Tech­nol­ogy of­fers hope for stu­dents in re­gions

The Gympie Times - - NEWS - Rae Wil­son Rae.Wil­son@news­com.au

THE cur­ricu­lum called for an un­der­stand­ing of geo­met­ric shapes – and so ro­botic dogs were born.

They came com­plete with cir­cuit board to light up the eyes and move the head.

Math­e­mat­ics. Tick. Sci­ence. Tick. Ro­bot­ics. Tick.

These pets have been built in class­rooms far from our state’s cap­i­tal through spe­cial­ists shar­ing their ex­per­tise.

The Univer­sity of South­ern Queens­land’s Stephen Winn said it was im­pos­si­ble to ex­pect re­gional and ru­ral towns to have ex­per­tise in ev­ery teach­ing area and un­re­al­is­tic to train any teacher in too many sub­jects out­side trained fields.

The head of School of Teacher Ed­u­ca­tion and Early Child­hood has a list of ed­u­ca­tion po­si­tions too long to print.

He said tech­nol­ogy had a huge role to play in as­sist­ing schools out­side ma­jor cen­tres meet stu­dents’ ed­u­ca­tion needs and help­ing more re­gional kids grad­u­ate.

Pro­fes­sor Winn’s com­ments come two weeks af­ter this pa­per’s launch of its Fair Go for Our Kids cam­paign. It re­vealed about 30,000 re­gional chil­dren a year did not fin­ish Year 12.

Prof Winn said re­mote teach­ing was not just a stop gap for in-class­room teach­ing, but a prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion. He said with the right equip­ment, re­mote teach­ers could pan around a class­room and zoom in to pro­vide feed­back.

“It’s a mythol­ogy, per­pe­trated by many, that we’re ac­tu­ally re­plac­ing the teacher. We’re not. We are ca­pac­ity build­ing and en­hanc­ing the teacher in that class,” he said.

“All of the work we’ve seen with young peo­ple, and I’m talk­ing peo­ple as young as five or six years of age and up to 17

or 18, they cope very well with this vir­tual en­gage­ment.

“Just like in medicine, you can­not have a spe­cial­ist in ev­ery lo­ca­tion, but you can have a teacher in that space who can get ac­cess to ex­pert teach­ing in ar­eas they may not have it.”

James Cook Univer­sity’s Shaun Bel­ward can see the ad­van­tages of re­mote teach­ing us­ing home-grown teach­ers in re­gional ar­eas.

But the maths dis­ci­pline head dis­agreed with any sug­ges­tion teach­ing su­per­stars such as Syd­ney-based Ed­die Woo – fa­mous for post­ing his en­gag­ing maths classes on YouTube – were the way to go.

“One of the chal­lenges we have is a be­lief it’s dif­fer­ent in the re­gions, that per­haps we don’t need maths be­cause we’re in north Queens­land,” he said. “You sort of re­in­force that when you have some­one from out­side the re­gion come in and mo­ti­vate. It im­plies there’s no one here who can do that.”

Mr Bel­ward said he be­lieved the first step to­wards im­prov­ing grad­u­a­tion out­comes in re­gional ar­eas was at­tract­ing qual­ity teach­ers via in­cen­tives to a sec­ond ca­reer. He said his pre-ser­vice teach­ers in­cluded en­gi­neers from the down­turn in the re­sources sec­tor.

But he said con­tent was key, not­ing many dropped out be­cause their school maths skills were not strong enough.

“They have to know their con­tent ... (if not) there’s no way they can do the job prop­erly,” he said.

“They’ll either con­vinc­ingly tell the stu­dents some­thing that’s not right or they will be spot­ted by the kids as be­ing in­com­pe­tent ... and then they’ll have be­havioural is­sues.”

Mr Bel­ward said we must con­vince strong sci­ence and maths stu­dents that teach­ing was a good ca­reer op­tion.

“Of­ten you’ll hear the anec­do­tal story of ‘I was good at maths and sci­ence and they said you should do medicine or en­gi­neer­ing at uni, don’t waste your tal­ent on teach­ing’.”

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