Teachers from Bonnyrigg Khmer School are part of an exciting new school-based professional development program being piloted this term by the University of Sydney's Institute for Community Languages Education.
It's a community-language school run by volunteer teachers and a parent committee with some funding from the NSW Community Language Schools Program.
The school has been running since 1991 and teaches the Khmer (Cambodian) language, literacy and traditional dance to primary- and junior-high school students on Sunday mornings during school term.
On a recent Sunday afternoon after school, the teachers did an introductory workshop, run by institute staff on helping students use digital media in classroom learning projects to tell stories in their own language.
"We're really interested in enabling community-language schools to create engaging ways of teaching community languages and tasks that are meaningful and authentic, drawing on students' experiences of the world and technology," said the institute's assistant director, CamillaCouch.
Project leader Kirsty McGeoch said: "Stories are a really powerful way of learning, so the idea is to enable students to tell their stories in their own words and develop their language skills and intercultural skills in the process."
The institute was established in 2017 with state-government funding to research community-languages education to support teachers, student learning, policy and program development across the state.
"The institute aims to lift NSW's capacity for world-leading community languages education through research, teaching and professional learning programs," said the institute's director, Professor Ken Cruickshank.
The Sunday workshop was a practical hands-on session showing how Bonnyrigg Khmer teachers can use iPads in their classrooms to get students at different ages and language levels to create and present stories or topics of personal interest in Khmer.
After some initial hesitancy, teachers gained confidence working together in groups using their iPads to combine pictures, texts and voiceover and show their projects to each other. "Digital storytelling was fun," teacher ChharvyKim said. "Taking pictures and putting the voice recording to it and learning how to cut and paste the voice -- that was all new learning for me."
Fellow teacher Sok Lin Ly said: "Using the technology is new and interesting. I think kids now enjoy the technology and especially when reporting their project -- most of them are shy speaking in front of their parents. So they're more confident doing it as a recording. It's a good way to encourage the students to talk in their language."
Afterwards, the teachers discussed their first digital-media project for the classroom. They began by thinking about a topic or theme to interest students and by making another digital story themselves before introducing it to the class.
"The program is what the school needs to develop new methods of teaching and using technology that will engage students and motivate them to learn their home language to higher levels," principal SorathyMichell said. "As the project is implemented in more community language schools, communities will be able to share stories across languages and cultures, and that's really exciting potential."