Using Social Software with Indigenous Students

by Georgina Nou

Flex-eLearning Online, Intown and Outbush

Georgina Nou, Flex e-learning Coordinator working on a Community project across ACE and a private RTO in Central Australia, talks about how social software is engaging indigenous learners in remote areas of Australia with low literacy and who are very mobile.

Check out the DeadlyZone Promotion Video - a learning 'zone' for indigenous learners.

1. What was it that inspired you to try using social software for teaching and learning?

The situation of indigenous people in Central Australia on communities and their limited access to learning opportunities -
  • low literacy
  • language focus
  • no voice to tell story
  • mobile lifestyles.
Working with aboriginal people, especially young adults showed a quick uptake of multimedia skills and new technologies. Web 2.0 technologies have been explored and established -online session room, e-portfolios, wikis, Moodle (Learning Management System), blog, podcast, social bookmarking and galleries.

2. What have you accomplished that you are most proud of by using social software with your learners? What enabled you to achieve this?

I have researched and developed strategies to work with indigenous young people online in a virtual session room. The key enablers to do this have been:
  • Projects from Australian Flexible Learning Framework enabled time and resources to establish this program.
  • Generous access to Elluminate by Learning Times network.
  • Vision and support of key management in organisations within which I work.

3. What do you and your clients value most about using social software in teaching and learning?

Capacity to have voice/music/culture heard. Content creation by clients very viable. Ties in with other parts of the program (Flex-eLearning, dEadly mOb).Working to create authentic/local content for webpage.

4. How has the use of social software contributed to good teaching and learning practice in your experience?
  • With traditional indigenous people, ‘shame’ is an inhibiting factor in the participation in learning. The anonymity afforded by online sessions has enabled greater participation in learning activities. Use of audio and introduction of image/text story work has encouraged and developed participants/ literacy skills.
  • Moodle enables resources and links to be made available for access from wherever people may go – as long as a computer with internet publicly available.
  • There is still a lot of advocacy and support work necessary to get an adequate infrastructure.

5. As the ‘teacher’ when you use social software what sort of role/s do you need to perform?
  • Guide and scout – new things for appropriate use. New frontiers for both clients and facilitators. Stepping into new environments.
  • Demonstrator – model and instruct/guide on use
  • Support – for creation of material/content
  • Co-Publisher –of created material
  • Learning Support for independent learners. More than ever a social constructivist approach is possible, especially in virtual session room where even peoples’ presence requires them to be more engaged and responsible for their own learning.

6. Thinking back, what were the ‘pivotal moments’ in the process that got you to this point?
  • Getting online and seeing great models of the use of these web 2.0 technologies.
  • Seeing possibilities.
  • Having some time available to explore opportunities.

7. What needs to change for your teaching and learning experience using social software to be even better?
  • Staff development. Without staff being on board and ‘in the know’ clients are not supported into these new environments or in the use of new e-tools.
  • Other students need to join communities.
  • SOCIAL software to showshow and shareshare.
  • Showcase and acknowledgement by organisations.
  • Legitimisation of these technologies as valuable and the development of models in applying and using them.

8. From your experiences so far, and thinking into the future (say 5 years or more?) what is your vision of the role of social software in teaching and learning, and what 3 things would need to happen in the next 6 – 8 months to make this happen?
  • Far greater involvement of clients/participants in determining what and how they would like to learn and focus on.
  • Change in assessment procedures and requests to reflect those new ways of evidencing learning.
  • Wide understanding and use by teachers/trainers to promote and model these web 2.0 technologies.
In the next 6-8months there needs to be:
  • Serious PD in organisations beyond mavericks presently using these new vehicles for expression and storytelling.
  • Perhaps establishment and promotion of wikipedia-type wiki to capture good practice, barriers, resources/links – funded, so people have time to adequately contribute.
  • Enlist cutting edge people to develop and modelmodel use of multimedia/visuals, especially for youth and the many with low literacy skills.
  • Ongoing
  • PD opportunities and the continued funding of projects to develop guidelines and good practice.

9. What else would you like to share?

With time - shift possible from teacher-centred/directed

Note: The web tour in the interview below is no longer working with urls no longer active. As well, there is an echo in the recording (due to speakers being used for sound by the interviewer - apologies).
You can also view an interview with Georgina which gives you the opportunity to hear more from Georgina and see how the different features of the DeadlyZone are being used through Elluminate virtual conferencing software. (NB: The interview is recorded in Elluminate. If you have not accessed Elluminate previously you will be prompted to download software to view the interview.