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.