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Students draw on the past to embrace future learning

An innovative collaboration is helping bring Aboriginal language and culture to life while instilling 21st century skills in young students.

Mia Leech demonstrates technology

Mia Leech Morrison from Rosemeadow Public School demonstrates how the technology works.

Aboriginal primary school students have brought their culture to life in an innovative high-tech collaboration with Dharawal Elders, Aboriginal digital entrepreneurs and Microsoft.

The Njulgang project involved 20 gifted and high potential Aboriginal students from five primary schools in south-western Sydney, who learned about local culture and language from a group of Dharawal Elders.

The students then illustrated what they had learned using online tools such as Paint 3D and Minecraft: Education Edition to create an augmented reality language learning resource based on the Dharawal Dreaming Story – ‘How the Animals Came to Dharawal Country’.

The students from Briar Road, Bradbury, Campbelltown East, Rosemeadow and Thomas Acres public schools showcased their work at a launch on Thursday at the Powerhouse Museum.

The images drawn by the students are converted into augmented reality when viewers using the Indigital Storytelling app hold their smartphone to look at the images that emerge. Users can experience the creations in 3D while wearing virtual reality headsets.

Jake Rambaldini from Bradbury Public School said working with the technology had expanded his knowledge immensely.

“They taught me things I didn’t know how to use or even existed,” he said, while schoolmate Ciara Whiting said she was most excited by knowing their work would be seen and “admired by people around Australia and the world”.

The Njulgang project involved the NSW Department of Education working with Microsoft plus partners Indigital, Shared Path, the Eastern Zone Gujaga Aboriginal Corporation and Design, Learn, Empower to create an innovative technology skills program for Aboriginal students.

The Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, Mark Scott, said the collaboration was a wonderful learning opportunity for students.

Mr Scott said through the project gifted and high potential Aboriginal students were refining their skills using sleek new technology while learning important lessons from Aboriginal Elders about their culture.

“The opportunity for our Aboriginal students to work closely with Dharawal Elders, Aboriginal digital entrepreneurs and Microsoft to bring this innovative learning resource to life is invaluable,” Mr Scott said.

“The new technology has been developed under the guidance of Aboriginal people and presents the Dharawal Dreaming Story as augmented reality where students can learn about the Dharawal language.”

Microsoft Australia managing director Steven Worrall said the Njulgang Project was important because many spoken Aboriginal languages were at risk of being lost.

“Not only has the program ignited the students’ passion for science and technology, it has provided them with a deeper understanding of Aboriginal language and culture and introduced them to the soft skills that are fundamental to learning in the 21st century,” Mr Worrall said.

The project has been led and co-funded by the Aboriginal Education and Communities Directorate. The department’s Business Engagement and Development team facilitated the collaboration between Aboriginal Education and Communities Unit and the external partners.

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