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Virtual Excursions Bringing Australia To The Classroom

A new web portal will take students and teachers directly to a number of iconic Australian institutions through a partnership developed between Virtual Excursions Australia and arts, cultural, science and education organisations.

Minister Assisting for Innovation and Industry and the Digital Economy Senator Kate Lundy today launched Virtual Excursions Australia (VEA) at the Interactive Technology in Education Conference (ITEC 2013) at the Sydney Opera House.

“The Virtual Excursions web portal is an initiative that will help transform education in Australia and ensure it is an experience that goes far beyond the traditional classroom walls,” said Senator Lundy.

“Not all locations are accessible to all students, all of the time and virtual excursions allow classrooms to be transported to some of Australia’s most important arts, cultural, science, and education institutions.

“There are some fantastic institutions across Australia that have joined the program to open their virtual doors to classrooms, including the Australian Museum, Sydney Opera House, and Questacon.  

“The Virtual Excursions project will be particularly useful for those in regional and rural Australia where research has found that for people in regional centres the relative cost of excursions ranges from 20 to 100 per cent higher than in capital cities. For students in remote areas that figure can be 200 to 500 per cent higher.

“The Rudd Government’s National Broadband Network is facilitating projects like this and as the NBN continues to be rolled-out across Australia access and availability of these types of programs will continue to grow.

“Teachers will have access to tools to book and plan virtual excursions through the Virtual Excursions Australia website which acts as a portal for teachers wanting information about video conferencing events and content providers.

“I applaud Virtual Excursions Australia and the instiutions involved who are helping to bring the classroom of the future to students today,” said Senator Lundy.

More information: www.virtualexcursionsaustralia.com.au  

www.sydneyoperahouse.com/ITEC2013.aspx

SA Premier says Keith Bartley resigned due to personal issues

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill says outgoing Education boss Keith Bartley was not pushed into resigning from his role to make way for Tony Harrison.

Mr Weatherill has stated that he had been made aware several months ago that Mr Bartley would be stepping down from his role due to personal issues. Mr Bartley had stayed on to provide a united front in the wake of former judge Bruce Debelle’s report into the handling of sex abuse cases in schools.

“He did have discussions with me some months ago,” Mr Weatherill said.

“He has a number of issues – personal, family and health issues that he’s grappling with at the moment.

“I did want him to stay on to deal with the response to the Debelle report because I thought it was important that we have a seamless response to that and he agreed to do that which is to his credit.”

The Premier also confirmed that disciplinary action at the top of the Department had begun.

Australian Students Take-Up Education Programmes In India

In a new and interesting trend, over 400 students from Australia are to head to India to pursue various education programs.

It is a welcome move by the Australian Government, as over the past decade the number of students from India coming to Australia has steadily increased.  There is also, the increased collaboration between the two nations in education, science and technology that is forecast to see big growth and is seen as a way for the Australian education curriculum to address the weakening areas of science and math.

In a statement, Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Patrick Suckling, welcomed the Australian Government’s initiative to increase people to people links with India by funding study experiences for Australian students.

The Australian Government will provide $2.53 billion (A$47 million) over four years for the AsiaBound program with $584 million (A$10.6 million) for the program’s first year of operation.

The first group of AsiaBound student grants will allow 3,700 Australian students to study in Asia, from which more than 400 Australian students have been offered subsidies to study in India.

AsiaBound students to India include nursing students volunteering in New Delhi based orphanages; international development studies with students engaging themselves with community based non-government organisations in Bangalore; and emerging Australian producers, writers and directors experiencing India’s vibrant television and film production.

With 390 active links between 32 Australian and approximately 250 Indian institutions already in place in the fields of joint research, student and staff exchange, joint supervision and credit transfer, Australian higher education institutions have strong linkages and partnerships with India.

The program provides funding in the form of grants for Australian students to participate in a study experience in Asia for up to six months to undertake language study, a semester study program, research trips, clinical placements or volunteer projects, the statement said.

The Changing Paradigm Of Education

The Changing Paradigm of Education: A review of Ken Robinson’s thoughts on schooling

By Seamus O’Keeffe

Changing Education Paradigms is a narrative from Sir Ken Robinson that provides an inspirational insight and overview of the current worldwide education structure, the effects that it is having on our school kids and society, and an invitation to consider what it would take to shift the current industrial concept of schooling to a more sustainable one.

