Transforming career and educational opportunities for AEWs through digital technologies

Year: 2016

Author: Herrington, Jan, Jackson-Barrett, Elizabeth, Parker, Jenni, Price, Anne, Gower, Graeme

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

While Aboriginal Education Workers (AEWs) in schools are of vital importance to the educational outcomes of Aboriginal students, for too long they have been relegated to the margins of schools and not necessarily employed in meaningful ways. The current context of Australian educational transformation—including mandated Aboriginal studies (ACARA), national standardized testing (NAPLAN), and the requirement of teachers to demonstrate knowledge of Aboriginal perspectives (AITSL)—necessitates a deeper and more engaged consideration of the current and potential roles of AEWs. This paper reports on a two-year study, entitled Skilling Up, aimed at tapping into the potential of AEWs to provide a key-supporting role for teachers, and improving their career and educational opportunities through the use of digital technologies. The project involved the implementation of a professional learning program for 30 AEWs over a period of 18-months, where iPads were used to enhance personal, professional and pedagogical skills using technology. AEWs were required to complete three authentic tasks: the creation of a website to be used as an ePortfolio, a digital story, and the selection and use of teaching applications (apps).An overall methodological approach informed by Indigenous research theories and protocols was used in the project, further supported by the use of design-based research (DBR). DBR is particularly appropriate for research in Indigenous settings because it supports the investigation of complex problems in real contexts in collaboration with practitioners, and because of its stronglyß consultative focus. It is typically conducted in four broad phases. In the first phase in the project, the problem area was explored with AEWs, principals and Indigenous communities. In the second phase, a solution was designed to address the problem in the form of a professional development program (using supplied iPads). In the third phase, the solution was implemented in iterative cycles in the form of an ongoing series of workshops and visits to AEWs’ own workplaces. The key task implicit in this phase was not so much to assess whether the proposed program solution worked, but to make it work. In this way, the workshops and consultations were adaptive to both the circumstances and the learning opportunities available to the participants. The last phase involved reflection to create design principles for others wishing to use the approach. In this presentation, the rationale, context, research design (together with the DBR model used), findings and resulting design principles will be explained in detail.