STEM: Dig­i­tal Lit­er­acy for Teach­ers

Can pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment in tech­nol­ogy-en­hanced learn­ing im­prove teach­ers’ dig­i­tal lit­er­acy and that of their stu­dents?

The Australian Education Reporter - - CONTENTS - EMMA DAVIES

THE Gov­ern­ment’s Na­tional In­no­va­tion and Sci­ence Agenda has ear­marked $112.2 mil­lion for In­spir­ing all Aus­tralians in Dig­i­tal Lit­er­acy and STEM; $64.6 mil­lion of this will be spent in schools across Aus­tralia.

The spot­light has been on restor­ing the fo­cus on Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, En­gi­neer­ing, and Math­e­mat­ics (STEM) in schools, but dig­i­tal lit­er­acy is just as im­por­tant.

Stu­dents need the skills, knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of how to use new tech­nol­ogy and me­dia to cre­ate and share mean­ing.

The De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing wants to en­sure that young Aus­tralians are equipped with the skills for the work­force of the fu­ture. Also im­por­tant – maximising eco­nomic and so­cial well­be­ing amongst stu­dents in an in­creas­ingly global and dig­i­tal age.

“By sup­port­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Aus­tralian Cur­ricu­lum: Dig­i­tal Tech­nolo­gies and clos­ing the dig­i­tal di­vide for Aus­tralia’s most dis­ad­van­taged and un­der­rep­re­sented stu­dents we can en­sure the next gen­er­a­tions of Aus­tralian stu­dents will have the skills to equip them for the 21st cen­tury work­force,” a spokesper­son from the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing said.

Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy Syd­ney School of Ed­u­ca­tion se­nior lec­turer Dr Jane Hunter says the def­i­ni­tion of dig­i­tal lit­er­acy is broad – mov­ing be­yond the skills peo­ple re­quire to live, learn and work in so­ci­ety where com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion is through tech­nolo­gies like the in­ter­net, so­cial me­dia, and mo­bile de­vices.

“It’s also about de­vel­op­ing prob­lem solv­ing skills, search­ing, sift­ing, eval­u­at­ing, ap­ply­ing and pro­duc­ing in­for­ma­tion that will al­low peo­ple, and in par­tic­u­lar, young peo­ple to think crit­i­cally,” she said.

“Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is a key as­pect of dig­i­tal lit­er­acy and so are prac­ti­cal skills in us­ing tech­nol­ogy to ac­cess, man­age and ma­nip­u­late in­for­ma­tion in a sus­tain­able and eth­i­cal way.”

Dr Hunter ad­vo­cates us­ing a re­search-based ped­a­gog­i­cal frame­work called High Pos­si­bil­ity Class­rooms (HPC) to im­prove dig­i­tal lit­er­acy in schools.

HPC sup­ports K-12 teach­ing and learn­ing with cur­ricu­lum con­tent in a range of key learn­ing ar­eas.

Dr Hunter is re­search­ing the use of HPC as the scaf­fold which builds teacher ca­pac­ity and con­fi­dence in the STEM dis­ci­plines in a num­ber of pri­mary and high schools in NSW, the ACT and Vic­to­ria.

“HPC gives teach­ers a lan­guage to talk about their prac­tice, it strength­ens dig­i­tal lit­er­acy skills of in-ser­vice teach­ers and the ac­tions of pre-ser­vice teach­ers prior to their en­try into the pro­fes­sion,” she said.

The In­spir­ing all Aus­tralians in dig­i­tal lit­er­acy and STEM mea­sure in­cludes ini­tia­tives for both pri­mary and se­condary level aimed at in­creas­ing: STEM re­sources avail­able for schools, stu­dents and teach­ers; pro­fes­sional learn­ing sup­port for teach­ers; ac­tiv­i­ties for stu­dents to lift en­gage­ment with STEM and cod­ing in par­tic­u­lar; and sup­port for STEM pro­fes­sion­als to part­ner with schools.

There are a num­ber of Gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives aimed to give teach­ers the op­por­tu­nity to un­der­take pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment and im­prove their un­der­stand­ing of STEM.

Ini­tia­tives in­clude the Dig­i­tal Lit­er­acy School Grants of more than $4m over two years and Mas­sive Open On­line Cour­ses (MOOCS) for Aus­tralian teach­ers.

The Aus­tralian Cur­ricu­lum, As­sess­ment and Re­port­ing Author­ity (ACARA) is also train­ing dig­i­tal lit­er­acy tech­nol­ogy spe­cial­ists to work with teach­ers and school lead­ers in low so­cio-eco­nomic schools in each state.

