On the 17th of February, the ACS Gold Coast Chapter opened 2015 with the first part of the three part series – Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Education in Australia, leading up to the celebration of the ACS 50th anniversary in 2016. The 2015 series is designed to engage local businesses, schools and universities in a series of events promoting the role of IT in the Gold Coast economy. This series is intended to clarify and accentuate awareness of industry dependence on an educated IT workforce.
The first part, titled “What’s happening out there?” has revealed the insights in primary and secondary education and curricula, in Australia, by speakers and field practitioners from the Gold Coast and Melbourne. Although the audience was smaller than had been anticipated by the organisers, the value factor of the speakers’ presentations was of a great worth.
The first speaker, Carmel Ord, the Head of Department IT P-9 from Varsity College (Queensland’s largest Primary and Secondary school) started by answering the question: “How do you inspire and encourage teachers who have a great grasp of good pedagogy, but are not necessarily familiar with the existing technologies?” Her experiences and observations brought her to the conclusion that one way, is to triple the amount of IT teachers in schools, or to teach them how to use modern technologies on the spot. Since a lack of IT teachers restricted her in the first option, she practiced the second. What she discovered was that the second way worked very well. As soon as she explained to teachers the principles of how to use existing technologies, they would learn quickly, adapting its use to their curricula, faster and in the correct way; much faster than she anticipated. She also made an insightful observation in how technologies, in the wrong hands, the hands of teachers who lack good pedagogy – can be dangerous. “We want teachers who understand how to use new devices but we need teachers who know how to use these devices in the context of good pedagogy” concluded Carmel.
She particularly stressed the importance of listening to the students, who are ‘crying out’ to learn how to use these new technologies. She recalls how students reacted to her purchases of new devices: “When I brought out those robots (shown in the picture below), the students just came from everywhere; and they were so quick to learn.”
Carmel praised the new system they are using right now. It allows a teacher to have an extra day per fortnight, for pure research on such topics as Augmented Reality (AR), Apps or other subjects, in order to incorporate this knowledge back into the classroom. This year, they will use Minecraft as the vehicle for the annual Science challenge, exploiting its ability as a tool for education.
In addition, to improve their students’ knowledge, they are using Contemporary Practice Resources which are written by teachers for teachers to productively use ICT, in order to support learning process.
(Examples of robotic devices used in Varsity College to inspire students in learning Science, Mathematics and Geometry).
The second speaker, Research Fellow from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) Jenny Wilkinson from Victoria shared her deep understanding on research developments in education. She described the benefits of the Digital Education Research Network (DERN), managed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) in Melbourne. She stressed how big the under-representation of women in the ICT sector is and what serious implications this has on the global economy.
In Australia, women hold only 20 per cent of jobs in the ICT sector, as stated in the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) study.
In Europe, the European Commission confirmed a shocking decrease in female, graduating numbers in the ICT sector and stressed the importance of attracting girls and women to pursue careers in this sector.
In America, President Barack Obama had expressed the same view in February 2013: “One of the things that I really strongly believe in, is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science, and engineering.”
So, what can we do to attract more women into the ICT work force? The combined answers are:
• encourage girls and women to seek ICT education
• inspire girls and young women through role-models from the ICT sector
• promote female entrepreneurship
• create long-term policies
• foster investments in the ICT sector to advance innovation
• support women STEM students and researchers
• change long-held gender perceptions in the ICT sector.
Later, Emeritus Professor Bill Caelli expressed his concern: “In Australia we have become like an old technology colony. We are using technology, but we do not teach how a computer works; this fundamental part is missing from the curriculum. I get very concerned about Australia when top government officials do not see why programming must be started before grade nine, when children aged from 6-7 are already perfectly capable of programming in Python”.
To prove his point: last week, at the OzApp Awards in Perth, seven years old Anvitha Vijay from Mount View Primary School in Melbourne, won The Student Edge Prize $10,000 Media Kit for her GoalsHi app. “I want to be a top entrepreneur in the world,’’ she said.
There is a serious warning from well-established, highly respectable and the nation’s largest organisation dedicated to ICT research in Australia – NICTA (National ICT Australia). “NICTA’s technology strategist, Dean Economou, notes that Australia is “going backwards” in terms of its technology capability and business innovation.”
As for the ACS Gold Coast Chapter, their three part series named ‘Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Education in Australia’ will continue to engage local businesses, schools and universities in a series of events promoting the role of ICT in the Gold Coast economy.
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