Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A New Era in Learning?

I've just returned from a trip to Melbourne where I had the opportunity to visit a couple of Victoria's outstanding schools, Manor Lakes (P--12) and Silverton Primary.
While I've already Blogged about Silverton, Manor Lakes offers a slightly different approach and context.  The School is a P--12 (only P-7 at the moment) with a special education (specialist) unit that assists students with learning and physical disabilities. 
Jason Smallwood, the Principal, organised for Corrie Barclay, a teacher and ICT mentor, to show me around for the morning.
The school is new and has been open less than a year.  There is still a significant amount of construction still underway on the campus.  The school has 76% of its students in the bottom quartile of the SES index and none in the top quartile.  The school has also become popular choice for parents of students who have had difficulties at other schools.
The classroom design is less open plan than Silverton, but the building design allows classrooms to be opened up with each other and there are breakout areas as well.  Each student is supplied with a Mac iBook laptop and there are significant amounts of additional wireless connected devices available to students as well.  The school is currently taking part in an iPad trial and the students seem to have taken to these devices with eagerness from what I observed.

One of the classrooms I visited had its wall opened up so that two classrooms were joined, although the classes were operating separately.  One teacher was involved in some explicit teaching regarding the writing of persuasive text while the other class were working autonomously with their peers.  iPads were being used by both classes and the students were all on task and engaged.  When I spoke to some of then students, they were easily able to explain what they were doing and why.  Again, as with the Silverton classrooms, there was a quiet hum from students who were working together and on task.

As with Silverton, the students had easy access to a wide range of Web 2.0 tools that are not available to students in public schools in some other states of Australia.  Cyber safety is taken very seriously with students provided with intensive explicit instruction and training right from the beginning of their school experience.  All students and parents sign contracts that explain the required code of conduct. Breaches of Web safety are treated as a behaviour management issue with a number of levels that allow for an escalation of consequences.

While the Manor Lakes NAPLAN performance is not good, it is early days for this school with  the likes of Silverton having some 18 odd years to innovate and adapt their approach.

The Victorian approach to P-12 education is interesting in that there is a great deal of flexibility for regions to operate and innovate.  The Corio/Norrlane region in Geelong, for example, are in the process of undergoing a Regeneration Project that will result in P--8 as the new primary with years 9--12 as the new secondary.  The Victorian Labour government have made significant amounts of funding available for innovation projects and it is with some trepidation that I see that the State election held last weekend has resulted in the Liberal coalition party wining a majority of the seats and are now set to form government.  Let's hope that the devastation in education caused by the previous Victorian coalition government does not occur again!!

So, back to the title of this posting, what are the characteristics for a new era of learning?
  1. Engaged students (adequately supported with ubiquitous technology) with improved behaviour enjoying and being challenged at school. 
  2. Peer mentored/coached teachers who enjoy their work because they are planning and supporting learning rather than managing poor behaviour.
  3. Learning that is transdisciplinary with authentic contexts.
  4. Learning that is meaningful and with outcomes that are valued in the "real world".
Having had the opportunity to meet and speak with some outstanding Principals and a regional coordinator,  I asked them where they saw the most pressing need for improvement in the Public education system.  There were strong suggestions regarding the need for teacher education to catch up with the innovations currently occurring in some schools and to restructure their Programs to better meet the needs of modern schooling and 21st Century students.  While schools can and do develop teachers after they graduate, it would be easier for them if there was less unlearning required.
This is a challenge to all Australian universities and pre-service teacher programs, including my own institution.

Many thanks to my Victorian colleagues who took time out of their busy days to chat and show me around.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Innovative Schools that Engage

I'm currently in Melbourne to deliver the final report of a study focusing on a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) initiative that began about five years ago in three Geelong Schools.  While the findings are interesting, I've also had the opportunity to visit Silverton Primary School in Nobel Park, Melbourne and chat with the Principal Tony Bryant.
Silverton is not your ordinary primary school, its classrooms are large open plan spaces with a wide range of technology spread across the room for students to choose from.  ipads, itouchs, notebooks, laptops, desktop machines, electronic microscopes and much more. The whole campus is wireless accessible with fast router/switches enabling rapid communication between devices and the schools computing backbone.
Most classrooms have over 100 students working and learning in the same space with teachers dispersed amongst the students for support and explicit teaching where it is required.  Despite the number of students, there is little more than an audible hum as students work individually, in pairs, in small groups and in teacher-centred activities.  These kids are ENGAGED and it shows.  They all undertake authentic project work of their own choice and negotiated with the teachers. 
From Prep, students are taught how to inquire and discover--their curiosity is encouraged and fostered. They are also taught how to work together in teams and this sets the stage for the latter part of their primary school years.
Remarkably, this school is not a private school set in the leafy affluent suburbs of Melbourne with students from well to do parents.  This school draws 68% of its students from the bottom quartile based on Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) and is a public school funded by the Victorian government. Only 2% of its students are from the top quartile of parents.

