Digital Innovation

Three Approaches to Content Collaboration

Three Approaches to Content Collaboration
Written by Natalie Gilbert

As the Education Content Coordinator for Learning Bird, one of my main responsibilities is to conduct needs assessments with our school and community partners. In discussing the academic and cultural needs of the community, these conversations help us to collaboratively outline the learning objects that we will create with the community. A learning object could be a video, an audio podcast, a handout activity or project idea, or an informational slideshow. During these conversations, we also ask communities to provide materials that we could incorporate into their learning objects, such as photos, videos, educational resources, audio clips, and whatever else could be used to support learning through our personalized approach to creating content.

One of the best parts of the needs assessment conversations is getting to know the community through the perspective of the people with whom we are working. They share insights into their teaching practices, their students, and which content items should be created to best support their teachers, students, school, and community. Sometimes these are cultural resources meant to preserve language and traditions, while other times they are academic resources designed to encourage student success in subject areas like English language arts, math or science. This has demonstrated that just as each community is different, so are their content needs. These differences have influenced the way that I approach collaborative content creation and they have led me to visit three communities over the last few months – Treaty 4 in Saskatchewan, Gitsegukla in British Columbia, and Lac La Croix in Ontario – to conduct onsite needs assessments. Each visit was radically different – from the landscapes to the meeting places, and the conversations – but they all resulted in the same outcome, an outline of the learning objects that would be created for this project. Read on to learn more about each trip.

Treaty 4 Education Alliance


On a cold but sunny day at the end of February, I visited Treaty 4 Education Alliance’s office in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan for a jam-packed day of needs assessment and content collection. My colleague Roxanne and I met with their team of Student Retention Facilitators to discuss the needs of the five schools that we would be working with. The team had already sent some curriculum documents and educational resources to us before the meeting, so we already understood their inquiry-based approach to learning. During the discussion, we determined that they wanted us to create learning object collections (LOCs) based on storybooks that were researched, written, and illustrated by grade 5 classes in several of the schools. These books contained an abundance of information about the communities and their history. As a team, we pulled out the major themes from each of the books, such as land loss and displacement, colonization, and residential schooling. We decided that four LOCs would be sufficient to address each storybook and that the major themes of each book would be covered. That way, students from different schools could learn about each other’s histories. We also discussed the potential of creating language 
LOCs and the team shared a wealth of educational resources and textbooks that they use today in their schools, allowing us to see a sampling of materials that are successfully being used with students. At the end of the day, we left with our arms full of resources and an agreed upon outline of LOC topics that we would be able to develop and expand upon.

Gitsegukla First Nation

My trip to Gitsegukla in British Columbia was quite different from my trip to Treaty 4. Instead of meeting a whole team of educators, my colleague Kelsey and I drove to Gitsegukla Elementary School to meet with their Grade 7 teacher, Terri. Before diving into our content conversation, we first sat down and discussed her classroom. We talked about her students and their learning needs, her teaching strategies, as well as the resources she uses in her classroom (and the ones that she wishes she had). We discussed some of the challenges that she was facing and brainstormed on some ideas. After I had a better idea of her classroom situation and what her students were like, we discussed the types of learning objects that she would us to collaborate on for her students. Terri was lacking science resources, so we decided to dedicate all but one of the LOCs to science, with a focus on topics such as sustainability, cooking, recycling, and ecosystems. We reserved the last LOC for an English language arts lesson about Indigenous poetry in British Columbia.

The next day, we were able to spend time in the classroom and observe a scientist who was visiting the class and teaching the students about insects, bees, and pollination. It was great to meet the students and observe them interacting in the classroom. I also took photos and collected footage around Terri’s classroom, as well as throughout the school and the surrounding areas. Collecting visuals helps us personalize our content and make it relevant for the students, who will be able to recognize their community in content while they are learning. Before leaving, we reviewed the outline with Terri to make sure that the topics and activities would suit her students and her teaching strategies. Through speaking with Terri, it was easier to see the daily reality of her classroom and understand the challenges that her students face. This helps us to ensure that the content we’re creating together makes an impact in her classroom.

Lac La Croix First Nation

My latest content needs assessment trip took me out to Lac La Croix First Nation in Ontario for a week long visit with my colleague Charlie. We had already created an outline with this community during previous needs assessment phone calls, so our goal of the trip was to come in-community to gather as many resources as possible for the creation of the LOCs that we’d agreed to build together. This included recording interviews with Elders and capturing cultural activities. Once we arrived at the school, we met with the principal Debbie and the team we would be working with during the week. We discussed the schedule of planned events and activities and rearranged some of the topics in the outline to accommodate what we could document and gather during our time in the community.

Over the course of the week, we were immersed in the community and the activities at the school, including smoking sturgeon and beaver, a fish fry, maple syrup tapping, and a community meeting about land. We recorded four sessions where community Elders and other knowledge keepers came into the school and taught the students about a variety of topics, like hunting, land loss, treaties, identity, and culture. We also sifted through boxes of photos of land-based activities from Debbie, and scanned them digitally. We also captured other aspects of the community, such as the lake, forest, and the pow wow grounds. At the end of the week, we left with over 200 GB of images and video recordings that will be used to create LOCs that will help preserve and share the culture, traditions, and community members of Lac La Croix.

As you’ve read, our collaborative approach to content creation is highly personalized and varied from community to community. It allows us to meet the unique needs of the community and it certainly keeps my job interesting.

If you would like to talk with us about collaborating on content creation for your school or community, please contact us at 1-888-844-9022 or at achieve@learningbird.com

About the author

Natalie Gilbert

Natalie has spent the last five years working in both traditional and experiential education settings in Haiti, India, and South Korea. Her background is in journalism and education, and she is currently pursuing her M.A. in Educational Technology. She enjoys running, exploring new neighborhoods, and cooking.

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