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Rural Alaska Schools Director Innovates with Technology, Finds Success

In some of Alaska's most remote classrooms, one rural district administrator is using virtual learning to raise students' mathematics scores.

Phillip Johnson is the director of rural schools in the Kodiak Island Borough School District, and he's profiled in a recent issue of The District Administrator.

His district was one of 50 in the country to be recognized by Apple as a 21st Century Classroom for using and promoting digital learning. This is especially significant for this remote district, where eight of its 14 schools are on small islands and those 21 educators must teach all subjects.

The school district received its first Alaska Native Education Program grant in 2003, and it used the money for distance learning via video teleconference to those eight rural schools, according to the article. Distance learning became a priority in 2007-08, and the district received its second native grant in August 2008.

Johnson led the district to implement a variety of technology, such as interactive whiteboards, desktop cameras, Bamboo tablets and projectors, to virtually deliver math, science, and music instruction. He also used lead teachers on the mainland and certified co-teachers or aides in the rural classrooms to deliver lessons to students.

Students responded positively to the changes, and by 2010-11, sophomores who had taken virtual math for two years outperformed their previous year's 10th grade counterparts by 22 percent in terms of overall math proficiency, according to the article. The latter group of students were just in their first year of virtual math.

The article includes more specifics on the types of programs and technology used by the district.

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