"iEARN (International Education and Resource Network) is the world's largest non-profit global network that enables teachers and youth to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference.
Join over 200 projects designed and facilitated by teachers and students. In addition to connecting students' learning with local and global issues and meeting specific curriculum needs, every iEARN project must answer the question, "How will this project improve the quality of life on the planet?" This vision and purpose is the glue that holds iEARN together, enabling participants to become global citizens who make a difference by collaborating with their peers around the world."
Thomas Engesser's insight:
This site provides a global online network for exploring a teaching and learning project through researching, creating and then collaborating and sharing the classrooms' findings online with their global peers. As such, iEARN offers students and teachers a way of connecting their own cultural perspectives, identity and heritage with those of others from different cultures and communities. Following the principles of Project Based Learning students work collaboratively with others from culturally diverse backgrounds to produce and publically present a project or research for on-line sharing/assessment/review. With a student-centred inquiry focus that invites a multi-faceted, cross-curriculum approach each project (regardless of whether the topic is a local or global issue) provides students with the opportunity to develop understandings that acknowledge the differing perspectives of those they are collaborating/communicating with. Ultimately, when collaborating on a project, each student is asked to consider the contributions of others, and by default, attempt to engage with and recognise their differences and, understand their contexts. Of course, because this context is always culturally informed, students in turn learn about the differing cultural identities and heritages that inform the meanings and values of each student's community.
Some of iEARNs current projects, such as the “Local History Project” (http://collaborate.iearn.org/space-2/group-104/about) in which students research the history of their communities and share their findings with their global peers, are directly aligned to enable Stage 2 students to understand and appreciate ways in which different cultural contexts will create different histories, and, as such, different cultural identities and community heritage. Other seemingly less relevant projects, such as “National Toys” (http://collaborate.iearn.org/space-2/group-183/about) where students research their national folk dolls/toys, nonetheless also provides students with the opportunity to consider differing perspectives on a community’s heritage. By providing a forum in which a familiar object may be re-presented as culturally significant, that is, as something that ‘matters’ to community heritage, students are able to explore how different artifacts can be regarded as meaningful and valuable to different communities.
Ultimately, because students must collaborate with students from other cultural backgrounds, each current or prospective iEARN learning project (while potentially addressing subject matter from other KLAs) offers students a global perspective to examine the different meanings and values people attach to the places, traditions, artifacts, practices, knowledges and stories that underpin their community heritage.
Hmelo-Silver, C. 2004. Problem based learning: What and how do students learn? Educational Psychology Review, 16 (3), 235-266.
The NSW Migration Heritage Centre is a virtual immigration museum. Our website is a gateway to learn about the State’s migration heritage through community collections, family belongings, people’s memories and special places no matter where they are located in New South Wales.
Thomas Engesser's insight:
By describing and sharing memories, stories, histories as well as belongings and places regarding migration, the resources on this site offer a multitude of different perspectives on the histories and heritages of our communities. In the context of Australia’s migrant history, each story on this site provides the opportunity for students to make comparisons with and connections to their own experiences. As per the NSW Quality Teaching framework, the use of such narratives facilitates student’s connectedness to and understanding of such experiences and works to increase the significance of their learning. For example, revealing somebodies migrant heritage within the broader narrative of their personal, family and community history might help students develop the understanding that a persons migrant heritage is not only connected to their personal and family heritages but also informs the heritage of their community. Nonetheless, appropriate scaffolding might still be required to complete the learning experience, perhaps in the form of asking students to research their own history and write a personal account of their family’s migrant heritage. Alternatively, role playing a migrant story would give the student the opportunity to see the migrant experience, and the meanings and values attached to it’s heritage, from another perspective. As learning activities closely related to the context of use, they would certainly ensure an “authentic learning experience” (Lombardi, 2007).
Ultimately, narratives such as these oral histories gives a face and voice to historical detail/facts/figures, offering students a learning activity that has the potential to be connected to their own contexts. Here, students could recognise that a migrant history informs the heritage of all communities, including the students’ own; or, students could also recognise that each different migrant experience creates a specific cultural identity. In each case, students learn about differing viewpoints on community heritage by connecting their own cultural identity and heritage with those of others. The ability for such stories to connect to the context of student lives allows the learning experience to also connect with a student’s prior understandings, background knowledges and what is significant for them thereby making learning more meaningful and important (NSW DET, 2006).
Find rich educational material for primary and lower-secondary teachers using the My Place TV series in the classroom. Explore background information, aligned with the My Place stories, on events and people significant to Australia's history. Download clips and stills from the TV series, as well as teaching activities and student activity sheets that relate to current themes. Go behind the scenes with production information and interviews, or chat with other teachers and share stories in the teacher's forum.
Thomas Engesser's insight:
The "My Place for Teachers" website provides resources to support teachers using the “My Place” ABC TV series or the related “My Place for Kids” website for teaching and learning. Like the Nadia Wheatley book on which it is based, the TV series and the interactive student’s website explores the changing face of the people, places, objects and stories associated with one specific place in Australia. Starting in 2008, moving backward in time and featuring one story per decade, the TV series is a collection of 26 episodes, each one about a different child living in the same part of Sydney. Through changing historical contexts, each story investigates different understandings of family, community, cultural identity and heritage. For students, these historical contexts allow them to explore how different people and communities gather and combine particular artifacts, traditions, practices, knowledges, meanings and values as heritage to give a unique cultural identity to the people who live in a particular area.
