Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NIEC 2009: Successful and Sustainable Practice

Although the NIEC 2009 conference has now finished, I just wanted to share a few more presentations.

Cliff Downey and Sam Osborne discussed the Dare to Lead project through some best practice examples of their 'school to work' projects. They highlighted three projects that focused on Indigenous students gaining experience at different workplaces including R. M. Williams, Ernst and Young, and Ernabella. Particularly inspirational was the experience with Ernabella, where Indigenous students are undertaking TAFE-accredited courses in the construction industry. The students have since won a contract to build a house and training centre in the area.

Tom Calma, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Commissioner and Race Discrimination Commissioner, was the keynote speaker for Wednesday. Calma proposed two lessons for the future of Indigenous education in Australia:
Lesson 1: Listen to us - implement regional education plans in consultation with local Indigenous people and honour them. Also ensure that policy makers don't focus on cultural differences.
Lesson 2: Ensure that there is equality of inputs when there is an expectation of equal outcomes. Calma gave an example of the Garrthalala homeland school, Arnhem Land.

And finally, Alicia Boyle, Desert Knowledge CRC and Ruth Wallace, Charles Darwin University gave a presentation about e-learning. Boyle and Wallace really emphasised that many types of learning are involved with using digital media and learning - and the need to start with a purpose, and not with the course says should happen or digital media. Boyle and Wallace gave the example of an Indigenous group of students learning about biodiversity. Rather than using a visualisation that was based on a tree diagram, the visualisation was redesigned to reflect Indigenous knowledge of the bush - that when a particular tree blooms, then the turtles come out, and then you know the eggs will be laid.

Here are three projects that Boyle and Wallace have been working on that are really worth taking a look at:
E-portfolios for Aboriginal Artworkers in Central Australia

Collaborative Online Learning


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lyn pretending to be Mia

Just as I was about to start writing this I was interrupted by yet another delegate who wanted information about our wonderful Plenty Stories series.

Mia and I are here at the Fifth National Indigenous Education Conference where delegates are waxing lyrical about the Plenty Stories books we are displaying. "These are just wonderful" is the refrain of everyone who comes to our stall. Many delegates have been really excited to find themselves or someone or some place they know in the books. We really have had a fantastic response to the books with people seeing applications for them beyond the primary school, for secondary and even adult education.

The only disappointment people have had is that they cannot purchase the books immediately, we could have sold dozens of sets.

The conference itself has been great and very thought provoking. A worthwhile experience for all.


NDF - Day 2

Good to hear about an education project, Digistore, between the Ministry of Education and National Archives. Watch out for the new website due to be delivered next year based on the TLF Scootle model. Very similar to projects we have been working on with The Learning Federation recently. They identified four curriculum themes to be mined from the Archives:
  1. perceptions of youth
  2. perception of dissent
  3. perceptions of environment
  4. perceptions of enterprise.
They have a specific Maori reference group, which again raises the issue of an Indigenous reference group for Australian content as our national curriculum is developed.

I think there is still a lot of work to be done by the cultural sector to make our content more relevant, accessible and discoverable by the schools sector. We need to build better educational metadata into our collection systems. Apparently DigitalNZ is looking at being able to retro-tag objects against key education fields, such as year level or curriculum theme. I'll be interested to see how this turns out.

It was good to see an example of an organisation, Capital E, using Voicethread and Wikispaces ( as part of the development of their kids' opera Kia Ora Khalid: How long does it take to call a place home? . I've been wondering myself how to go about doing something similar. Looks like a successful model and the opera looks great. They are interested in doing something similar with schools in Australia - I hope they make it here. Presenter Stephen Aitken mentioned a cool game for kids to play to experience a bit about what it's like to be a refugee:

The final keynote speaker for the conference was Museums 2.0 guru Nina Simon talking about 'Making risky projects possible'. You can check out her presentation here - so no need for me to cover it in detail. Full marks to Nina for making an engaging presentation, and packing out the auditorium, during the conference graveyard shift. She even suggested a weird & wacky place for me to go and visit during my stay: Carlucciland. She ended with a networking exercise where we had to write on the back of two business cards one thing that we need and one thing that we can offer to others at the conference. The idea was to seek out your 'mate' and then ring the gong when your networking was successful. I wish I had written something cool like a Magnum icecream, but ended up seeking a killer schools app/website (apparently these things don't exist), and offering enthusiasm and support (apparently the equivalent of a weak handshake).

