10-3 Spring 1999 “Distance Education” Resource Guide

Feb 15th, 1999 | By | Category: 10-3: Distance Education, Resource Guides
By Jim Ereaux

When I try to see a faint star, I don’t look directly at the star. I look off to the side. I started looking for faint stars early in life, after time spent in “education” at the hands of ruler-wielding nuns. I like learning, but the classroom experiences I endured made me believe there must be a different way. In the 1960s I worked through “TM Grolier” programmed learning machines followed by programmed instructional books. In the 1970s I tried correspondence schools and early distance education programs. In the 1980s I moved on to computer-based training (CBT). All of these programs were interesting, but I felt none of them were designed well enough to inspire me or lead to anything more than certificates or scattered credits. In the 1990s I participated in distance-education degree programs with The Evergreen State College and Gonzaga University.

I began working for Salish Kootenai College in 1978 and became the director of technology services in 1988. Since that time SKC has taken many long looks at technology and tried to understand and come to grips with the good and bad effects of using technology for both classroom education and distance education, especially with sensitive areas such as language or culture. My thesis looked at the impacts of technology on SKC. Although there was no strong consensus, most of the people I interviewed and talked with felt that technology is a tool that – if used wisely – will help Native American students with their education.

Salish Kootenai College has written a number of distance education grants over the years. Our most recent project is our most ambitious, not because of the technology hurdles, but because we’re trying to reinvent education in a way that works better for Native American students. When I sat down to start writing the grant, I thought back to SKC’s earlier projects and all that I witnessed over the years about alternative and distance education. I looked at other distance programs, and it seemed to me that many educators were missing the mark. They were merely recreating traditional “factory-models” to deliver at-distance classes.

Inspiration came from my life/education mentors: Jerry Slater, vice president of Salish Kootenai College; Dr. Carol Minugh, Native American Studies professor The Evergreen State College; and Dr. Raymond Reyes, associate vice president for Diversity Studies at Gonzaga University. I thought back to our many conversations and books we discussed and found that the answers were not necessarily in treatise about distance education but in ideas and books about ourselves.

Our project will try to be different. Much of this resource guide is focused around what SKC has found is important as we try to take a larger look at what distance education should be for Native American students.


The Dance of Life: The other dimension of time by Edward T. Hall (1983). I believe this is one of the best books to help understand problems with distance education and cultural differences with communication. Hall explains that many Western societies are high in content and low in context, as opposed to many Native cultures where communication is low in content and high in context. In many Western cultures, activities are based upon a time-centric agenda where people are managed in an efficient, lock-step method of calendars and structured, one-hour appointments. In many Native cultures activities are not strictly time-based and often are handled simultaneously and in a community surroundings. It is no wonder that many of our students, when faced with either a one-foot stack of knowledge that needs to be read by next Thursday or a “talking head” video conference, have difficulty adapting and dealing with our current systems of education.

War of the worlds:Cyberspace and the high-tech assault on reality by Mark Slouka (1995). If you’ve ever wondered why you or your students have trouble using “educational” software, this a good book to read. Slouka writes about our future, which is currently being built by “cyber-geeks” with their own, particular ideas about the way that humanity should function. Slouka believes that technology is not benign or neutral. He believes technology “orders our behavior, redefines our values, reconstitutes our lives in ways we can’t always predict.”

In the absence of the sacred: The failure of technology and the survival of the Indian nations by Jerry Mander (1991). At some point in time you have to sort out how you feel about using technology to teach, especially when it comes to topics such as language or culture. This book may help you define how and when you can use technology for distance education.

The virtual community: Homesteading on the electronic frontier by Howard Rheingold (1995). If you’ve thought about the effects of homesteading on the “Western frontier,” then you should probably read this book to understand how people are, or are talking about, using technology to settle the electronic frontier. I believe there are parallels that are important for Native Americans to consider.

Silicon snake oil: Second thoughts on the information superhighway by Clifford Stoll (1995). This is the opposite of the preceding book, The Virtual Community. Stoll is unabashedly critical of the promises of virtual communities on the Internet. Many would have us believe people can develop healthy and productive social structures in the electronic fabric of the Internet, but Stoll explains there is no replacement for the reality of the natural world.

Year 2000 Readiness Kit: A compilation of Y2K resources for schools, colleges & universities. U.S. Department of Education (1998). Will you be able to register students, process financial aid, pay employees, or turn on your furnace on January 3, 2000? If you don’t know, then you need to read this document, which is being sent to all postsecondary institutions in the U.S. SKC is one of three institutions that contributed materials for this publication. For additional copies, call (877) 433-7827. Their web site is www.ed.gov/y2k, or you can send email to y2k@ed.gov.

Dancing with the devil: Information technology and the new competition in higher education. A Publication of EduCause by Richard N. Katz and Associates. The technology genie is out of the bottle, and we’ve misplaced the cork. As technology rapidly becomes a primary vehicle for supporting education, tribal colleges will have to learn new ways to adapt and survive while competing with the Western Governors’ Virtual University, Microsoft University, or Britain’s Open University. This important book is a wakeup call for all tribal college administrators and faculty before the wolves of competition come knocking at our doors.

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