The Wilderness Technology Alliance
The Wilderness Technology Alliance (WTA) partners with schools and community based organizations to implement technology training and work-based learning programs where students and volunteers gain skills in the classroom and experience by providing valuable technology products and services to their school or local community. The WTA also trains teachers, students and community leaders to operate technology service-learning programs and Community Technology Centers (CTCs) in their schools and community organizations.
Most programs are run as "WildTech" student enterprises that generate revenue to self-sustain and grow. This makes learning relevant and highly motivating. It addresses critical technology, citizenship, business management, entrepreneurship and employment training needs. The WTA supports these programs with on-going training, surplus technology, wilderness leadership camps, WildTech annual conferences and more.
The WTA provides seamless programs that begin with education and end with economic development through employment and entrepreneurship – all in a self-sustaining way.
The WTA currently has three program areas, each with formal training and work-based learning elements where students produce marketable projects that sustain the education system:
Computer hardware and software sales, service and training (CSST). This includes formal vocational training in computer hardware, software, service and repair, leading to industry standard "A+ Certification" or similar. It also includes supplementary training based on the types of products and services the students will be selling and servicing in their school-based student-run companies: Computer refurbishing - for selling/servicing new and used computers; Mobile phone repair - for selling/servicing new and used mobile phones; Solar concepts and installation - for selling and servicing large solar systems as well as small personal / household solar devices.
Multimedia development including digital video, desktop publishing and web design. The type of multimedia software participants are trained in and the industry certifications they receive depends upon the local context. Factors includes local employer demand for skilled youth in certain multimedia packages; the quality and sophistication of videos, desktop published materials and pictures customers demand; and the available budget to implement the program. It may be Adobe software, including Photoshop, Premier and more; or it may be open-source software, including MS MovieMaker, Paint.Net and more.
Mobile application development. The type of Mobile App software participants are trained in depends on the local context and the predominance of local user devices -- Android, IOS, Windows Mobile, and even text messaging application development.
WTA's USA Programs
The WTA works closely with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Federal Government's "Computers for Learning" program, Intel Corporation, District of Columbia government, and other generous corporations to "Bridge the Digital Divide" in USA schools. Since 2000, the WTA has trained over 118 schools in Oregon, Washington State, Maryland and Washington DC to refurbish and place technology into their schools, where youth to support it and become teacher's aids in their technology classes.
The WTA is actively seeking donations of surplus desktop computers and laptops for placement with needy schools and students.
We accept computer donations from individuals and corporations worldwide. If you are within 50 miles of Washington DC and have 10 or more computers to provide, our team will pick them up, provide you a tax-deductible receipt, securely scrub any left-over data, refurbish it and provide it to needy schools and students. We can even bring a team into your facility to securely remove any hard drives and other data-carrying hardware before you donate it -- all at no cost to you!
- If you are an individual or corporation looking to securely provide your surplus technology to low-income students and schools, email email@example.com
- If you are a school seeking low cost or free computers, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you are a student seeking a low-cost computer, we only work in partnership with schools, so please have your school technology director email email@example.com
The WTA also operates a technology service learning center at the CCNV homeless shelter in downtown Washington DC -- the largest homeless shelter in America.
Programs focus on the Computer Sales, Service and Training (CSST) program detailed above. The "WildTech" business that participants created serves low-income communities in Washington DC while providing work-based learning experiences for the homeless staff members of WildTech – Washington DC. Services provided include:
Providing a 20 station computer lab including free internet serving the 1325 homeless residents of the CCNV shelter, operating six days a week from 9am to 5pm.
Conducted training programs available for free to 1325 community members including introduction to computers, internet/email, on-line job searching and productivity programs.
Provisioning of free or reduced cost refurbished computers to homeless residents and low income community members who otherwise would not be able to afford them.
Provide approximately 10 homeless people with work-based learning opportunities in technology by providing the services listed above. Many of these experienced homeless people have gained employment and left the shelter. Others now comprise the Executive Board of the Shelter. In fact, 100% of the Executive Board members of the CCNV Shelter, the largest homeless shelter in America, were are from WildTech due to their experience.
Supporting Programs in the Developing World
The WTA is increasingly supporting programming targeted for the developing world. We are actively seeking partners and grants to implement our programs , especially as they are adaptable to almost any context -- all in a low-cost, self-supporting and self-replicating way.