Off to do some in-depth research/professional development at Te Papa tomorrow, then a participatory museums workshop with Nina Simon on Thursday and meetings with our cultural sector equivalents on Thurs/Fri.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's always about relationships

Reflecting on Daniel Incandela's excellent prentation yesterday at the National Digital Forum in Wellington, New Zealand (see Alan Maskell's earlier blog), I was struck by his continual reference to creating strong and trustworthy relationships inside his museum (Indianapolis Museum of Art) in order to achieve the impressive new media products that he has helped to create. He showed that his capacity to listen carefully to what others wanted at the museum and his capacity to deliver on these things enabled him to later move much further to produce more innovative projects, again with institutional support. It is clear that if we want to move forward with our agenda to produce excellent new media products for education audiences then we must continue to develop strong relationships both within and outside the NMA, but particularly internally.

NIEC 2009: Engaging with Community and Culture

The theme for day 1 at the National Indigenous Education Conference (NIEC) was Engaging with Community and Culture. It was a pretty full day, but here is my wrap up for day 1.

The International Keynote Address was given by Dr Lorna Williams in the morning. Many delegates are commenting on how inspirational they found Dr Williams' presentation, particularly for bringing a Canadian perspective to the conference. Dr Williams advocates the importance of Indigenous educators and elders within education systems.

The conference is so huge there are seven parallel sessions running at once. Lyn and I attended the sessional keynote from Greg Lehman who gave us all much food for thought. Lehman talked about the importance of defining and constructing Indigenous identities, particuarly for young Indigenous Australians. Lehman asked questions such as - how do we address the cultural identity of Indigenous Australian students? Lehman finished his presentation by proposing that Indigenous australian students may need to define a 'new' type of cultural identity for themselves, one that is relevant to the beginning of the 21st century.

In the afternoon I attended several presentations, but I will focus on the very inspirational presentation from Tricia Rushton. Rushton discussed the Smith Family's scholarship program called 'Learning for Life' which provides students with essential learning resources, such as backpacks, textbooks. Importantly students must continue attending school to receive their scholarship money. Currently about 4,000 Indigenous students receive a Learning for Life scholarship.

Rushton particularly stressed that the role of the Smith Family at schools was in establishing relationships, rather than purely about outcomes - between teachers, schools, communities. For example at Ramingining school, the Smith Family supported an breakfast initiative called the Breakfast with a Mentor for parents and students before school. The impact of the Breakfast with a Mentor was that students became less violent, more focussed, and arrived on time to school. Rushton argued that the Smith Family was a broker for setting up and supporting relationships.

Rushton finished with a very thought-provoking thought from a Yolongu Ramingining leader "The Smith Family walks with Yolngu until we don't need you anymore".

National Digital Forum 2009 - Being online now: culture, creativity and community

Looks like Mia has scored first points in our battle of the conference blogs. I'm in Windy Wellington learning about digital innovation from the Kiwis - they really seem to have got their act together over here. Lots of high level engagement and innovative products based on digitised cultural collections. I'll focus this blog post on the two keynote speakers.

Daniela Incandela, Director of New Media, Indianapolis Museum of Art, gave an inspirational and jargon free talk about technical and online innovation in his five years with the organisation. He started in their Education section with a passion for video production. His passion and dry sense of humour seem to have allowed him to build strong relationships across the organisation which have led to a variety of innovative products - the most recent being ArtBabble. It's interesting that he hasn't shied away high quality video production to create ArtBabble, almost the antithesis of Youtube in terms of quality. Yet they have still engaged directly with all new forms of social media such as Youtube, Flickr, Blogs, Twitter and so on. A recent development has been an iPhone tour which is apparently flexible and re-usable - I'd love to get my hands on that to create some tours of our galleries.

Jane Finnis from Culture 24 (formerly 24 Hour Museum), gave a history of their trials and tribulations over the last 10 years. This actually paralleled very closely with my own experiences as a journalist and editor trying to engage with web publishing as a non-technologist - ie for much of this time it was all about the content, not the technology. The most amazing thing is that she has stuck it out for so long. A good example of building relationships across communities to create diverse, interesting and re-usable content. But this model of content development, crafting and creating authorative articles and rebuilding websites every few years based on user evaluation really doesn't sound like that much fun in an age of dynamically generated content through blogs, youtube, flickr, twitter and so on.

