The SWIRL Project and Talking Books: Construction of Meaning

Lawrence Mahon
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Australian Aborigines are the custodians of the oldest living cultures on Earth. Stories from different Aboriginal groups date back many thousands of years, and have been told traditionally far beyond human records.
IBM is an important partner in enabling and renewing the possibilities for the ongoing telling of those stories, using new and emerging technology.
Through the SWIRL project, an innovative project within itself, student teachers from Victoria University in Melbourne travel to remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, and work with children from those communities to document their contemporary and traditional stories for use as literature to encourage the learning of literacy skills. The project is now in its tenth year.
With IBM’s assistance, new ways of telling those ancient stories is emerging: talking books and animation.
With the addition of microphones, simple digital cameras and clay or plasticine, children as young as five have been taught how to construct both talking books and stop motion animations to tell stories that have been known for generations. In the process, they are learning valuable technology skills, and in a context that is both respectful of their traditional cultural practices, and valuable knowledge in mainstream society.
Many of the student teachers who participate in this project return at the completion of their degrees, and generally remain in remote locations almost three times as long as recruits from conventional processes, which is only 7 months. While up to twenty ex-SWIRL participants have returned for a two to three year stint, fifteen are still currently teaching there.

Keywords: Literacy, technology, culture, Australian Aborigines, talking books, digital animation
Stream: Knowledge and Technology
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Lawrence Mahon

Coordinator, Bachelor of Education, (Nyerna Studies), School of Education
Faculty of Arts, Education and Human Development
Victoria University, Victoria University


Mr Lawry Mahon has been working with Australian Indigenous people on technology and literacy projects in Central Australia. One project, Story Writing In Remote Locations (SWIRL)has just completed its tenth year, where student teachers go to remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia to work with teachers, community members and children to publish children's stories that relate directly to day to day lives, as well as traditional culture of the people in the region. IBM, the Federal Department of Science and Technology, the Northern Territory Department of Education and Training and Victoria University have sponsored the program.

Ref: T06P0142