Engaging indigenous learners in education through ICT

Djarindjin and Lombadina communities

Regional context

The Djarindjin and Lombadina communities are located 200 kilometres north of Broome, on the north-west coast of the Dampier Peninsula in Western Australia. The communities are accessible by 80 kilometres of unsealed road from Broome. It is an idyllic coastal environment with pristine beaches, magically tropical sunsets and the ocean is rich in sea life-sharks, dolphins, whales, turtles, sting rays and the graceful manta rays.

Djarindjin has a population of approximately 300 people and is a separate entity to Lombadina. Each community has their own administration, governance, store, workshop and other facilities. Lombadina is the smaller of the two neighbouring communities and has a population of approximately 55 people.

Relevant historical and cultural context

Lullmardinard was the original name of Lombadina which was first settled by Thomas Puertollano in the late 1890’s and later became a Catholic Mission in 1910 under the supervision of Father Nicholas Emo (Spanish Order).

Lombadina Mission in the early years became the second dormitory based education centre for the Aboriginal children from around the Kimberley. It was operated by the St. John of God Sisters until the early 1980’s when Aboriginal people received legal authority to form their own separate community organisations.

The people from Lombadina Djarindjin belong to the Goollargoon country and speak the Bard language. There are two similar dialects spoken today, the younger people speak the ‘light’ Bard language and the older people speak the’ heavy’ Bard.

School overview

The Djarindjin Lombadina school is a non-government, Catholic-run school. It provides classes for approximately 70 Indigenous learners from Pre-primary to Year 10. It serves both the Djarindjin and Lombadina communities and surrounding outstations. Although it was the St John of God Sisters who founded the school in 1913, there have been a number of religious orders associated with the school over the years. The school is now staffed by a principal and several teachers. Local Aboriginal Teaching Assistants (ATAs) provide invaluable support within the school and provide a strong link to the communities.

The school is equipped with a range of ICT facilities they include things like internet, email, smart boards, data projectors, digital cameras, video cameras, laptops and approximately 30 computers.

Janenell Sibosado has been a classroom teacher at the school for the last six years. Prior to this she taught in Broome at St Mary’s Primary School and Cable Beach Primary School for a short time. Also worked for the youth group in Broome-Burdekin Youth In Action and was a member of several youth committees within the town. Janenell attended primary schoool at Djarindjin Lombadina. She is a direct decendant of the Bard people and her immediate family still reside at Lombadina Djarindjin Community.

Indigenous ICT champion

Coral Chaquebor was the ICT champion of this project. She showed a genuine interest in many areas and worked hard to tackle challenges put in front of her. She also encouraged others around her. Coral’s participation in the program resulted in improved confidence and skill.

student disecting fish

Learning through ICT – Hook, Line and Thinker program

Given the issues with learning in remote high schools, particularly in Indigenous communities, there is a great need to develop learning programs that are targeted at Indigenous high school learners, including those in Year 7 to Year 10, as well as, Year 11 and 12 learners. The Hook, Line and Thinker ©2008 program (developed and owned by the Kimberley TAFE Broome Aquaculture Centre) is an integrated and multifaceted, hands-on learning program based on keeping, breeding and selling tropical freshwater aquarium fish.

The program is aimed primarily at Indigenous learners, who make up the majority of the learner population in remote schools in the Kimberley region. It is designed to respond to the particular needs and learning styles of Indigenous learners. It is based on the principle that effective learning programs need to be relevant and able to respond to the learning styles of the target learners, while ensuring that learners are indeed developing the skills that they need for successful employment in the future.