Finally, we ducked out early to play on the Te Papa rides and missed the Living Heritage Awards where young people celebrate New Zealand's heritage by creating their own web pages about their local community. Sorry I missed it - I'll have to find out more whilst I'm here.

Over and out from Day 1.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

National Indigenous Education Conference 2009, Hobart

Good morning all. This week I will be live blogging from the National Indigenous Education Conference 2009 in Hobart. The conference theme for this year is 'Strength in Community: Closing the Gap'.

Lyn and myself have an exhibit at the conference to showcase the Plenty Stories series that have been written by Senior Indigenous Education Officer, Trish Albert. The books are resources that aim to give primary teachers confidence in teaching Indigenous culture and issues. So we are here to let the 623 conference delegates know about this fabulous resource.

Last night was the conference opening, which we attended in the Town Hall and were served very tasty bbq kangaroo and wallaby. Then we had a tour across the road at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

TMAG have a special exhibition on called Tayenebe which explores how Tasmanian Aboriginal women are reviving traditional fibre skills through basket-making and weaving. I was fortunate to talk to one of the artists about the baskets she makes from bull kelp (a very wide, flat seaweed), as it is similar to one displayed at the National Museum. The artist explained they only use kelp that is found on the beach, and large pieces are very difficult to find. The kelp has a texture like leather and contracts substantially when it is dried out. The exhibition will be touring to the National Museum in March next year.

Anyway more to come as the conference unfolds... Will be a very exciting week.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

From Little Things Big Things Grow: Teacher Preview

September has been a really busy month here in the Education section at the National Museum of Australia. Last night we held a teacher preview for the new exhibition, From Little Things Big Things Grow which presents the story of the fight to improve the rights of Indigenous Australians during the years 1920 to 1970.

Exhibition curator Jay Arthur spoke about some of the remarkable stories in the exhibition, as well as some of the processes behing making the exhibition.

Education staff also previewed two new Indigenous programs: a secondary program for From Little Things Big Things Grow; and a primary program on Early Contact where students explore early interaction between European colonisers and Indigenous Australians.

And Alan, or as he refers to himself as the 'minister for free stuff', spoke about some online Indigenous resources from the Museum, as wellas a list of free online resources he has compiled. Please contact Alan if you are interested in finding out more.

Thanks again too everyone who attended. There will be another teacher preview at the end of the year, so watch this space!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Education section planning day

Education Section welcomes Claudette to the team.

Here is education at work. Planning for next year. What improvements can be done in running our business.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Snapshots at Bloomsbury State School

Our very last visit was to the teachers and students at Bloomsbury State School. And boy did they put on an amazing show of all of their work!

Bloomsbury is located about one hour north of Mackay, on the way to Townsville and Cairns. The theme of the work by the students was 'My Bloomsbury' and all of their photographs, paintings, lino prints, and installations of their favourite things in and around Bloomsbury.

The exhibition was held in the Memorial Hall at Bloomsbury so that members of the community could come and view, and even purchase! some of the work on display.

And finally, here is a picture of myself and Mrs O'Keefe:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Snapshots at Oakenden State School

Our next date this morning was with our smallest school, Oakenden State School. Oakenden State School is gorgeously relaxed school, with 14 students and south-west of Mackay.

Lots of parents and grandparents turned up for the opening of the exhibition. The Year 7s opened the exhibition with a speech.

Then we all moved upstairs to the gallery and I was given the special task of cutting the ribbon to officially open the exhibition!

The exhibition was beautifully displayed using train tracks to 'frame' the photographs - trains are still an integral part of the Oakenden community, carting the sugar cane to working mills in the region.

I was quite impressed with their use of Smartboards too... The students had created a special film that looked at the history of Oakenden and the rise of the sugar cane industry. The students also told stories about different parts of history.

The students had also created a diorama of Oakenden and written stories about their homes and favourite things.

Snapshots at Dundula State School

Back on the road in our trusty van, Linda and I were special guests at Dundula State School this morning. Dundula State School is probably one of the largest schools that participated in the project this year, with about 84 students currently at the school.

Dundula is located to the south of Mackay and an incredibly fast growing region, due to the boom in mining.

We attended the morning assembly, along with other special guests including people from Mackay Council, Education Department, and parents.

We were also given a brief tour of the school including the new mural painted by the education officer at Bunnings (thought you would like it, Deb!)

And then we all proceeded upstairs to the exhibition. The students had enlarged and printed some of their photographs. Also on display were other art projects the students have been working on. I was particularly impressed with the student who stood for hours in a creek, waiting for a train so that they could take their photograph!

