Learning Spaces: Youth, literacy and new media in remote Indigenous Australia
by Inge Kral & Robert G. (Jerry) Schwab
Learning Spaces documents the many ways in which Indigenous youth - aged 16 to 25 - are extending their learning, expanding their oral and written language skills and in particular embracing digital culture in community-based domains outside of mainstream learning environments.
The book details the results of a 3 year participatory research project funded by the Australian Research Council and The Fred Hollows Foundation. In the project researchers from the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at The Australian National University worked with around two dozen young people and facilitators from Indigenous communities and organisations who contributed and collaborated conceptually and creatively to the research project.
Learning Spaces offers a unique and compelling guide for community members, policy makers and education facilitators to rethink their approaches to learning.
Learning Spaces: Youth literacy and new media in remote Indigenous Australia is available for free download from ANU E Press.
Learning Spaces suggests that digital technology may be a key to improving education outcomes for Indigenous youths living in remote communities.
Having documented positive results throughout the course of their three year study, co-authors Dr. Inge Kral and Dr. Robert G. Schwab believe the study shows it is possible to re-engage young Indigenous adults lost to regular schooling systems, with education and life long learning.
“In our research we’ve noticed that although many young people may be walking away from compulsory schooling and training, they are not rejecting learning,” Dr. Schwab said.
“Our observations and interactions with young people indicate that when alternative learning opportunities are available, youth are participating and successful outcomes are being attained.”
Central to their findings, the result of three years collaboration with two-dozen Indigenous youths from remote communities is the creation of what they call ‘learning spaces’ - together with the use of new media technologies to encourage engagement with learning.
“In recent years media organisations, schools and youth centres have tapped into digital media as a way of engaging young people. With an increase to these resources, young people are now producing and controlling new forms of cultural production,” Dr. Kral said.
“As a consequence we are witnessing a new wave of oral and written language activity as youths experiment with the production of computer-based, multimodal text.”
“We also identified the importance of what we call ‘learning spaces.’ This is where Indigenous participants have control over their physical space, time and resources to acquire and practice relevant new skills – and allow productive processes to take place.”
“In these ‘learning spaces’ they have the freedom to explore and express their contemporary Indigenous identity.”
Learning Spaces is a book that promotes approaches to successfully re-engage young Indigenous adults with learning. It is aimed at members of Indigenous communities, as well as education facilitators and policy makers.
This work offers us the rare opportunity to step inside innovative uses of technologies, mergers of global technologies into local knowledge, and community advocacy of local history and ideology... The young people who move through these pages are motivated and proud of having had the opportunities that make possible their linking together of historical knowledge and contemporary means of communication and performance. The means illustrated here have enabled them to develop skills that will help them move into the future as adults engaged with the health and life of their own communities, connected to their language and culture as their way of being in the world of the local so as to know the world of the global.
Professor Shirley Brice Heath, Stanford University USA
This book contains lots of gold. It is loaded with up-to-date research-based observations, great case studies and includes a wonderful use of community and practitioners’ voices to back up arguments. It connects theory and practice, makes pertinent recommendations, and provides an important critique of current Indigenous and education policy and the deficit thinking around remote communities. It is a significant and timely book and helps to challenge the prevailing discourse on remote Indigenous people, learning and employment and enterprise.
Daniel Featherstone, Manager, Indigenous Remote Communications Association, Alice Springs
As Aboriginal people we have always been learning through sight and sound. Our learning is enhanced by using this modern technology of the digital media. This book shows the excitement of young people participating in projects in which they are accessing literacy and learning in new ways.
Shellie Morris, Singer/Songwriter
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