Multimedia Best Practices

Pedagogical Best Practices

Circle talks; Cultural practices; Elders; Experiential knowlege; Holistic Balance of Body, Mind, Heart, Spirit; Respect, Reverance, Reciprocity, Dialogue.

Cultivating the Inner Fire, Positionality, Discovering one’s special Gifts, Reflection, Relation to the Land and Place.

Story-telling, Medicine Wheel, Quaternity, Literacy, Multiple Ways of Knowing, Interconnection, All My Relations.

Barnhardt and Kawagley (2005) feel there is a renewed sense that these different world views are in fact complimentary to each other in many ways and make several recommendations for pedagogical strategies that could be applied not only to Indigenous education but would benefit the non-indigenous community as well. Traditional Indigenous ways of learning are quite harmonious with modern Constructivist and Social Learning theories that stress hands on, socially embedded projects and problem-based learning in authentic contexts, apprenticeship, and modeling. Most importantly they identify the importance of the social and cultural context of learning, and the need for expert guidance. Indigenous communities are taking the lead in blending “old and new practices” (p.5) and integrating indigenous knowledge into the educational process with involvement of local elders.

Decisions about education need to emphasize dialogue and consensus, input of elders, community tradition, and de-emphasize the western hierarchical bureaucratic process of top down control from outside.


The First Nations Holistic LIfelong Learning Model



‘BEST PRACTICES’:  Multimedia Technology and Traditional Knowledge


Since the early 20th century Western science has been moving towards a view of the universe that is closer to the traditional worldview of Indigenous peoples. Modern physics and biology show that at the energy level of creation all is connected and actions in one part of the system affect even remote parts of the system. The rising prominence of Ecological models in science, psychology and technology theories speaks to the growing recognition in the western tradition that there needs to be a major ‘paradigm shift’ and recognition of the interconnectedness of the whole. The negative effects we are now seeing – the global ecological crisis, the ongoing displacement of people from their lands for resource development, and the continuing erosion of other cultures and languages by the dominant multimedia monoculture – all these things have raised grave doubts about Western Scientific technology which is not bringing a better life to most people.

As we are learning how vital it is to preserve biological diversity in the ecosystem, it is similarly vital to preserve the diversity of indigenous languages, cultures and traditional knowledge. (Battiste, 2005; Bowers et. al 2000) Like having a seed bank to ensure protection against diseases, it is becoming clear that Indigenous knowledge has great relevance to the immediate global issues ecological degradation, the search for sustainable ways of living on the planet, and educating the next generation to live that way. In addition to ensuring representation of aboriginal cultures and ways of knowing in First Nations education in Canada, Indigenous knowledge is directly relevant to needed changes in mainstream education as a whole. This paper will explore the potential of new multimedia technologies to support these changes by looking firstly at the holistic ways of knowing and understanding that Indigenous knowledge embraces; secondly, draw some pedagogical implications, and finally, consider several examples of best practices using technology in education and look at how they might apply to current educational challenges – both aboriginal and non-aboriginal.

Revaluation of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge

Historical Context

Leroy Little Bear (2009) points out that The Hawthorne Report in the 1960s and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in the mid 1990s pointed out the same things – Aboriginal students are not succeeding in the education system. Again, about 10 years later, a Statistics Canada Report in 2005 identified the on-going vicious cycle of poverty, violence, poor health, low education, dysfunction and abuse in many First Nations Communities:

Two metaphors occur repeatedly in the comments of those we interviewed. One is the notion of a complex web—a web of poverty, racism, drugs, gangs, and violence. The other is the notion of a cycle—people caught in a cycle of interrelated problems. (Statistics Canada Report 2005, from Leroy Little Bear, 2009)

Problems in the education system in Canada are widespread, but the statistics for Aboriginal students are alarming: the drop out rate is 60% for Inuit and on-reserve FN students; 43% for urban aboriginals compared to grad rate of 90% for non-aboriginal Canadians; 7% of FN people have University degrees compared to about 25% of non-Aboriginal Canadians; plus low employment, no role models, and little hope for employment. (Ken MacQueen, 2011, p.72).

