Tradition and tech come together

image courtesy of South Slave Divisional Education Council
The is a screen grab of a Dene Zhatie-language storybook app recently launched by the South Slave Divisional Education Council.

A new app was launched in early May featuring stories written and told in Dene Zhatie.

The South Slave Divisional Education Council launched the app – part of its First Nations Storybook Project – for iPhone and iPad users.

“Designed to look like a bookshelf, the educational app is available for free through the App Store and houses nearly 50 books from the (council)’s growing collection of aboriginal-language storybooks,” states the council’s website.

“The books, which tell of legends and tales that reflect the traditions, values and experiences of Northern indigenous Canadians, are read by a fluent (Dene Zhatie) speaker so that readers can follow along and learn the language.”

Brent Kaulback, the retired assistant superintendent with the council, was instrumental in the creation of the app and said many tell him they that, while they can speak the language, they can’t read it.

“So this is certainly designed to support the student who’s learning the language, but also the adult who wants to go deeper into their language and learn to read their language as well as speak it,” he said.

“There are 49 books on the app right now, and we’ve got another three or four that I’m just finishing up with and we’ll be putting those on the app within the next week or two,” he said.

The First Nations Storybook Project also features Cree and Chipewyan editions of the app, which were published in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

Kaulback developed the apps to support the books he has helped publish through the council over the years.

“We’ve just gone over the 300 mark with all the books that we’ve published, and because we publish mainly in the three languages – Cree, South Slavey and Chipewyan – I would imagine that 100 of those must be in the (Dene Zhatie) language or close to that number,” he said.

The First Nations Storybook Project supports people who are eager to learn and speak the Dene Zhatie language.

Kaulback and the council are always looking for more Northern stories, and encouraging budding authors to write, illustrate and record their own books in any of the NWT’s official languages and then submit them to be reviewed and potentially included in this growing collection of books.

The Dene Zhatie app was produced with the support of $14,000 from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment.

Right now, the apps are only accessible on iPhone and iPad.

However, Kaulback said the council is seeking funding to make all three of the apps accessible on Android devices in the coming year.