In classrooms across Canada, some children learn about colonialism for the first time by standing on dozens of blankets strewn across the floor.
The interactive exercise has participants role-play as First Nations people who make first contact with European settlers in the 16th century. The blankets they stand on represent Indigenous land and the different nations that existed before colonization. As the exercise plays out, so too does the history of Canada, and the blankets are folded up until few remain.
The simple yet highly compelling exercise about genocide is one of a variety of teaching tools shared and discussed by participants in a massive open online course, or MOOC, on Indigenous education by the University of British Columbia.
“I call it the little MOOC that could,” said Jan Hare, the associate dean of Indigenous education and an associate professor of language and literacy education in the faculty of education. “The course is intended to be an introduction to Indigenous histories and world views, learning from land, story and community.”
Over 8,200 people from around the world, but largely from Canada, are currently registered for the free course. Over 1100 people have paid $50 to receive a verified certificate from edX, the platform the MOOC runs on. It’s the third time the course has been offered with an enrollment increase of 149 per cent since its start.
Most students registered are educators, but Hare, a member of the M’Chigeeng First Nation in Ontario, said many participants sign up out of a personal desire to learn more about reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
“The hope is that people will take up these ideas and understand that there are other ways of making sense of the world around us,” she said. “Research shows young Indigenous learners will experience greater success when educational approaches value their cultures, languages and ways of knowing. We need more sustainable and loving ways of being in this world. Indigenous ways of knowing are one step among the many paths to achieving such goals.”
Called Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education, the MOOC runs from January 24 to March 7, 2017. It will be offered again in October 2017 and January 2018.
NOTE: Two students who have taken the MOOC are also available for interviews. Please contact Corey Allen (email@example.com) to connect.