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Queensland school funding cuts

Education Minister takes aim at Queensland's Labor Government over school funding

news that the Federal Government is contemplating changing the funding model for public schools, a round of finger pointing has ensued, most recently culminating in the Federal Education Minister attacking the Queensland State Government’s stance on the matter. In recent weeks, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull raised the prospect of the Commonwealth withdrawing funding for the public school system and instead allowing the state’s to raise funds through their own taxes. “It’s not that Mr Turnbull and his Liberals can’t afford to fund public schools, it is that they’re choosing not to,” said Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, in a subsequent statement. It’s understood that should the changes go ahead, the Commonwealth would continue to fund private and independent schools. In Queensland, the issue was brought under a broader discussion on income tax-sharing, with State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk saying the Turnbull Government has underestimated her state’s needs and intends to push for further funding, despite securing $445 million for hospitals in the current deal. The Federal Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham has denied Ms Palaszczuk’s stance, saying that “it is an utter lie” to suggest Federal funding for Queensland schools will decrease. “Our investment in Queensland schools is increasing by $844.7 million or 27.5 per cent from 2014-15 to 2018-19, despite the scare campaign being peddled by Labor and the unions.  Beyond that it will keep going up, each and every year,” Mr Birmingham said in a statement, released yesterday. “This increased investment is in stark contrast to Queensland Government school funding that from 2009-10 to 2013-14 actually contracted by 0.4 per cent, while Commonwealth funding increased by 30.2 per cent.” Mr Birmingham asserts that all allocation of Queensland school funding is controlled by the State and its Education Minister, Kate Jones. “If a government school receives a cut in funding, the blame squarely falls at the feet of Ms Jones who has complete autonomy over how much each school receives and, most importantly, how it is used.”    ]]>

Research on outdoor light's positive impact on short-sightedness

Exposure to outdoor light reduces risk of short-sightedness in kids

New research by Australian optometrists has confirmed the positive role outdoor light plays in reducing the incidence of myopia (short-sightedness) in children.

The study, led by QUT’s School of Optometry and Vision Science, Associate Professor Scott Read, indicates that children should spend more than an hour – at least two, in fact – outside every day in order to help prevent myopia developing and progressing.

Last weekend, Assoc. Prof. Read presented his findings at the Australian Vision Convention in Queensland, explaining that, contrary to popular belief, it was not ‘near work’ on computers, books or other devices that caused myopia, but a lack of exposure to adequate outdoor light.

“Optometrists need to make their patients aware that less than 60 minutes’ exposure to light outdoors per day is a risk factor for myopia,” he said. “It looks like even for those with myopia already, increasing time outside is likely to reduce progression.”

Earlier this year, a global study published by the Brien Holden Vision Institute forecast that 50 per cent of the world’s population will be short-sighted by 2050, with many at risk of blindness.

The new QUT study required study participants to wear a wristwatch light sensor to record both exposure to light and physical activity for a fortnight in both warmer and cooler months, while also measuring the participant’s eye growth over the period.

“Children exposed to the least outdoor light had faster eye growth and hence faster myopia progression,” Assoc. Prof. Read said.

President of Optometry Australia, Kate Gifford said “this new finding is of significant importance in our endeavour to mitigate the growing rate of myopia in children.”

“The work of Scott Read and his colleagues is an exciting development and the onus is now on optometrists to help spread the message of the one-hour-a-day prescription of outdoor light,” Mrs Gifford said.

Outdoor Ed AppBag of Tricks

Outdoor education? There’s an app for that

Information that was once contained solely within the domain of books and other hardcopy formats is finding a new home in digital formats, where it can be presented and manipulated in more interactive ways.

Now, even outdoor education resources are beginning to appear online and in mobile apps (read: applications), as is the case for a new project dubbed the ‘Outdoor Ed APPbag of Tricks’.

Not satisfied with having published guidebooks and articles for outdoor enthusiasts and educators alike, Ro Privett envisaged mobile software that would act to compile practical information on how to conduct safe, informative adventures with young people, with a view to inspire more people to get out and experience what’s on offer in the Australian wilderness.

“There are so many talented and passionate staff working in outdoor education with a vast amount of knowledge and skills,” Privett said. “My desire is to capture as much of that knowledge within a simple ‘at your fingertips’ resource in order to spread that value throughout the education community, thereby further enhancing many more outdoor experiences.”

Privett, more at home in a kayak than behind a computer, had little experience in creating such apps, but after “much research” he discovered a platform that allowed him to create the mobile application he envisaged with little proper coding required.

“The majority of the work has been taken up with collating information and research, uploading content and learning the technical features available to us. Add to this the time it took to learn about what it takes to actually get an app like this published, then it’s taken about a year of solid work to take this concept to market.”

Launched toward the end of 2015, the app is available on both Apple and Android app stores (it costs under $10), and is currently finding success in the hands of information-hungry teachers and outdoor educators. The Outdoor Ed APPbag of Tricks contains a variety of general teaching resources, outdoor specific content and a range of inspirational outdoor videos. Connectivity with Facebook also provides a layer of social networking that helps the concept gain further traction among its key user group.

With the app, educators gain access to talking points, icebreakers, games and much more that could come in handy while out in the field. In effect, the app reduces the need for carrying stacks of resources into a setting where most people would prefer to be carrying very little, if anything.

“Just like outdoor education in general, the sky is the limit for this app’s potential,” Privett claims. “We encourage contributions and feedback to help us continue to improve on this initial release so that the end result will be a truly refined product, useful and useable for anyone in the outdoor education industry.”

