Alaska Schools Innovate to Beat the Weather

Alaska’s Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District recognized the positive impact of technology and remote learning on students’ learning prior to the pandemic, according to an article in EdTech. The district is larger than Scotland and has 19,000 students. It faces a variety of disruptions particular to Alaska’s climate and culture.

Harsh weather frequently prevents students from traveling long distances to school, Justin Ainsworth, associate superintendent of instruction, told EdTech. It is common for students and their families to regularly hunt and travel together, resulting in routine school absences. Wi-Fi and high-speed internet access is unreliable in some parts of the district.

“Part of our thought process was, ‘How do we leverage technology so that when these students aren’t in school, there isn’t just a learning stoppage?’” Ainsworth told EdTech..

MSBSD began developing its own one-to-one program in 2015. When the pandemic shuttered schools and classrooms in March 2020, the district was ahead of the curve.

“One of our strategic goals is to make sure that learning can happen anytime, anywhere,” Ainsworth said.

Every student in the district now receives a Chromebook with a range of educational software and platforms, including GoGuardian Beacon and Gaggle for student safety, Google Workspace for Education and the Canvas learning management system. For students who lack Wi-Fi access, the district provides reduced-cost internet or hotspots. 

 The positive impact of a school’s one-to-one program requires across-the-board coordination at the district level and with the whole school community. “None of this work really matters if it doesn’t have a positive impact on student outcomes,” Ainsworth told EdTech. “Student achievement and access have to be front and center.”


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