This online exhibition from Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre in Canberra, has been recognised by the San Francisco Exploratorium, USA Today, Yahooligans, ATSIC and the SA Premier's Children's and Youth Educational Software Awards. It is based on a gallery exhibition of the same name and presents the technologies of the Burarra people of central north Arnhem Land.
The “Visit Danaja” section is great fun. The interactive Flash animation simulates a journey through Burarra land with a young Burarra man, Danaja, and his grandfather, Wala Wala who chat with you in both Burarra and English (with text displayed simultaneously at the bottom of the screen).
Users choose whether to visit in the wet or the dry season, but after this the structure is basically linear – it would be pretty hard to get lost! Activities are woven into the animated story. You can try your hand at spearing a crab or steering a boat using the stars. The style of the learning activities was chosen because it mirrors the teaching and learning techniques of the Burarra people themselves, where typically an elder will demonstrate a task then encourage the learner to try it for themself.
It’s an attractive animation with photos of Burarra land used as backgrounds for the cartoon people and animals. Details like the animated buttons and the creeping goanna (for “waiting for download”) make it a pleasure to interact with. The animation is quite detailed - the lips are synched convincingly and the characters gesture and change facial expressions. I was surprised to read that the project was developed on a tight budget – someone must have done a lot of unpaid overtime!
The content has been presented using a layered information approach. Allowing the user to choose the level of information that they see lets the narrative flow at a good pace and means users are not bogged down or overloaded with detail. Clicking on a glossary term provides a quick explanation of unfamiliar words and concepts, from this the user can then navigate to more in depth information. The site contains a page for teachers with suggested activities and links to further resources.
The Questacon team produced the online exhibit in conjunction with the Burarra elders. This posed a bit of a challenge as most of the time the elders were 4000km away in a remote community! At the start of the project one of the elders was flown to Canberra for two days of intensive workshopping of the storyboard and script. Drawings of the characters were also emailed to the community for approval. The elders asked for changes such as making Danaja older (he looked too young to have the knowledge he was supposed to have) and making Wala Wala a lot scruffier!
The parts of Danaja and Wala Wala were originally to be spoken by Burarra people, but it proved too costly to fly them to Canberra for the recording. Local Canberra Ngunnawal people ended up reading them after being coached on the pronunciation of words by a Burarra elder over the phone.
Burarra Gathering can be used online or downloaded (9.4MB).