Of particular significance here is the focus the series also has on the importance of place. Though the historical context keeps changing, the continuity and experience of place (best exemplified by the ever present fig tree), underpins and connects each story. Equally, by bookending the series with two Aboriginal stories the series explicitly recognises the continuity of Aboriginal experience and how that experience has a place. As a result, by showing how the ‘same’ place can be experienced in many different ways, My Place provides students with the opportunity to recognise how communities build a different sense of identity and heritage through the different meanings and values people attach to place.
As a vignette of often very different histories tied together through the continuity and experience of place, My Place allows students to connect stories to each other and investigate the similarities (including constants) and differences (including changes) that exist between them. Equally, by working in a reverse timeline and with many continuous elements (e.g. characters reappear as younger, streetscapes reappear as less developed), students are encouraged to ‘think back’ and reflect on what differences/similarities exist between them. Perhaps most significantly, this timeline format highlights how communities have and make connections to a heritage. Certainly teachers can help students to understand these connections through substantive communication in the classroom with questions such as, “What does Michaelis think of his Greek heritage when he get’s older?” or, "How does Michaelis's family and community change?"
Aboriginal people have attachments to the landscape stretching back many thousands of years. Find out about their ancient, living heritage.
Thomas Engesser's insight:
This site articulates the importance the natural environment and sense of place has to conceptions of Aboriginal community heritage and cultural identity. The site provides a series of links to Aboriginal culture and heritage related publications and policies that highlight the extent to which Aboriginal community heritage, though including traditions, practices, knowledges and skills, also includes the meanings and values attached to place. This certainly challenges a Western understanding of community heritage as exclusively linked to and inherited through tangible artifacts, specifically, objects (technologically) marked or made by culture (Miller, 1987).
As a resource for teaching and learning in Stage 2 HSIE, most of the links in this section lead to living stories as well as recollections, memories and histories describing the cultural attachment Aboriginals have to their local landscape. Being directly sourced from Aboriginal people and or groups, each story or transcribed history clearly acknowledges the names and area of origin of those who have contributed to the material. Of particular value is a link presenting the perspective of Aboriginal women on their own conceptions of their heritage. In six separate downloadable booklets, Aboriginal women convey their heritage by telling stories describing their connection to their local landscape and local communities. These reflections and stories, together with the site’s collection of other oral histories, can be read to and by students as a way of introducing them to the different kinds of connections that Aboriginal people have to their land and their communities.
However, this is not to say that other cultural groups have been excluded from developing a sense of belonging and, in turn, of community heritage through the natural environment. The site's Cultural Diversity link documents how people from different cultural backgrounds (here, Macedonian or Vietnamese) turn the natural environment into familiar places of attachment. Ultimately, by imbuing a place with cultural significance the community in turn develops and recognises the importance of this place for the heritage of the community. Here, in much the same way that Aboriginal histories allow students to investigate different perspectives on community heritage, these documents also provide students with the opportunity to understand that different cultures have differing relationships with the environment and consequently, differing heritages.
'Ida's Quest' an historical journey through the Bathurst District in 1901 by Ida Traill aged 10. The story has riddles to be solved and links to history pages and student activities.
Thomas Engesser's insight:
Within the context of a narrative journey undertaken by a young girl to her grandfather's place in and around Bathurst in 1901, this site enables Stage 2 HSIE students to explore the value of local history and how this history creates a specific local heritage. The Ida’s Quest narrative uses real people and places to engage students by asking them to solve six riddles relating to the history and heritage of Ida’s family, Bathurst and, more broadly, the colony in 1901. Answering these riddles involves students investigating and researching the various stories and histories on the website to identify different people, places objects and events that give meaning and value to Ida’s cultural identity and heritage.
Students then, are given the opportunity to see the importance of family memories and stories to a community’s heritage when they use these memories and stories to construct the history and reveal the heritage of Ida’s family and community. With this in mind, though the historical content of this site seems specific to students living in Central Western NSW learning about their local history, the pedagogical approach of teaching through narrative, and specifically, teaching how community heritage is connected to personal memories and stories not just tangible artifacts, is a useful contribution the site makes. However, should teachers wish students to explore their own local communities, the narrative structure could be maintained and the content easily modified to suit.
Even so, as a resource aligned to exploring differing viewpoints on community heritage, the site offers the specific content of one community for students to compare, contrast and connect to other communities. That is, when students piece together the cultural identity and heritage of Ida’s community by investigating the contribution of specific people, places, events, et al, they have the opportunity to make comparisons with and differences to the heritage of other communities. Additionally, because Ida’s Quest is an exploration of Ida’s ‘inheritance’ (and the meanings and values she associates with this inheritance), the possibility exists for students to connect their own ‘inheritances’ to the narrative and develop a different perspective on community heritage. As per the NSW Quality Teaching Framework the student’s ability to make such connections with their own contexts would ensure the significance of the learning experience. Perhaps most significantly, the site provides an Aboriginal perspective in the narrative, which provides a different perspective on the history and heritage of the ‘same’ place. With different timelines, understandings of the land, experiences of place, stories and histories, students learn that the Aboriginal heritage in the Bathurst area is a very different one.
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