Inclusivity, equity and accessibility in technology - Education Matters Magazine
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Inclusivity, equity and accessibility in technology

21st century learning

A key focus for educators right now is empowering students with high value skills that will prepare them for future careers. For JB Hi-Fi Education, this means ensuring all students have access to the necessary tools, resources, and programs to support the development of the critical skills required for working in a digital economy.

As technology drives better educational outcomes as part of the evolving digital economy, knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and 21st century learning skills such as critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration have become increasingly important for students, teachers, and education support staff.

To support best practices in STEM education, JB Hi-Fi Education wants to make 21st century learning curriculum accessible to everyone. This means ensuring Australian educators and students have equitable access to computing devices across a diverse landscape of differing learning abilities, geographies, and socio-economic groups.

Ms Sandy Hyland, Head of Education at JB Hi-Fi, says: “JB Hi-Fi Education helps schools to create world class educational programs using simple, affordable, and manageable technology solutions. We have highly experienced education specialists across Australia that are backed by our national network of stores and strong partnerships with leading global technology providers such as Apple, Lenovo, HP, and Microsoft.”

By that same token, encouraging students to develop strong proficiency in computing skills and core competencies in STEM has been a primary focus for the Australian Government over the last decade. To improve STEM curriculum for every school across the country, the Department of Education created the National STEM Education Resources Toolkit – an online hub providing educators with a comprehensive strategy for developing a core curriculum based on 21st century learning objectives.

WHAT IS 21ST CENTURY LEARNING?

The Department of Education defines 21st century learning as the development of skills that have been flagged as critical for the digital economy. However, rather than focussing on developing a particular skillset or area of specialisation –21st century learning skills are better defined as a way of thinking.

The framework for this is detailed in Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills by defining learning categories for thinking, working, and living in the world:

Ways of thinking

  • Creativity and innovation
  • Critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making
  • Metacognition – Learning to learn

Ways of working

  • Communication
  • Collaboration

Tools for working

  • Information Literacy
  • ICT literacy

Living in the world

  • Citizenship – local and global
  • Life and career
  • Personal and social responsibility – including cultural awareness and competence
Achieving tech equity in Australia is a multi- faceted challenge with many different aspects to consider.

ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES

Ms Hyland from JB Hi-Fi Education, conducted an interview with Mr Brett Salakas, Founder of #aussieED, Co-Founder of the ED Poets Society and #TheWalkingED, and HP Education Ambassador for Australia.

Mr Salakas says one of the key challenges is ensuring students living in Broken Hill, Coober Pedy, Esperance and Kalgoorlie have equitable access to the same educational tools and technology as students living in the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane CBDs.

“Achieving tech equity in Australia is a multi- faceted challenge with many different aspects to consider. One thing we must contend with is ‘the tyranny of distance’,” he says.

“Unlike other countries, Australian educators have a unique set of geographical challenges, with upwards of 80 per cent of our population coastally bound and living in metropolitan areas like Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne. Then there are vast areas of land where the other 20 per cent of the population is spread sparsely and often in remote locations.”

Another key issue he highlights is addressing the specific learning needs of students.

“Barriers to learning can include spectrum and sensory-processing conditions; being non- verbal; audio or visual impairments; dyslexia; colour blindness; or difficulties with executive functioning. Schools need to make the necessary adjustments and tailor the learning environment to make the lessons fully accessible to these students,” Mr Salakas says.

“To truly achieve accessibility for all, we need to be intentional about structuring our education systems around the needs of individual students. Educational technology enables us to make learning accessible in ways like never before and with smart teaching, smart planning, and clever use of technology, we can ensure all the students have access to a quality education.”

ACCESSIBILITY TOOLS AND TECHNOLOGY FOR EDUCATION

  • Text-Help: A tool for reading and vocabulary that offers visual tracking – helpful for audio-visual impairments or sensory issues and colour-blindness.
  • Text-to-Speech: For students who have executive functioning challenges, such as autism spectrum, attention issues or dyslexia, text to speech enables them to write freely by speaking their ideas rather than writing them.
  • Artificial intelligence: AI learning tools can be leveraged for better education outcomes. Synthesia is a free online app that allows students to create virtual visual presentations of their ideas. Mr Salakas has some examples of how this technology can be used on his personal site: salakas.me/deepfake
  • HP Learning Bytes: A web series that highlights tools and technology for learning that can make education more accessible for students with various learning needs. To learn more, visit: reinvent.hp.com/ HP-Learning-Bytes

JB HI-FI EDUCATION AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS

As more educators begin to rely on learning technologies, JB Hi-Fi Education is trying to simplify this trend by offering streamlined procurement processes; modern device deployment and management capabilities; and more premium technology options at commercial prices to schools.

The company also facilitates one-to-one or BYOD programs to help parents, students and schools easily access appropriate technology
for their school’s needs. Extended warranty and insurance options are in place to help purchasing parties get the most out of their investment. Understanding that the current climate is tough for households, multiple payment options are offered to parents such as Zip, Afterpay and the flexibility of click-and-collect at participating retail stores.

Additional financing options are available through JB Hi-Fi Finance, backed by JB Hi-Fi’s Asset Finance partner De Lage Landen (DLL) which enables JB Hi-Fi Education to present schools
with fixed or adaptable monthly equipment leases and flexible services arrangements, at competitive rates and with true lease transparency.

To learn more, visit: www.jbhifi.education

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