Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education staff and other remote and rural stakeholders met this week in Alice Springs at the 2014 Broadband for the Bush Forum to advocate for better broadband services – critical to the digital future of remote Australia.
The participants had the opportunity to interact with key decision makers in government and industry, share their views on the digital challenges faced in the bush and access the latest communications and digital developments.
The forum program included keynote addresses from ministerial and industry representatives, interactive panel sessions and discussion workshops. Focus topics include: Digital Inclusion, Technology and Policy, Digital Economy and Digital Services.
Batchelor Institute researcher Dr Henk Huijser discussed: “How online learning environments could support Indigenous approaches to teaching and learning” as part of the Digital Services Panel. He outlined the work Batchelor Institute is currently doing in this space and described what kind of broadband services would lead to more effective education, training and resource development outcomes in remote Indigenous communities.
Dr Huijser also spoke about how high speed broadband services for the bush could reduce the challenges currently facing remote delivery and support. Batchelor Institute has, over the past five years, been investing in and developing its online learning capacity and has now established its presence in the online learning space for remote Australia.
For a long time, it has been connectivity issues that have had the greatest impact on using online programs to support education pathways in remote Australia. With the advent of the National Broadband Network (NBN), this is about to change. As part of building greater capacity for remote students to engage with online learning, Batchelor Institute is developing a blended both-ways learning model that aims to lead the field in Indigenous online learning.
Dr Huijser also discussed the development of digital language resources for remote communities in Central Australia and how improved internet services will increase capacity to provide digital and online Indigenous languages resources to the bush. The Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics (CALL) is part of the Division of Higher Education and Research at Batchelor Institute. CALL Project Linguist, Margaret Carew, also participated in the forum.
“The focus of CALL’s work is increasingly turning to digital and online resources,” explains Margaret.
“For example, in Central Australia a sign language documentation project has been underway since 2011. The Iltyem-iltyem project is recording traditional and contemporary signs used by people at Ti Tree, Wilora, Tjukurla, Tara, Yuelamu and Utopia, from the following language groups: Anmatyerr, Warlpiri, Ngaatjatjarra, Kaytetye and Alyawarr.
“A pilot program to develop an online dictionary of signs with a language team at Ti Tree was completed in 2013, and now over 400 short video clips are publically available on the project website. The online dictionary has attracted considerable interest from other language groups, and consultations are now underway to expand the resource to include a broader range of contributions.”
The NBN represents a great opportunity for online engagement for Indigenous people in both teaching and learning programs and digital resource development in the first languages of remote communities. Batchelor Institute is at the forefront of these developments and will continue to advocate for improved internet access for people in remote communities in the NT.
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