|[ Teaching and Learning Forum 2001 ] [ Proceedings Contents ]|
Rather than basing this unit on a more traditional modularised content structure that has been used successfully in much distance education material, this unit has used interview transcriptions as the foundation of its content. Two Aboriginal authors, Dallas Winmar (dramatist) and Graeme Dixon (poet), were selected to form the focus of this innovative unit. By examining the way in which these two authors go about the process of writing fictional text, students come to discover and understand first-hand the processes involved in writing.
Both authors were interviewed on audio and video tape. Transcriptions of these tapes were then recorded and categorised into various sections. This text then not only formed the content of the unit but also drove the entire manner in which the unit was presented to students. The learning and assessment activities of the unit were based around the transcripts and the whole structure of the unit reflected this content. Additionally, by collecting content anew, from authentic sources, the authors had a direct input into how their work was presented in this educational online context, one which is culturally appropriate as it allows Indigenous authors to connect with Indigenous students.
Rather than basing this unit on a set of predetermined concepts, we have attempted to use a more flexible, authentic method providing students with relevant, culturally sensitive material. This paper examines the methods used to collect "fresh" content and how this content was used to create an interactive, online unit which reflects appropriate Indigenous ways of learning, as well as the principles of social constructivism and situational cognition. The unit uses current online technology in an attempt to cater for the diversity of the Indigenous student population.
The online units being developed within the School are based upon a sound pedagogical foundation characterised by authentic learning environments that reflect real life contexts. The units are integrated with content which is relevant to Indigenous learners and which has been developed by teams of Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff. The process of online unit development has been underway at the School for three years and the staff involved in the process are currently involved in creating a number of innovative online and multimedia educational resources. This collective expertise, along with strong School and Faculty support, has enabled the continued development of the online unit program within the School.
In 1998 Kurongkurl Katitjin conducted a major review of its Aboriginal University Orientation Course with the aim of developing a curriculum framework to direct a complete rewrite of the course. In the same year, a successful application for a grant from Open Learning Australia provided an opportunity to develop initiatives in tandem with those that were in progress at Kurongkurl Katitjin at the time. With these circumstances, it was the intention to develop online units and to also increase online access to educational opportunities for our students.
Kurongkurl Katitjin recognises that students participate in many different communities, that they have varied cultural, political and social relationships, and that their identities are becoming increasingly complex. Providing innovative means for accessing education via the internet is a reflection of a rapidly changing world but, more importantly, as the world shifts towards more specialised and decentralised conditions, we predict that our students are going to require the literacies that make them competitive. We acknowledge that the world is shrinking, largely due to communications technologies, and that it is part of our role to provide students with greater access to these technologies. Kurongkurl Katitjin believes that the new technologies offer unprecedented possibilities in terms of access, appropriate innovation, cost effectiveness and new market possibilities for our students.
The interviews were recorded on audio and video tape. Approximately three days of filming with each author was conducted. A flexible set of questions was prepared prior to interviewing, loosely categorised into topics relating to the writing process. Sometimes unexpected topics emerged from the interviews.
It is interesting to note the differences in interview styles between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff and the effects these influences had on the footage collected. Carol, an indigenous interviewer, largely because of her close relationship with Dallas Winmar, uses a conversational approach to interviewing. Carol also has a history of working in radio and the use of short questions and responses is reflective of this background. The questioning technique used by Greg reflects his experience in documentary film making. Greg allows the writers to speak with minimal guidance, allowing for a stream of consciousness technique.
This method of developing and presenting content, based on the exploration of actual interview footage and accompanying transcripts, was chosen to offer students an insight into the processes behind how a piece of writing came into being. The idea of writing method was the absolute key focus for gathering information and directing interactions with our featured writers.
