Top of the World Teaching

Img 21821The Barrow, Alaska Ilisagvik College receptionist smiled and said “Tony will be here shortly to walk you to where you will be teaching your web class”. She then went on to say to be sure and watch out for Polar Bears as you cross to the outbuilding. To that, I asked her how fast Tony was yet, she misunderstood me and said he will be here shortly. So, I more emphatically asked – no, I mean how FAST is Tony. She smiled looked me over carefully and said she thought I could outrun him.

Located on the Chukchi Sea coast, Barrow is the northernmost community in the United States. With a population of over 4,000 people and a topography that looks like a white version of Mars movies I had seen, it truly felt surreal as I settled into my classroom. As the class attendants started to show up, I busied myself getting my presentation setup on the computer and mentally began to prepare to teach.

I had been invited to teach this class by Jason Evans with Alaska Growth Capital as part of a contest for ASRC members that would give the winners $24 thousand to use towards successful business plans, which would have a positive impact on the community. At first, I was hesitant as I do not have a lot of speaking experience; however, the opportunity to see a new part of Alaska combined with my desire to stretch my self prevailed and I jumped on the opportunity.

Several months before the class I realized I better get started prepping for the class and I was confronted with the reality of “how do I take the 13 years business experience I have building Sundog Media – a website development and print design company, and break it down in a way to offer the best value to those attending?”

Img 2185My first day went fair, but that night I realized I needed to change the format of my class to be less informational and more relevant to the dreams and business plans of those attending. With that in mind, on Day 2 I had everyone put their name and business name (even if they did not have one yet) on a large sheet in front of them. Now, instead of teaching to a class of people, I simply could think of each person as the owner of a business who I was talking to individually. I immediately felt more at ease and connected with the people and the topic. After all, I have been meeting with business owners for well over a decade and sharing what I know about how to use web and print in helping them market themselves and grow their company. With actual businesses ideas and dreams to share the class, I immediately became more engaged in the process and by the end of the workshop, I felt like each of the attendants had a plan of attack to move forward with their own dreams using the information that I had shared with them.

As I flew home to Anchorage over the frozen tundra, I wondered what it would be like to live where you can only get to by plane or driving across a frozen ocean, if you are brave enough. Just the shear vastness and isolation of the area makes the connectivity of the Internet a more relevant need for the residents. Although the topography and culture are much different than where I live in Anchorage or across much of the United States, the dreams of the people are the same and the power of the internet to get your message out to the world – be it a Bed and Breakfast or a site for selling native art – the web is a great equalizer and tool.

The Internet is becoming the town square
for the global village of tomorrow.
-Bill Gates