ETEC 521: Indigeneity, Technology and Education

ETEC 521: Indigeneity, Technology, and Education (elective course)


This course explores central concerns of globalization and Indigenous people related to educational policy and practice. As colonialism has expanded, it has taken new technological forms; Indigenous people have been uniquely positioned to both challenge technology and to utilize it for their own purposes of identity expression and political mobilization. This course raises questions about the dilemmas of cultural expression in a postmodern internet age while surveying the sites where Indigenous people have employed computer and distance learning technologies to reinvigorate languages, oral traditions, and art forms that were in decline previously.

Both theoretical and practical issues will be discussed related to the protection of cultural property, Indigenous epistemology, the dilemmas of "place based" education, and the Native resistance to corporate hegemony. Students will develop a critical vocabulary on cultural responsiveness related to Indigenous cosmology and ways of knowing. As a way to emphasize the sense of place in Indigenous ways of knowing and ways of life, the course has been structured to focus on the Coast Salish region since the University of British Columbia is located on the traditional territory of Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. At the UBC Longhouse, Musqueam elders serve in official roles as advisors. They perform important protocols of welcoming guests and reminding the students and faculty that they are studying and learning on land that Musqueam ancestors inhabited for hundreds of years. In some respects ETEC 521 attempts to offer students as much of a virtual place based educational experience as is possible through an on-line course.

This course focuses on how place and landscape provide the epistemological framework for pedagogy, curriculum, and the challenges of knowledge production and knowledge protection in the digital age. Extending out in a comparative fashion, the focus moves from the Coast Salish region to the Canadian North and more broadly, the Circumpolar North. How does the remote location of northern Indigenous communities create challenges and opportunities for online learning, digital archives, and creative self-representation toward community healing and revitalization? What are the essentials of place based education and technologies that are experienced differently in the urbanized Coast Salish region in contrast to communities that are great distances from each other and from resources for Indigenous development in Nunavut and Alaska? Along with essays, articles and web based text and media resources, the course will feature a series of audio and video interviews with educational leaders, researchers, and community members from both Coast Salish and Northern contexts. Most of these individuals are cultural brokers with university based knowledge and community standards and cultural expectations.

Listen to Dr. Michael Marker talk about ETEC 521 on Down the Hall - Episode 37 - Indigenizing Digital Culture.


This course is designed for graduate students who desire some understanding of how Indigenous communities have used media and digital technology to advance traditional knowledge and self-determination. This course familiarizes students with a basic critical vocabulary related to core cultural values generally shared among Indigenous peoples.


ETEC 521 is a course regarding the historic and lived realities of Indigenous peoples. While it is desirable to have an open forum for intellectual discussion and debate within graduate courses in university contexts, engaging with the historical and political experience of First Peoples requires an advanced level of cultural sensitivity. Within traditional Indigenous communities there have been long standing traditions and protocols regarding respectful inquiry that requires individuals to be more self- reflective and patient than might be common practice in mainstream educational settings. Elders, when telling stories or teaching, will often encourage students to seek the answers within themselves as a way to encourage self-reflection and respect before raising questions and challenges. First Nations communities have been invaded by colonizers of all types; developers, anthropologists, government agents, and missionaries. This history has left a dark legacy of exploitation, poverty, cultural dislocation, and residential school abuses.

As a student in ETEC 521, it will be important for you to reflect on these colonial legacies as you advance your understanding of the ways that Indigenous people are attempting to heal themselves and revitalize aspects of their traditional values. It will also require that you be patient with yourselves, as you may encounter ideas about place, history, identity and the future of Canada that challenge, extend or contest the knowledge constructs you are familiar and experienced with - this can raise a range of emotions. Discussions regarding respectful research protocols will be an underlying theme of ETEC 521.


  • Students will demonstrate the ability to include relevant literature on Indigenous knowledge and values in graduate level writing assignments related to technology and media.
  • Students will advance their ability to participate in discussions related to the development of technology based learning that incorporates appropriate Indigenous values and goals.
  • Students will develop an understanding of the ways that oral tradition and Indigenous knowledge are interconnected while critically evaluating the nature of internet technology as a contemporary expression of visual literacy and orality. Students will assess the prospects of technological transmission of Indigenous mythic sensibilities through the internet.
  • Students will learn to recognize stereotypes of Indigenous people and advance a critical understanding of how decolonization is being enacted by self-determining Indigenous communities. Students will gain insights into the history of the ways Indigenous people and communities have been both defined by colonialism and the ways that technology has been utilized to reclaim cultural space and create forms for communicating identity and history both within and without the Indigenous community.
  • Students will utilize the principles of cultural responsiveness as described by the Alaska Native Knowledge Network and apply them for evaluating the introduction of new technologies in classrooms for Indigenous students.
  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of the literature on technology, culture, and intellectual property rights by incorporating their own research questions into a broader exploratory paper.



