Nurturing the Learning Spirit of First Nations Students

Nurturing the Learning Spirit of First Nations Students is a “Report of the National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education for Students on Reserve.”  The panel, as listed in the report, has three members, all of whom have been involved in Indigenous education, but only one of which is Indigenous himself.  However, the report caught and held my attention because of its emphasis on recognizing and valuing traditional Indigenous knowledge.  It draws the distinction between the piece of paper (graduation certificate) that says we are educated compared to the education we receive from our parents and community.

My dad learned different things and the different skills that are not recognized by a piece of paper. I am proud of my dad and I’m learning from him. And I cannot learn this from my teacher. … The only difference between the two types of education that I have discussed is that one is recognized and one isn’t. We need papers behind our names to live in today’s world but we still need those traditional teachings to learn who we are and where we come from.” (Page ii)




October 5, 2012   No Comments

You can’t just “add culture and stir”

The title of this post is a quote from the paper How to tell the difference between multicultural mathematics and ethnomathematics (Eglash, 2001).  The paper is from the NCTM 2001 national meeting and identifies the difference between adding trite, multicultural comments into mathematics questions and truly understanding the idea of ethnomathematics.  The goal of ethnomathematics is to place mathematics learning in authentic contexts for specific populations.  The paper is written from the perspective of ethnic minorities in the United States, however it extrapolates well to the discussion of mathematics and Indigenous students.  The paper states that:

… ethnomathematics directly challenges the cultural stereotypes and genetic myths most damaging to both minority and majority ethnic groups.” (p. 2)

October 4, 2012   No Comments

Culturally-Centric Schools- do they work?

I read an article in the National Post recently that I thought I would share with the rest of you regarding Africentric Schools in Toronto. They make reference to Toronto’s First Nations School, and it resonated with me as we have a First Nations School initiative here in Yukon as well. I too wonder about the longevity of such culturally specific schools.


What I found most interesting was the comments by one of the city councillors:

City councillor Josh Matlow, a former school trustee, wishes the program had never been established.

“I believe the school board, rather than putting resources into schools that separate students based on ethnicity or culture, should invest in reforming the curriculum so that it reflects the diversity of our city and our society,” he said.

Here is the link to the article:

David McInnes

September 24, 2012   No Comments

Statement Connecting Weblog to Research Interests

Environmental Progress for Indigenous Groups

I would like to investigate what positive impacts technology can have on Indigenous culture, particularly in an ecological sense. Can the internet be used effectively to spread information about specific ecological concerns that Indigenous groups have? Will it help give a voice to groups that have often been marginalized or silenced? Often there are environmental issues that arise within the traditional territories of Indigenous groups. These issues often have a direct and lasting impact on the health of the land and the people that live on it. Indigenous groups may be able to use the internet to voice their opinion in meaningful ways, but there needs to be more than that. Real change needs to be affected and this can be hard to attain, even with the best online presence. Internet and other new media might be the way to create this change, but how effective are they really? To distill it down to one main question, I would like to know: In relation to making a positive ecological change, including revitalization, what is the most effective way for an Indigenous group to use technology to make improvements within either their territory, or an area that has specific traditional importance?

September 23, 2012   No Comments

Cultural Issues in Adoption of ICT by Indigenous Australians

I explored some of my own country’s literature on cultural issues, ICT and Indigenous Australians. I have combined these three weblogs because of their similarity.

Dyson (2004) focused on the reasons for low adoption of ICT with Indigenous Australians and concluded that access was the major issue and that ICT was embraced by indigenous Australians and able to be adaptable to other cultures provided people from that culture have input into ICT design and management.

Samaras (2005) identified similar access issues to Dyson (2004) and argues that the digital divide for indigenous Australians stems from socioeconomic inequalities. She concludes that more needs to be done by government and the information profession to ensure a more socially inclusive information society for all, but especially for indigenous Australians.

Now over 5 years later this concern about the digital divide here in Australia was again  identified by the University of Adelaide Dean of Aboriginal Education Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney speaking at the Australian Council for Educational Research national conference on indigenous education in very strong terms:

“Most Indigenous communities have had a decade of lag time in accessing and effectively using online services. ………. Policymakers need to act now or risk condemning indigenous Australians to digital ghettos.”

