I was thinking the other day about a discussion I had with my lecturer at teachers’ college about aspects of culture. I can’t remember exactly what context it was in, but I recall at the time saying that I felt I had no real culture. This is now in contrast to today, where I feel a great sense of connection to my culture, or at least a connection to what it means for me to be a “Kiwi”, raising a family in this wonderful country, and making positive contributions to the community in which I live.
I’ve been travelling around Aotearoa for the last six years, and using ICT to give students windows into a variety of places, projects, and people’s jobs. These windows provide fantastic learning opportunities for students that are literally in their own back yard. Furthermore, I have seen first-hand how this type of authentic learning reaches far into students’ own understandings and beliefs, and that have the potential to influence throughout a lifetime.
So, I wonder if my work over the last six years has had something to do with this shift in perspective. Like I said, my job takes me all around Aotearoa, where I am lucky enough in many instances to showcase what makes this little corner of the universe unique; our coastline, lakes, rivers, forest, wildlife, landforms, and, of course, the people. I have been able to make connections to the land, to the New Zealand environment, and its people more than ever before. Therefore, maybe this has enabled me to better establish what constitutes my culture — or at least, what things help create meaning and purpose in my life.
I wonder also if the lack of authentic learning experiences during my time at school contributed to the apparent absence of my own culture. I remember learning about life in the European Middle Ages, about Vikings, about what life was like living on a kibbutz, and I did a project on Greenpeace once. But I struggle to recall truly authentic experiences that provided any sense of real connection to Godzone. That being said, the technology that enables students to connect today is a far cry from what was available to me when I was at school!
I have grown to truly appreciate the notion that, as educators, we have a sense of moral obligation to not only teach our students how to read and write, and add and subtract, but to also connect them with their immediate world around them, to provide them with opportunities to care about something enough that they want to get involved, to contribute, and to make a difference. And, I am also finding out more and more how ICT can really be taken advantage of to achieve these outcomes.
Yes, technology can help connect us on a global scale, and while I find this perspective an important one, I also think we should start in our own neighbourhood. Let’s establish grassroots and work on using education as a way of connecting our immediate communities before heading offshore. ICT is a powerful tool to connect locally and help students see what is truly important in their own back yard and their own lives. Thinking big but starting small – surely this is the way to go to get our students to act now.
Photos right: show Andrew’s involvement with New Zealand’s lakes, rivers, forest, wildlife and people through his work for LEARNZ.