You will be able to download electronic copies of readings in the course that are not from the above text. Please refer to the links on the course schedule and in the course modules to access these readings.

Course Assignments & Evaluation

  1. Statement Connecting Weblog to Research Interests - 10%
  2. Research Weblog - 25%
  3. Final Project/Paper - 35%
  4. Participation/Discussion - 30%


By the beginning of Module 2, students should begin identifying a research interest. By describing a research interest, you can begin tailoring the rest of your weblog entries and focusing your ideas towards the more specific topic of your final assignment (project or paper). You are not "locked in" to this topic - changes in direction as you learn and explore further are completely acceptable. This will help focus your thinking during the course and make the work on your final project/paper more efficient.

This assignment asks students to post a 200-word statement that describes the research interest or topic that is most compelling to you at this stage of your learning. As you write the statement, keep in mind the following:

  • The topic should clearly incorporate at least two of the three course themes (Indigeneity, Education and Technology).
  • To get started you may refer to a reading, video or website that provoked a question or curiosity in you, and that may be a "hook" for the interest of others as well.
  • Choose a research interest that is relevant and useful to you and your program/teaching practice/other work, and explain why.
  • Suggest places, themes or literature you will begin to investigate.
  • Consider how this research interest may need to be refined to lead to asmall, manageable and focused topic for the final assignment.
  • Review the criteria for the final assignment for further consideration.

When student statements are posted, this is a good opportunity to connect with students who have similar interests and enter into conversations and exchanges, or discuss working together on the final assignment. This assignment is worth 10 percent of the final grade.


Each student will write brief descriptive notes of web sites visited during the course of the term. This will take the form of an annotated weblog or journal and should include at least 20 sites and 1,000 words of description. In their postings, students will describe resources available, links to other sites, and usefulness for research on Indigenous knowledge, media, and community reality. This assignment will be posted as a “cyber-traveler’s” reflections. 5 postings will be required for each of the 4 modules. Blog postings should be completed on time and clearly sequentially numbered for ease of marking. This assignment is worth 25 percent of the final grade.


Each student will submit a project, such as a video, interactive hypertext, slide show, or a paper that explores a topic directly related to the course themes. If the project option is chosen, the project should be of high quality and clearly presented. If the paper option is chosen, the paper should be 2,000 words and include references. It is understood that mixed-media assignments challenge our understandings of what constitutes "sufficient" content, and a stipulated word length cannot bind those students working in this mode. All students, however, will be required to demonstrate the ability to write in a clear and polished manner by incorporating at least 2000 words of text and a reference list in their assignment. Students who wish to work in a team of 2 or 3 persons to satisfy the final assignment may do so, and should submit an abstract illustrating how you will work together and the research interests of each individual. This proposal for a collaborative version of the final assignment should ideally be submitted one week after assignment #1 (statement) is due, but may be accepted somewhat later in the term. No more than three individuals can collaborate on this assignment. It is expected that a group would submit a larger piece of work representing an equivalency of the work of two or three individuals. This assignment is worth 35 percent of the final grade.

Assessment Criteria

  • Clarity, cogency, and standards of academic writing suitable for a graduate level course, including proper citation formatting. Students are highly encouraged to pair up and act as peer editors for each other on the final assignment, as this can greatly improve writing. Collaborative projects or assignments that receive peer editing consistently read better than those completed without a second edit.
  • Project topics and designs that reflect the course themes, literature, discussions and understandings of culture and values of Indigenous people/scholars. This assignment should clearly demonstrate your growth and learning over the term as a result of the course materials.
  • Convey critical engagement and analysis, include a practical application component, and demonstrate creativity or originality.