The Canadian government seems to have realized very late that the Aboriginal population is growing at six times the rate of the general population and that they should really do something about their education and standard of living, even if it is for the economy! Using this approach, Shawn Atleo, Chief of AFN, says “If we were to close the education and labour market gap, in one generation it could result in $400 billion in additional output to the Canadian economy and $115 billion in saved government expenditures.” (MacQueen 2011, p. 74)

Battiste (2005) points out that fallout from residential schools has left many families emotionally traumatized which has negatively impacted aboriginal student success in Canada.  She criticizes the education system that has basically failed Indigenous students and perpetuates “damaging myths about Aboriginal cultures, languages, beliefs and ways of life” (p. 9), and confines students to a rigid curriculum that doesn’t reflect their culture, history or “real life conditions.” (Little Bear, 2009, p. 18)

Access to Technology

The exclusion of First Nations people from full participation in Canadian society and educational assimilation efforts are now working through the mass media. Even in the remotest communities the homogenizing culture of videogames, social sites, shopping channels and advertising erodes family and community relationships, conditions youth to consumer culture, displaces elders as the source of knowledge, replaces on-the-land activities with indoor war games, and political and social institutions that are moving more and more to technology based systems. (Bredin, 2001, p. 195)

Given these negative effects perhaps it is not a bad thing that aboriginal access to technology is, predictably, far poorer than the rest of Canada. This ‘digital divide’ means that even if they have computers, schools and individuals have very limited Internet access and ability to use online multimedia resources in classrooms due to poor infrastructure, and across Canada’s north, very low bandwidth. (Battiste 2000, Bredin 2001, Ginsburg 2002)  Many aboriginal peoples are limited again by lack of training, fewer economic supports, lower education funding, and poor literacy and computer skills. This means for many the huge potential of the internet and multimedia for education and community access and control of multimedia information technologies is still limited.

What is Indigenous Knowledge?

Rather than acknowledge the rich knowledge resources of Indigenous people, Battiste (2005) says the Canadian government has in fact pursued an aggressive and damaging policy of assimilation over the past century (p. 2), and through education and displacement has attempted to devalue and erase traditional languages and cultures. Turning this around, Battiste (2002), in a report for INAC, says that indigenous knowledge is more than complementary to western knowledge – “it benchmarks the limitations of Eurocentric theory – reconceptualizes the resilience and self-reliance of indigenous peoples… Indigenous knowledge fills the ethical and knowledge gaps in Eurocentric education, research, and scholarship.” (p. 5)

UNESCO has been active in trying to put measures in place in order to preserve the world’s unique cultural heritage. This is their definition of indigenous culture from the World Conference on Cultural Policies in Mexico City (1982): “the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or social group. It includes not only arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions and beliefs.”

Despite the on-going effects of global colonialism: cultural erosion and displacement by corporate interests and governments, aboriginal cultures are alive and well and aiming to reclaim their voices and their power. Within this overall cultural context, what is Indigenous Traditional Knowledge? What do indigenous knowledge systems have to contribute to contemporary conversations around sustainable development and a more holistic pedagogy in Canadian education- Indigenous and non-indigenous? How might this impact educational practice – from content to instructional design?

Representations by Indigenous people regarding the essential elements of traditional knowledge are quite consistent. Magga (2005), a Saami scholar says: “Long before the development of modern science, which is quite young, indigenous peoples have developed their ways of knowing how to survive and also of ideas about meanings, purposes and values. (p.2) Beside this we can see the understanding developed through international consultations, by UNESCO (2002):

“Traditional knowledge is a cumulative body of knowledge, know-how, practices and representations maintained and developed by peoples with extended histories of interaction with the natural environment. These sophisticated sets of understandings, interpretations and meanings are part and parcel of a cultural complex that encompasses language, naming and classification systems, resource use practices, ritual, spirituality and worldviews.” (p.9)