And here am I handing over the certificate and gifts to the school captains:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Snapshots at Eton North

So let's have a look at how the next few School visits went...

Last night Alicia and I attended the opening of Eton North's exhibition opening.

The exhibition opening started off with introductions from the School Captains. Then the new School rock band played some classic rock songs to kick the evening off:

The School currently has 34 students who all participated in the Snapshots project. Eton North students certainly came up with some creative and innovative ways to display their photographs!

The students also displayed some of their drawings and paintings for the Snapshots project:

Here is the display by the Prep students about the local playground:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Snapshots at Coningsby State School

This afternoon we headed north of Mackay to Coningsby State School. Coningsby State School have decided to hold their exhibition in November when the School celebrates 125 years. So Alicia and I met Principal Peter Robinson and the participating Year 4-7 students at the school.

It's all hands on deck with preparations for the exhibition! The students are working with a parent to create panels to display their photographs on. The panels are currently being painted with the school building, cane fields, and a backyard to represent the themes of the photographs.

The students at Coningsby State School explained to me how they chose the 40 photographs for their exhibition and the Snapshots website. Each student judged which photographs they thought were the best, based on the techniques used in the photograph (one student stood on the roof to take their photographs!) and also areas to represent Coningsby including the cane fields, the Leap area, and places within Mackay such as the Marina.

Each of the students came up and presented their chosen photographs. When you look through the photographs on the Snapshots website look for:
  • the car wing mirror and the train tracks
  • the bright yellow truck representing Mackay's connection with the mines
  • the cattle yards that have been used over several generations and
  • the old house and paddocks were couples often have their wedding photos taken!

We also had a photograph with all the participating students and Mr Robinson:

Mr Robinson promised to send through some photos of the exhibition in November, so watch this space in the future! Well done to all of the students at Coningsby State School for producing such thoughtful photographs and showing the peaceful surroundings of Coningsby.

Alicia and I are about to head off to Eton North for the opening. Speak again soon.

Snapshots at Gargett State School

A quick update before I head off again for the first exhibition opening this evening.

This morning Alicia and I travelled out to Gargett State School. The School had their exhibition opening on Monday evening and are now on camp (what a fun week they are having!), so we just dropped by to say hello to some of the other teachers and students. We were told the opening was quite a success on Monday evening and shown by their school sign.

Gargett State School are holding their exhibition currently at the Gargett Gallery along with local artists Jenni Hanna and Doug Adams.

Each of the students had created a beautiful poster highlighting some of the photos they have taken. The posters were displayed on panels in the centre of the room for everyone to see.

Well done to all of the teachers and students at Gargett State School for producing such a bright and beautiful display of their work. You should all be very very proud!

Snapshots at Eungella State School

Our first school visit was at Eungella State School, which is one of the most remote schools we are working with this year. Eungella State School is close to the Eungella National Park and nestled in rainforest-covered mountains. Very beautiful and peaceful.

Eungella State School moved their opening to this Friday which clashed with Dundula's opening exhibition, so we arranged to meet the Principal Sue Vonthein and participating Years 5-7 students on Wednesday. All of the students took photographs as part of the Snapshots project and for the exhibition.

The students have been working in groups on different parts of the exhibition and we met the curators, exhibition designers, public programmers, and marketing and sponsorship students. I was so impressed by all of their hard work! The students had made everything from bright banners around the school and community, sending press releases to local newspapers and radios, creating beautiful calendars and bookmarks featuring their photographs, and of course, displaying all of the photographs in the dedicated 'exhibition' room. We were also shown the digital films some of the students have created using their photographs with some very cool music.

I was lucky enough to also have a photograph taken with the Mrs V and one of the students too.

I also asked the students how they would describe Eungella to people who had never visited there. The students said very peaceful, with beautiful sunsets, dairy farms.

On the way back we stopped off at the National Park and were so lucky, because we saw a platypus! Evidence here:

Mrs V and the students were so friendly and warm at Eungella State School, and they have promised to send me photos of their opening on Friday. I wish them all the best!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Snapshots of Remote Communities: Queensland 2009

Morning all. Over the next few days I will be live blogging my travels for our Snapshots of Remote Communities project from the office of our project partners, Artspace Mackay.

This year Snapshots of Remote Communities focussed on schools around the Mackay region. Initiated by the National Museum of Australia in 2003, Snapshots of Remote Communities is a partnership venture between the National Museum, regional museums/galleries, and Australian primary schools.