The Hook, Line and Thinker program is based around learners working together in small groups to establish freshwater aquaria, then keeping and breeding tropical ornamental fishes. Once the fish have bred, the learners then rear the fish up to market size and sell them on to the local aquarium trade. Freshwater aquarium fish are perennial favourites with young people all over the world, and the program leverages this interest to engage and motivate learners in the learning process. Learner groups are empowered to take control of their own tank, look after their own fish, and investigate and research the species, technology, markets, and business opportunities to improve their productivity and profitability.

students looking after fish tank

The program introduces learners to a variety of avenues for further training or future employment. Some of the key skills that are incorporated into the program are:

  • literacy and numeracy skills (which are deeply embedded in all aspects of the training)
  • ICT skills, for example web surfing, word processing, spread sheeting, video making, digital photography
  • teamwork and team management
  • business development and management concepts
  • aquaculture skills
  • biology and ecology skills
  • construction skills, including the use of power tools
  • tourism skills
  • cooking
  • boat handling and motor maintenance
  • basic cash management flow.

One of the key advantages of this approach is that the program provides relevance to mathematics, literacy, and other disciplines through an investigative and hands-on learning approach, where learners can see the direct application and importance of what they are learning. Learners enjoy the learning experience, and can see direct consequences and influences of their actions and management strategies. Knowing that fish are depending on them develops employability skills such as responsibility, teamwork and communication (through the development and implementation of rosters for feeding, tank maintenance, dealing with holidays, etc), self management skills, and initiative and enterprise skills.

students disecting fish

Outcomes

The program has been implemented in two different remote high schools – the One Arm Point remote community school (a government school) and the Djarindjin Lombadina Catholic school. The results so far have been outstanding. For example, when the program was first initiated at the Djarindjin Lombadina Catholic school, 13 learners were attending. The attendance has now increased to 22 learners.

In general, the learners have enjoyed the program. Coral (from Djarindjin Lombadina Catholic school), for example, ‘liked doing the water quality testing for the tanks, and also liked breeding the fish and feeding them’. Kelo (from One Arm Point school) enjoyed learning about ‘cooking various types of seafood’, and about ‘constructing wooden tables’. Cheyne (from Djarindjin Lombadina Catholic school) enjoyed learning how to use ‘the drill for making the undergravel filter’. Similarly, Cohen (from One Arm Point school) ‘loved the microscope work and wanted to do it every week’.

Most learners are also now interested in pursuing work experience options related to the experiences that they have had as part of the program. Alynda (from Djarindjin Lombadina Catholic school) says that she ‘would like to do work experience at a pet shop so that she can tell lots of people about the fishes’. Similarly, Coral (from Djarindjin Lombadina Catholic school) would like to work at a place that grows fish or other aquatic animals, and would also like to learn more about the biology of the animals’.

The learners at Djarindjin Lombadina Catholic school have said they would like the program to continue next year, and for it to incorporate marine aquarium fishes as well as freshwater aquarium fishes. Ishmail (from Djarindjin Lombadina Catholic school) would like to ‘learn all about saltwater fishes’ next year. Rikkia (from Djarindjin Lombadina Catholic school) would ‘like more cooking classes’ as part of the program next year.

‘The program offered an additional opportunity that targets young school leavers. It’s given them an insight of possible career pathways and an opportunity to further develop practical skills and knowledge. There was a remarkable improvement in attendance, confidence and participation. The students were keen and interested to see the results themselves,’ says Janenell Sibosado, classroom teacher.

Below is an email received from TAFE colleague, Richard Agar, about the program at the Djarindjin Lombadina Catholic school.

Hi guys,

I had dinner this week with Darren Side, Principal of Djarindjin Lombadina Catholic School and his wife Anna, who also teaches at the school.

They were glowing in their praise of the program you have established with the learners. They said the outcomes you have achieved so far in engaging the learners and keeping their interest under trying conditions were phenomenal. They could already notice changes in behaviours and attitudes, and look forward to you completing the rest of the program.

So, well done!

Cheers & regards

Richard

 

Future Directions

The Hook, Line and Thinker program has already achieved some outstanding results in remote community high schools, where attendance, retention and learning have seen significant improvements. The intention is to expand the program in a number of ways – firstly, to increase the program to cover a wider part of the Kimberley region, and secondly, by developing it into a multi-year program (as opposed to the current one semester program) where participants learn an expanding and diverse range of skills on a continuous and integrated basis.

students at the beach