In 1989 I was in Year 3, and I can distinctly remember my class teacher, the delightful Mrs O’Dea, reading this to us. Chances are if you’ve been in an Australian primary classroom post-1988 (whether as a student, a teacher or both) then you’re familiar with it too. The word ‘iconic’ probably doesn’t do it justice:
Nadia Wheatley’s My Place was a staple of so many classrooms because it facilitated learning across multiple curriculum areas so easily. Indeed, a search for ‘My Place activities’ this afternoon yielded these notes, which perfectly illustrates the point. But fast forward to 2013 and our current world of IWBs, BYOD and 1:1 ICT and the burning question is: Is My Place still relevant enough for today’s kids to enjoy?
Fortunately, the answer is a resounding yes. And we have the ABC to thank for it…
Now, under normal circumstances I’m pretty good at finding Web 2.0 bits and interactives that relate to the curriculum I’m teaching – I can mostly thank Twitter for that. However, in this situation I’ll happily admit that this one has, until recently, slipped through to the keeper. In fact, it was a colleague at KDHS who was using it with her Year 2 class that got me on to it. Lucky for me I happened to pop in for matters unrelated. Thanks, Hollee!
My Place over at ABC3 is, quite frankly, brilliant. Just as the original book did, it traces one living space and it’s inhabitants in inner-city Sydney from before European settlement up to the present day. They’ve packed a heap of features in so, just like in Wheatley’s classic, you can check out different facets of what life would’ve been like through ten year intervals:
There’s plenty of things to click on, tangents to explore and facts to discover. The texts are pitched to a primary-aged audience in a simple, easy-to-read voice. Games and quizzes help to keep the material interesting for students, and the amount of content is so vast that I could barely see any student navigating they’re way through the entire site. For those who are familiar with the 2009-11 ABC TV production of the same name, you’ll see the clear links between the two media.
But what about links to an Australian Curriculum which has only been active since My Place was first launched? As well as multiple English content descriptors that could be hit by teachers who are able to use the site’s content to meet the needs of the year group the teach, the most obvious links are to the History curriculum. Here’s but a snapshot of some of the Historical Knowledge and Understanding content descriptors, by year level, that the site would be an ideal resource to assist with (taken straight from the AC, I’ve only included a max of two per year level for brevity’s sake, but I’m sure you get the idea):
Differences and similarities between students’ daily lives and life during their parents’ and grandparents’ childhoods, including family traditions, leisure time and communications.
Differences in family structures and roles today, and how these have changed or remained the same over time.
The impact of changing technology on people’s lives (at home and in the ways they worked, travelled, communicated, and played in the past).
The importance of Country and Place to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples who belong to a local area.
The role that people of diverse backgrounds have played in the development and character of the local community.
The diversity and longevity of Australia’s first peoples and the ways Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples are connected to Country and Place (land, sea, waterways and skies) and the implications for their daily lives.
The nature of contact between Aboriginal people and/or Torres Strait Islanders and others, for example, the Macassans and the Europeans, and the effects of these interactions on, for example families and the environment.
The nature of convict or colonial presence, including the factors that influenced patterns of development, aspects of the daily life of the inhabitants (including Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples) and how the environment changed.
The role that a significant individual or group played in shaping a colony; for example, explorers, farmers, entrepreneurs, artists, writers, humanitarians, religious and political leaders, and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Year 6 (this is actually the Year 6 level description):
The Year 6 curriculum moves from colonial Australia to the development of Australia as a nation, particularly after 1900.
In addition, there’s a multitude of Historical Skills content descriptors that My Place would be perfect for across the grades. Here’s just a few:
Sequence historical people and events.
Locate information related to inquiry questions in a range of sources.
Identify points of view in the past and present.
Identify questions to inform historical inquiry.
Oh yeah, and then there’s the little matter of ensuring you weave the first cross-curriculum priority – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures – through your teaching. Tick, done.
The more I think about it, the more I realise that my History programme from last year would’ve been far superior had I known about My Place at the start of 2012. If you’re an Australian primary teacher who’s reading this and it’s the first you’ve heard of the online My Place, make sure you don’t make the same mistake.
Now, I wonder if dear old Mrs O’Dea, who must be in her 60’s these days, has stumbled across it just yet…