INTEGRATING INDIGENOUS CULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY TO ENHANCE LEARNING IN FLY-IN CANADIAN ABORIGINAL SCHOOLS
Lakehead University (CANADA)
One of the challenges facing schooling in Indigenous communities around the world is how to enhance students’ achievement through culturally responsive pedagogies. The issue involved is not merely that of moving away from Eurocentric pedagogies to emphasize all that is related to Indigenous culture, but of recognizing Indigenous epistemology as a necessary tool that makes use of contemporary information and communication technologies for educational innovation. However, Indigenous culture and technology that bear the title of this paper are not easy bedfellows. Implicated in these concepts are not only paradox but also linkage between different processes. This paper gives an account of a three-year project funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to utilize participatory research methods to investigate the development, evolution and educational role of an innovative digital high school that provides an alternative delivery model for students in remote and fly-in Aboriginal communities in Northern Ontario, Canada. The project is a collaborative study between university-based researchers and Aboriginal communities to investigate key aspects of Aboriginal knowledge and culture that communities see as reflecting digital curriculum needs of Aboriginal students, as well as the effective tools that would enhance and extend the delivery of the curriculum through information and communication technologies. The paper examines how university-based researchers utilized participatory research to build collaboration among community people to create new innovations by grafting various indigenous cultural ideas into technology.
Specifically, the paper discusses
1) how the issues originated;
2) the functions that university and community researchers played in the process;
4) the understanding of power relationships;
5) the prospects for collective learning; and,
6) how technology was mediated and defined in terms of culturally structured and shared values, beliefs and symbols.
The findings indicate that, first for successful participatory adaptation of modern technology for educational purposes in indigenous societies, community members must become co-decision makers at every stage of the project. Secondly, the findings support the notion that for digital environments to hold the promise of richer curricula and enhanced cultural pedagogies, technological and curricular designs need to support community determination, flexible cultural interpretations, and adjudication of cultural values across social boundaries. Thirdly, technology use in indigenous communities requires more effective organizational structures, stronger links between institutions of learning and community, and the empowerment of disenfranchised learners and groups. Fourthly, it is important to consider traditional concepts as a viable source for theorizing and conceptualizing research in indigenous societies. Finally, the study implies that doing research with and not ‘for’ indigenous people means research should be dialogic and include the shared experiences of all stakeholders, privilege all forms of knowledge and above all share skills and knowledge between and among the participants.