Monday, March 10, 2014

Blended Multi-lingual Schools for All Australians

The Prime Minister has set a new indigenous school attendance target, but I suggest we need to broaden the concept of what is a school. We could have a system for all students, where they could learn in multiple languages, attend a local school with a teacher, but also be provided with on-line materials and teachers for specialist subjects. The techniques materials being developed for teaching Australian university students could be applied in schools.

I expect every Australian is familiar with the "Australian School of the Air" for students at home: now delivered by WiFi, rather than wireless. ;-)

As a student of education myself, recently I was undertaking a project on distance education for indigenous Australian students in remote communities. There have been some projects to issue computers to students in schools, best known being the XO Project. However, these focus on the hardware, not the integration into the curriculum.

What many might not know (I didn't), is that the NT and Queensland education departments provide a form of blended learning for remote schools. The students attend a local school and have a teacher, but where the school is too small to have a teachers for a specialist subjects, the materials and a teacher are provided on-line. The local and remote teachers work together to teach the students.

This, I suggest, could be the future of schools across Australia. Students would still attend a local school, but would also have the benefit of specialist on-line courses and teachers. This would allow students to learn in languages other than English and study specialist courses, using materials developed by Australian universities.

Australian and International On-line Support for Learning

Australia’s Northern Territory Open Education Centre (NTOEC, 2014) provides distance education to students at home. NTOEC also supports teachers in Community Schools in remote areas. This mode of education provides the student with a local teacher and a class for cultural awareness and group activities, as well as remote teaching for specialist subjects.

Kapitzke and Pendergast (2005) report positively on the early trials of the Queensland Education Department's Virtual Schooling Service, which provides both distance education to students in the home and support for students in the classroom in remote schools. While they argue that new pedagogy is needed, there does not appear to have been a development of this, with the Virtual Schooling continuing to be run as first envisaged.

Keegan, Taka Keegan and Laws (2011) describe how the Moodle Learning Management System and Mahara (e-Portfolio) are being used for bilingual/bicultural education of Māori in New Zealand, for both school and university students. This would allow the holistic approach to learning noted by Kitchenham (2013) for teaching Indigenous language and culture in Northern British Columbia (Canadia).

Srivastava (2002) compares higher education use of Distance Education (DE) in Canada and India. On Canada Srivastava comments that "There is little attention being paid to the kinds of education that might be appropriate to the aboriginal peoples". and notes only 6% were university graduates in 1996.

Kitchenham (2013) details the use of digital technology for teaching Indigenous language and culture in Northern British Columbian (Canadia) public schools. Rather than barriers to e-learning for indigenous students, Kitchenham argues that these may suit the learning styles of the indigenous students.

Indigenous Learning styles Supported by Online Courses

Kitchenham (2013) noted that of the fourteen indigenous learning styles identified by White (2008), ten are "well matched with educational technologies". These ten were:
  1. participate at their own discretion;
  2. enjoy group-oriented tasks;
  3. favour one-on-one interaction with the teacher for clarification or for permission;
  4. learn from repeated and silent observation;
  5. are spatially and holistically oriented;
  6. prefer holistic approaches to learning;
  7. are interested in what other learners are doing;
  8. need time to answer teacher questions;
  9. spurn displaying knowledge that others might possess; and
  10. prefer collaborative learning over competitive learning.
From: Kitchenham (2013), after White (2008)
It should be noted that these also correspond to the approach advocated for contemporary e-learning generally, including connectivist Massive Open On-line Courses (c-MOOCs). Yeager, Hurley-Dasgupta & Bliss (2013) list the four activities key to a cMOOC as: aggregation; remixing; repurposing (or constructivism); and feeding forward. Apart from aggregation, which is the curating of material by the educator, the others activities are for the learners to carry out cooperatively. These same approaches to learning and now applied in teaching postgraduate university students, using the same on-line tools as used in schools.

Free Open Access Courses for Schools from Australian Universities

ANU is currently accepting enrolments for its first two edX on-line courses: Engaging India and Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe. These courses are intended for school students. Engaging India is to be offered in two languages (English and Hindi).


Kapitzke, C., & Pendergast, D. (2005). Virtual Schooling Service: Productive Pedagogies or Pedagogical Possibilities?. Teachers College Record, 107(8), 1626-1651.Retrieved from

Keegan, P. J., Taka Keegan, T., & Laws, M. (2011). Online Māori Resources and Māori Initiatives for Teaching and Learning: Current activities, successes and future directions. MAI Review, (1), 1-13.

Kitchenham, A. (2013).THE PRESERVATION OF CANADIAN INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE AND CULTURE THROUGH EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY. Alternative: An International Journal Of Indigenous Peoples,9(4), 351-364.

NTOEC, (2014). 2014 Subject and Enrolment Handbook. Darwin, Northern Territory: Northern Territory Open Education Centre. Retrieved from
Kitchenham, A. (2013). THE PRESERVATION OF CANADIAN INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE AND CULTURE THROUGH EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY. Alternative: An International Journal Of Indigenous Peoples, 9(4), 351-364.

Srivastava, M. (2002). A comparative study on current trends in distance education in Canada and India. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 3(4), 1-11. Retrieved from

Yeager, C., Hurley-Dasgupta, B., & Bliss, C. A. (2013). CMOOCS AND GLOBAL LEARNING: AN AUTHENTIC ALTERNATIVE. Journal Of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(2), 133-147. White, F. (2008). Ancestral language acquisition among Native Americans: A study of a Haida
language class. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen.

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