As we proceed through the 21st Century we are constantly being presented with a raft of radical advancements, learning curves and developments in our technological use and capability. This in turn has a similarly radical impact in terms of change to pedagogical practice and education. In our current technological society, normal is a forever expanding concept. As individuals we are constantly distracted in and by our everyday lives and the technology that we wrap around ourselves. Bombarded by text messages, meeting alerts, emails and advertising on a continuous basis, we are in a constant state of distraction and become more and more disinterested in certain things as the years progress.

As adults we tend to have the coping mechanisms in place to deal with this and concentrate on what seems or what we deem as relevant to our lives. According to Ken Robinson when the same or similar disinterest and distraction manifests itself in a child, our society labels them as Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) sufferers.

ADHD is a neurobehavioral or developmental disorder and it mainly impacts school-aged children and can manifest as restlessness, impulsivity, and a lack of focus. This can impair children’s ability to learn. ADHD has been a controversial topic since the 1970’s with politicians, teachers, family and the media all having varying input and opinions on the topic. Sir Ken Robinson provides an interesting take on the topic of ADHD, claiming, “Our children are living in the most intensive stimulating period in the history of the earth. They’re being besieged with information and coerced for attention from every platform: computers, iPhones,advertising hoardings, and hundreds of television channels. And we’re penalizing them now for getting distracted. From what? Boring stuff. At school, for the most part. It seems to me not a coincidence, totally, that the instance of ADHD has risen in parallel with the growth of the standardized testing”. He reflects on the increase in technology and standardised testing, seeing these as factors that mirror the increasing trend in ADHD prevalence.

The current National Curriculum acknowledges the advances of technology and its increasing place in the education system. “In our current technological society, the normal concept of literacy is expanding to include all forms of the media and electronic text. This is in addition to the alphabetic and number systems traditionally taught in schools. Digital text is spreading throughout every aspect of our lives. Students engage with a variety of texts for enjoyment. They listen to, read, view, interpret and evaluate spoken, written and multimodal texts in which the primary purpose is aesthetic, as well as texts designed to inform and persuade. These include various types of media texts including newspapers, film and digital texts, junior and early adolescent novels, poetry, nonfiction and dramatic performances.

Students develop their understanding of how texts, including media texts, are influenced by context, purpose and audience. These abilities vary in different social and cultural contexts according to need and demand’ (Australian National Curriculum, English 2012).

While it is noteworthy the acknowledgement and place technology now has, the overall archaic structure of education remains the same. As a first step this needs to be changed, technology needs to be integrated into the curriculum in the same ways that reading and writing have been integrated. It needs to attain the level of importance that teaching the classics has traditionally had. The current curriculum leads teachers into teaching the curriculum and then adding technology on top of that. To integrate technology and to partner the students, teachers can over time create an environment of divergent thinking within the classroom environment. By creating divergent thinking we develop the skills and abilities to be more able to deal with the problems of our times. As Sir Ken Robinson illustrates, in the past, the accumulated knowledge held in the brain was sufficient. In today’s modern world, it no longer is.

Robinson argues that we need our children and students to make sense of their world, a world very different from the one we experienced. And, if we do want our students to make sense of their world, we need to create opportunities for them to think at higher levels, to think outside the box. He gives the following example of such divergent thinking: Question: “How many uses can you think of for a paper clip?” Answer: “Well, could the paper clip be 200 foot tall and be made of foam rubber?” The range of technology that today’s children have adopted and have adapted to has created a new environment that they actively engage in for social stimulation, as well as an environment that has become second nature for them. To reach these kids and engage with them in a teacher – student role, you must encourage them to be active, reflective, inquiring and investigating in their learning, taking time to explore ideas. We need to provide them with the learning activities that create those opportunities. We need to be constantly learning and developing what is required to better equip our students and ourselves for life and work in the 21st Century. 

Gonski Education Reform, Barnett Says No.

WA Premier Colin Barnett has said no to $920 million in extra funding, to sign up to the Gonski Education Reform.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the announcement, saying the increases came about as a result of a better understanding of the costs of education in the State.

Mr Barnett welcomed the offer, but maintained that he was still not signing up to the Gonski Education Reform package in its current form, “for us it hasn’t been all about the money,” he said. “It is all about who owns and runs and staffs state government schools.”

Mr Barnett said he didn’t think the State would sign up to the package prior to the election.

Queensland Schoolkids Win Tablet Rollout

Almost 14,000 secondary school students in Queensland will be the recipients of the largest deployment of Windows 8 tablets.

Valued at around $13 million, the deal will see a majority of Year 9 students receiving Acer Computer tablets running the new Microsoft operating system. Acer Australia National Education Sales Manager, Derek Walker, said that 11,327 units would be distributed to Year 9 students. The remaining 2665 units are to be distributed to other high schools.