Lee Graham, University of Alaska Southeast
Technology is changing the face of education, and Dr. Lee Graham is on the forefront of that change. She helps teachers use the video game “Minecraft” to connect with students in new ways.
“The special opportunity that teachers have in using Minecraft in the classroom is to capture that engagement that students feel when they play it,” she says.
Minecraft is a virtual world where students can build almost anything they can imagine using different materials and tools. The flexibility of the game means that teachers can use it in any number of ways to fit their curriculum.
One of Graham’s students, Cynthia Duncan, is using the game to teach her second grade students about life in a Native village. They meticulously reconstructed a traditional Tlingit clan house inside the game.
“Combining the old with the new in a powerful way,” she says. “Really feeding on children’s motivations and interests.”
That’s the biggest difference Graham sees: the interest students show when they use the game at school.
“There’s something just intrinsically engaging to students about that game,” she says.
Rosey Robards, Alaska Teen Media Institute
The students at Alaska Teen Media Institute get a chance to produce all kinds of media, from radio and audio to web design and video. The organization provides them with the tools and experienced mentors to help them learn the skills they need.
But it’s about more than just media production skills says Rosey Robards, the organization’s director. It’s also about giving students a voice. One of her goals is for the students’ media to “have a place to go.” Public media has played a big part in providing a venue for the students’ work.
Assistant Director Robert Stormo agrees that it goes beyond the hands-on skills the students learn.
“We want them to be successful media producers, obviously, but we want them to also be successful individuals regardless of their career path,” he says. “We’re giving them skills that are applicable in other fields as well.”
Vincent Tutiakoff, Camp Qungaayux
Every summer, students in Unalaska spend a week at Camp Qungaayux learning traditional skills like dance, fishing, weaving and even seal hunting.
Beyond the skills they learn, camp coordinator Vince Tutiakoff hopes to instill some traditional values in students as well.
“We teach Aleut values which we think are important to having a good life and being a good person,” he says. “Sharing, taking care of each other, helping each other.”
And he sees students make progress in more than just their ability to skin a seal.
“They change within a week,” he says. “By the end of the week they’re respectful, they’re not as rowdy, they’re paying attention… they really want to learn something.”
Becca Parks leads Alaska’s FIRST Robotics program, which has the highest per capita participation rate in the nation.
Molly Box is an AVID Teacher at Floyd Dryden Middle School in Juneau, Alaska and helps students reach their potential by preparing them for college.
Laury Scandling has dedicated her life to helping students in Juneau, Alaska graduate.
Getting to Graduation
A community conversation about the path to a high school diploma.
This video is a part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative to address the high school dropout crisis, made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).