Skip to content

Games and tangibles to support communities to learn their endangered Aboriginal languages

Study level

PhD

Master of Philosophy

Honours

Faculty/Lead unit

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.

Supervisors

Professor Margot Brereton
Position
Professor Eng. & Interaction Design
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Professor Paul Roe
Position
Professor
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Dr Alessandro Soro
Position
Lecturer
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty

Overview

This project aims to develop new technologies to engage Aboriginal children to learn and speak their traditional language. Australia is a treasure trove of 120 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages that are still being spoken, however many are spoken only by Elders, and all are at risk of being lost within 50 years. Elders see technologies and games as a key vehicle to engage children in speaking language and learning culture.

While there are many efforts to document, preserve, archive and analyse traditional Aboriginal languages, little is being done to encourage Aboriginal children to speak them. Most children speak Aboriginal English or a form of Kriol, due to historical factors whereby their parents were discouraged or prohibited from speaking their traditional language. Mainstream language learning apps such as DuoLingo and Babble only offer lessons in dominant languages and rely on significant contributions by a large number of willing speakers in order to develop lessons. Approaches to automatic machine translation such as Google Translate work only on languages with a corpus of millions of documents, so these approaches won’t work with helping use of Aboriginal languages. Aboriginal languages are traditionally oral, with few written and translated texts existing, and each language may only have a handful of fluent speakers. A different approach is required to keep these languages vibrant.

Language is learned and spoken through the interaction of people, but technology can help by engaging people in fun ways to contribute to and learn, through playback, repetition, games, quizzes, and social interaction through technology. Therefore this project seeks to develop new fun social and gameful ways to encourage both Elders to contribute and children to use and learn their traditional Aboriginal language.

Research activities

Games design and interaction design. Gameful interaction is needed to entice participation and create fun experiences within the community. Designs may be phone based, but web based games, tangibles and social robots are also of interest.

  • Learning analytics. An interest in or experience in learning analytics would be helpful.
  • An interest in language and respect for Aboriginal culture.
  • Software development skills would be helpful.
  • Co-design research that takes a community centred approach. These systems will only work if people want to contribute, so it is important to understand the aspirations, practices and culture of the community.

Outcomes

The objectives and intended outcomes of the research are to:Investigate the use of gameful approaches to support communities to speak and learn their traditional Aboriginal language, especially engaging Elders and children.Understand and characterise game strategies that work in this context to both elicit Elders and children to participate.Understand and characterise the supporting context beyond the game and the role of the game within the broader context.Understand and characterise use and non-use.Measure the extent of language learning and use.

Skills and experience

  • A variety of skills are needed to conduct this project, some of which you may learn as you undertake research.
  • Deep curiosity is a pre-requisite. It is not necessary to have all of the skills below. Some, you may learn and others may come from other members of our research team.
  • Co-design research that takes a community centred approach. 
  • Games design and interaction design. Gameful interaction is needed to entice participation and create fun experiences within the community. Designs may be phone based, but web based games, tangibles and social robots are also of interest.
  • Learning analytics. An interest in or experience in learning analytics would be helpful. 
  • An interest in language and respect for Aboriginal culture.
  • Software development skills would be helpful.

Scholarships

You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round

Keywords

Contact

Contact the supervisor for more information.