Consortium for Digital Learning

Preparing Alaska’s Students for Success in the Global Economy

Kodiak High School Student Team Wins International Europa Challenge

The Kodiak High School team and project sponsor Ron Fortunato of Trillium Learning receive the first place Europa Challenge award in Como, Italy

Como, Italy – The Kodiak World Bridge Team was awarded first place in the 2015 NASA World Wind Europa Challenge, an annual university-level competition that provides “an opportunity for the world’s ‘best and brightest’ to deliver sustainable solutions that serve local, regional, national or international interests.”

Kodiak High School students Levi Purdy, Anna McDonald, John Dunlop, and Kyle Ruotsalainen, supported by project sponsors Ron Fortunato of Trillium Learning’s World Bridge Projects, and Neil Moomey, submitted the winning entry: a Global Earthquake Forecast System (GEFS) project that uses data from sensor arrays to identify pre-earthquake signals in advance of a seismic event.

The Kodiak team’s project was the first-ever submission from a high school to compete in the Europa Challenge. While facing stiff competition from nine international universities and businesses, the GEFS project received a perfect score of 100 from two judges, something never before seen in previous competitions. Five other judges also gave Kodiak their top scores. (more…)

Alaska Students Team with NASA to Forecast Earthquakes

This Jan. 16, 2015, photo shows Ron Fortunato, president of Trillium Education, center, as he points to a weather monitor and explains to Ketchikan High School students how it is used to forecast earthquakes in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Ron Fortunato of America Bridge points to a sensor array as he explains to Ketchikan High School students how it is used to forecast earthquakes.

The Consortium for Digital Learning has partnered with The America Bridge Project to offer Alaska school districts a variety of STEM-based programs that enable students to contribute in meaningful ways to real-world projects impacting their communities.

One project, the Global Earthquake Forecasting System, has teamed NASA researchers with high school students in Ketchikan, Kodiak and Old Harbor. Using new cutting edge sensing instruments, the students collect and analyze data used to detect early signals that occur prior to an actual earthquake event. Their findings are then reported to NASA project managers.

“NASA is pushing the students hard to produce those reports, because they’re basically the first live, pre-earthquake data that’s ever been seen,” said Ron Fortunato of America Bridge, an education outreach organization that connects NASA scientists with student researchers.


Interactive Mobile Apps in Alaska Native Languages to Improve Literacy

Native cultures across Alaska are actively working to preserve and revitalize the state’s 20 official indigenous languages to improve literacy for future generations. Some of these languages have fewer than 100 fluent speakers left, many of them elderly, which adds urgency to these efforts.

Since 2012 the Association of Alaska School Boards’ Consortium for Digital Learning has assisted with the coordination, production and distribution of 15 interactive digital books in multiple Alaska Native languages, including Alutiiq, Cup’ik, Inupiaq and Yup’ik.


Genius Hour and the 6 Essentials of Personalized Education

There is a difference between differentiation and personalized learning. In the last year, I’ve been shifting toward the personalized learning aspect of curriculum design. How do I engage my learners and make their classwork more authentic?

Last year, my school rolled out iPads for every student, and with the transition to Common Core, it was the perfect time for a massive curriculum shakeup. I’m lucky that my department gave me ample time to start working on this process. Simultaneously, I started experimenting with Genius Hour for my 8th grade students. Genius Hour equated to one hour a week, or one class day, where I let the students become experts in anything they wanted. This allowed them to explore their passions, and I saw engagement like never before. All of these things coalesced into a different mindset for me as a teacher. I’m nowhere near a full personalized education model, but I’m keeping the student-centered approach in the forefront as I continue this process.

So what are the essentials of personalized education, and how does something like Genius Hour play a role? (more…)

Three Alaska Students Receive Gates Scholarships!


Three high school students from Alaska have been chosen as recipients of the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship for the 2014-15 academic year.  Mary Pingayak and Kyla Fermoyle, both from Chevak, and Martina May Brown from Ketchikan, were chosen from more than 52,000 applicants nationally. They will each receive an all-expense paid education at the college of their choice. Only 1000 recipients are chosen annually from around the nation to receive the scholarship.

