Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classrm

The National Museum of Australia’s director Dr Mathew Trinca launches Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom at Lyneham high school, year 8 class. Picture: Karleen Minny, The Canberra Times, ACM.

Anne Gearside and Marissa Beard, Celebrating Australia’s unique stories: Classroom inquiry and the new Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom, Education HQ, 6 September 2021

National context often underlies Australian teachers’ programming.

The story of the Australian nation is complex, infused with potent ideas and questions for teachers and students alike. What events have shaped and defined Australia? How do contemporary notions of Australia hold up against a history of colonisation and migration? Who has contributed to Australia’s sense of national identity? How might the nation be defined in the future? Such questions warrant concentrated examination by teachers. The story of the Australian nation encompasses diverse identities and events, providing a multitude of teaching opportunities. How do we encourage all students, irrespective of their interests and learning abilities, to effectively engage with Australia’s rich history and contemporary social landscape?

At the National Museum of Australia, examining and re-conceptualising the Australian nation is an important part of telling Australia’s stories. If Australia is an ‘imagined community’, when, where and why has it been imagined, and by whom (Anderson, 1983, p. 15)? This deliberative and critical process helps do justice to the complexities of the development of the Australian nation. Accordingly, educators at the Museum regularly review pedagogical strategies to evoke students’ curiosity, and promote engagement with and debate about Australia’s contested and unique history and contemporary sociological realities. The Museum has built upon the concept underlying its well-utilised and trusted Defining Moments in Australian History website to create an interactive, student-centered teaching and learning platform that is free for all Australian classrooms – Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom.


Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom provides convenient digital access to a detailed history of Australia. It is designed to meet the demands of the Australian Curriculum and includes games, learning modules, and over 1,500 primary sources organised according to curriculum areas.


Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom assists with the facilitation of student-centered learning. It leads students through a series of interactive activities and quizzes and encourages critical thinking in the context of historical investigation using primary sources, including images and archival footage, and virtual museum tours. The Museum has drawn on educators’ expert knowledge of contemporary pedagogical inquiry to create resources that help facilitate students’ independent learning. The format of each defining moment promotes student differentiation; when students select a defining moment, they are met with a summary and an invitation to pursue their research further, guided by a variety of learner choices. Students can use comprehension questions to focus their reading, and learning can be reinforced through quizzes and activities. Independent learning is also supported through a variety of multimodal information sources that drive students’ historical research and class presentation capability.

Examination of the pedagogical elements of Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom must include reference to the plurality of technology affordances this type of learning platform provides, including positive multimodal learning impacts and an ability to address the issues of learning mobility and access (Bower, 2017).  A fundamental part of the Museum’s mission is bringing Australia’s stories to life and helping them reach every Australian. In accordance with this mission, Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom is designed to inform and inspire all learners across the country. As students ‘walk’ through the Digital Classroom’s Virtual Museum, they will explore Australia’s long and complex history and contemplate our contemporary social landscape – an invitation to re-imagine our magnificent future.

Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom is proudly supported by Gandel Philanthropy.


Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London, UK: Verso Editions.

Bower, M. (2017). Design of technology-enhanced learning: Integrating research and practice. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing.

Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom. About: What is Australia’s Defining Moment Classroom? https://digital-classroom.nma.gov.au/about. Cited 29 October 2020.


Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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