A version of this article originally appeared in Wild Magazine.

Outdoor Ed AppBag of Tricks

Outdoor education? There's an app for that

Apple and Android app stores (it costs under $10), and is currently finding success in the hands of information-hungry teachers and outdoor educators. The Outdoor Ed APPbag of Tricks contains a variety of general teaching resources, outdoor specific content and a range of inspirational outdoor videos. Connectivity with Facebook also provides a layer of social networking that helps the concept gain further traction among its key user group. With the app, educators gain access to talking points, icebreakers, games and much more that could come in handy while out in the field. In effect, the app reduces the need for carrying stacks of resources into a setting where most people would prefer to be carrying very little, if anything. “Just like outdoor education in general, the sky is the limit for this app’s potential,” Privett claims. “We encourage contributions and feedback to help us continue to improve on this initial release so that the end result will be a truly refined product, useful and useable for anyone in the outdoor education industry.” A version of this article originally appeared in Wild Magazine.]]>

Techfinder website

New online hub for teachers of deaf or speech-impaired students

There are currently more than three million people who are deaf and hard of hearing living in Australia. This number is expected to reach 10 million by 2050i. Of this amount, almost half of children with communication limitations attend mainstream classesii. In fact, of all children with disability attending schools, close to half have communication limitationsiii.

In addition to the educational disadvantages these children face, decreased communication with others can lead to a range of negative emotions such as depression, anxiety and a feeling of social isolationiv. Studies have shown that people who are deaf and hard of hearing, despite a normal distribution of intelligence and aptitudes, continue to be more at risk of lower rates of completion of postsecondary education and higher rates of unemployment and underemployment than the hearing population v. However, it can be difficult for teachers and educators to know what they can do to help students and make their classroom and learning environment more accessible.

Knowledge of the practical options within the classroom environment can offer increased learning outcomes to all children. Soundfield amplification systems (a simple microphone/speaker system that helps boost audio) in classrooms are of significant benefit for children with a hearing loss. It also offers assistance to teachers within the classroom as they experience less vocal strain.

Another option is captioning, which has been shown to boost learning and literacy benefits for all students, beyond access for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, such as those with learning difficulties and where English is a second language. In fact, one in three students in Australia can benefit from captions in the classroomvi.

The problem is finding all of this information in one place. A new online hub that offers this central source is a site called techfinder.org.au. It’s filled with information on communication technology resources for school, work and daily living.

Development of techfinder.org.au

In response to a national study showing the need for a central, accessible information source people can understand and trust when it comes to the communication technologies availablevii, Conexu created techfinder.org.au, an online community hub for people who are Deaf, hard of hearing, or speech and communication impaired ( plus the key influencers in their lives such as family, teachers and carers) to go to get the latest info on communication technology, and share experiences with one another.

Following this national study, Conexu held a number of community focus groups, met with organisations and conducted one-on-one community testing to develop the site and make sure it was relevant, useful and accessible. In October 2015, techfinder.org.au went live. Each week more articles, resources and videos are added to techfinder.org.au. Conexu continues to work closely including individuals, educators, employers and parents to ensure the most useful information is available.

Sample of articles for teachers and educators:

Please get in touch if you would like to contribute to techfinder.org.au – write a blog, submit a product or resource idea, or review a product you use in the classroom. Send us an email us at hello@techfinder.org.au.

About Conexu

Conexu believes communication barriers should never stop people from reaching their potential. We are a national non-profit organisation, and experts in both technology and communication access. Our purpose is to use technology to bridge the communication divide between hard of hearing, Deaf or speech impaired Australians and the broader community.

We work across the areas of living, working and learning to ensure people have the same experiences others have through communication options. From people who are Deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired, carers, health professionals, government and everyone in between.

We ensure people with diverse communication needs are supported and inspired to embrace new technology and provide training to show individuals and their families how to get the most from technologies for their situation.

Our research programs focus on areas that make the biggest difference in people’s lives. Once we identify these needs, we have relationships with organisations both in Australia and globally, that allow us to understand what technology is available as it develops anywhere in the world. Where solutions exist, we trial these in Australia.

This article was written by Jody Bowman, spokesperson for the Conexu Foundation.

References

[i] Access Economics (2006), Listen Hear!, 5; Speech Pathology Australia (2013) Communication impairment in Australia, retrieved from http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/ library/2013Factsheets/Factsheet_Communication_Impairment_in_Australia.pdf; Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) Population Projections, Australia, 2012 (base) to 2101, retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/3222.0main+features52012%20(base)%20to%202101.

[ii]http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4429.0main+features100302009

[iii]http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4429.0main+features100302009

[iv] Hawthorne, G. Hogan, A. (2002), “Measuring disability-specific benefit in cochlear implant programs; developing a short form of the Glasgow Health Status Inventory, the hearing participation scale,” International Journal of Audiology 41:535-544.

[v] . (Stinson & Walter, 1997) (Access Economics, 2006; Blanchfield, Feldman, Dunbar, & Gardner, 2001;MacLeod-Gallinger, 1992; Schroedel & Geyer, 2000; Winn, 1997)

[vi] CapThat! (2015) www.capthat.com.au

[vii] National User Needs Analysis (2013) http://www.conexu.com.au/images/PDF/CXU_NUNA_Infographic_Final_Web.pdf

Student takes exam

Queensland students face new ‘high-stakes’ test in Year 12

This week, Queensland Premier Anna Palaszczuk and Education Minister Kate Jones announced a significant change to the state’s curriculum with a shift to external assessments for senior students following the decision to crap Overall Position (OP) scores.

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