To prepare for supporting these students throughout the rigorous application process, their advisor/mentors Jeanne Campbell of Chevak, and Robert McClory and Natasha O’Brien of Ketchikan, each attended a four-day Talk Story, Write Story personal essay workshop facilitated by co-directors Tad Bartimus and Dean Wariner. The workshops were sponsored by the Association of Alaska School Board’s Consortium for Digital Learning.

Anchorage Daily News story: Chevak students win ‘million-dollar’ Gates scholarships

Read the press release. More information about Talk Story, Write Story.

‘Talk Story, Write Story’ Creative Writing Workshops for Teachers Offered


Talk Story, Write Story is a writing workshop developed over the past 14 years in a small, rural, isolated community in high poverty to help students write profound essays that have gained them college admittance and millions of dollars in scholarship money, including coveted Gates Millennium Scholarships.

These intensive 3-day workshops are being offered to Alaska teachers and counselors to enhance their professional life and benefit the students they work with, who dream of going to college. Veteran journalists Tad Bartimus and Dean Wariner bring energy and enthusiasm to their workshops with the ultimate goal of student success.

Talk Story, Write Story workshops will be held in:

Juneau, Alaska
April 24 – 27, 2014
Information and registration here.

Homer, Alaska
May 1 – 4, 2014
Information and registration here.

$75 for three credit hours
$100 for food reimbursement

More information about Talk Story, Write Story is here.

AASB Alaska 1:1 Digital Learning Initiative Discussed

Bob KTOO TV Interview 2

 AASB Consortium for Digital Learning Director Dr. Bob Whicker was recently interviewed about the Alaska 1:1 Digital Learning Initiative by Capitol Views program host Mike Bradner.

During the interview Dr. Whicker explained that the AASB statewide initiative would expand Consortium for Digital Learning 1:1 pilot projects, now present in over 120 schools, to include every student and teacher in every district (137,300 users) in a four-year phased approach. Funding would be used to provide appropriate digital devices for students and teachers, along with adequate professional development and technical support.

The Alaska 1:1 Digital Learning Initiative is designed to accelerate, amplify, and personalize learning.  Tablet devices have comprehensive capabilities and make learning with technology less expensive and much easier. Having a dedicated device available to every student any time they need it allows them to become more engaged, independent learners by addressing individual needs more effectively.

When the school supplies the device, teachers can count on a consistent  learning environment to create a richer and more personalized learning experience. Basic skills can be addressed in more effective teaching strategies, and deeper learning is possible through engaging interactive learning opportunities. (more…)

Kodiak uses robots to enhance virtual learning

KodiakRobots2 KodiakRobots1

KODIAK, Alaska — Soon, Kodiak teachers will be able to roll into classrooms on two wheels.

The Kodiak Island Borough School District has purchased 12 telepresence robots to expand the district’s virtual learning program. Instead of being tied to a webcam attached to a computer, teachers can use the robots to move around a classroom and communicate through an attached iPad.

“What’s amazing is how fast people move past it being a robot,” schools superintendent Stewart McDonald said. “It’s not a robot, it’s you. You get to be in more than one place.”


Bob Whicker presents Alaska 1:1 Initiative to Sitka Chamber

Bob Whicker presents Alaska 1:1 Initiative at Chamber of Commerce meeting. (photo by KCAW's Emily Forman)

AASB Consortium for Digital Learning Director Bob Whicker provided the Sitka Chamber of Commerce with an overview of the Alaska 1:1 Initiative and ways it can improve teaching and learning. Read the full story and listen to the KCAW radio report here.

Digital Devices for Every Alaska Student

CDL Director Bob Whicker and AASB board president Sue Hull spoke about the 1:1 digital learning initiative at the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday. Whicker and Hull told chamber members that a 1:1 program in Alaska would be transformative, improve learning outcomes, and meet the expectations of new generations of students.

Read the Fairbanks Daily News Miner coverage here.