

The program will be demonstrated in different California tribal communities and implemented statewide post-demonstration.  If your tribal community, educational institution or organization would like to be a demonstration site the following roles and responsibilities apply under a formal Memorandum of Understanding:

For this project NIJC serves as the “lead” organization. As the lead organization, NIJC is responsible for the following:

  • Scheduling the course demonstration to occur in (date) in coordination with (demonstration tribe/organization scheduling);
  • Providing all course advertising materials to demonstration site and conducting the registration process;
  • Providing all course materials to participants;
  • Providing a web-page on the NIJC website or a Moodle Room where participants and demonstration site liaisons will access the course using the Moodle interface;
  • Providing two or more NIJC staff people to serve as the primary course trainers;
  • Seeking out and providing local incentives to encourage participation;
  • Providing demonstration site liaisons with training to serve as local course trainers;
  • Conducting the course evaluation and reporting on outcomes to demonstration sites;
  • Creating opportunities to acknowledge demonstration site’s and your client’s participation in the program.
  • Paying expenses for one or more liaison and one or more participant to take part in a press conference and/or panel presentation about the program at NIJC’s For All My Relations Conference on Indian Families in July 2009.

Under this Agreement, (demonstration site) agrees to:

  • Assign a management level staff person to participate on the program Advisory Committee which meets bi-monthly by audio-conference.
  • Review and comment on the draft program to ensure that it meets the needs of California Native people.
  • Advertise and offer the program to to coincide with the demonstration period.
  • Based on the interest at each site, recruit 10 or more Native people, aged 15 and older to take the distance learning technology course;
  • Assign a local liaison at each site to participate as a trainer;
  • The liaison(s) will undergo a short, training-of-trainers session prior to demonstration;
  • Provide participants with computer access and connectivity and on-site assistance if needed;
  • Liaison(s) provides feedback on the course after it has been tested to assess course methods and suggest ways to make it more effective with the target population;
  • Send one or more liaison and one or more one participant to take part in a press conference and/or panel presentation about the program at NIJC’s For All My Relations Conference on Indian Families in July 2009.

Project Advisory Committee Members

  • Rosie Bley, Director, Happy Camp Community Computer Center, Karuk Tribe

  • Jim Burcell, Student Services Coordinator, Karuk Paths to Prosperity Project, Karuk Tribe

  • Suzanne Burcell, Humboldt State University, Director of American Indian Education and Distance Educator 

  • Joan Van Duzer, Humboldt State University, Instructional Technologist

  • Riley Quarles, Humboldt State University, Courseware Development Center

  • Linda Locklear, Palomar College, Professor of  American Indian Studies and Distance Educator

  • Marlene DeLeon, Palomar College, Distance Education Specialist

  • Joseph Parente, Board Member, Alliance for Distance Education in California

  • Marian Thatcher, Director, Outreach and Technical Assistance Network

  • Bernadine Whipple, Board Member, D-Q University