One of the fundamental areas of research for The Orality Centre will be the implications for education. Our Advisory Board includes many educators along with a group of Student Advisors which will continue to grow over the next few years.
All reports will be linked to The Malmsbury Project.
We are currently establishing links with a number of primary and secondary schools to act as Associated Schools and help with research. Director, Paul Allen, secured a Creative Victoria Artist-In-Schools grant for Founder, Dr Lynne Kelly, to work with him and the students of Malmsbury Primary School in rural Victoria over most of 2017. We were also working with Castlemaine Secondary College.
All research will be fully documented and conducted under the guidelines for the Education Department and according to the research criteria and Ethics Committee guidelines of LaTrobe University.
From Lynne Kelly’s academic ebook, Grounded: Indigenous knowing in a concrete reality:
We have a great deal to learn from non-literate cultures about grounding knowledge in structured systems using robust memory technologies. It is perhaps time to introduce them into contemporary education.
With only a few years of experimenting indigenous mnemonic technologies, I have become convinced of the power of using physical spaces to ground a structure for adding ever more complex layers of information. What has surprised me most is the way in which holding a this complex of structured information in memory has enabled me to see patterns in the knowledge and play with ideas based on facts which are readily available in a way which was not possible when I relied so heavily on the written word alone. I have had insights which would not have been possible had I continued to keep my knowledge in books and computer files all indexed according to the non-integrated silos which the development of academic disciplines has imposed on education.
I walk through time in a memory palace around my home and neighbourhood which starts from the emergence of the first life forms on earth to the present. On another journey, I walk through a list of every country in the world from the largest in population to the smallest. Clearly these separate journeys overlap in content, but that never becomes confusing. On the same set of locations as the countries of the world, I have the elements of the periodic table. The associations merely enhance the experience in a way which is impossible to explain in writing. My landscape is alive with characters, with images and with stories. I have field guides to the birds, mammals, other animals and plants of my state linked to handheld memory devices, a stone row and a totem pole which in turn inform a ‘songline’ through a piece of local bushland. These topics interweave with each other and with the seasonal changes which are slowly generating a natural calendar. I have a history of art encoded to a knotted cord device based on the Inca khipu. I have a set of ‘ancestors’, a group of historical figures linked to decks of cards. As I walk the history journey, I can greet each of my card-characters from Homer to my Joker, Douglas Adams. They gain a context and interrogate their time in history. I sing knowledge, dance information and make up wildly vivid stories. I never confuse what is real with what my imagination is creating to make it all memorable. I can always extract the information I need from its mnemonic wrapping with ease.
We encourage toddlers to dance and sing and listen to stories. Why don’t they grow into students who dance their science, sing their mathematics and create stories about the rules of grammar? Why is anthropomorphism integral to the lives of very young children and frowned upon as they age? We should be giving our children figurines around which to tell stories and create characters who can accompany them right through school. If we taught children how to use memory palaces, create songlines and attach information to works of art, we would give them skills that can be applied in every aspect of education and continue to be invaluable for life.
Let us learn from oral cultures and bring music back from the province of entertainment and art back from the studio place them in the very heart of our classrooms. Let us liberate imaginative narrative from the confines of creative writing into every knowledge domain. Let us learn how to ground our teaching in physical structures, large and small, which offer an ordered foundation on which to build a life of learning. Let us not only respect our indigenous cultures, but demonstrate that respect by acknowledging that while literacy is a superb tool, orality can partner it to enhance contemporary education and that it is indigenous elders who can lead the way.
The above is from Lynne Kelly’s Grounded: Indigenous knowing in a concrete reality, published by Rounded Globe. This essay will form the theoretical foundation for the work of The Orality Centre. As an open access peer-reviewed academic essay, it is available for free download from:
Lynne Kelly’s other books which inform the practice of The Orality Centre are:
The Memory Code, Allen & Unwin, 2016
also published by Pegasus Books (North America) and Atlantic Books (UK and Europe), February 2017
Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, memory and the transmission of culture, Cambridge University Press, 2015