The idea of using contemporary authors talking about their own writing processes opened up a universe of interrelated themes which are projected in the unit in ways that actually speak to our student audience. Whilst our two featured writers are successful in that they have produced work to high critical acclaim, they are very down to earth ordinary people with no pretensions. They write and speak on issues that cut to the heart of contemporary Aboriginal identity, history and politics. They are individuals whose lives are firmly embedded in the struggle of ordinary Aboriginal people. The writers speak. They have a voice and they model writing practices that may act as a catalyst for the students' own creative writing development. In this way a rapport is built with the students, one that we may not normally have been able to achieve. This element is reflected in the structure of the unit: rather than re-packaging existing materials we wanted to create new knowledge. Also, the structure of the content was determined by the featured authors rather than the unit developers.
Using this new knowledge and content, we deliberately included a diverse choice of activities that were appropriate to our student group's varied backgrounds and learning preferences. In this unit students are able to make selections from a range of suggested activities and submit a group of activities to form a portfolio assignment. This negotiation associated with the choice of assignment tasks is expected to bring about a greater sense of student inclusiveness in the unit.
The featured authors provide much of the scaffolding by guiding students through their work samples by way of their comments and reflections on their work. In this way, the authors become the students' "coaches" (Herrington and Oliver, 1995). We have added learning resources such as a Literary Jigsaw that contains supporting information about the writing process, a historical overview of Aboriginal writing in the timeline section and samples of other Indigenous Australian writers' work. Students work through analysis activities and encounter commentary on existing Indigenous texts to support the development of their own creative texts.
Learning involves meaning, understanding, and a way of interpreting the world ... Teaching is the facilitation of learning, actively involving both teacher and student. The teacher interacts with the learner in line with the assumption that learning involves the active construction of meaning by the student and is not something that is imparted by the teacher. (Biggs & Moore, 1993, p. 25)The principles of situated cognition directed our decision to provide an authentic online learning environment via an interface based on a mixture of artwork (designed by a combined effort of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists) and real life metaphors. Since the theory of situated cognition is based on the principle that effective learning will only occur if "it is embedded in the social and physical context within which it will be used" (Herrington & Oliver, 1997; Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989), the learning activities and assessment tasks within the unit provide students with many opportunities to practise their writing skills in realistic contexts. Such tasks also take into account the students' varied backgrounds and learning preferences:
... instruction should be geared not just toward imparting a knowledge base, but toward developing reflective, analytical, creative, and practical thinking with a knowledge base. Students learn better when they think to learn ...They also learn better when teaching takes into account their diverse styles of learning and thinking ... (Sternberg, 1998, p. 18)Lastly, the grounded theory approach (Glasser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1990) used in the qualitative research field, can be used to describe how the content for the unit was developed. Instead of starting from a predefined content structure, the categories of content that were finally included in the unit emerged from the actual content collection process, the interviews with the Aboriginal authors.
Brown, J. S., Collins, A. & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-41.
Glasser, B. G., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago: Aldine.
Henderson, L. (1996). Instructional design of interactive multimedia: A cultural critique. Educational Technology Research and Development, 44(4), 85-104.
Herrington, J. & Oliver, R. (1997). Multimedia, magic and the way students respond to a situated learning environment. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 13(2), 127-143. http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/ajet/ajet13/su97p127.html
Herrington, J. & Oliver, R. (1995). Critical characteristics of situated learning: Implications for the instructional design of multimedia. In Pearce, J. & Ellis, A. (Eds.), ACSILITE95 Conference Proceedings (pp. 253-262). Melbourne: University of Melbourne. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/melbourne95/smtu/papers/herrington.pdf
Ober, R. & Bulsey, N. (1998). Reflections by graduates. Ngoonjook: A Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, 58-66.
Sternberg, R. J. (1998). Abilities are forms of developing expertise. Educational Researcher, 27(3), 11-20.
Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park: Sage.
|Please cite as: Stratton, G., Oakes, C., Czekalowski, D. and Northcote, M. (2001). A new approach to unit content: Using interview transcriptions in an interactive online unit. In A. Herrmann and M. M. Kulski (Eds), Expanding Horizons in Teaching and Learning. Proceedings of the 10th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 7-9 February 2001. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2001/stratton.html|