Toli Papadopoulos, Author at Education Matters Magazine - Page 162 of 172

Toli Papadopoulos

Science students

Argument against STEM focus

As politicians continue to spruik the benefits of refocusing Australia’s education focus on STEM learning, the Grattan Institute has suggested this shouldn’t result in pushing students towards science degrees.

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Online video games

Research: Online games boost student scores

A study from RMIT University reveals teenagers who regularly play video games online tend to receive higher school grades.

This contrasts with another finding: those visiting Facebook or chat-based websites every day are more likely to realise decreased performance in maths, reading and science.

The study used data collated by the internationally recognised Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which was in turn analysed by Asasociate Professor Alberto Posso from RMIT’s School of Economics, Finance and Marketing.

Published in the International Journal of Communication, the paper provides a snapshot of some of the pressures placed on today’s teens in Australia.

PISA’s database included tests from more than 12,000 Australian 15-year-olds in maths, reading and science, alongside additional information on the students’ online activities.

Assoc. Prof. Posso found that students “who play online video games every day score 15 points above the average in maths and 17 points above the average in science”.

“When you play online games you’re solving puzzles to move to the next level and that involves using some of the general knowledge and skills in maths, reading and science that you’ve been taught during the day,” he said.

As a result, the academic suggests educators consider how to incorporate popular video games into their teaching, “so long as they’re not violent ones”.

By comparison, students that regularly sent time on social media scored 20 points worse in maths than students who had never used those platforms, but Posso still recommends incorporating the technology as a method of assisting students who fall behind.

“Teachers might want to look at blending the use of Facebook into their classes as a way of helping those students engage.”

The researcher also stresses that there could be other factors having major impacts that hamper teenager scholastic progress, and missing school could be as bad or worse as regularly using social media.

Students from minority ethnic or linguistic groups were also at increased risk of falling behind than those using Facebook or chat sites each day.

Tork SmartOne dispenser

Top marks for school washroom improvements

Every school has differences – each offers its own brand of education and point of focus. But a common story is that, almost all schools have washroom issues. Some schools suffer with more serious issues such as pilferage and vandalism while others, like Goulburn South Public School were experiencing annoying mess and mischief. These are problems shared by many.

Bev Grant, School Administration Manager of Goulburn South Public School in country NSW is responsible for keeping her school running smoothly. So when a student decides it’s a good idea to try to flush a toilet roll, everyone turns to Bev to fix it. “I get the call to go and fish yet another toilet roll out of the toilet,” she explained. It was enough to prompt Bev to look for a better alternative.

A smarter alternative was found at a conference in Sydney where Bev was introduced to a Tork® SmartOne® toilet paper dispenser. The high capacity system is lockable so the refill is secured away from mischievous students. It cleverly dispenses one sheet at a time and can reduce consumption by up to 40 percent. This means fewer refills and less maintenance and storage. The SmartOne dispensers are also shock and tamper proof and fire resistant – perfect for any school washroom.

The school had a range of different dispensers before switching to Tork. Other problems included finding towels to fit old dispensers, mess and waste. But a big expense was the cost of plumbing due to hand towel being flushed down the toilet and blocking the pipes. Tork H3 dispensers have now been installed with flushable hand towel refills and the school hasn’t had an issue since. “We actually will never know if the students are still flushing them because we don’t have any blockages anymore,” said Bev.

Hygiene is obviously important in all schools to prevent the spread of germs. But at Goulburn South, soap and towel dispensers have also been installed outside classrooms to encourage students to wash their hands before and after eating to help protect the students with allergies.

Changes like these usually come at a cost that many schools cannot afford. With the Tork Advantage program, dispensers are supplied free on loan as long as Tork refills are purchased. And it’s working for Goulburn South. “The best thing, honestly, is that it didn’t cost anything for the dispensers. It puts it within reach for smaller schools.”

Sid Takla, Executive General Manager B2B, Asaleo Care sees the benefits for schools of all sizes, “With minimum outlay, schools can upgrade their washroom facilities and do away with many of the issues, they have come to put up with. Issues such as overconsumption, waste and mess in the washroom can be a thing of the past.”

All in all, from needing to replenish refills less often to the washrooms looking, “so much tidier,” the changeover for Goulburn South has been a huge success. Bev reiterated, “I’m really happy with the Tork product, so I’ve told the school up the road about it.”

About Tork

Tork is the leading global brand in workplace hygiene. From paper towels in hospital washrooms to napkin dispensers in restaurant dining rooms, Tork delivers a great experience for the user and a convenient experience for the buyer. Tork is dedicated to serving your needs in a sustainable way – saving you time, money and effort, so you can focus on what matters most to your business. SCA licence the Tork trademark exclusively to Asaleo Care for use in Australasia.

