“Many tribal languages are endangered. Using tools such as computing allows people to use technology to perpetuate our native languages and cultures. While technology is not the only solution, it is an extremely powerful and valuable tool to aid in language learning.” – Jeff Edwards, USA
The preservation of local languages is a subject that comes up frequently on Daily Edventures, from our celebration of International Mother Language Day to our recent interview with author Nataly Kelly. Globalization, for all its economic advantages, hasn’t always been kind to local languages, many of which are under threat of extinction. So we’re particularly proud when the power of technology allows us to contribute to preserving important cultures and languages for future generations. Today, Microsoft is launching a Cherokee Language Interface Pack for Windows 8, allowing the more than 300,000 citizens of the Cherokee Nation to work and communicate in their own language. This is made possible through the Microsoft Local Language Program, a global initiative that provides people access to technology in a familiar language while respecting linguistic and cultural distinctions.
According to Roy Boney, one of the three Cherokee Language Technologist we’re profiling in today’s Daily Edventure, “As part of Cherokee Nation’s Language Technology program, we have worked with the major technology companies over the years to ensure our language is compatible with all the major computing and social networking platforms. Now with Microsoft releasing Windows 8 with a localized Cherokee language version, our language is compatible on the majority of digital devices in the world.”
Boney and his colleagues, Jeff Edwards and Joseph Erb, play a critical role in maintaining the delicate educational balance between 21st century skills and the preservation of a unique tribal culture and customs. With a localized Windows 8, they now have another powerful tool to help them accomplish this mission. Today, the Cherokee technologists share with us some of their particular challenges, and their words of wisdom for teachers – whatever their language or culture. Enjoy!
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
Before we started implementing technological solutions for the Cherokee language, our language was taught in schools primarily with pencil and paper. Since our language is now supported on major platforms like Windows, our students can utilize our language in the digital world. (Jeff Edwards)
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Many tribal languages are endangered. Using tools such as computing allows people to use technology to perpetuate our native languages and cultures. While technology is not the only solution, it is an extremely powerful and valuable tool to aid in language learning. (Jeff Edwards)
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
We started this work because we were making Cherokee language animations. At the time, using our language in some editing software proved to be quite a challenge because of the incompatibility of the fonts. That led us to try to find a solution to effectively use our language without all the fuss. Now that the Cherokee language is becoming one of the standards in operating systems, we can use our writing system in nearly every application we choose. (Joseph Erb)
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
Students these days need to have a high degree of digital literacy. With the Internet at our fingertips 24/7, knowing how to discern what information is reliable is critical for education. Engaging students with technology that they actively use, such as social networking and text messaging, allows educators to exist in the space in which the students live and play. Helping them become critical thinkers and smart navigators of the web ensures the students will know how to use technology to its fullest potential. (Roy Boney)
What is your community doing well currently to support education?
The Cherokee Nation has through its entire history been heavily focused on education. After the Trail of Tears removal and the Cherokees were forcibly moved to Indian Territory in the 1830s, we immediately rebuilt by starting schools. The Cherokee Nation had some of the very first institutions of higher education west of the Mississippi River. The emphasis on education remains today and the Cherokee Nation supports many schools in the state of Oklahoma, and also runs its own schooling system that includes Sequoyah High School and the Cherokee Language Immersion School. (Joseph Erb)
What conditions must change in your community to better support education?
There is a technology gap among some of the poorer communities in our area. Since many jobs and other economic growth opportunities require access to Internet technologies, these gaps in technology access need to be closed. Fortunately, there are people and organizations actively pursuing this goal including the Cherokee Nation Education Services Group. (Jeff Edwards)
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
I think the collaborative, interactive nature of technology like wikis and blogs and other social media platforms is something that education really needs to embrace. Being able to successfully create content and thrive in community settings, digital and otherwise, are important skills to possess in the modern era. (Roy Boney)
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Think outside of the box. Embrace technology, and don’t be afraid to learn from your students. Technology can be a great tool when used with an open mind. (Joseph Erb)
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
The ability to communicate with all your friends and family with a hand-held device is very handy. This helps to build a community when sometimes geography or busy schedules interfere with traditional face-to-face time. Integrating this type of technology in education is great. On the same token, it can present a problem. Sometimes excessive usage of technology and not enough personal contact with others may lead to an inability to communicate effectively. There needs to be a balance. (Roy Boney)
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
Every child needs a smartphone with access to the web. With the proper education, these types of devices can open up the world to students more than ever before. They can be more than just fancy cameras and devices used to play video games. They are powerful pieces of technology that connect to a large portion of the world’s information. (Jeff Edwards)
About Roy Boney, Jr., Jeff Edwards, Joseph Erb
The Cherokee Nation is the federally-recognized government of the Cherokee people and has inherent sovereign status recognized by treaty and law. With more than 300,000 citizens, over 8,000 employees and a variety of tribal enterprises ranging from aerospace and defense contracts to entertainment venues, Cherokee Nation’s economic impact in Oklahoma and surrounding areas is more than $1.5 billion annually. They are the largest tribal nation in the United States and one of the largest employers in northeastern Oklahoma. The Cherokee Language Technology Program creates innovative solutions for the Cherokee language on all digital platforms including smartphones, laptops, desktops, tablets and social network media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Roy Boney, Jr. is a full blood Cherokee comic artist, fine artist, computer animator and language preservationist from Locust Grove, Oklahoma, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and a hereditary member of the Deer Clan. He is an award winning filmmaker and artist, and his work has been shown across the country and internationally. He grew up in the community of Iron Post, and he has been drawing as soon as he could hold a pencil. He holds a BFA in Graphic Design from Oklahoma State University and Master of Art in Studio Art from the University of Arkansas in Little Rock.
Joseph Erb earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He used his artistic skills to teach Muscogee Creek and Cherokee students how to animate traditional stories. He currently serves on the board of the Cherokee Arts and Humanities Council. Erb created the first Cherokee animation in the Cherokee language, The Beginning They Told. He combines traditional storytelling with 21st-century technology as a means of teaching the Cherokee language to young people.
Jeff Edwards is an award-winning digital artist. He has worked at Cherokee Nation for 10 years in Cherokee Language and Cultural programs. He typed thousands of documents in the Cherokee language over the years. He manages computers at Cherokee Immersion School with accounts and passwords in the Cherokee language.
Microsoft Local Language Program (LLP)provides people access to technology in a familiar language while respecting linguistic and cultural distinctions. The program aims to empower individuals in local communities to create economic opportunities, build technology skills, enhance education outcomes, and sustain their local language and culture.