$1.9 million grant goes to Alaska Native language program
A University of Alaska Fairbanks language program received a $1.9 million boost last week from a U.S. Department of Education grant that targets language-learning techniques for Alaska Native students.
The three-year project will provide computer-based language programs for Alaska Native students, grades K-12 and graduate students who are or are wanting to be educators.
The need for support in language learning has been voiced in school districts and leading cultural organizations across Alaska's Native communities.
The new program - dubbed CALL for computer-assisted language learning - aims for improved success at all levels of education. It integrates technology into Alaska Native language education and allows further collaboration between students, community members and faculty.
The hope is that the program will improve second-language acquisition in Alaska's communities by supporting Alaska Natives seeking master's and doctoral degrees.
"The ANE CALL grant presents a unique opportunity to build a network of expertise that is rooted in Alaska's ancestral communities, cultures, and languages," said Steve Thorne in a release. Thorne is a coordinator for the CALL grant and teaches at both Portland State University and the University of Groningen.
"Through hard work resulting in earning advanced university degrees, the hope is that participating students will work together to transform education through the use of information and communication technologies," he said. "In particular, our goal is to support indigenous Alaskan language use and learning with a view toward strengthening what is hopefully their long and vibrant futures."
The grant will fund students working in collaborative groups - composed of an Alaska Native doctoral candidate, a faculty member, and five master's students.
These groups will focus specifically on improving the techniques of teaching a particular Alaska Native language, as well as improvement of teaching students learning English as a second language.
April Laktonen is a Counselor at Kodiak College. Hers is just one of many, varied communities throughout the state that can benefit from a language teaching endeavor that can be molded to the needs of Alaska's diverse languages and peoples.
"Here in rural Alaska (Kodiak Island), distance education is a necessity," Laktonen said in a release. "This project will help prepare our own people to be experts in computer aided language learning, so we can design Alutiiq language instruction that meets the needs of our communities."
The program is seeking master's degree students already working as a certified teacher with an Alaska Native focus - such as immersion schools, bilingual programs or dual language programs. The grant will provide their classroom with a SmartBoard and a set of iPads for the students to use. The teacher will prepare and use materials through the CALL program to both improve their students language education and as a part of their own degree requirements.
The fledgling program is accepting applications for master's degree scholarships and doctoral fellowships.
UAF associate professor Sabine Siekmann will lead the language program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for application materials and details. Project partners include the Association of Village Council Presidents and the Lower Kuskokwim School District.
Hannah Heimbuch can be contacted at email@example.com.