Participation in discussions and other aspects of the course is worth 30 percent of the final grade. Your participation grade will be determined in relation to the effort you put into the course discussion forums. Although we have allocated 30 of the course marks for your contribution in the forums, you have a better opportunity to do well with your other assignments if you are fully committed and contributing to the discussion forums. Review the expectations for discussion contributions, below, carefully. Timely submission of discussion postings and assignments will be an important factor in the participation component of the grade. While an on-line graduate course is different from a face-to-face seminar, there are some basic principles that do transfer across formats. In a face-to-face course it is important to share the discussion space and time. Students have a responsibility to read a wide selection of the work of their peers, but you are not expected to read every posting in the discussions or research weblog. Likewise students are expected to post at least one response to a peer per week; additional responses should reflect choices and individual interest.

Fostering meaningful participation within a discussion forum is partly dependent upon your own ability to self-assess your level of engagement and contribution throughout the course. We will use a discussion forum assessment rubric for you to consider as we progress.

  • In general, please ensure that your posts are:
  • directly linked to achieving course outcomes: reflect the course literature as well as real world issues
  • collaborative in nature, and resourceful or rewarding for others in helping other participants in the forum
  • engaging for others in the group, and expectations are very clear about what the peers have to do to contribute to the discussion that you generate
  • posted on time
  • thought provoking, and to do so you must do the necessary background research and reflect sufficiently on the gathered information including posts from peers in order to contribute in meaningful ways to the broader discussion
  • demonstrative of your interpersonal skills in the online environment which includes showing respect and courtesy in responding to other posts as well as showing ability of being able to carry on a discussion in a collaborative manner integrating ideas from others fulfilling the obligations for teamwork
  • expressive of your accurate and precise ideas ensuring the proper use of grammar, punctuation, etc.

Discussion Rubric

Individual discussion postings will not be evaluated; instead, your instructor will look at your overall contributions across the course and assess the quality of your participation in the discussion forums according to the criteria below:


A student may receive a grade of 90%-100% if postings to the discussion forums represent an outstanding understanding of the topics/contents under consideration in the discussions. The writing style would have to exemplify your expertise in the topic areas. Your experiential knowledge and skills in analyzing the topic as a reflective practitioner will also be valued. We hope that you will be able to provide evidence of deeper understanding of resources that relate to the topic, argue critically as well as provide specific citation of relevant research in the topics under discussion. Being an outstanding participant, you demonstrate that you can lead new and original discussion threads in the areas of your interest relating to the topic.


Grade of 80%-89% will be allocated for the students whose post messages that are demonstrative of an excellent understanding of the specific content of the topic, questions or comment under discussion. Please provide references to relevant literature and scholarly articles to support your argument and to provide necessary theoretical rationale for your postings. There will be a need to have an effective writing style. As a reflective practitioner you will provide examples from real life situations and personal perspectives of professional development. These personal reflections can be based on descriptions and examples of what takes place in your context. Always try to provide some support to your arguments or comments relating to a question posed by another student. Full participation in all discussion forums is required.


You will receive a grade of 70%-79% if your participation in the discussion forums is considered very good. Please ensure that you demonstrate your understanding of the specific contents of the topic under discussion. Please provide references to specific ideas or materials you are currently utilizing. Also be thoughtful to provide a personal rationale for your postings.


You will receive a grade of 60%-69% if your participation and contribution in the discussion forums looks adequate but lacks your deeper understanding of the materials related to the topic under examination or discussion.


Module 1: The Global and the Local in Indigenous Knowledge

Background and Introduction

Indigenous knowledge tends to be place-based; a local knowledge that features understanding the traditional uses of plants and relationships to animals. As Indigenous communities express their identity through digital media and internet representations, they face advantages and disadvantages from technology usage.


  1. Is technology culturally biased toward white, middle class assumptions about reality and lifeways?
  2. Can local Indigenous languages and cultures be promoted without being exposed to exploitation and commodification if cultural information is broadcast to a global audience?
  3. Will Indigenous artists and media specialists reproduce stereotypes if they need to communicate their work to a broad audience in the context of global competition?
  4. How might Indigenous education and use of technology have different goals than "mainstream" educational goals and purposes?
  5. Are Indigenous communities different from other "ethnic" communities?
Readings for this Module (3 weeks):

Week 1:

Discussion: Introductions


Discussion: Is technology culturally neutral?

Week 3:

Discussion: Educational Goals: Are Indigenous communities different?

