One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Canada

One laptop per child (OLPC) is an organization dedicated in creating educational opportunities for children by providing them “with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop”. In 2010 OLPC was brought to Canada to assist in improving the quality of Aboriginal Canadians’ education. In addition to the traditional programs offered on OLPC, OLPC Canada designed specific programs for Aboriginal Youth.

November 28, 2011   No Comments

Student Performance

The C.D. Howe Institute’s goal is to raise Canadian living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. A research report by the C.D. Howe Institute looks at “Understanding the Aboriginal/Non-Aboriginal Gap in Student Performance”. They examine the differences between aboriginal students in different school districts and try to determine why some aboriginal students perform well and others do not.  The successful school districts “emphasize Aboriginal education success as a long-term priority, involve Aboriginal leaders and the broader community, use objective data on Aboriginal student performance in design of policy and follow through on policy implementation.”

November 28, 2011   No Comments

Nicola Valley Institute of Technology

Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) is an aboriginal public post-secondary institute in British Columbia, located in Vancouver and Merritt.  NVIT believes that exploring knowledge from an aboriginal perspective provides the educational strength and leadership to enhance their communities.  Their goal is to provide a rich educational and cultural campus through quality education, while upholding aboriginal cultures and traditions. Almost all courses offered at NVIT contain aboriginal values, beliefs and culture.

November 28, 2011   No Comments

First Nations Education Steering Committee

The First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) was developed in 1992 and is led by representatives of First Nations across the province of British Columbia. This independent society aim is to improve education for all First Nations learners throughout the province. They provide a verity of programs from school programs, Special Education programs and community programs.

November 28, 2011   No Comments

State of Aboriginal Learning in Canada

The Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) looks at current and effective approaches to learning in various settings throughout Canada. One report developed by the CCL in 2009 was “The State of Aboriginal Learning in Canada: A holistic approach to measuring success“. This report is the first comprehensive framework in Canada for measuring aboriginal learning. In in it experts across Canada who specialized in aboriginal learning determined three main components of a holistic lifelong learning (1) Sources and Domains of Knowledge, (2) The Lifelong Learning Journey and (3) Community Well-being. This new approach does not just look at an aboriginal student’s success in school but also reflects the holistic lifelong learning that take places through early childhood education, participation in the community, learning about aboriginal languages and traditions and culture.

November 28, 2011   No Comments

Module 4: Reaching Geographically Isolated Aborigines

The Australian Flexible Learning Framework seeks to reach Aboriginal students in Wales who are often excluded from traditional (Western) educational opportunities.  The organization has designed and executed various elearning programs to help students earn Level I and II Land Conservation certification.  The rationale for the project seems very mainstream, and could be the rationale for any elearning program:  to reach students who are geographically separated from the learning institution.  Although the organization has many experienced teachers involved with the project, there is no mention of Elders or even tribes members in the decision-making process.  Neither is there much discussion of the teaching methodologies used, aside from mentioning that the courses use a great deal of storytelling.  A report on the project states that students were engaged by having them design learning objects that could be used by future students.  The quality of the students’ work, however, made it unsuitable for future learners.

The project seems to have several issues.  It does not use the expertise of Elders from the tribes, and we are not sure if the teachers use a place-based method of teaching that takes an holistic approach to land conservation.  We can’t be sure, for instance, whether the students’ prior knowledge about places and natural phenomenon is validated or whether it is ignored for a Western concept of place.  One cannot be too sure whether the organization relies heavily on storytelling.  Storytelling might be a dominant way of transmitting knowledge, but it isn’t the only way within Indigenous communities.  If the organization is indeed relying heavily on storytelling, then this could be a Western stereotype at work in an educational context.  I mention this site because it contrasts with what we’ve been learning about Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing.




November 27, 2011   No Comments

Module 4: How to Make a Drum

This site provides a lesson plan for teaching students how to make a traditional Alutiiq drum.  The really neat thing about this lesson plan is that it draws in many aspects of drum-making from an indigenous perspective.  For example, the student must learn about the various trees and animals that inhabit the area where these drums are traditionally made and used.  This is necessary if they are to select the best wood and skins for their instrument.  Students must also learn and utilize knowledge from western disciplines to construct their drum.  They must, for example, have some mathematical skill in order to make accurate measurements for the drum’s frame; they must also understand the science behind what makes drum skins shrink and stretch.