It would appear that we may still have a long way to go……


 Dyson L,E. (2004) Cultural issues in the adoption of information and communication technologies by indigenous Australians. Sudweeks F., Ess C. (eds). Proceedings cultural attitudes towards communication and technology. Murdoch University, Australia. 58-71.

Samara K. (2005) Indigenous Australians and the “digital divide”. Libri 55: 84-95.

Indigenous digital divide widening due to wrong education. Sourced from on 23/09/12



September 23, 2012   No Comments

ICTs and Indigenous People

UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education developed a policy brief in 2011 ICTs and Indigenous People.

It outlines the importance of Indigenous knowledge, and acknowledges that ICTs can be viewed as a “double-edged sword” with the potential to accelerate erosion of indigenous culture and knowledge but also the ability to empower and support resources and environments for indigenous children.

The paper describes some examples of how ICTs can be used positively by indigenous people to strengthen and reinforce indigenous cultures and knowledge. Here are three of these:

The Four Directions Project (USA) which includes:

  • Restructure of curriculum in schools – art, mathematics, science, fine arts etc
  • School-home and school-community focus
  • Networked virtual communities of indigenous teachers and students
  • Network database of culturally appropriate teaching resources

Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA)
The aim of this project is to research and development network is to improve the quality of, and extend access to, teacher education in Sub-Saharan Africa. It has an open education resources to support culturally-based teacher education adn training. 120 African countries are involved, 700 teachers have participated and the resources are available in 4 languages on the TESSA website.

Honey Bee Network – India
This project has multi media/multi lingual database of primary educational resources in native languages and supports exchange of ideas and innovations around horticulture, biodiversity and herbal medicine. They have public access “kiosks” in remote villages so that geographically disadvantaged people can share across the country and also globally.


The document outlines a number of policy recommendations which include:

  • Provide a policy framework that enables indigenous communities to have control of their schools
  • Encourage and fund research in use of ICTs to support culturally based education Develop educator professional development programmes designed to help non-indigenous educators to understand and support the culture of the indigenous community and the ways that ICTs may support access to indigenous content, expertise, and cultural resources
  • Develop online educator development programmes to prepare indigenous peoples to become teachers
  • Develop policies to use ICTs to provide continuous and adult education, retraining, life-long learning, and distance learning

September 22, 2012   No Comments

Janet’s Statement of Connection

As a math teacher, I am continually aware of the under-representation of aboriginal students in more academic math courses and the over-representation of aboriginal students in lower level math courses.  This is an issue because mathematics is a key entry requirement into many programs at the post-secondary level. Low success rates in mathematics, particularly in the academic math courses, restricts choices for aboriginal students and has a direct impact on the number of aboriginal students in health related careers, business and science.

My weblogs will be focussed around finding ways to support aboriginal students in mathematics, as well as how technology might fit into this support.  Finding ways to authentically use and promote aboriginal mathematics in the classroom will be one area of research.  Researching ways that First Nations peoples have traditionally taught and learned and how our classrooms might be adapted to support these styles of learning will be a second area of research.  At this point for my final project, I am looking at creating a compilation of resources, research and links that can act as a resource for classroom teachers, with the ultimate goal of supporting our aboriginal and First Nations students in mathematics.

Janet Barker

September 21, 2012   No Comments

Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainability

The UNESCO Teacher Education Module provides an overview of key topics concerning Indigenous education.  Six modules are provided for teachers to examine:

1.The wisdom of the elders.

2. UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

3. Why is indigenous knowledge important?

4. Living by indigenous knowledge.

5. Indigenous and formal education.

6. Enhancing the curriculum through indigenous knowledge.

Of particular interest to me was the section on Indigenous and formal education.  This section highlighted the differences between Indigenous and Scientific Knowledge.  I was reminded of Marker’s (2006) article, “After the Makah Whale Hunt: Indigenous Knowledge and Limits to Multicultural Discourse.”  The very first point made in the comparison is that Indigenous Education values the sacred and spiritual knowledge, whereas formal education often excludes the spiritual and is very secular.  This correlates with the obliviousness presented by the administrators, teachers and students to the Whale Hunt and the Makah student’s story.

This website is an excellent read for educators to gain an understanding of how to honour Indigenous traditional education, support Indigenous students in the classroom, and provide Indigenous perspective.


September 20, 2012   No Comments