Last week I was excited to share my views on Aboriginal education in a piece for the Guardian. If you missed the piece, you can view it here.
It is always a little scary to put yourself out there but I am really glad I did. The response has been amazing! I have been contacted by teachers seeking more information about how they can include more perspectives in the classroom; parents wanting their child to have access to more Aboriginal education; and people from Aboriginal and non Aboriginal backgrounds sharing their support and views on this important issue.
Thank you to everyone who has sent messages of support or shared their story with me over the last week. It is always great to hear how other people think about Aboriginal education and their experiences with Aboriginal content.
The feedback has been really positive, affirming my decision to four years ago to start Wingaru and focus on supporting schools to not only include more Aboriginal perspectives in the classroom but to change the way that we think about Aboriginal content.
The message that came through loud and clear is that there are many Australian’s seeking more Aboriginal education in their lives but are unsure how to go about it. I think part of the solution is looking for opportunities to add perspectives to units already being completed in the classroom. For example, my sons class is currently looking at toys and exploring how they have changed over time, this is a perfect opportunity to include traditional Aboriginal toys. My niece is learning about farming, it would be great to see her teacher include pre 1770 farming approaches.
The inclusion of Aboriginal perspectives is a positive no matter how you look at it. It contributes to the development of understanding and a shared knowledge amongst Australian’s about our country as well as enhances the learning experience for students - considering approaches of other cultures is not only interesting, it gives kids an opportunity to consider the world from an alternative view and critically reflect on the world they live in.
As with all change, breaking down the barriers for changing Aboriginal education will take time but it’s a change that I can already see happening.
Including an Aboriginal perspective gives students the opportunity to consider concepts from another angle as well as adding interesting content that kids enjoy.
One of the things that has become clear since I started Wingaru is that there is a lot of confusion about what exactly an Aboriginal Perspective is. Many people think of adding Aboriginal perspectives as introducing whole units of work. As you can imagine, this becomes very overwhelming when you consider how crowded the curriculum is. It is not surprising that so many teachers put Aboriginal Perspectives in the too hard basket.
If we start looking at Aboriginal perspectives as simply looking at a topic from an Aboriginal point of view, the task becomes less daunting. Adding an activity exploring the Aboriginal point of view to an existing unit of work is an easy way to add more Aboriginal content to your classroom.
The lessons on Wingaru Kids are an easy addition to existing units being taught in classrooms every day. Here are a few examples of how we can help you add more Aboriginal perspectives.
A Guest Post by Carolyn Newall from We Teach Well
For those of us who are dedicated teachers of English and literature, literacy has always meant more than the ability to read words on a page. Literacy is the ability to make meaning from those words. To read them, evaluate them, use them, create content with them, understand and make meaning from them.
Literacy is a current buzzword in Education, nowhere more so than when it is attached to words like media and digital. Media literacy and digital literacy are not exactly the same as normal literacy, but neither are they completely unconnected.
Just as normal literacy concerned itself with making meaning out of written texts, media and digital literacy concern themselves with making meaning out of media and digital texts. As such, English teachers can not afford to be elitists and ignore them.
English teachers do not have a specific body of content to impart. They have a never ending wealth of content with which to teach a variety of skills and abilities. The most advanced being the ability to understand and make meaning from the world we live in. And make no mistake, for our students it is a digital world and we need to get ahead of it.
I have been particularly concerned for some time with the importance of cultural signifiers in reading comprehension. That is to say, are there cultural references in the text that make it inaccessible for a student who does not know that cultural context. Indigenous educators across the world have done really important work in this area and created more equitable contexts for their students.
Just as we need to be aware of cultural content we need to be aware of cultural modes of transmission. To create the best outcomes for our students we need to allow them access to modes that they are familiar with. Modes that allow them to display their understandings in new and different ways.
For my own son who suffered from dyslexia but had a visual memory that still astounds me, this would have been a game changer. Despite A grades for all spoken and media presentations, his written work was always poor and consequently his overall score for English was not good. Had he been allowed to make movies, record a podcast, create a social media profile, he could have demonstrated his understanding and analytical prowess far more successfully.
Teaching English is about teaching students to make meaning and communicate it to their audience. Writing essays can not be the only way we judge their prowess. The digital world is not going anywhere and we need to keep up.
On a side note, digital modes are opening up ways for teachers to have far greater impact and to earn extra income as well. But that is a topic for another day.
For now I have provided a complimentary copy, only for readers of the Wingaru Education Blog, of our presentation Teaching Film as Text.
Also If anyone is interested you will find some of our resources, including our free ebook, So You Want Them To Read, for teaching film at our TES store. https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/shop/WeTeachWell
We Teach Well
I was an above average student throughout my schooling but was staggered one day to discover that I just couldn’t answer the questions in a certain test. The test was undertaken in a large hall and based on a tape recording of dubious quality but aside from that, I discovered that I just wasn’t a good listener. Without pictures and written text, the spoken words just didn’t sink in.
In the decades since that test I discovered Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and in my teaching studies I learned that students with different learning styles need to be catered for.
Differentiation involves providing different students with different avenues to learning in order to maximise each student's experiences and outcomes. Put simply, it is modifying classroom approaches and activities to cater to student needs. Doing this is not always easy but the payoff is worth it when you see a concept click for a child – that light bulb moment when a student understands and looks back at you with delight.
Differentiation can be achieved by modifying a range of factors, such as content, process or method, learning environment or difficulty level. Identifying what to modify and when is one of the many skills a teacher needs to have. It is another task in an already busy day but a necessary one when time has shown us that one size does not fit all in education. This is where tools can help support a teacher and student.
The Wingaru Kids’ platform has been designed with differentiated learning in mind. While all lessons start with an audio-visual presentation, students have the option to rewind and rewatch to engage with the information. In addition to this, many of our videos have printable transcripts as another version of the text. Each lesson has three types of learning activity including multiple choice questions, crossword puzzles, find-a-words, jumbled words and matching tasks. Teachers can assign different puzzles to different students or even assign a lesson or activity from a different year level for student who are beyond (or behind) the learning levels of the rest of the class. For non-readers, Wingaru Kids’ lessons can be played on an interactive white board with the teacher guiding the class through the learning activities as a group.
As a parent, it’s reassuring to know that my child’s teacher has his back in the classroom and is creating flexible learning opportunities. It’s an under-appreciated skill but the impact does not go unnoticed.
In a recent belly-dancing class I confirmed that I will never have bodily-kinesthetic intelligence! Don’t let your Wingaru Kids feel the same way. Take some time to discover the many learning styles that the platform caters for and assign the lessons according to the different abilities in your class. It may take more time at the start, but the platform does all the marking for you!
Wingaru Education believes that all children should have access to quality education about Aboriginal people and culture.