Module 2: Stereotypes and the Commodification of Indigenous Social Reality

Background and Introduction:

Indigenous people have been stereotyped by the dominant colonial societies which have surrounded them. Early stereotypes were that of the "savage" who needed to be civilized, the dangerous warrior, and the Rouseauean "natural man." Later, after the 18th century, the stereotypes changed but were still divided into the negative or brutish aspects of Indigeneity, and the exotic or romantic projections of the European mind. As Indigenous educators and cultural curriculum developers seek to " decolonize" these images of their people they must struggle with a globalized context that tends to conflate and essentialize Indigenous identity to make the media " work."


  1. Robert Flaherty’s 1922 classic film Nanook of the North is a stereotype of Inuit life. The filmmaker focused on fictionalized events and aspects of Indigenous life that he thought would be entertaining to a broad audience. How are all films both " truthful" and " not truthful" at the same time?
  2. What are some well-known stereotypes of Indigenous peoples? How do you think they became widely accepted?
  3. How can educational curricula be created and delivered that does not stereotype Indigenous people?
  4. What do you think is the difference between an archetype and a stereotype?
  5. What role can non-Natives play in Indigenous education and media production?
Readings for Module 2 (3 weeks):

Week 4:

  • Prins, Harald E.L., "Visual Media and the Primitivist Perplex: Colonial Fantasies, Indigenous Imagination, and Advocacy" in North America, in Media Worlds: Anthropology on a New Terrain, eds. Faye D. Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Brian Larkin, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002, 58- 74
  • Michael Marker, "The Education of Little Tree: What it Really Reveals about the Public Schools"

Discussion: The overseeing gaze

Week 5:
Video: Nanook of the North
Video: Mary Simon, former President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami talks to George Strombolopoulous about Inuit culture and education
Discussion: Nanook of the North

Week 6:

  • Chapter four in Indigenous Cultures in an Interconnected World, " Cyberspace Smoke Signals: New Technologies and Native American Ethnicity."
  • Video Interviews: Amy Parent and Nancy Turner videos and Lorna Williams audio

Discussion: Projecting Cultural Rights

Module Three: Decolonization and Indigenous Intellectual Property Rights

Background and Introduction:

As Indigenous scholars and authors have been working to promote traditional understandings and cultures, they have also exposed the biased histories which have been written about their people—or, more often, simply excluding the reality of the displacement of Indigenous people by the forces of colonialism. The efforts to advance traditional values and understandings while exposing the hidden curriculum of colonialism has been termed " de-colonization." Indigenous communities have used the Internet, cd rom production, and independent filmmaking to inform their own communities and the broader global audience about traditions, stories, and ways of making meaning from their own traditional perspectives. In this way they are countering a history of oppression and learning their own thoughts in contrast to the colonizer’s thoughts.


  1. Describe the general tone of the Indigenous memory of scientific research.
  2. How have Indigenous communities and the revival of Indigenous culture become spaces of resistance and hope?
  3. Indigenous peoples are diverse, but they share the common experience of being colonized by western and imperialist powers. Can technology be useful in supporting Indigenous communities’ efforts to de-colonize values and thoughts?
  4. What are some questions a non-Indigenous researcher should ask her/himself before going to do research in an Indigenous community?
  5. Can an Indigenous person who is educated in a mainstream research university ever be a representative of a traditional Indigenous community?
  6. Can a " traditional" community person become " educated" at a university and still remain traditional?
Readings for Module 3 (three weeks):

Week 7:

  •  :Smith, Linda, Introduction to Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, London: Zed Books Ltd, 1-18 (No link - Article will be in ETEC 521 Connect course shell)
  •  :Kawagley, A. O., & Barnhardt, R. (1998). Education indigenous to place: Western science meets native reality. Fairbanks: Alaska Native Knowledge Network.

Discussion: Indigenous identity and contrasting societal values

Week 8:

  • Videos: "Fraser River Journey" and "March Point Trailer"

Discussion: Traditional Culture, Technology and Youth

Week 9:

Discussion: Culturally responsive education models

Module 4: Ecological Issues in Indigenous Education and Technology

Background and Introduction:

Indigenous traditional education has always been both culturally responsive and responsive to the natural world that Native peoples shared with plants, animals, and spirits. Because their relationship to the land was based on oral tradition, experience, and multi-generational wisdom, it takes a different form than the western scientific approach to environmental knowledge. Indigenous communities must struggle with the need to provide access to information for their own people and a need to protect vital resources from outside exploitation by corporations and individuals who are hungry for traditional ecological knowledge. Placing information on the internet provides an opportunity to transmit language and culture to remote villages, but it also exposes the information to commodification by outsiders. Tribal and village cultural committees screen the information and make vital decisions about what kinds of material and information will be utilized in curriculum development and media productions. The Alaska Native Knowledge Network has modeled respectful consultation with traditional elders and has created information units that inform both Native and non-Native educators. The central concept that they have utilized in supporting Native education is "cultural responsiveness."