The Principal Tony Bryant explains that the students are pre-tested in areas of literacy, numeracy and key learning areas to determine their needs and have individual learning plans negotiated for each student.  The students are partners in the process and see the testing as a way of identifying their own needs.  Regular post-testing is also used to measure and determine if the agreed outcomes have been met.

Key to the success of this school is the students ability to negotiate their own authentic projects such as radio and TV programs.  Each project is completed by a presentation to the target audience who have the ability to provide formative feedback.  Often the audience is other student groups, parents and outside organisations.  While I was at the school two grade 6 students described how they were planning an open day for the school to showcase to other students across the State just how their school works.  They had convinced Peters Ice Cream and a local grocer to donate substantial amounts of food that would be consumed on the open day.  While a teacher was on hand to help with any problem-solving, she was only at the periphery of the project--the students were making the big decisions.  This approach typifies the schools approach to learning where the students are full partners in the decision-making that occurs with their learning.
And it works, true student-centred learning environments with authentic projects and highly engaged learners who have strong NAPLAN results.

Tony indicated that there were few incidences of poor behaviour in any of their classrooms. I'm sure that this would mystify many teachers who have taught in low SES schools!

New teachers to the school are allocated mentors who induct them with regard to the school's methodology and ensure that the teachers are properly supported throughout the process.

Additionally, the school regularly surveys its students, parents and teachers across a wide range of issues and variables.  The survey data show strong student, teacher and parent satisfaction all well into the top quartile possible.

So what are the implications here? 
  1. These students were engaged and required very little intervention from teachers to remain on task--I was there for most of the morning and saw no instances of students straying from task.
  2. This model would work well in high school as teachers from a range of disciplines could be present at the same time in such a large learning space. This would mean that integrated curricula could work with flexibility for staff and students.
  3. Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) were being created with students storing their work in eportfolios and demonstrating how the students have accomplished their own personal learning goals.  
  4. One of my main reservations to the notion of PLEs in a school environment was the maturity of the students to make informed decisions about their own learning--I may need to re-think these reservations because if this works with early childhood students, the chances are that it will work with high school students!!
If you are in Melbourne and can make it out to this school I would strongly suggest that you contact the Principal and organise a tour--very impressive indeed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Future of Education??

This month marks the beginning of Doctoral studies and as you would expect the reading and research has led me into some interesting areas.  One such article is titled "The Future of Education" and written by self declared futurist Thomas Frey.  Tom works for the DaVinci Institute, "... a non-profit futurist think tank in the fertile proving grounds of Colorado".
The article is interesting in a number of ways as it offers a view of institutional educational blockers in much the same way (metaphorically) that Roman Numerals limited mathematical and scientific discoveries when the Romans colonised much of the world (see the article for a deeper discussion).  The article also offers a prediction that a centralised courseware development and storage tool would revolutionalise education and take over from what we now see as traditional schooling and higher education.
Frey notes, as do so many other education writers, that traditional notions of education are not coping with the content explosion generated by the rise of the knowledge economy.  Specifically, the idea of the teacher struggling to be a "sage on the stage" expert in all areas.  While Frey offers the popular view of a more student-centred focus with teachers as coaches, he goes on to suggest that 60 minute curriculum modules will be developed in a single, centrally located design environment by anyone and that these can then be tagged in areas such as their education field and quality.

In his discussion, Frey makes mention of the open courseware initiatives such as WikiUniversity currently being pursued around the world, but makes some interesting, and in my view, contestable assumptions that are worth discussing.  The first is that of a standard courseware development template based on one or a limited number of pedagogical approaches.  The second is that knowledge provision equates to learning. The final issue relates to the first two (indeed all three are inter-related) and is his apparent oversight of the current Personal Learning Environment (PLE) discussions and literature.