A re­cent Dig­i­tal Lit­er­acy Skills and Learn­ing re­port re­leased by the New South Wales Ed­u­ca­tion Stan­dards Author­ity (NESA) ar­gued that grad­u­ate teach­ers need to be ca­pa­ble of help­ing fu­ture stu­dents tran­si­tion from be­ing con­sumers of dig­i­tal prod­ucts to pro­duc­ers of dig­i­tal so­lu­tions.

The re­port rec­om­mends that teacher ed­u­ca­tion give greater pri­or­ity to the dig­i­tal lit­er­acy of pre-ser­vice teach­ers, but Dr Hunter points to chal­lenges fac­ing ini­tial teacher ed­u­ca­tion (ITE) in NSW; poor con­nec­tiv­ity and ag­ing hard­ware in schools, in­ad­e­quate pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment fund­ing, and en­sur­ing dig­i­tal flu­ency re­mains at the fore­front of learn­ing in ITE pro­grams in uni­ver­si­ties.

“Un­til con­nec­tiv­ity in ev­ery school is given proper at­ten­tion and be­comes a fund­ing pri­or­ity, teach­ers (es­pe­cially new grad­u­ate teach­ers) will con­tinue to be re­luc­tant to base their lessons on some­thing that de­pends on be­ing con­nected,” Dr Hunter said.

On­go­ing fund­ing for teacher pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment is also needed, as Dr Hunter states that many large roll­outs of tech­nol­ogy in NSW and Aus­tralia more broadly were not ac­com­pa­nied by ad­e­quate funds.

Dr Hunter says that many schools are al­ready tak­ing steps to pro­vide hard­ware re­sources to young peo­ple so that they can gain dig­i­tal flu­ency in safe en­vi­ron­ments.

How­ever, there is a cru­cial need for fur­ther fund­ing of tech­nol­ogy to up­grade re­sources es­pe­cially for schools in low so­cioe­co­nomic ar­eas.

Re­cently the Au­dit Of­fice of NSW re­leased a re­port on the con­di­tion of tech­nol­ogy in pub­lic schools, a sit­u­a­tion that Dr Hunter de­scribes as “want­ing”.

The re­port lists sev­eral fac­tors that are re­duc­ing ef­fec­tive use of in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy (ICT) in the class­room.

Pri­mar­ily th­ese re­fer to age­ing ICT equip­ment and in­ad­e­quate wire­less net­works, vari­able stu­dent ac­cess to de­vices at school and in­con­sis­tent teacher ac­cess to cen­trally pro­vided de­vices for use out­side of the class­room.

The NSW De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion (DOE) aims to de­ter­mine whether re­sourc­ing is ad­e­quate for mod­ern school re­quire­ments, im­prove the wire­less net­works, in­crease mon­i­tor­ing of teacher and stu­dent ac­cess to ICT and eval­u­ate the im­pact of teacher pro­fes­sional learn­ing and ICT on stu­dent out­comes.

The DOE plans to im­prove teacher ac­cess to de­vices out­side of the class­room, pro­vide on­line learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­gional teach­ers, de­liver ped­a­gog­i­cal ICT cour­ses and of­fer teach­ing re­sources to de­velop stu­dents ICT skills and mon­i­tor their achieve­ment.

Dr Hunter says the tech­nol­ogy re­sourc­ing gap be­tween Gov­ern­ment and non-gov­ern­ment schools is sig­nif­i­cant and that the “dig­i­tal di­vide” is not only ap­par­ent in our cities but also in ru­ral and re­mote schools where it can be even more dif­fi­cult to con­nect to the in­ter­net.

“On­go­ing re­sourc­ing, bet­ter con­nec­tiv­ity, and ac­ces­si­ble high qual­ity pro­fes­sional learn­ing for teach­ers are the big three in the con­ver­sa­tion about im­prov­ing dig­i­tal lit­er­acy in our schools,” Dr Hunter said.

“Be­cause tech­nol­ogy is con­stantly chang­ing, teach­ers can’t be ex­pected to go to a one off course and think that that is it. There needs to be fund­ing and reg­u­lar re­lease time so that teach­ers can up­skill, think and plan to­gether.”

Dr Hunter gives the ex­am­ple of schools that use tech com­pa­nies for STEM to teach cod­ing or do one-off STEM ac­tiv­i­ties with stu­dents.

This ac­tion is some­times a missed op­por­tu­nity for teach­ers to learn skills and deeper un­der­stand­ings them­selves.

“Such ap­proaches don’t build teacher ca­pac­ity and con­fi­dence in STEM – quick fixes of STEM in the form of a few ex­per­i­ments with ‘froth n’ bub­ble’ are not the sil­ver bul­let,” she said.

The High Pos­si­bil­ity Class­rooms (HPC) ped­a­gog­i­cal frame­work.

Dr Jane Hunter

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.