The lesson plan encapsulates place-based learning and constructivism very well.  It illustrates an holistic approach to learning, characteristic of Indigenous learning,  where students must pull information from diverse disciplines.  They must also test their knowledge by actually constructing a usable object.  The project develops metacognition and critical thinking skills because students can write about their experience constructing the drum, and can explore questions such as, “how did Indigenous peoples construct drums without the use of metal tools?”

November 27, 2011   No Comments

Module 4: Respecting Cultural Knowledge

This page from the ANKN website features a set of guidelines for educators, elders, teachers, researchers, writers and illustrators.  The guidelines were compiled after meetings and workshops with participants such as members of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative, and the final document was ratified by representatives from the Native Educator Organizations.  The guide encourages educators and curriculum designers to incorporate indigenous knowledge into the classroom in ways that are beneficial to all, constructive, and respectful.

Significantly, ANKN recognizes Elders as authorities on cultural matters; yet, the guidelines are also geared to them.  Aside from the sharing of knowledge appropriate to the place, Elders have a responsibility to review contracts, release forms, and research transcripts, including papers that are to be made public.   They must also secure copyright for all cultural information that is documented.  These are important aspects of the Elders’ job description.  Not only does it ensure that accurate and appropriate information is shared, it protects this knowledge from commodification and misuse.

Guidelines for illustrators and writers specify that traditional names for places and objects must be retained as much as possible and authorship must be shared with individuals in the community who contributed to the creative work.  They must also ensure that sensitive information be made accessible as dictated by Elders.

This site is useful for research on place-based learning because it helps educators evaluate the source of the knowledge that they may acquire for their classes.  It is also enables them to recognize and validate prior knowledge that students bring to the learning environment.

November 27, 2011   No Comments

Module 4: The Axe Handle Academy

Linguist Ron Scollen and his wife Suzanne Scollen propose their idea for an “ideal” academy that takes an holistic, place-based approach to education.  At the Academy, three questions get asked of students and faculty:  how well do you know your place; how well do you know your community; and how well do you communicate.  Based firmly on a sense of place, the physical location that is meaningful to the Academy’s teachers and students, the curriculum covers a multitude of disciplines, geology, archeology, history, art, journalism, writing, etc under three heads:  communications, cultural studies, and bioregional studies.

The idea behind the curriculum is to produce graduates who are productive members of society and who ultimately will have a choice of careers to pursue.  So, rather than approaching the curriculum with a view of pushing students towards certain careers, such as researcher or scientist, a practice most evident in Western educational/intellectual traditions, the curriculum seeks to enable all students to become good researchers and good scientists, and just generally sensitive thinkers.   Graduates, regardless of the line of work or career path they ultimately choose, should be cognizant of the impact that their work has on their bioregion.  They need to be aware of the impact that various human activities has on their lives.

The Academy’s title “The Axe Handle” derives from an ancient Chinese proverb that they way to make an axe handle is to have an axe handy so that you can copy it.  The proverb informs the educational philosophy of the Academy where teachers are constantly learning new stuff, and they learn alongside their students.  The teachers model the cognitive skills that they expect their students to acquire, while encouraging students to share information and help each other learn materials.  This is a bit like the concept of constructivism where the educator does not dictate static knowledge to students, but engages them in the learning process by assigning them projects and problems to solve.


November 12, 2011   No Comments

Module 4: Place-Based Learning Articles

This website is a veritable cornucopia of articles written by Steven Semken, an authority on place-based learning and Indigenous education.  Most of the articles, particularly the ones written and published within the past ten years have links to pdf files that readers can download. Among the paper titles includes “Place-Based Teaching and Learning” which was recently accepted for publication in the Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning of Learning.  Unfortunately, that article is not accessible in pdf form, and readers will have to wait until the encyclopedia is published.  Other titles include

“A sense of the American Southwest: Place-based Earth system science for diverse students”

“Factors that influence sense of place as a learning outcome of place-based geoscience teaching”

“Design elements and learning outcomes of two place-based teacher professional programs situated in the Southwest United
States: Concordance with Universal Design for Learning.”

“Putting Earth science back in its place”

“Sense of place in the practice and assessment of place-based science teaching”

Steven Semken is associate professor in the Earth and Space Exploration department at Arizona State University.

November 10, 2011   No Comments