The standardised development template suggests that all learners learn the same way.  There is a great deal of literature that suggests just the opposite.  Writers such as Felder et al demonstrate a significant quantitative difference in learning efficiency based on learning preferences. Jung (1971), Briggs, and Myers similarly suggest that personality also has an effect on learning and that careful learning design can result in improved learning.  Clearly, a standardised approach to learning design (based on which assumptions?) would not present the most effective approach to a learning environment.  Cronje offers a four quadrant approach to learning that suggests that the nature of the content to be learned should dictate the learning philosophy used.  His model suggests a mix of constructivist and objectivist approaches that depend on the type of learning required.

The second issue is closely related to the first, in that Frey appears to make an assumption that the presentation of knowledge (using a standardised approach) is the same as learning.  Constructivist theorists offer a view that learning occurs best in a particular context to which the learner can relate and use their pre-existing knowledge. This contextualising of knowledge would mean that learning design should be directly related to its relevant application.  For example, learning how to calculate monetary discounts and additional fees would involve learning how to calculate percentages as well as addition and subtraction.  In another learning context percentages, addition and subtraction could/should be taught in a different context.

The final oversight, in my view, is the lack of acknowledgment of the growing literature on PLEs (see Siemans, or Downes). Personal Learning Environments offer the flexibility to contextualise and individualise content in ways that appeal to and engage learners.  When a learner learns to construct their own PLE, they themselves construct the learning modules to suit their own requirements.  If they need to learn how to video edit using Premiere then they search and construct their own learning environment that includes exactly what they need.  In the process they can tag information/tutorials they have found useful and share that information with any who wish to learn.  The most popular information will rate highly in Google searches and this makes it easier for others to find.  A quick reference to Wikipedia will in the vast majority of cases provide an authoritative cross reference in terms of accuracy.

Overall, I found Frey's article intriguing and there is no doubt that he has identified some of the major blockers to the transformational change that needs to happen in education.  His ideas on "Learning Camps" and 24 hour access to school learning centres are excellent as is  what he calls 'Confidence-Based Learning" where testing is an integral part of student learning diagnostics and formative feedback.

Jung, C. G. (1971). Psychological types (Collected works of C. G. Jung, volume 6). (3rd ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. First appeared in German in 1921. ISBN 0-691-09770-4

Myers, Isabel Briggs (1980). Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type. Davies-Black Publishing; Reprint edition (May 1, 1995). ISBN 0-89106-074-X

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pricing Point Challenges in University Education

I note with interest that Clark Aldrich in his latest Blog posting is suggesting that it may well be possible in the foreseeable future to obtain the most popular university qualification (MBA) for under $1000US.
Aldrich's argues that the proliferation on reliable online content, social networking technologies and critically, sophisticated business gaming simulations will combine to make the $1K MBA a reality, particularly for business managers in emerging economies.  He argues that the depth and efficiencies (4X) of learning possible using simulations and serious games makes low-cost certification a possibility.
Could this also be the case in other disciplines? 

There are serious implications here for Government Universities across the world who have targeted international students from emerging economies and now rely on this income to top up their funding.

Since 2001 Marc Prensky has been suggesting than gaming and simulation would eventually become an integral part of schooling, so are there parallels her with the $1K MBA?  
School systems, like universities are expensive to run in their current format and government school funding always seems to struggle to keep up with the demand.  If as Aldrich is suggesting, online content, social networking technology together with simulation and gaming will transform university education, what might what we now call schooling, actually look like?

What would the buildings look like? What would the hours of learning be? What would be the role of teachers?  Would this lead to less teachers? Would subject design, development and delivery be centralised (Nationally or Internationally?).  Would children in remote communities finally have a level playing field in terms of learning opportunities?

Definitely food for thought, although not palatable to all! 

All images courtesy of Flickr.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Authentic Learning Revisited

A conversation I had with Clay Burell over the last few days has encouraged him to write is latest Blog posting.  My question to Clay related to school assessment in authentic learning projects and how this could be done effectively and efficiently.  While Clay suggested that summative assessment should only occur when the students are ready for this to occur, the formative process should be ongoing.  While I was thinking perhaps self and peer assessment as an important part of the mix.  Clay then digressed into a description of presentations by gifted and talented students and how their talents could be better appreciated and shared in a public way by having them develop their own Blogs--no arguments here.

