The digital story Water and the Murray-Darling Basin is designed for the HSIE subject Geography focusing on the New South Wales Syllabus’ Stage 4 topic ‘Water in the World’. The intended purpose of this story is to address syllabus content utilising an engaging digital tool and material that is relevant to the students. This content includes the importance, use and scarcity of water, and the negative impacts of a hydrological natural hazard (NESA, 2015). The intended audience is a year 8 class of mixed ability students from inner west Sydney. The Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) is relevant for these students as it’s the source of many products that they consume. This digital story is a beneficial addition to the program because of its pedagogical features that support diverse learning needs, the development of geographical knowledge and skills, and for addressing cross-curriculum priorities and general capabilities.
This artefact is designed to enhance student literacy, numeracy and support diverse learning needs. Student literacy is developed through the inclusion of voiceovers utilising words that help to explain geographical terms from the syllabus. The geographical term aesthetic is matched with the more familiar word beautiful. The labelling of images and photographs further facilitates the development of literacy. For example, the geographical term fauna labels the photograph of an animal, and is especially beneficial as a form of literacy support. Media elements can be used to support readers’ thinking and comprehension by highlighting or simplifying important concepts and reinforcing key ideas (Lamb, 2011).
Student enrichment is facilitated by using question prompts that encourage them to delve deeper through further investigation. There are additional opportunities for enrichment stemming from this digital story including class discussions of the contemporary geographical issues of climate change and food security. Student numeracy can be enhanced through accessing and interpreting statistics and graphs that exist as links within the artefact. This can also act as a platform for further developing student numeracy through associated teaching and learning activities such as a classroom based poll related to favourite fruit consumption.
There are many forms of media present within Water and the Murray-Darling Basin designed to engage the user and reinforce key geographical concepts. The use of sound adds to the appeal of the artefact and provides for a more immersive experience. For example, the sound of rain gives it greater authenticity and reinforces rain’s importance. Appropriate sound and music can create an atmosphere and expressively connect to people in a way visuals on their own cannot (Mattka, 2018). Colour is used to help students visualise the story as evident in the use of orange writing when referring to the eating of an orange. Using colours in literature helps to construct a scene to enhance the reader’s ability to envisage and comprehend it (Kumar, 2015). Repetition of symbols (raindrops), and of concepts (eating of the orange and needing the umbrella) is designed to add continuity and familiarity to the story to enhance its relatability. Furthermore, the use of the literary technique of questioning is intended to stimulate student thinking and encourage active learning.
To promote the acquisition of geographical skills, this artefact provides access to a range of geographical tools including the compass, maps, graphs, photographs and statistics. Graphs and statistics, visual representations and maps are geographical tools that students are to be provided opportunities to engage with (NESA, 2015). Photograph interpretation is one example of a geographical skills facilitated through this artefact with the inclusion of comparison photographs of the Maranoa River when full and during drought.
Water and the Murray-Darling Basin can be used to facilitate learning across the curriculum. The cross-curriculum priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures and sustainability are both included within the subject matter of this digital story, and highlight its pedagogical significance. These cross-curriculum priorities encourage students to develop their understanding of and response to contemporary issues (NESA, 2015). This artefact also supports the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) general capability as students navigate through the digital story and its links. Investigating with Information and Communication Technology is one of the elements within the ICT general capability (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, n.d.). This digital tool’s links can also be used to explain the importance of assessing the credibility or reliability of sources of information.
One of the significant advantages of implementing this digital story into the Geography program is that it can be easily modified and customised for future classes or specific students based on their learning needs. Additional links or questions for investigation can be added for an enrichment class, or more images could be used as literacy support for students of whom English is an Additional Language or Dialect. Technology can enhance student learning by providing opportunities to facilitate problem solving and creativity and at the same time support diversity (Kingsley, 2007). Water and the Murray-Darling Basin will encourage active student engagement and an appreciation of the significance of water in the world.
Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. (n.d.). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Capability. https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/general-capabilities/information-and-communication-technology-ict-capability/
Kingsley, K. V. (2007). Empower diverse learners with educational technology and digital media. Intervention In School & Clinic, 43(1), 52-56.
Kumar, R. (2015). Colour as metaphor in language and literature. Research Scholar, 3(2), 439-445. http://researchscholar.co.in/downloads/76-ratnesh-kumar.pdf
Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning & Leading with Technology, 39(3), 12–17.
Mattka, R. (2018). How sound design is transforming UX. Creative Bloq. https://www.creativebloq.com/features/how-sound-design-is-transforming-ux
NSW Education Standards Authority. (2015). Geography: K-10 syllabus. https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/k-10/learning-areas/hsie/geography-k-10