To keep up with the latest Tork news and innovations, please visit: or

About Asaleo Care

Asaleo Care is a leading hygiene and personal care company that manufactures, markets, distributes and sells Personal Care and Tissue products used every day in households and businesses across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and a number of other countries in the Pacific. Asaleo Care’s portfolio of market-leading brands includes Sorbent, Handee, Purex, Libra, TENA, Tork, Treasures, Deeko, Viti and Orchid.

With eleven manufacturing and distribution facilities throughout Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, Asaleo Care employs about 1,000 people who work together to make it easier for hygiene, health and wellbeing to be part of everyday life.

For more information visit

Pokemon Go and BMJ

Scottish GP green lights Pokemon Go

Already the subject of a deluge of media coverage, mobile game Pokemon Go encourages players to engage in an augmented reality treasure hunt as they scour their neighbourhood for cartoon Pokemon characters.

Released just over one month ago, the pros and cons of Pokemon Go have been reported widely, prompting a columnist for The BMJ and Glasgow-based GP, Dr Margaret McCartney, to contribute to the debate.

In her column, Dr McCartney notes that some commentators have attempted to link playing Pokemon Go to helping with depression, countering the obesity epidemic and easing the burden of type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, stories of players being robbed, getting lost and requiring to be rescued by emergency services show that the game has some clear drawbacks for the unwary.

Dr McCartney also highlights recent actions by the UK National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which “has published a parents’ guide, as well as an open letter to Nintendo, the game’s creator”.

“It says that the game lacks adequate protection for children, such as safety reminders when contacting new users, hiding location by default for under 18s, and clear processes on safeguarding concerns.”

Ultimately, Dr McCartney’s column provides a balanced summary of the major points of discussion regarding Pokemon Go, and her conclusion is pragmatic: while the game could be made safer, the benefits appear to outweigh perceived risks.

“Most health apps that promote physical activity tend to get users who want to be healthy,” she writes. “Pokemon Go isn’t marketed as a health app, but players still end up doing a log of walking. The possibilities for apps to make the streets an active, reclaimed playground in which to have interconnected fun are boundless.”

Our Editor would love to hear from any educator using Pokemon or Pokemon Go to generate positive learning outcomes. If you have a story for us, please don’t hesitate to email the Editor at

Pikachu graphic

Creativity in the classroom – practice makes perfect

Ask any author and they will tell you this: ideas are the most important part of creation and they take a long time. How do you get ideas? How much time do you spend coming up with ideas before you start writing?

First try this test. Say just one word to students in your class: Writing.

Immediately ask them what picture comes into their mind. Chances are it will be of a person at a keyboard or writing at a desk with a pen, or a visual of a pen on paper. Not many students will visualise the first and most vital step in creating a piece of writing – brainstorming and creating ideas.

Boys studying at school.
Creativity isn’t restricted to a few gifted individuals. It’s something that can be developed in any student.

The importance of brainstorming

There is a misconception that ‘creativity’ is reserved for the special few, the gifted, the ones who invoke the muse by wearing a special hat and retreating to the silence of a special place. As a result, brainstorming – the generation of original ideas – is often not taught explicitly in classrooms.

According to Jackie French, ‘anyone who can daydream can create a story’. Furthermore, creativity can in fact be practiced just like any other skill; ask any author, the more you write, the more easily the ideas flow. However, the generation of ideas needs one important element – time.

‘Ideas are like small plants sprouting in the compost of experience; it takes time and patience to find out if they turn into trees.’ (Shaun Tan)

Compare that to the pressure students are put under in a NAPLAN writing task. Students are asked to write a narrative or persuasive piece in 45 minutes with just fve minutes of planning time. This model has led to the narrowing of planning time in normal classrooms, despite the fact that it is definitely not best practice.

The gifted and strong writers, who intuitively or have been explicitly taught to brainstorm and plan, are heavily penalised in this scenario. Authors are too. Take a look at author Jen McVeity’s response to this year’s NAPLAN writing tasks, the marks she received and her insights into the process of completing these tasks.

Ways of generating ideas

Fortunately, generating original and thought provoking ideas can vastly improve with training and practise. Research shows there are three common ways students, adults and authors generate ideas:


Brainstorming refers to the process of quickly recording thoughts, imagery and ideas. It is important not to sensor ideas, nor be concerned with spelling, neat handwriting or grammar. Ideas can be recorded all over the page, in bullet lists or even in the margins.

