How It Works
Managing large amounts of information and establishing a personal connection for students is a crucial challenge for teachers on-line. KA-NA-TA addresses this important issue by organizing all schools into small manageable groups of three (triads).
One or two of the three schools in these triads always represent an Aboriginal community and the three classrooms are grouped by the project coordinators for a similarity of age and a diversity of culture and geography. The three sites then create and organize their own electronic, virtual classroom, spanning the country. Schools with greater resources of technology and experience provide extra support to those who are just beginning. From their own triad conference area on the network and with an action-oriented focus, classes trade information, research their communities and practice consensus-building skills. Students take charge of this process by developing their own questions and researching their responses from the other schools.
After the classroom teacher establishes the network connection, posts an introduction and is welcomed in the teachers conference, project coordinators group schools into their triads. The students begin by preparing and posting short introductions and selecting a computer buddy/keypal in each of the other two triad schools.Teachers can be as involved as they like with the grouping process.
The classes then begin to assemble their Wampum Exchange Boxes. These contain actual items collected by the students to represent their site. Schools have contributed poetry, recipes, videos of their schools, photographs of each other, local newspapers, postcards, fruitcakes, handmade quilts, crafts, a stone or shell from the local beach, a special feather, - in short, anything that speaks of their own life which can be offered as a gift or a message.
Receiving such boxes is a wonderful experience for all, as students discover a strong sense of the reality of their partners' lives. The exchange can be seen as a symbolic version of the ancient "Potlatch", in which people exchanged what they felt were the riches of their own nation. Further parts of the KA-NA-TA program concurrently lead into more depth, as students interactively gather and share information on their communities and lifestyles under selected topics. They then identify and prioritize important challenges for each community and work on student-based solutions, which are shared on-line.
It is important to understand that this project offers far more than just access to passive information or casual exchanges with other classrooms on the Internet. It is a managed, planned, structured, and dynamic environment in which only those students and teachers who have registered, can take part. For this reason, it is safe, coordinated, and offers a format that is easy to follow. A detailed Teacher's Handbook is sent to each site, offering prepared lesson plans. With teachers' time at a premium, most of the time-consuming organizational work has already been taken care of, allowing the teachers to concentrate on quality of content.