  1. Can an individual truly engage with another culture and learn about it without a deep self-examination of their own cultural values? Explain.
  2. What is the difference between cross-cultural education and multicultural education?
  3. There are two different kinds of ecology, the ecology of the natural world and the ecology of the mind? How are they connected?
  4. How is the Indigenous relationship to the natural world different from western scientific approaches?
Readings for Module 4 (three weeks)

Week 10:

  •  :Alaska Native Knowledge Network & other web sites

Week 11:

Discussion: Engaging with other cultures

Week 12:

  •  :Faye Ginsburg, “Rethinking the Digital Age,” in Global Indigenous Media, Pamela Wilson and Michelle Steward, Eds., pp. 287-306.
  •  :Video: Tim Michel Interview

Discussion: Representation & Self-determination


  • Arnove, Robert F. and Torres, Carlos A. (1999) Comparative Education: The Dialectic of the Global and the Local, Oxford England: Roman and Littlefield.
  • Bernard, H. Russell, and Pelto Pertti (1987), Eds. Technology and Social Change, Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press.
  • Bhaba, Homi. (1991) Nation and Narration, London: Routledge.
  • Bodley, John H. Ed. (1988) Tribal Peoples and Development Issues, Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing.
  • Cajete, Gregory. (1994) Look to the Mountain: An Ecology of Indigenous Education, Durango, Colorado: Kivaki Press.
  • Churchill, Ward. (1992) Fantasies of the Master Race: Literature, Cinema and the Colonization of American Indians, Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press.
  • Collective Human Rights of Pacific Peoples (26 August, 1998). Conference proceedings and papers, Auckland: University of Auckland.
  • Bowers, C.A. (1997) The Culture of Denial: Why the Environmental Movement Needs a Strategy for Reforming Universities and Public Schools. New York: SUNY Press.
  • Davis, Lynne. (200) "Electronic Highways, Electronic Classrooms: Distance Education in Canada," In Aboriginal Education: Fulfilling the Promise, Castellano, Marlene B., Davis, Lynne, and Lahache, Louise, Eds. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 224-251.
  • Deloria, Vine, Jr. (1990) "Higher Education and Self-Determination," Winds of Change, 6, 18-25.
  • Geertz, Clifford. (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures, New York: Basic Books.
  • Giese, Paula. (1995) Native American Resources, online:
  • Giroux, Henry. (1999 The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence, Oxford England: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Grande, Sandy. (2000) "American Indian Geographies of Identity and Power: At the Crossroads of Indigena and Mestizaje," Harvard Educational Review, 70, 4, 467-498.
  • Hoover, John. (1996) Native American Community Alliance and Technology Project, online:
  • International Cultural Property Society online:
  • Kawagley, A. Oscar. (1995) A Yupiaq Worldview: A Pathway to Ecology and Spirit, Prospecti Heights Ill: Waveland Press.
  • Mander, Jerry. (1991) In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations, San Fransisco: Sierra Club Books.
  • Messenger, Phyllis M., Ed. (1999) Whose Property? Whose Culture?: The Ethics of Collecting Cultural Property, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
  • Russell, Dan. (2000) A People's Dream: Aboriginal Self-Government in Canada, Vancouver: UBC Press.
  • Said, Edward. (1993) Culture and Imperialism, London: Chatto and Windus.
  • Said, Edward. (1995) Orientalism, New York: Penguin.
  • Smith, Claire and Ward, Graeme K., Eds. (2000) Indigenous Cultures in an Interconnected World, Vancouver: UBC Press.
  • Smith, Graham Hingaroa. (2000) "Protecting and Respecting Indigenous Knowledge," In Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision, Battiste, Marie, Ed. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 209- 225.
  • Smith. Linda. (1999) Decolonizing Methodologies, London: Zed Books, Ltd.
  • Vansina, Jan. (1985) Oral Tradition as History, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Wolf, Eric R. (1982) Europe and the People without History, Berkeley, University of California Press.
  • Vecsey, Christopher, and Venables, Robert W., Eds. (1980) American Indian Environments: Ecological Issues in Native American History, New York: Syracuse University Press.