Integrating People, Place and Rural Identity into a Multidisciplinary Online Curriculum for Rural and Remote Australian Students

Dr Frank A. York
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Approximately 15% of Australia’s population resides in rural and remote locations, where children are either educated in small rural schools or at home through schools of distance education. This paper describes an online multidisciplinary curriculum specifically devised to meet the needs of rural and remote students from 10-14 years of age. The online program addresses rural identity and place through an integrated study of oral history, English, music and information communication technologies. Students conducted oral history interviews with community elders, synthesised this information to create a song lyric and composed a melody for it using computer software.

Qualitative data were obtained from analysis of email exchanges between students and between students and mentors (university lecturers and community experts in the Arts), analysis of a Likert questionnaire and semi-structured interviews with students, teachers and mentors, and feedback from parents. Findings revealed interesting Social Constructivist outcomes. The interrelationship between the social sciences, the Arts and technology permitted students to present a public identity through creating their own songs and a project Web site.

It was educationally motivational as students went beyond the set assessment to research their topics more widely. In one case with teacher support, the class drew on two students’ comparison of the Vietnam War with the War on Terrorism. In another case, female students became fascinated with the social role music previously played in rural community life compared with their more individualistic experiences with technology such as MP3 players; this was in spite of the online classroom teacher’s disinterest. Similarly, rural male students were empowered to voice their personal feelings through the multidisciplinary online project in ways that were otherwise not socially acceptable among their peers. The presentation of the paper will provide details about these and additional relevant findings.

Keywords: Online Teaching and Learning, Rural, Social Science, Oral History, Mentors, Multi-disciplinary Curriculum, Cross-disciplinary Curriculum, Music Education, Middle School, Distance Education, Information Communication Technologies, Qualitative Research
Stream: Education and Social Welfare
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr Frank A. York

Senior Lecturer, School of Education, James Cook University
Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Frank York earned his Bachelor of Science (Music Education) and Master of Music degrees before commencing teaching in Pennsylvania and California. In 1972 he moved to Australia where he taught classroom music in Victoria and lectured in Music Education at La Trobe University’s Bendigo campus. He later completed Master of Music Education PhD degrees. Employment at James Cook University led Frank to involvement in distance education. As former Director of the Remote Area Teacher Education, he supervised the development and delivery of interactive multimedia courseware and World Wide Web based subjects to students studying in remote indigenous communities. An interest in the application of technologies required for such a task followed, and recently stimulated collaboration in the provision of cross-disciplinary computer mediated education programs to schoolchildren in small rural schools or studying alone on isolated properties in Outback Australia.

Ref: I06P0100