AISD’s Digital Montessori Vision for Multigenerational Engagement

A draft proposed conceptual framework for Annette Island School District, Metlakatla, Alaska.

By Frank Odasz

Tsimshian values have traditionally encouraged creative adaptation to changing times and conditions, socially, environmentally, politically, and culturally. The history of Metlakatla is testimony to this.

AISD has embraced the importance of teaching Tsimshian language and culture, most recently via a new Digital Montessori Preschool initiative, while also dealing with State mandated extensive time-consuming requirements regarding evolving standards and teacher evaluations. Innovative synergies are proliferating leveraging new digital learning and expression tools with creative methods for cultural celebration, expression, and preservation.

The five Montessori principles were borrowed from thousands of years of native culture,
including the worldview as global citizens, as perhaps one of the most important core principles. Historically, families lived and worked together, learning together how best to adapt to survive, sharing and supporting one another across generations. New digital connectivity and devices, offer the opportunity to return to families being able to live, work, and learn together.

It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes retaining youth to sustain a village. It is now essential to the future of many Alaska Native villages to educate youth on how they can make the living they want, living wherever they want. Many villages have already suffered a major outmigration of their young families, even as new broadband access offers the potential to learn-to-earn, online, as more and more Alaskans are discovering.

What is new to traditional Montessori, is the K-100 intergenerational opportunity and teaching digital entrepreneurship in a social enterprises and sustainable native lifestyles context. “Entrepreneurship needs to be taught in primary grades so children grow up with entrepreneurship as a lifelong option.” This can be done in 3-5 years.

“The Similarities Between Montessori And Digital Learning.”

  1. Individual Learning Progressions & Competency-Based Learning
  2. Elimination of Age and Grade Restrictions
  3. Formative Assessments & Short Feedback Loops
  4. Non-traditional Teacher Roles
  5. A Global Citizen Perspective

Modern psychology has determined the basic personality is formed by the age of four, making teaching native moral values during preschool years a priority. Learning to “create and share” is fundamental to sustaining a village, particularly using new digital tools. Examples; Digitizing Alaska

The Touch-Screen Generation – The Atlantic
Young children—even toddlers—are spending more and more time with digital technology. What will it mean for their development?

Quite different from the capitalistic push for money, is the native tradition of helping others as a priority. The two come together with what is essentially the native invention of social entrepreneurship, where doing well by doing good is the priority, instead of exploiting others for money as is all too common in our dominant society.

Teaching youth social entrepreneurship, starting in primary grades, so they grow up with entrepreneurship as a lifelong option, needs to be a part of both AISD’s curriculum as well as Tsimshian cultural sustainability.

New opportunities to raise mutual understanding between traditional elders, and the first digital generation, are under development, starting with both individual and community self-assessments as to whether we’re individually, and/or collectively, living by Native values, or not.

Preschoolers and Elders CAN learn together and mentor and encourage one another in meaningful ways. Home-based Ipad learning for preschoolers, can dovetail with digital entrepreneurship training for low-income parents, and many other forms of family empowerment through ready access to essential information at any time.

The opportunity exists to define new ways of measuring the sociocultural contributions of citizens, and rewarding positive contributions with social recognition, while flagging those negative behaviors that tear at the very fabric of Tsimshian community and culture.

Tsimshian ethics and moral values are challenged by modern access to inappropriate information on the Internet, now possible via mobile phone and tablets, in the hands of most youth. Cyberbullying via social media has caused youth suicides and is but one example of the risks of modern access to unlimited information from global sources.

Youth suicides are all too common, as Tsimshian traditions are challenged by a world of accelerating change. New meaningful roles for youth, our first digital generation, are essential to define and encourage as part of Tsimshian culture’s ongoing creative adaptation to changing times.

See new student roles in this infographic;

How Digital Learning Contributes to Deeper Learning

Through these NEW ROLES students can connect to their future through authentic and meaningful learning.

Relating Montessori to Digital Entrepreneurship and Creativity;Is Montessori the secret behind google and amazon?

This is the methodology of AISD’s Innovations Incubator’s modules.
Proposed Event Opportunities are being designed to bring together AISD, the community of Metlakatla, and all generations to discover their traditional values, and mutual opportunities, aided by powerful new tools that offer a Global voice as a historic first.

Learn More: Digital Montessori Resources:


Excerpt from Published Article, Dec. 2014, Broadband Communities,

The Challenge for Mass Innovation

The Alaska Native tradition of creative adaptation is alive and well in the village of Metlakatla, on Annette Island, Alaska, as Tsimshian youth, even in elementary grades, are learning to innovate with robotics, drones, 2D/3D printers, e-publishing and digital entrepreneurship.

Although the Metlakatla community is growing, most of the 65 southwestern Alaska villages with ARRA-funded microwave broadband (GCI’s TERRA Project) continue to suffer from youth outmigration because no one has yet stepped up to provide the vision and solutions for their creative adaptation.

However, in Metlakatla, the NTIA/Connect Alaska/SBI Innovation Incubator project is preparing the youth to launch a global MOOC (massive open online course). They are learning to teach the world how Alaska Native values of generosity and trusted mutual support have come full circle, aided by powerful new tools for sharing, and are now being continually reinvented by digital Natives of all ages. The Annette Island School District has quietly become a model for all Native and rural school districts.

Social media marketing outperforms other forms of e-marketing, and scalable entrepreneurship innovations demonstrate that the “sharing economy” – now up to $100 billion per year – is something to take seriously. allows anyone with a spare couch to instantly open a bed and breakfast in any of 190 countries. and allow anyone with a vehicle to become a taxi driver, all mediated with secure transactions from smartphones.

And then there is the emerging “Caring Economy” cited by Google’s CEO. Twenty-eight percent of new jobs are expected to be in the health care industry, and new health monitoring apps for the booming senior population offer opportunities to reduce the trillions of dollars in overspending on health care.