The participating students take photographs to celebrate, inspire, and show the diversity of communities around Australia. Students also learn about the process of designing and displaying their work in an exhibition.

Staff from Artspace Mackay and myself are visiting schools and the opening of the students' exhibitions over the next few days. Our schedule is:

Wednesday: Eungella State School
Thursday: Gargett State School, Coningsby State School, and Eton North State School
Friday: Dundula State School, Oakenden State School, and Bloomsbury State School.

We're about to scoot off to Eungella State School now - we are meeting the students and also helping with the hanging of the exhibition. Check back later to see some the exhibition hanging in process. Linda has also promised to find a platypus in the national park for the blog too...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Drawing the Lines 2009 political cartooning competition for school students

The 'Drawing the Lines' political cartooning competition for school students is once again being run by the National Museum of Australia.

This competition is held in conjunction with the National Museum of Australia's annual exhibition Behind the Lines: The Year's Best Cartoons.

The competition requires students from Year 4 to 12 to submit a cartoon dealing with a recent political issue of national significance. Prizes will be awarded in three categories: Year 4 to 6, Year 7 to 9 and Year 10 to 12 as follows:

First Prize
iPod touch 32GB + $100 iTunes voucher
$500 for the school of the winning student
A trip for two (winner and parent/guardian) to Canberra, including return airfares and one night's accommodation.

Second Prize
iPod Nano 16GB + $50 iTunes voucher

Third Prize
iPod shuffle 4GB + $50 iTunes voucher

Highly Commended x 3
$50 iTunes voucher

Entries must be postmarked on or before 23 October 2009.



Wednesday, June 17, 2009

National History Challenge

The National Museum of Australia is once again sponsoring the National History Challenge. The theme for 2009 is 'Triumph over Adversity'. In this challenge you are being asked to consider this theme particularly through Australia's social history. This provides a tremendous opportunity to investigate events, objects, documents and other historical experiences of adversity and to examine the various impacts on Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures, society, environment and government.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

UK curriculum review: social media to be taught in primary schools

Whilst we are in the throes of determining our own national curriculum, it's interesting to note some of the findings from the recent overhaul of the UK primary school curriculum:

Children to leave primary school familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication. They must gain "fluency" in handwriting and keyboard skills, and learn how to use a spellchecker alongside how to spell.

Children to be able to place historical events within a chronology. "By the end of the primary phase, children should have gained an overview which enables them to place the periods, events and changes they have studied within a chronological framework, and to understand some of the links between them." Every child would learn two key periods of British history but it would be up to the school to decide which ones. Schools would still be able to opt to teach Victorian history or the second world war, but they would not be required to. The move is designed to prevent duplication with the secondary curriculum, which covers the second world war extensively.


The Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum: Final Report is available from

Distributing digitised Museum content into schools

The following paper was recently presented at Museums on the Web 2009: Building Digital Distribution Systems For School-Based Users Of Museum Content: New initiatives in Australia and Canada.

It features Scootle, a pilot project which the National Museum contributed to last year, and the Canadian Virtual Museum which brings together learning resources from across the cultural sector on a Teacher's centre web 2.0 platform.

Monday, May 11, 2009

National curriculum foundational documents

The National Curriculum Board has completed the key foundational documents that will shape the national curriculum:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Museums to receive more prominence in revised national history curriculum framework

It appears likely that references to museums will be strengthened in the revised national history curriculum framework document which is expected to be published shortly by the National Curriculum Board. The first draft of the framework document mentioned the role of museums only sparingly.

If correct this will be welcome news to the Museums Australia Education National Network which made a lengthy submission in response to the Board's original framework document. In its submission the network congratulated the Board on the broad intent and structure of the new curriculum but made numerous suggestions for how museums (broadly defined) could further support and assist the learning to be undertaken in a national history curriculum. To this end it was keen for the framework to be more explicit about the role and usefulness of museums and their collections, and the capacity of museums to aid students in the study of history.

Once approved, the revised framework will become the blueprint that will inform the writing of the national history curriculum itself.

The Education National Network is delighted that Professor Barry McGaw, the chair of the NCB, will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming Museums Australia conference in Newcastle on 18th May. Professor McGaw will give an update on the state of progress of the national curriculum and later in the day enter into a dialogue with museum professionals on how best the museums sector can assist the development and implementation of the new national curriculum.