Education Matters - News impacting schools, teachers and students
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Isabel Lucas

Isabel Lucas lends hand to support La Trobe’s Aspire Program

Earlier this month, three celebrities joined crowds at La Trobe University’s Melbourne campus open day to help promote its early admissions program, Aspire.

The Aspire initiative is designed to reward secondary students who have actively engaged with their community through volunteering and service, by providing early offers into La Trobe even before they’ve completed their final year exams, let alone received an ATAR score.

To promote Aspire, actress Isabel Lucas, model Laura Henshaw and North Melbourne AFL player Luke McDonald assisted in providing sustenance for the masses with a ‘Pay-It-Forward-Pizza’ initiative, whereby people who received a pizza from the three stars were encouraged to pass their empty pizza box to a stranger, which could then be redeemed for a fresh one.

You can view a video promoting the event, here. A similar event took place at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus.

“It’s great to see my University encouraging and supporting community-minded Australians,” said Ms Henshaw. “Aspire is really popular with student at La Trobe, so I really encourage Year 12 student to investigate their options and apply.”

All told, La Trobe gave away 700 pizzas in Melbourne and 600 in Bendigo to create awareness for Aspire.

“We saw record numbers attending this year and with good reason; our theme for the day was employability, which sits perfectly alongside everything that we are doing with Aspire,” said a La Trobe spokesperson.

“Since its inception in 2014, the Aspire Program has seen considerable growth. In 2015, we made over 1,600 early offers to community minded students. We expect to see greater numbers in 2016 with awarenes of the program growing year-on-year.”

Students applying to the Aspire Program are assessed based on their community engagement experience, which they demonstrate in a 400-word statement. La Trobe also seeks an endorsement from each applicant’s school.

Sydonny, a second year Outdoor Education student at La Trobe Bendigo, received an early offer through the Aspire Program, having volunteered at a charity camp called ‘The Portsea Camp’ for two years prior to finishing high school.

“I found the Aspire Program incredibly worthwhile,” she said. “Not only did I receive my conditional offer before I went into exams, I also attended free revision lectures for each of my subjects.

“Giving back to the community should be an integral part in everyone’s life regardless of the reward. However, I have always benefited from volunteering – not only do you receive the gratitute of those you are assisting, but it can also mean learning new skills, developing wok ethic, possible career options, friendships and networking opportunities.”

Sydonny continues to volunteer regularly with The Portsea Camp.

To learn more about La Trobe’s Aspire Program, visit the university’s website.

Isabel Lucas

Isabel Lucas lends hand to support La Trobe's Aspire Program

You can view a video promoting the event, here. A similar event took place at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus. “It’s great to see my University encouraging and supporting community-minded Australians,” said Ms Henshaw. “Aspire is really popular with student at La Trobe, so I really encourage Year 12 student to investigate their options and apply.” All told, La Trobe gave away 700 pizzas in Melbourne and 600 in Bendigo to create awareness for Aspire. “We saw record numbers attending this year and with good reason; our theme for the day was employability, which sits perfectly alongside everything that we are doing with Aspire,” said a La Trobe spokesperson. “Since its inception in 2014, the Aspire Program has seen considerable growth. In 2015, we made over 1,600 early offers to community minded students. We expect to see greater numbers in 2016 with awarenes of the program growing year-on-year.” Students applying to the Aspire Program are assessed based on their community engagement experience, which they demonstrate in a 400-word statement. La Trobe also seeks an endorsement from each applicant’s school. Sydonny, a second year Outdoor Education student at La Trobe Bendigo, received an early offer through the Aspire Program, having volunteered at a charity camp called ‘The Portsea Camp’ for two years prior to finishing high school. “I found the Aspire Program incredibly worthwhile,” she said. “Not only did I receive my conditional offer before I went into exams, I also attended free revision lectures for each of my subjects. “Giving back to the community should be an integral part in everyone’s life regardless of the reward. However, I have always benefited from volunteering – not only do you receive the gratitute of those you are assisting, but it can also mean learning new skills, developing wok ethic, possible career options, friendships and networking opportunities.” Sydonny continues to volunteer regularly with The Portsea Camp. To learn more about La Trobe’s Aspire Program, visit the university’s website.]]>

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.

Read more

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.