Technology offers hope for students in regions
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’.”