Reterritorializing multimodal design in the classroom through a socially mediated Indigenous heritage

Mills, Kathy A. (2014) Reterritorializing multimodal design in the classroom through a socially mediated Indigenous heritage. In AARE-NZARE 2014 : Speaking Back through Research, 30 November - 4 December 2014, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.

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National or International Significance

Flows of cultural heritage in textual practices are vital to sustaining Indigenous communities - a national and international priority (Commonwealth of Australia, 2011). Indigenous heritage, whether passed on by oral tradition or ubiquitous social media, can be seen as a "conversation between the past and the future" (Fairclough, 2012, p. xv). Indigenous heritage involves appropriating memories within a cultural flow to pass on a spiritual legacy. This presentation reports ethnographic research of social media practices in a small independent Aboriginal school in Southeast Queensland, Australia that is resided over by the Yuggera elders and an Aboriginal principal.

Quality of Research

The purpose was to rupture existing notions of white literacies in schools, and to deterritorialize the uses of digital media by dominant cultures in the public sphere. Examples of learning experiences included the following: i. Integrating Indigenous language and knowledge into media text production; ii. Classroom visits from Indigenous elders; and iii. Publishing oral histories through digital scrapbooking. The program aligned with the Australian National Curriculum English (ACARA, 2014), which mandates the teaching of multimodal text creation.

Data sources included a class set of digital scrapbooks collaboratively created in a preparatory-one primary classroom. The digital scrapbooks combined digitally encoded words, images of material artifacts, and digital music files. A key feature of the writing and digital design task was to retell and digitally display and archive a cultural narrative of significance to the Indigenous Australian community and its memories and material traces of the past for the future.

Data analysis of the students' digital stories involved the application of key themes of negotiated, material, and digitally mediated forms of heritage practice. It drew on Australian Indigenous research by Keddie et al. (2013) to guard against the homogenizing of culture that can arise from a focus on a static view of culture. The interpretation of findings located Indigenous appropriation of social media within broader racialized politics that enables Indigenous literacy to be understood as a dynamic, negotiated, and transgenerational flows of practice. It demonstrates that Indigenous children's use of media production reflects "shifting and negotiated identities" in response to changing media environments that can function to sustain Indigenous cultural heritages (Appadurai, 1696, p. xv).

Impact on practice, policy or theory

The findings are important for teachers at a time when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures is a cross-curricular policy priority in the Australian Curriculum (ACARA, 2014). The findings show how curriculum policies can be applied to classroom practice in ways that are epistemologically consistent with Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Theoretically, it demonstrates how the children's experiences of culture are layered over time, as successive generations inherit, interweave, and hear others' cultural stories or maps. Practically, recommendations are provided for an approach to appropriating social media in schools that explicitly attends to the dynamic nature of Indigenous practices, negotiated through intercultural constructions and flows, and opening space for a critical anti-racist approach to multimodal text production.


The research is timely in the context of the accessibility and role of digital and multimodal forms of communication, including for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 79371
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Children & Youth Research Centre
Current > Schools > School of Teacher Education & Leadership
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 The author and publisher
Deposited On: 11 Dec 2014 02:42
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2016 02:27

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