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Tech generation

With the new school year well underway, we look at how technology is being used in the classroom.

Technology in schools is shaping the way teachers teach and communicate with their students, parents and peers. Technology is a major part of global business practices and many Coast schools are leveraging the benefits and convenience to better equip students for the future.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education says Queensland state schools are committed to working collaboratively with parents to ensure all young people are equipped with the skills needed for modern-day life and the jobs of the future.

“This includes the use and understanding of digital technologies. Queensland state schools are preparing students for future careers of all types, especially those heavily technology focused areas such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through implementation of the Australian Curriculum.”

The most recent Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) found Australian schools were the third-biggest users of information and communications technology (ICT) of the participating Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

Kuluin mum, Brooke Bennett says her eldest son, Jackson, seven, is very familiar with devices now used at school.

“Jackson’s in Grade 3 and uses an iPad most days at school. He also uses an iPad at home, and is familiar with how tablets work, and their functionalities and capabilities,” Ms Bennett says.

“I see technology as a positive thing, within reason of course. Technology assists children with learning and makes it easier for them to consume and remember the information being taught.”

And it’s not just students benefiting from technological driven devices, teachers are as well. From multimedia presentations through to computer simulations, technology is making teaching in the classroom more efficient.

A teacher who’s riding the technology wave is Caloundra’s Unity College’s Tiffany Di lanni. A respected teacher with over a decade at the college, Ms Di lanni knows first-hand how much technology is being incorporated into the education system.

“Things have changed considerably over the years. Even when I think back to when I was at school myself, and we had a ‘computer IT room,’ we had to visit as a class, to even access technology. These days, students have technology at their fingertips all day long,” she says.

Ms Di lanni, who is currently on maternity leave with her own little scholar of the future, Nixon, says, “Technology has changed, so the way we teach was always going to have to adapt to keep up. The learning styles of our students have also changed; they are now extremely advanced in their use of technology, so we make use of this by incorporating its use heavily within our curriculum.

“We are a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) school, as are most these days. This differs between schools in regards to the type of device (eg, iPad/tablet, or laptop). Everything is done online now, from electronic roll marking to reporting.

“Email is used as the main communication tool between staff, parents and students. We have had to embrace this change, as it’s just the way the world is now.”

Ms Di lanni also says, as someone who doesn’t typically like change, at first, she struggled with the integration of technology into the curriculum. Her opinion on that soon changed as she sees the students’ work when using technology. “It benefits students in their learning and also allows them to make use of a medium they are incredibly familiar with and passionate about. Like anything in life, it also has its downfalls, like plagiarism, data backup and storage, shelf life of devices and the distractions that come with social media access. But overall, I believe the use of technology in teaching is a positive and beneficial one.”

President of the Design and Technology Teacher Association of Queensland (DATTA), Mark McMullin, says his organisation offers a range of professional development opportunities for Queensland teachers of design and technology, but following a recent survey, they identified these teachers are in short supply.

“We completed a national survey into the increasing shortage of technology teachers across Australia. The results are alarming and point to a growing crisis in Australian education, which will lead to future shortages in key industries such as engineering and ICT related professions.”

He says this causes another reason for concern with teachers from other disciplines being asked to step into technology classrooms without adequate training or experience. “If significant action is not taken as outlined in this report, the technologies learning space in Australia will be unsustainable by 2025,” Mr McMullin says.

Ms Di lanni also raises another red flag. With the use of technology continually on the rise in our local schools, and continually evolving, she adds: “I hope that these developments keep in mind the wellbeing of our younger generation and perhaps take further steps to ensure the safety of our children when using such technology. I definitely think more needs to be done to make the internet a safer place for all parties.

“I don’t know who ideally is responsible for this occurring, but issues like cyberbullying and trolling are problematic and as a result of these technological advancements, it is something we all need to be made aware of.”

The spokesperson for the Department of Education says its Cybersafety and Reputation Management team is in place to address safety along with online safety education.

“To help prevent cybersafety incidents, students are taught how to use technology appropriately and responsibly and behave in ways to enhance their own safety. The team has developed programs to help primary and secondary students understand and remember what they should and shouldn’t do online.”

Key points

  • Australian schools are the third-biggest users of information and communications technology (ICT) of the OECD countries.
  • Robotics is becoming more prevalent in schools, both at primary and secondary levels.
  • Participation in technology and coding is significantly increasing across Queensland schools.
  • Many schools encourage ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) learning.
  • Cybersafety is a top priority for all schools, both public and private.
  • There’s a greater need for more design and technology teachers to meet the growing demand.

 

Good tech teachers the key to success

Kirsten Mitchell is thrilled to see her kids getting excited about seeing robotics in everyday life. “At the supermarket, my sons kept darting in my way to touch the conveyor belt at checkout, picking up things, replacing them and looking under the counter and scanner while loudly chatting. They were discussing the coding and sensor requirements for the process of moving the conveyor belt, scanning and weighing, etc.”

Elliott, 13, and Laurence, 11, attend Chancellor State College and are always switched on to technology around them.

“Whether that be at the local shops, smart street lighting, Tesla cars on the road, remote controlled road work equipment,” she says.

“Laurence has presented to industry professionals, such as Unity Water and the Sunshine Coast Council, showcasing his skills from when he was a lead robot builder with his school team.”

It’s no coincidence they have some great teaching support behind them. Engineering Lead Tech at Chancellor State College, Simon Richardson teamed up with Niamh O’Sullivan to co-found RoboCoast in 2017, a new technology education hub, that delivers training and competitions for teachers and students on the Coast.

Mr Richardson is also the coach for the secondary college teams, RoboKings, RoboMonarchs and RoboKnights and Ms O’Sullivan is the Digital Technologies Robotics Key Leader for Mountain Creek High School.

With their combined expertise in robotics, and RoboCoast’s ongoing growth, the regional hub has been awarded a five-year contract to roll out the RoboRAVE International Robotics Program, a US-based initiative that’s operating in 31 countries, including Australia. The RoboRAVE Australia International Open will be held this May 22–24, hosted at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC).

Mr Richardson says, “Over 1000 students are set to compete, building it up to over 2000 for the Global Championships to be held at USC in 2024.

“Six years ago, I had three boys coming into my maths classroom at lunchtimes and they have since gone on to study mechatronics at QUT. This year will see over 70 enrol on secondary campus and 30 on the primary campus. Last year, our secondary teams won every National FLL and FTC Robotics Award. Three teams qualified for the international finalists in the USA, which was an Australian robotics record, right here on the Sunshine Coast.”

To succeed in robotics, Mr Richardson says, “What’s needed is a strong level of numeracy, literacy and an overwhelming serving of grit and resilience.”

Addressing these needs, the Department of Education spokesperson says: “The Schools of the Future STEM strategy delivers a range of opportunities for state school students, including the STEM Girl Power initiative, Queensland Coding Academy, Queensland Virtual STEM Academies and the Peter Doherty Awards for Excellence in STEM Education.

“The Premier’s Coding Challenge provides students in Years 3 to 10 the opportunity to showcase their innovative digital solutions to help promote cybersecurity. Participation in this competition has grown 600 per cent to 762 students since 2017. Queensland has also been well represented at a national and international level in STEM competitions.”

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