The WTA's founder and President, Lou August, served as Senior Advisor in ICT for Development at the headquarters of Save the Children from 2007 to 2009 then World Vision from 2009 to 2016, the largest international development NGO in the World. Knowing the impact of the WTA's programming model on USA youth in the 1990's and 2000's, and viewing similar technology inequity and limited resource issues in developing world schools, he frequently infused the WTA's program model and design documentation into World Vision's education and economic development programs. He also gifted hundreds of WTA laptop computers to developing world schools and World Vision programs.
This included working with World Vision Tanzania to author and win a major DFID grant for World Vision, substantially based on the WTA model and design documentation; and providing design elements to a US Department of Labor grant that was subsequently awarded to World Vision. Though the WTA was ultimately not able to formally partner with World Vision due to Lou's position in both organizations, the WTA indirectly helped the lives of 1000's of youth in the developing world, and continues to support World Vision's Tanzania program.
Bringing it All Together as Only the WTA Can...
Finally, the WTA is pioneering an all-new program that engages impoverished USA youth in secondary schools with impoverished youth in African vocational schools with access to computer labs and the Internet. Learning objectives are achieved through action learning in the context of students mutually establishing a revenue-generating, sustainable, international fair-trade businesses based on USA youth importing and selling indigenous crafts from Africa, and optionally, USA youth collecting and exporting surplus technology (mainly laptop computers) to their African youth counterparts who provide the equipment to schools and low-income families that otherwise would have no access to technology. The program even includes the optional element of USA youth flying to Africa to work side-by-side with their "business partners" during two weeks in the summer. The program empowers youth to create new generations of businesses based on leveraging differential resources and international trade.
The White House is now collaborating with the WTA to position the program as a key STEM initiative in USA schools through its “My Brothers Keeper” initiative, and potentially placing a YALI intern in our Washington DC office during the summer of 2016. The WTA has also partnered with a Washington DC area school to develop the curriculum, which will be completed in the summer of 2016. Pilot projects are currently projected for Detroit, Spokane and Washington DC starting in the fall of 2016. More information will be provided and the program advances.
Understanding the "Virtuous Cycle"
The WTA’s programs are based on igniting a virtuous cycle (see diagram below). Youth are initially trained in technology and business skills (trained students), who then form school-based student-run companies that mobilize their curricular learning in work-based learning to produce marketable products that are sold to customers, which generates the resources (revenue and experienced students who become teacher’s aides) needed to repeat the cycle and grow.
It is essential to understand how this cycle works, as all WTA programs are based upon it. It is the "DNA" that allows our programs to self-generate and self-replicate once they are implemented -- empowering teachers, students and schools to entirely new levels. Referencing the picture above, “Startup Funds” are first used to build the foundation by providing schools with essential technology infrastructure (generally computer labs with software), digital literacy and ICT vocational curriculum, business skills training curriculum, and teacher training. The cycle is then ignited in three phases.
In phase one, teachers train students in digital literacy skills, technology vocational skills, and business skills, becoming “Trained Students” ready to learn more through work-based learning.
In phase two, “Trained Students” form school-based student-run enterprises (SBSREs) that mobilize their curricular learning in technology work-based learning to produce “Needed Products and Services”. In the process, students gain advanced technology skills, project-management skills, and confidence for employment. Younger experienced students may become teacher’s aids and leaders of SBSREs in the next cycle, thereby making schools less-reliant on tech-savvy teachers, who are often recruited by other schools or the private sector once trained.
In phase three, products and services are sold to “Customers” to generate the resources needed to repeat the cycle and grow. In the process, youth gain the marketing, accounting and leadership skills, as well as confidence for employment and entrepreneurship. Younger experienced students may become teacher’s aids and leaders of SBSREs in the next cycle.
Once the cycle is implemented, students are simultaneously “Pushed” (see diagram) to learn through curricular learning and work-based learning, while customers (corporations, government agencies, NGOs, etc.) are “Pulled” to procure products and services from the SBSREs, often by explaining that by targeting their procurements from SBSREs, they are not only getting what they want, but are pulling a child out of poverty, also called “Impact Sourcing.” In this way the cycle begins to “rotate”, and through successful operations, can self-accelerate.