Anyway, I've been contemplating this Blog posting for a while and it came to me this morning on my way to work.  In second term /semester this year my wife and I are taking a 3 month break and traveling up into the Australian Wilderness of Cape York Peninsular.  We plan to work and holiday during this time, Sue as a nurse and me as a relief/contract teacher. 
           Image Courtesy of Flickr
Cape York is wild wilderness country with most of its residents indigenous Australians.  Many of the communities are remote and isolated and have some of the worst school student performance statistics in Australia.
A recent conversation I had a human resource person in our education department suggested that I might like to consider designing and developing a 3 or 4 week project for some of the older school students who are disengaged and disinterested in their learning.  I teach my pre-service teachers authentic project based learning so I thought that it would be a good idea to operationalise what I teach and develop a project, so here's what I've thought of so far today:

The community is called Aurukun and is located a 100km or so south of Weipa which is a mining town and the only place in  "the Cape" {a Queenslander way of referring to towns--Mt Isa (the Isa)--Cloncurry (the Curry)} that has significant numbers of "whitefellas".  In Aurukun English is often a third language for school aged students with "Wik Mungkan" the first language and an aboriginal "Creole" the second.  While school attendance has improved recently with the introduction of a strict alcohol and income management programs, many of the older kids have missed a great deal of schooling through absenteeism.  Many of the Aurukun kids also suffer from Otitis Media, often referred to as "Glue Ear".
Disengaged kids call for an engaging project with real and authentic outcomes.
First I thought about making short community stories using digital storytelling, because it's been done before and these students like using the technology and seeing themselves on tape, but I'm not one to necessarily do what has been done before.  So I thought of taking a more holistic approach and have each activity follow on from the last.
In Aurukun everyone fishes. 
The estuary where the community are located has some of the best fishing in Australia with many of the prized eating species can be easily caught.  So the project will be begin with fishing and end with a meal.  The authentic trigger will go something like this:

"In a world where fish stocks are dramatically declining, the Wik people are world leaders in the management of their marine resources in ways that demonstrate sustainability of fish stocks in numbers that existed when Aurukun was formed by the missionaries in 1904.  The Australian government in recognising this exceptional example of "Responsible Custodianship" have asked if the community could prepare a learning package that could be used across all of Australia's schools and be a part of the implementation of the new Australian National School Curriculum.
Your job is to work together in small teams to design and develop learning packages that will teach Australian children :
  • how to fish
  • the biology of healthy fish
  • how indigenous people manage their fishing resources
  • how to clean fish
  • how to cook fish
  • what it means to have a tribal and personal totem
  • how fishing fits into the land, language and culture of indigenous Australians.
Your learning packages will need to be delivered electronically so that all Australian schools can easily access.

Your packages will be reviewed by a team of pre-service teachers from CQ University students undertaking eLearning studies and they will provide valuable feedback to you before the learning package submission to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the honorable Jenny Macklin MP and the Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, the honorable Julia Gillard."

 Project Duration: 4 weeks

Learning Areas: English, Media, Technology,  Science, SOSE

Thanks to Clay for stirring  me into a posting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Addressing Disadvantage in Australian Indigenous Education

Those who know me realise that I have a strong passion for fairness and equity in Australian Indigenous education, particularly in remote communities. Recently, Noel Pearson the Director of the Cape York Institute wrote an article he titled "Radical Hope" which was published in the "Quarterly Essay" Journal. In his article Pearson describes the inherent disadvantage faced by Aboriginal school aged children as a result of their location and the quality of education available to them.

Today, I came across an eSchool News article that reports on the education focus of Bill Gates (co-founder of Microsoft) new Website. The article reports on Gates's observations of what works in education for disadvantaged kids, and in particular, he discusses what is occurring in some of the US charter schools. Gates discusses the high "academic" success rates for disadvantage students in charter schools subscribing to the “Knowledge is Power Program” (KIPP) approach to learning and teaching.
Gates writes:
“One example of KIPP’s success: While only 20 percent of low-income students in the U.S. attend college, the rate for former KIPP students is 80 percent.”
(the gates notes, 2009)

It is worthwhile looking at some of the key features of KIPP schools to understand what may contribute to this level of success.

KIPP schools:
  • have very long school days, typically from 7.30 AM to 5.00PM. The rationale given is that many of their students are well behind (2--3 grade/year levels) by the time they get to a KIPP middle school and require additional time to catch up to where they should be in their academic studies.
  • only employ outstanding teachers who have a proven track record in guiding students to high levels of success. Highly effective teachers have a strong range of skills and strategies that allow all students to achieve at the required levels.
  • have the philosophy that all students can learn what is required, and WILL learn to, or above the required level.
  • have a strict set of rules based on hard work and respect that are not negotiable.
The following YouTube videos provide a small glimpse of KIPP featured in a PBS special by Hedrick Smith that aired on 10/5/05.

