March 21, 2018

New online tool offers rich source of contemporary Indigenous education resources

Werklund grad student guides development of website to help educators create inclusive learning environments

Author

Clayton MaGillivray

Educators in Alberta face a significant but important challenge every day — to provide students with opportunities to understand and respect the history, culture and contributions of Canada’s Indigenous People.

Easier said than done.

While there are a number of digital and print sources of information available to educators, many are incomplete or out of date.

“The biggest challenge facing teachers in addressing Indigenous issues is the lack of contemporary resources,” says Howard Campbell, assistant principal of St. Cyril School. “There have been major events in Canada that have changed the paradigm in how Canadians view Indigenous issues. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, movements such as Idle No More, constitutional issues and treaties are not adequately addressed in current, available resources.”

Recognizing the need to fill this knowledge gap led the Werklund School of Education, under the guidance of Métis graduate student Vicki Bouvier, to develop an online tool to aid teachers in confidently incorporating Indigenous education into their classrooms.

New resource offers Indigenous viewpoints

Housed on the Werklund School’s Teaching & Learning website, the new resource explores topics such as residential schools, reconciliation and ethical engagement via text and video. Kerrie Moore and Reg Crowshoe are two of the respected voices whose knowledge can be found on the site. As well, links to teaching resources and scholarly writing provide additional insight into a range of Indigenous issues.

Campbell, who had the opportunity to preview the site before the launch, believes this is exactly the type of asset teachers have been looking for.

“My first impression is positive because of the abundance of resources on a variety of topics that can be found in one place, with approved, trusted reviews so that teachers can be confident in their use. Often, Indigenous resources are not vetted by credible, authentic sources, and present a non-Indigenous view.”

Properly representing Indigenous perspectives was a high priority for the Werklund School. To ensure this goal was met, Elders, Indigenous and non-Indigenous academic staff in the Werklund School and the University of Calgary’s director of Indigenous strategy were consulted throughout the project’s development.

Teaching & Learning Associate Dean Jennifer Lock adds that this initiative aligns with both the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy and Werklund School’s Indigenous Strategy

User experience carefully considered during design

Careful consideration was given not only to the content but also the web experience. Topics are arranged into four themes of Indigenous Lifeways, Colonization, Decolonization and Journeying Together. Each theme surrounds and links to foundational educational documents, which provide context for the Indigenization of curriculum and instruction.

“I wanted to ensure that the concept of this web page is informed by holism and interconnection. Each circle is connected to and informed by the other circles on the page,” explains Bouvier. “The circularity of the diagram is also informed by the cyclicality of our environment in which we start in the east — where the sun rises — with Indigenous Lifeways and then move clockwise to the south and so on.”

Site provides benefits for pre-service and in-service teachers

Amy Burns, field experience director in the Werklund School’s undergraduate program, says the site will complement the Indigenous education course pre-service teachers take as part of their studies.

“This website is another way to support our students as they take these important conversations out into the schools. The section on classroom instruction covers the kinds of ideas that both our pre-service and in-service teachers are desperate for and we see this in field experience.”

Lock sees value in the site for those outside of the teaching community.

“We hope that individuals who access the website will become more informed about Canadian Indigenous history, culture, language, and education, as well as contemporary initiatives that are impacting education. Through exploring and reflecting on the resources there will be further questions and a hope for a foundation to sustain the dialogue on Canada, settlement and reconciliation.

Patrick Hanlon, who worked closely with Bouvier in the creation of the site, understands the importance of keeping the information up-to-date and sees it as a tool that will evolve over time.

“We want Elders, academic staff, Indigenous scholars and others to share their insights on the topics relevant to Indigenous education. As people engage with the resources, they may direct us to other sources of information and other insights. The launch of this website is only a beginning.”

Visit the Teaching & Learning website to learn more.

The University of Calgary unveiled its Indigenous Strategy, ii' taa' poh' to' p, on Nov. 16, 2017. The strategy is the result of nearly two years of community dialogue and campus engagement, and involved the work of a number of people from the university, Indigenous communities and community stakeholders. Recommendations from the strategy are being implemented as we move forward with promise, hope and caring for the future.