 Some basic contrasts between Indigenous knowledge and western scientific knowledge were charted by Wolfe et. al (1991, p.12) in this way:

Mode of Knowing Indigenous knowledge Western scientific knowledge
Relationship Subordinate Dominant
Dominant mode of thinking Intuitive Analytical
Communication Oral, teaching through story telling Literate, Didactic
Characteristics Holistic Subjective Experimental Reductionistic, Objective Positivist
Data creation Slow/Inclusive Fast/Selective
Prediction Short time cycles Recognises the onset of long- term cycles Short-term linear, Poor long-term prediction
Explanation Spiritual – includes the Inexplicable Scientific Hypotheses Theory and Laws
Biological classification Ecological Inclusive-internally differentiating


Traditional Knowledge paradigms suggest a constant flux of all existence consisting of energy waves/spirit, all things are alive, everything is interrelated – “all my relations”, creation/existence is constantly renewed, space/place is sacred and anchors traditional knowledge through language, songs, stories, and ceremonies that arise out of the lived experience on the land. (Little Bear 2009, p. 8) For Battiste (2005) it is vital that Indigenous Knowledge be defined and contextualized by indigenous people, and that it be understood that the integrity of the knowledge depends on maintaining the “integrity of the land itself.” (p.8)

Traditional knowledge and wisdom is inseparable from understandings and ways of life given to the people in the past so that they can live in harmony with the environment and each other. Traditions of ‘keeper of the knowledge’ are often identified through sacred artifacts and objects that are passed down to individuals carefully chosen for their spiritual and personal qualities, along with the oral instructions regarding their use and place in community life. (Pepion, 1999; Little Bear, 2009;  “They believe all plants, winds, mountains, rivers, lakes, and creatures of the earth possess a spirit, and therefore have consciousness and life. Everything is alive and aware, requiring that relationships be maintained in a respectful way so as not to upset the balance.” (Little Bear, 2009, p. 9) Values of respect, honesty, integrity, reciprocity and co-operation are the values needed to survive in this living interconnected system, and these are the values that need to be integral to educational practices and uses of technology.

 Implications for Education & Pedagogical Approaches

Indigenous cultures are demanding more control over the ways of learning and teaching their children, yet also recognize the necessity for the next generation to be at home with western thinking and technologies and strong in their Indigenous language and culture.  For the T’licho people their children must be “Strong like two People”.

Little Bear (2009), drawing from Anishinabe teachings suggests “Goodness is an end goal, whether in regards to education or governance. If good ‘citizenship’ were the end goal of western education, it would be very complimentary to the idea of ‘goodness’ but, unfortunately, that is not the case. Competition, rivalry, and survival of the fittest are part of the tacit infrastructures of the present education system, which are aimed at capitalistic materialism.” (p.15) The goal is far reaching and requires a major “paradigm shift’, and not only in education. This paradigm shift can be seen in the many tribal groups who are working to integrate traditional knowledge with western education systems through community consensus and involvement of local elders.

Pedagogical Best Practices.

Kaminski (2008), in First Nations Pedagogy for Online Learning, says four values must be part of any learning experience: Respect, Relevance, Reciprocity and Responsibility.  Components of a holistic First Nations Pedagogy are shown in this interactive model developed by the Canadian Council of Learning. It shows the connected worldview, and  how hyperlinks and embedded texts can reflect the complex interrelationships of indigenous ways of knowing, and guide online interdisciplinary curriculum development. The First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model – pdf and Flash interactive model:

 The Pedagogical Best Practices outlined below with illustrative examples have been adapted from several authors including Battiste (2005), Barnhardt & Kawagley (1996), Little Bear (2009), and the First Nations Pedagogy sites from June Kaminski. Traditional knowledge determines best practices for teaching and learning, guides technology integration and ensures holistic approaches to individual development that include practices like ‘talking circles’, arts, crafts and music activities, storytelling, spiritual teachings and elder guidance. See  and