You will notice that the videos avoid some critical questions like:
  1. How much more do they pay the teachers for the long hours and after hours consultation?
  2. What are the key pedagogical strategies that underpin the learning success? Surely it is not just more of the same?
  3. What happens to the students who refuse to adhere to the rules and schedule of the school? Is part of the 80% college success rate partly due to removal of students who will not accept the rules?
One thing that does seem relatively clear is the diminished amount of student behavioural problems due, it would seem, to students seeing their own success in learning.

So what can we learn from this and how might we apply this to schools with high proportions of indigenous students, particularly in remote communities?
This brings me back to Pearson's article and what he has proposed and is now implementing in remote Cape York schools. Noel has suggested that school should indeed have substantially longer hours that allows the students to catch up to where they need to be in terms of year levels. Further, he suggests that "Direct Instruction" is an approach that should be used as there are clear standardised test data that show the success of this approach for disadvantaged students. A key part of Direct Instruction is pre-prepared externally produced teacher lessons with a script from which the teachers are required to read. Pearson suggests that this will ameliorate the low levels of experience and expertise some teachers in these schools currently posses. Teaching in remote communities is not attractive for many teachers and often it is single, first year out graduates who are willing to spend a year or two in a remote community to secure a more desirable position, often in a capital city. This of course is a generalisation and not applicable to all teachers, some of whom are pasionate about indigenous education and increasing opportunities for indigenous people.

When comparing Direct Instruction with KIPP there are a few similarities, but some critical differences. Fundamentally, KIPP is highly dependent on recruiting and retaining high quality teachers who adopt very effective pedagogical approaches. The direct instruction is based on the notion that externally developed, highly structured and scripted curriculum is more important than quality teachers.
I believe indigenous kids deserve high quality teachers with the recognition and reward that will attract and retain these teachers in remote communities. As a teacher educator I get to work with many undergraduate and post-graduate pre-service teachers and can say that most of our graduates would not be interested in spending some years in a remote community teaching. Many of our graduates have children in school and do not want to disrupt their child's learning by moving away from the lifestyle they currently enjoy. Others have partners who work locally and are not able, or willing to move to a remote community. We do have a few (mostly male) graduates who would be prepared to spend some time in a remote community, but they mostly fit the description Pearson outlined in his article.
In my view the kinds of teachers that should be targeted should be older teachers with children who are now independent and have proven quality teaching track records. Often this cohort are at a stage of their life where they are seeking new challenges that their new found mobility allows, and have a sense of wanting to give back to the community. Equally, the rewards for teaching in remote communities should be significantly more than is currently paid. To attract and retain these teachers the pay should be very attractive with substantial bonuses for each year completed in a remote community. In the Business Council of Australia's paper (2008) "Teaching Talent: The Best Teachers For Australia’s Classrooms" outlines a five point plan for improving the quality of Australian school teaching. A key recommendation of this paper is that high quality teachers should be paid up to $130,000 per year to attract and retain the best. I suggest that this could be a good starting point for high quality teachers in remote communities.
As I write this I can hear the immediate retort from government "where is the money going to come from?" and "we can afford that!"
My answer to this is very clear, we cannot afford to squander the education and lives of another generation of indigenous kids and perpetuate what Pearson describes as the continued pauperisation of people in remote indigenous communities. Find the dollars and start recruiting the best teachers for our indigenous students.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Indigenous Education for all Australians

Next week Australians will be celebrating Australia Day on the 25th January. Australia Day represents a national holiday where all Australians can come together to celebrate what it is and means to be an Australian. Unfortunately, Australia Day also represents the aniversary the English settlement/invasion of Indigenous Australia, a continent and islands that contains a deep cultural significance for the oldest continuous race of peoples that have ever existed on Earth.

Successive Australian governments and the media give the appearance of acknowledging indigenous culture, but what impact has this had on existing indigenous Australians? The poorest performance in education (NAPLAN, 2008) and the lowest life expectancy (ABS 2007 cat. no. 3302.0) of any group of Australians.

Yesterday, I went looking for a large Aboriginal flag to fly on Australia Day. My wife had bought an Australian flag earlier for the same purpose. I was unsuccessful and every shop (and cultural centre) told me that they did not stock them as there was no demand. During my search I was struck by the absence of indigenous publications in the bookshops and indigenous symbology in all but our local cultural centre.

