Congratulations to the Itasca Area Schools Collaborative (IASC) for picking up the Computerworld Laureate Honors Award for Collaboration! Nashwauk-Keewatin and Greenway Superintendent Mark Adams said it best, “I think it shows that together we’re building something of real value for our communities and students.”

Matt Grose and Mark Adams

Matt Grose and Mark Adams

Reinventing education
by Scott Stein for the Scenic Range NewsForum

School may be out of session, but area schools continue to make news this summer.

On June 3, Nashwauk-Keewatin and Greenway Superintendent Mark Adams and Deer River Superintendent Matt Grose attended a black tie affair to accept an award on behalf of the Itasca Area Schools Collaborative (IASC).

“This is a big honor for the collaborative,” Adams said earlier this year at a school board meeting. “I think it shows that together we’re building something of real value for our communities and students.”

The award is called the Computerworld Laureate Honors Award for Collaboration. The 25-year old program gives awards to organizations around the world using technology to promote  positive social, economic, and educational change.

Winning an award amid worldwide competition is no small feat. And, although educators are well-aware of what IASC does, the public is sometimes not aware of its impact.

But even that might be changing.

“The technology we’re making available benefits the kids in our schools, but also increasingly, other community members.” Adams said.

IASC is, first of all, a collaboration of seven area school districts (Deer River, Floodwood, Grand Rapids, Greenway, Hill City, Nashwauk-Keewatin, Northland Community Schools and Itasca Community College. It was formed in 2005 with the idea of providing more educational opportunities for area schools.

It has delivered. Consider IASC’s TelePresence courses, for example. A teacher located in Deer River could be the teacher of a group of students in Nashwauk, Greenway, or both. Students interact with the teacher and students in other districts. Especially in smaller districts, which often aren’t able to offer as varied of course offerings, TelePresence brings the classroom to them.

Last year IASC offered 23 classes with the TelePresence option and there are plans to add more.

The technology revolution extends beyond the school classroom. Community Education helps IASC fulfill the mission of creating lifelong learners. Community Education is adding more TelePresence courses, and it’s easy to see how technology could bridge the gap between the school districts and communities.

“It’s a unique way to be able to offer more opportunities to people,” Adams said. “And we can continue to expand it.”

It takes work, though. Having the opportunity to expand educational delivery doesn’t necessarily mean districts will do it. The schools share some of the costs and school representatives meet to discuss how to work more closely and efficiently together.

That means more courses, but it also means using the technology to streamline staff training, share research information and ideas. IASC is even working on a shared reading assessment so districts can analyze data and find ways to improve. The days of districts working alone to solve problems are ending as technology makes physical space less important than information access. IASC is helping bring information to wherever the students are located.

The award in Washington was only a symbol of a larger wave beginning to wash over public education. “The jobs of tomorrow are going to require a different level of education,” Adams said. “This is one way we can provide excellent learning opportunities.”