Next Door Land, DFAT’s engaging and entertaining educational app traversing Indonesia and Australia, went live a fortnight ago. This article is the third in a series about the ground-breaking game, this time focusing on its educational content. AIYA caught up with Aaron O’Shannessy, Manager of International Programs at the Asia Education Foundation (AEF), to discover more about the digital diplomacy of Next Door Land.

Tell us about the Asia Education Foundation. What are some of the projects it focuses on?

AEFAEF is Australia’s premier organisation providing schools with interactive student programs, international school partnerships, teacher professional learning, curriculum resources, research and networks to educate a generation of globally-ready young Australians. Our programs focus on students, teachers, school leaders and school communities. Our goal is to develop a global mindset for all young Australians that includes intercultural understanding, language learning and an understanding of Australia’s place in the world and our region.

Is this the first digital diplomacy project AEF has been involved with?

The AEF worked on one other digital diplomacy project a few years ago called Travel BugsTravel Bugs is an interactive learning site that allows students to travel the world online and learn about other cultures through the words and photos of the children that live there. In addition to this, the work that the AEF leads for its school partnership project (BRIDGE), where teachers are supported to create their own global collaborations that support digital diplomacy through a range of student-to-student interactions.

The study guide has a particular focus on the game’s contribution to the theme of ‘intercultural understanding’. What are some key game components that assist with this?

Throughout the game students have the opportunity to explore their own culture and that of their neighbour (Australia/Indonesia). This is achieved through a range of activities and games that profile different aspects of Australia and Indonesia. Some examples include the kendang drum game of Indonesia, the quizzes on landmarks in Australia and Indonesia, the Indonesian transportation game and of course all of the bilingual comic strips. All of these activities support students to recognise culture and develop respect, interact and empathise with others; and reflect on intercultural experiences.

What are some of the school subjects that this game can be used for?

We take a cross-curriculum approach to learning about Australia’s place in the world and intercultural understanding and as a result, we believe this game could have relevant applications in a range of subjects including geography, history, civics and citizenship and languages to name a few.

What are some of the cross-curriculum themes that the game touches on?

Next Door Land focuses on addressing the Australian Curriculum priority of Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia in all its activities. There are also aspects of the game that touch on the ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures’ and ‘Sustainability’ cross-curriculum priorities.

Outside of classes teaching Bahasa Indonesia, to what extent does the current curriculum provide opportunities for young Australians to learn about Indonesia?

The current curriculum provides opportunities to learn about Indonesia in almost every subject – the cross-curriculum priority of Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia provides schools with a framework for this to occur across learning areas. Whether it’s comparing texts about aspects of daily life and significant events across cultures in English, understanding the interactions between Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and the Macassans in History, exploring the effects of sudden geological changes or extreme weather conditions in Science, exploring the archipelago in Geography, understanding economic links with our greatest trade partner in Economics or understanding the impact of different political and religious systems in History, Indonesia has relevance in the context of almost any learning area.

Are Australian schools increasingly using educational apps such as this to learn about other countries and about other subjects more broadly?

Students today are digital natives, and find online platforms second-nature. As a result, it’s increasingly important for educators to embrace technology and digital platforms in the classroom. This game utilises online and communication technologies to achieve a range of teaching and learning objectives, in a more dynamic and engaging format than many more traditional mediums.

Do you think that Australian young people will become more knowledgeable about and familiar with Indonesia by playing this app, and vice versa for young Indonesians?

Absolutely! This is a really fun and engaging way to encourage students to develop their understanding of our nearest neighbour.

Read about Next Door Land‘s Jakarta launch here and the production process here, then click here to download it for free. Stay tuned to this series for AIYA President Nick Mark’s perspectives on the game, along with user experiences.