Recently I attended an international conference in Auckland, New Zealand and there was a great deal of Maori symbology evident across the city. The Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland (a white fella) gave much of his opening address in the Māori language (te reo Māori) in which he was obviously fluent.

I know that successive Australian Federal and State governments have allocated a great deal of funding in areas designed to improve outcomes for indigenous Australians, but what has actually been achieved?

Black (2007) and Vinson (1999) assert that Education is the key to overcoming social disadvantage which is characterised in Australia by poor educational, health outcomes and high levels of incarceration. Pearson (2009) in his Quarterly Essay 35, Radical Hope: Education and Equality in Australia makes the same assertion. Pearson suggests that without a comparable level of education indigenous people are subjected to a life of pauperisation.

There are of course some big challenges in indigenous education, particularly in remote indigenous communities. Teachers need to understand the cultural influences and indigenous perspectives and be able to adapt their teaching to suit these large differences. Ironically, when they do this, no students are disadvantaged. Indeed many non-indigenous students who see school as an alien and unfriendly environment respond very well to teachers who make their learning meaningful and respect indigenous culture and perspectives.

Other challenges include attracting and retaining good quality teachers. Some remote communities are alien to many white fellas and most often it is young male teaching graduates who elect to travel to remote communities, mostly for the extra remuneration and to secure a teaching position at a "good" school in a capital city. Many of these teachers are inexperienced and have little interest in developing strong and respectful relationships with the community. This is of course a generalisation and there are exceptions. One of my pre-service teacher students has elected to do all of his teaching practical in remote Northern Territory communities.

While there are challenges they are not insurmountable. Attracting older more experienced teachers can occur with by offering appropriate remuneration (much more than is currently offered) and targeting teachers who are closer to retiring age who have no dependent children. Older people often have a desire to experience new places and to begin to give back to the community. This is evidenced by the number of "Grey Nomads" that adorn our roads in Northern Australia during the winter.

But back to the issue of ignorance and indifference of many non-indigenous Australians and how we might bring about change in this area. This kind of change will clearly need to be generational as it's difficult to change the perceptions gained through a long lifetime. These perceptions can be innocent in the case of those who view issues only through their own cultural lens, or they can be openly destructive in terms of overt racism. For me, school education is again the key to changing perceptions. It is only when all Australians learn about indigenous culture, land, language and indigenous perspectives will we begin to show indigenous Australians the respect they deserve. The showing of respect and the honoring of indigenous culture, language and land brings with it a pride for indigenous Australians and it that pride and wider acknowledgment that will lift indigenous people out of the poverty and the socially destructive mire where many of them now find themselves.

There are challenges here also as each tribe and clan of indigenous people have their culture, land and language. Australia is not like New Zealand where the Māori language and culture is fairly homogeneous. Indigenous Australians have some common cultural practices and beliefs like: responsible custodianship of the land; extended sense of family connection; hierarchy of eye contact and connectedness to the land, but there are many differences that include language and life cycles related to the land.

While this is a challenge, it is not too difficult to overcome if all school curricula have integrated indigenous perspectives and the appropriate training for teachers on how to teach these perspectives. Uncle Ernie Grant is an Dijirabal/Djirrabal Elder and statewide cultural Research
Officer for Education Queensland is the developer of "My Land My Tracks: A framework for the holistic approach to indigenous studies". I have had the great honour of meeting with Uncle Ernie and with the support of the Indigenous Schooling Support Units in Rockhampton and Cairns, Uncle conducted a workshop last year for our pre-service teaching students and local school teachers.

The issue of variance between indigenous peoples land language and culture is not insurmountable and can be achieved relatively easily by having students develop Web-based resources for their area, and having all of these publicly available for teachers and students to use in their learning and teaching. Just imagine the difference it would make if all Australians understood and respected indigenous land language and culture. A publicly available Website, organised by regions and populated by school students from all over Australia would allow all Australians to develop their understanding and best of all, it provides students with authentic learning opportunities that engage them and make their learning worthwhile.

On Australia Day I will say a small prayer for my indigenous brothers and sisters and ask that the Federal Government see the wisdom of these relatively inexpensive ideas.

I'm also in the process of making my own Aboriginal flag (from material I bought yesterday) so that I can proudly fly it to honour the Darumbal people of my region and the Woppaburra clan who are the traditional custodians of the land on which our house is built.

What will you do for Australia Day?