Swimming Between the Flags: The Pictures of the Floating World Project

  • Craig Smith


This chapter recounts and reflects upon an educational initiative known as the Floating World project which created a suite of digitalised curriculum resources, drawing on a series of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Japanese Ukiyo-e (literally “Pictures of the Floating World”) woodblock prints. The Floating World project was an innovation that sought to transform and perhaps transcend a number of traditions, such as schools’ access to traditional art works, and/or the relationship between these art objects and their (passive) diverse viewers, through the design and deployment of a technologically mediated space. In doing so, the Floating World project opened up new ways for information to flow, enabling a dynamic relationship between viewer and (art) object. In describing and analyzing the processes and outcomes of this initiative, this chapter reflects, also, upon the challenges of moving beyond the boundaries that are so carefully enforced by dominant educational mindsets.


Project Team Professional Learning Community Japanese Language National Gallery Video Tutorial 
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The following schools participated in the project: Amsleigh Park PS; Balmoral P-12; Birchip P-12; Brighton Beach Primary School; Collingwood College; Dimboola Memorial College; Elwood College; Fitzroy High School; Frankston High School; Geelong High School; Hawkesdale P-12; Maroondah SC; Mt Beauty SC; Mt Clear College; Nungurner PS; Princes Hill PS; Richmond West; Sydenham-Hillside PS; Toora PS; Wooranna Park PS.

I wish to acknowledge and thank the organisations and individuals who made this project such a success. The project was funded by the Victorian government Department of Innovation, Industry and Rural Development, with additional funding from the Department of Education. The National Gallery of Victoria as the project’s lead agency invested time and resources into the project, with support from the Department of Education. To these organisations, a sincere thank you.

Many individuals drawn from schools, the NGV, Department of Education and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority contributed to the project. Participating teachers brought with them a powerful sense of purpose and direction, along with a genuine sense of collegiality, feedback and enthusiasm, which in turn helped the project team refine a promising ‘product’ into a classroom ready resource. Their students created wonderful images and stories and showed us how the Floating World resources could be put to use in ways that were purposeful, creative and fun. To see the project team’s hard work come to life in this manner was both exciting and rewarding, and without the students and their teachers, this project would not have been possible. Thank you.

Finally, there are some people whom I need to thank and publicly acknowledge my debt to. To Jean-Pierre Chabrol of the NGV and his team of very talented software designers and developers, Breton Slivka and Jonathan O’Donnell. It was their ideas, ideals and smarts that were the driving force that brought the Floating World project into being – thank you for letting me be part of it. To Travis McKenzie and Jess McCulloch, two leading teacher practitioners, many thanks for showing me what engaging, ‘tech savvy’ teaching looks like. To Chris Bigum, who as always, was a generous and inspiring interlocutor. And lastly but not least, to Leonie Rowan, for her patience, encouragement and support in helping me share some of the Floating World experience with a wider audience.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science +Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Freelance writerMelbourneAustralia

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