Education Matters - News impacting schools, teachers and students
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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.

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 campbell.phillips@primecreative.com.au.

Pikachu graphic

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.

indigenous history to be taught in HSC

Changes to HSC syllabus to take effect in 2018

The NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Services (BOSTES) has released draft syllabuses for 17 HSC courses in English, history, maths and science in a bid to modernise education for the ‘Asian Century’.

BOSTES President Tom Alegounarias said in a media release that the draft syllabuses allow for deeper learning opportunities to students and “a richer engagement in the subjects they choose for their senior years of school”.

“Increasing content depth also supports more analytical assessment enabling us to also redesign High School Certificate (HSC) exam questions.

“For maths courses, common content and marking is being introduced to ensure students studying the higher level maths courses are recognised and to reduce any perceived incentive to study maths below their ability for an ATAR advantage,” Mr Alegounarias said.

Proposes Changes at a Glance:

  • English – Mandatory unit will focus on spelling, grammar, vocabular and punctuation
  • Mathematics – Statistics to be included in all courses. Increased emphasis on problem solving
  • Science – Promotion of critical thinking over rote learning of facts
  • History – Further opportunities to study Asian history, feminism and Indigenous leaders. Also, deeper analysis of WWII and its impact

Speaking to AAP, Mr Alegounarias also indicated that revisions to English seek to overcome a 30-year trend in education “to underplay grammar”.

BOSTES has proposed modern history electives to highlight the role of women and Indigenous leaders such as Pemulwuy, Eddie Mabo and Faith Bandler, but some syllabuses in technology and Asian language courses won’t be reviewed until next year.

Once confirmed, the new syllabuses will be taught to Year 11 students in 2018, giving teachers a year to adapt.

The drafts are open for public consultation until August 31.

School starting age lower

Tasmanian Government releases school starting age 'fact sheet'

Anne Barwick told The Mercury that the proposed change has “the potential to impact children negatively”. “A high percentage of Tasmanian children access kindergarten – a non-compulsory year – and this change equates to children as young as three years, six months being integrated into a school environment,” she said. Further concerns have been raised by the union for childcare workers, the Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations, Rural Health Tasmania and the state Opposition, causing the Government to respond with a new fact sheet on the initiative. Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff announced the fact sheet, saying it aims to dispel concerns raised by detractors of the plan.

“The Government is proposing to lower the compulsory starting age for prep by six months — not 18 months as is being falsely claimed by some,” he said.

“This means instead of starting prep at the age of five, Tasmanians will start at the age of four and a half years. This is a very significant but by no means a radical change, this simply brings Tasmania in-line with the rest of Australia.”

Mr Rockliff confirmed Ms Barwick’s concerns, however, stating that parents will have the choice to send their kids to kindergartner sooner, starting at the age of three years and six months. The Mercury reports that Opposition education spokesperson Michelle O’Byrne contends the initiative is not backed up by solid evidence.

“All that Tasmanians have been told by the Government is that the justification for changing the school starting age is that it will bring the state into line with the rest of the country … there is no definitive Australian school starting age.”

A “Stop lowering the school age in Tasmania” petition organised by United Voice has so far been signed by 2,561 people. The school starting age fact sheet can be found on the Tasmanian Department of Education website.]]>

School starting age lower

Tasmanian Government releases school starting age ‘fact sheet’

Tasmania’s State Government has moved to allay concerns that the proposed new starting age for schoolchildren could be detrimental to kids’ health.

Earlier this year, Tasmania’s Premier Will Hodgman announced the Government would lower the starting age from five to four years and six months, following a review of the Education Act.

At five years, Tasmania currently has the oldest minimum starting age for schoolchildren of any other state or territory in Australia.

However, Early Childhood Australia’s Tasmanian branch President Anne Barwick told The Mercury that the proposed change has “the potential to impact children negatively”.

“A high percentage of Tasmanian children access kindergarten – a non-compulsory year – and this change equates to children as young as three years, six months being integrated into a school environment,” she said.

Further concerns have been raised by the union for childcare workers, the Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations, Rural Health Tasmania and the state Opposition, causing the Government to respond with a new fact sheet on the initiative.

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff announced the fact sheet, saying it aims to dispel concerns raised by detractors of the plan.

“The Government is proposing to lower the compulsory starting age for prep by six months — not 18 months as is being falsely claimed by some,” he said.

“This means instead of starting prep at the age of five, Tasmanians will start at the age of four and a half years. This is a very significant but by no means a radical change, this simply brings Tasmania in-line with the rest of Australia.”

Mr Rockliff confirmed Ms Barwick’s concerns, however, stating that parents will have the choice to send their kids to kindergartner sooner, starting at the age of three years and six months.

The Mercury reports that Opposition education spokesperson Michelle O’Byrne contends the initiative is not backed up by solid evidence.

“All that Tasmanians have been told by the Government is that the justification for changing the school starting age is that it will bring the state into line with the rest of the country … there is no definitive Australian school starting age.”

A “Stop lowering the school age in Tasmania” petition organised by United Voice has so far been signed by 2,561 people.

The school starting age fact sheet can be found on the Tasmanian Department of Education website.