Mind mapping or clustering

Like brainstorming, techniques such as clustering and mind mapping allow ideas to be recorded without censor and this enhances creativity. Both techniques focus on a central word (usually something that embodies a theme, topic, motif, etc.), which you then work out from by associating other words, thoughts and ideas to that central word. These are very useful techniques for visual learners. There are very elaborate and decorative examples of graphic organisers online such as the array of templates in the ‘Resources gallery’ on the Global Education website.


The ‘what if…?’ approach. What if the main character lost a ring? What if the best friend lied? Why did the brother want to hide? Script writers use this approach a lot to generate new ideas. Aristotle did too.

Training in any of these strategies will enhance students’ creativity and originality, although students may find they have a preference for a particular approach. The more visual learners will prefer mind maps, the more linear would go with bullet point ideas.

It is important to note that there is no ‘right’ way to generate original ideas; authors use multiple strategies:

‘The best place to start is with the characters…my best characters are part real world crossed with something unexpected…like the loud and obnoxious goldfish…often stolen from parts of my own character or that of someone I know…I am confident that once I have the character the rest will flow. Then sometimes it happens exactly the opposite way around. Idea first and then the character emerges.’ (Terry Denton)

‘Stupid thoughts and absurd ideas that pop into your head are not necessarily so stupid or absurd. If something’s not quite right, try adding tentacles.’ (Shaun Tan)

The important thing is that all of these strategies tap into the free flowing ‘alpha’ mode of thinking which is the basis for idea generation. A common term for this is ‘creative flow’.

Putting this into practice

Imagine walking into a classroom and giving students a topic:Gold

Let them work in groups as a collaborative lesson. This also works as a strong scaffolding tool.

In five minutes, challenge students to brainstorm ten different ways to approach the topic. For example:

  • A wedding ring found on the beach
  • A sickly child living during the gold rush
  • A gold nugget discovered on school excursion
  • Gold sunsets, sands and memories from a holiday
  • Wedding proposal where everything went horribly wrong…

The first ideas students come up with are usually not the most creative. They will be the ‘easy’ ideas, the ideas everyone else will think of too. It is only when they push through and get into creative flow that the original ideas will emerge.

At the end of five minutes, students take their ten ideas and share them with another group. In doing so they realise how many ideas can be generated by brainstorming one topic in groups. Repeat with another group to further reinforce this. Repeat this activity with different topics every morning for a week. Soon students will realise that ideas are easy to generate.

That’s all! Don’t get students to write the story. Don’t make it hard work. Let students practise idea generation in its own right and enjoy the creativity and freedom of thinking this brings.

Try out the sample lesson on Planning for Success™ (see link below) and see how creative your students can be when you give them time to think and brainstorm.

Brainstorming is a form of imaginative research

It is commonly accepted that students can be allowed time to carry out research for informative and persuasive writing tasks, but the same time is often not allowed for imaginative research – the generation of ideas from scratch.

Ultimately, however, if we want more than ‘cookie cutter’ ideas, or the revamp of the latest TV show, we must allow students time for reflection, deep thinking and creative flow.

When we respect the time creating original ideas takes, we see a much greater richness in writing as a reward.

To access the sample lesson on Planning for Success™ go to:

For more lesson plans become a member of Seven Steps Online:

Jen McVeity is the creator of the Seven Steps to Writing Success ( and the author of over 20 books for children.

Respect Our Staff

Queensland Minister calls for respect for teachers

During an estimates hearing at Parliament House this week, Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones denied she had not done enough to try and protect teachers from violent parents and students.

In 2015, 150 parents were banned from schools in Queensland as a result of violence or threats against teachers, while 174 teachers received compensation as a result of being assaulted by students.

While ABC News reports these figures are ‘down on previous years’, LNP education spokesperson Tracy Davis raised the issue with Ms Jones in parliament this week, saying: “It’s almost like fight club”.

Ms Jones responded that everything she had done since achieving her office was “all about empowering teachers and supporting teachers in our classrooms and schools”.

The hearing coincided with Ms Jones’ launch of a new campaign for Queensland’s state schools, dubbed ‘Respect Our Staff’, which is designed to encourage the entire community to prevent the abuse and violence that is regularly directed towards teachers.

“We need to work together to set positive examples for our children, and demonstrate respect for staff and for our schools,” she said.

“This campaign reminds everyone in the school community that we can all play our part in making working and learning environments safe for all students and educators.”

The campaign will consist of social media advertising and print posters that will be displayed at schools to serve as a reminder to parents, students and staff to treat each other with respect.