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CDNLAO Newsletter

No. 87, December 2016

Special topic: Services for children and young adults

National Library of Australia Digital Classroom

By National Library of Australia

In 2016 the National Library of Australia released its new platform for engaging teachers and students across Australia, Digital Classroom ( Digital Classroom allows the Library to share items in its collection that are relevant to curriculum and student learning, providing a framework for teachers that is built around what ideas and concepts they need to teach.

< The Digital Classroom front page >

The National Library collection is vast, full of books, photographs, manuscripts, maps, oral histories, ephemera and objects of all kinds. The list is as long as it is varied: ten million items in all, and only three million of them books. Many of the items have direct relevance to curriculum in Australia and around the world. Digital Classroom brings these items together in a way that is meaningful for teachers, exploring themes in line with the Australian Curriculum, and helping teachers interpret items with their students.

Digital Classroom crosses year levels, with modules targeted at classes from year 3 through to year 10. As the site evolves, an increasing amount of content will become available, including higher-level modules for senior students. The resources are targeted specifically for teachers to use either directly or indirectly with their students. This means that while we create content and activities around specific collection items, teachers have the flexibility to use this material in a way that is appropriate for their students. The modules are not lessons or units of work but explorations of themes, collections and specialist content, offering teachers freedom to dissect, adapt, reuse and repurpose. The philosophy is simple: we’re not experts in every classroom, but we can provide expert information on our treasures, enabling teachers to create a customised learning experience in their classroom.

< Library Treasure; Plate from Dorothy Wall (1894-1942),
Blinky Bill: The Quaint Little Australian, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1933, >

< Library Treasure; Portion of the Flag Flown by the Miners at the Eureka Stockade 1854 >

The Digital Classroom currently has ten modules and several links to additional resources. The modules cover content and skill development relating to History and Geography, with other resources for the English, Art and Civics and Citizenship curriculum. The content explores Australia’s past, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, Australian colonial past, convicts and much more. Stretching beyond our own history, one of the largest modules relates to the Qing Dynasty in China. This is particularly useful to secondary teachers providing the opportunity to use collection material dating from the 17th to the 20th Centuries that can only be accessed through the Digital Classroom. The platform is growing and soon we will have modules relating to the Drama curriculum and more content relating to protest, civil rights and the 1967 referendum.

Digital Classroom engages with students through their teachers in a variety of ways. The suggested activities advance content knowledge while also developing vital academic skills. One of the fundamental ways students engage in ongoing learning is by interrogating objects and sources. With Digital Classroom, teachers can lead students through the process of unpacking these items, understanding their significance, how they reflect our culture, and their value as sources for understanding our history.

The resources are categorised by curriculum areas so that teachers can quickly and easily identify how they fit within a unit of work or lesson. The site is easy to use, with a variety of activities and stimulus that is built on sound pedagogy. Regular use of the site will provide an exciting and meaningful engagement for their students. The activities range from artistic response, creative writing and gaming all the way to source interrogation, historical analysis and debate. Many of these activities can be incorporated into assessment by teachers. The Digital Classroom’s content, treasures and activities are designed to inspire teachers as much as students. As the resource grows and evolves into more subject areas and more year levels it will provide an important resource for students that will not only explore content and collection but stimulate thought, discussion and historical enquiry and a passion and enthusiasm for learning.

Digital Classroom is an opportunity for the Library to connect teachers with experts in various fields. Through video and audio, we deliver those experts into the classroom to explore objects with students. The deliberate use of pre-recorded material allows teachers to plan and reuse material, using it repeatedly with students and incorporating it into lesson planning for future years. It also allows this content to be accessed by a broader audience via the Library’s YouTube channel and other online platforms.

< The Digital Classroom makes extensive use of Video and Audio
helping connect teachers students and subject experts. >

One of the biggest challenges for collecting institutions like libraries is the logistics of making the tangible connection between collections and the community. We may think about the cost and effort of creating an exhibition that travels to regional or remote communities, but in many ways the relative expense for a school to bring their students to the collection is just as burdensome. Digital Classroom allows access where it may otherwise be difficult, if not impossible. We have chosen to keep the entire resource imbedded in HTML format without plugins or pop ups. This means that any device with a web browser and internet connectivity has access to the entire resource. The resources are also designed for use offline so that even in remote areas with limited internet access a teacher can use the resource. It takes the Library’s treasures into classrooms, letting students discover the significance of those objects and put them in the context of their learning and curriculum.

< Not just paper sources, the Digital Classroom helps
teachers and students interpret real objects. >

The Library’s collection is significant: from the Endeavour journal to the Mabo papers, it speaks to Australia’s past and informs our present and future. Digital Classroom puts these treasures into the hands of teachers and gives them the tools to explore and deconstruct their value. The breadth of the Library’s collection aligns with a range of curricula, spanning content areas. This new digital resource aims to make an impact on generations of Australian students and help them navigate, understand and value our shared cultural identity.

< As the Digital Classroom expands so does the breadth of content covered.
This image from our first Geography Curriculum module:
R. A. Bourne, Three Aboriginal men with their catch of a dugong,
turtle and shark, Broome, Western Australia, ca. 1926, >

Copyright (C) 2016 National Library of Australia