  1. Contextual Learning:  All traditional cultural learning was contextual –young people learned by watching, practicing and then doing it themselves. Traditional Indigenous ways of learning are quite harmonious with modern Constructivist and Social Learning theories that stress the social/cultural context of learning with hands-on, relevant projects, problem-based learning in authentic contexts, and the centrality of apprenticeship and modeling under the guidance of an expert other.

a)    Experiential Science is a multimedia high school science course that is heavily land-based and is an excellent model for future curriculum design. Explorations are linked to on-the-land experiences, students interact with expert knowledge online as well as community and outside specialists.

b)    Native Drums: Drum-making is a traditional skill that links land-based practice to create sacred objects, values, relationships, songs and dances of ceremony close to the heart of community culture. This site is an excellent model of multimedia archiving, learning resources, and interactivity:


2      Land Based Learning: Traditional knowledge is tied to the land so it is a natural environment to pass on specific skills, knowledge and values as students interact with community members and elders in their traditional language. How can technology support this? Students are prepared for on the land trips through advance online research activities, they document their experiences through digital video and interviews, and create presentations for fellow students and community members that demonstrate their empowerment and ‘competency’ to survive on-the-land.

a)  Gwich’in Social Cultural Institute Science / Language Immersion Camps: These ten day camps allow students to earn school credits, work with Gwich’in Elders and professionals in the fields of biology, geography and anthropology, learn language and traditional skills, hear stories, and learn about the area’s natural and human history. Culture camps return students to their traditional lands, and further work needs to be done to ensure a balanced, engaging integration of traditional skills, curriculum and technologies.


3      Elders and Storytelling: The original way knowledge and culture were passed through the generations. Technology can support the oral tradition through film, video, and recorded or archived interviews of Elders that can be a rich resource for language and stories. Student practice can renew relationships with elders and family, provide living language and role models for students, and develop respect, pride and emotional strength in their aboriginal identity.

a)    Nunavut Arctic College: Oral Traditions Project Vol. 4. Cosmology and Shamanism. An example of needed efforts to preserve very rare traditional knowledge and language. Interviews are text based, but some are on line. Retrieved from:

b)    The Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit Adventure Website: Recordings of elders speaking the language, language learning tools and other cultural traditions resources. A site dedicated to teaching about the Inuit culture. A model of integrating language and cultural resources for empowering the community itself, and as a way to share the culture online.


4      Culturally Relevant Curriculum:  There are many good examples of Indigenous culture and ways of knowing meaningfully integrated in the curriculum. Connections across disciplines, relating new learning to real world situations, and embedding experiences in sacred teachings of the five elements, the four directions that tie the land and spirit together. This ensures ‘goodness’, and relationships of respect and responsibility are part of the students’ hands-on exploration of any subject from science, language arts to physical education.

a) The Alaska Native Knowledge Network is a model of what can be done with a community committed to integrating traditional knowledge into education:


5      Language & Traditions Learning: This learning must be embedded in traditional relationships between people and the earth. Language is the centre of the culture and if the languages are to be preserved and kept alive immersion spaces are needed, and recording technologies can support archiving and developing language and traditional knowledge learning tools.

a)  First Voices: Language archiving, lessons, and games for language learning. The Language Tutoring Program is free software that allows students and instructors to develop customized language learning lessons, track progress, and work on oral pronunciation. This would be an awesome program to start archiving the language and have students develop language activities: . Demo Video: First Voices Language Tutoring Program, on or off line by CD:

b)  ISUMA TV  was launched in 2009 to bring digital media and the Inuit languages into remote Nunavut communities from the web, through local cable or digital projectors since many of these communities have such low bandwidth. A new initiative – Digital Indigenous Democracy (DID) -
is placing servers in remote communities to give access to media content without the bandwidth issues, so local teachers can use the internet, multimedia and video more in teaching. This project has potential in NWT communities as a solution to the bandwidth issues. It is also an inspiring model of what Indigenous communities can accomplish with control over media:


6      Multiple Intelligences and Literacies: Knowledge can be represented in many different ways to match the gifts of individual students. Multimedia technologies are especially supportive in providing students with multi-modal learning experiences. With mainly visual, oral, hands-on learning styles, aboriginal students are empowered to express themselves through various digital media. Film can be an ideal media for critical thinking and analysis of relevant issues, emotional resolution, and student directed creative expression.

a) National Film Board: Promising Practices in Aboriginal Education. For seven years the traveling teams of Wapikoni Mobile have trained and supported young Aboriginal students in filmmaking. Perhaps a request would bring them to our community? These films explore hard-hitting issues that empower youth to speak out, and become involved. Also features a number of multimedia presentations on First Nations:

 The education system in Canada, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, needs to undergo a real ‘paradigm shift’. We need to move into the present century – in teaching and learning practice, in integrating multimedia technologies, in developing inter-disciplinary   content, and training teachers to see the centrality of nurturing relationships – school and community – for student learning. It is clear in our current world situation that traditional knowledge and Indigenous ways of knowing can greatly enrich educational practice and support a more holistic approach to student learning and development.



Barnhardt, Ray & Kawagley, A.O. (1999) Education Indigenous to Place: Western Science Meets Native Reality in Ecological Education in Action. Gregory Smith and Dilafruz Williams, eds. Pp. 117-140. New York: State University of New York Press. Retrieved from:

Barnhardt, R., & Kawagley, A. O. (2005). Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Alaska Native Ways of Knowing. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 36(1), pp. 8-23. Retrieved from:

Barnhardt, Ray (2005) Creating a Place for Indigenous Knowledge in Education: The Alaska Native Knowledge Network in Local Diversity: Place-Based Education in the Global Age, Greg Smith and David Gruenewald, eds. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Retrieved from:

Battiste, Marie, (2002) Indigenous Knowledge and Pedagogy in First Nations Education: A Literature Review with Recommendations. Ottawa: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Retrieved from:

Battiste, Marie, (2005) Indigenous Knowledge: Foundations for First Nations. Abstract. Retrieved October 14, 2011 from:

Bredin, Marian, (2001) Bridging Canada’s Digital Divide: First Nations’ Access to New Information Technologies in The Canadian Journal of Native Studies XXI, 2:191-215.

Canadian Council on Learning:


First Nations Pedagogy

 Ginsburg, Faye, 2009. Beyond Broadcast: Launching NITV on Isuma TV  in Media Res a media commons project.  New York University 
May 04, 2009. Retrieved from:

Ginsburg, Faye D., “Screen Memories: Resignifying the Traditional in Indigenous Media “ in Media Worlds: Anthropology on a New Terrain, eds. Faye D. Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Brian Larkin, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002, 39-57.

Government of Canada Digital Archives

Gwich’in Environmental Knowledge Project

Kaminski, June  and Currie, Sylvia (2008) First Nations Pedagogy for Online Learning, presented at the First Nations Technology Council Conference, Vancouver, 2008.  


Pepion, Donald Duane, (1999) “Blackfoot Ceremony: A Qualitative Study of Learning: (Doctoral Dissertation: Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, 1999) 160 in Leroy Little Bear (2009)

Little Bear, L., (2009). Naturalizing Indigenous Knowledge, Synthesis Paper. (ISBN: 978-1- 926612-32-4) University of Saskatchewan, Aboriginal Education Research Centre, Saskatoon, Sask. and First Nations and Adult Higher Education Consortium, Calgary, Alta. Retrieved Nov. 19, 2011 from

 MacQueen, K. (2011). Success, one student at a time in MacLeans, November 7, pp. 72-78.

Magga, Ole Henrik,  (2005) Indigenous Knowledge Systems – The True Roots of  Humanism at World Library and Information Congress: 71th IFLA General Conference and Council, August 14th – 18th 2005, Oslo, Norway. Retrieved from:

UNESCO/ICSU, 2002, Science, Traditional Knowledge and Sustainable Development, p. 9. ICSU: Paris.








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