Oakey Tutors

The Oakey home tutoring program: Fostering digital participation among home tutors teaching English to migrant women employed at the local abattoir.

This project is a joint undertaking between volunteer home tutors in Oakey, the South-West TAFE and its AMEP program in Toowoomba, and researchers from QUT in Brisbane. It began with an initiative by Dr Margaret Kettle at QUT with Dr Gillian Lance, the AMEP coordinator at SW TAFE. The AMEP places volunteer home tutors with migrants learning English as part of their settlement plan. The home tutors in Oakey are community members who are committed to assisting people new to the town, in this case, skilled women migrants from Brazil working in the local abattoirs. The tutors were new to English language teaching and seeking ways to teach that was rewarding for themselves as well as their ‘clients’.

A living lab approach was adopted for the project because of its emphasis on collaboration and co-construction of innovations by users in a community setting. The wider focus of the project on fostering digital participation in regional and rural communities meant that some of the innovations would tutors learning how to teach using online and digital technologies. The home tutoring program as a response to the changing needs of the Oakey community made it ideal for the living lab methodology.

The process during the course of 2016 has been building a community within a community, that is, establishing a supportive group of home tutors and their ‘clients’ from the greater Oakey community and growing digital know-how among the group. Monthly sessions on a Saturday morning have been held in the Oakey library at which tutors share activities and co-teach each other digital skills such as taking photos and making videos with ipads and iphones; downloading and using voice recorder apps; and trying Whatsapp; Book Creator; and Keynote. A closed facebook group was established which saw some people signing up to an online community for the very first time! Collaboration has included ‘taster’ sessions about second language teaching from Margaret Kettle, an applied linguistics academic at QUT.

One of the tutors had the following to say:

Since the very first time that the two of you (Dr Margaret Kettle and Dr Cherie Allan) came to Oakey, I feel a lot more satisfaction from my lessons. One, I went straight home with the ipad; I took pictures of my place and took them up. We used Google Earth; we looked at (student’s name) place in Brazil from the street. So we were working together. It feels like you’ve got a real affinity with the students.

One of the Brazilian clients shared her thoughts about English with the group:

I’d like to think in English, not translate … when you learn to think in the language you want to learn, (it) makes easier… I like to learn English because when (her daughter) goes to schooI, I can’t help her. She might say ‘mum how I can do that’, I don’t know.

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