Course coordinator David Geelan explains the course was based on a growing need and that the program is both a natural extension of the tertiary provider’s offerings and an opportunity to draw on existing expert resources available at the university.
“There’s so much new digital technology arriving ... all the time, and being incorporated in schools ... without [teachers] necessarily having the skills to the maximum, so that was one piece of it.
“We had been hearing that the need was there,” Geelan explains.
“The other piece was just that we had the people with the skills to be able to teach it.
“We had a number of people whose research interests are in that particular field… It was a happy coincidence of the need being there and the capability being there.”
Drawing on this alumni expertise, the Youth, Digital Culture and New Learning major also provokes questions about how we use tech in the classroom, and the importance of utilising the right tools.
Geelan argues that there can often be a disconnect between the way we talk about technology-based skills and what we mean when it comes to application.
Understanding the relationship between how we interact with technology is an important part of growing understanding.
“There’s a lot of rhetoric about how 21st century skills are completely different from everything else.
“Humans haven’t changed that much in the last 200,000 years, so we’re probably not changing that dramatically in the last 10 years,
but what we’re doing is using those human skills to connect with other human beings and so on, in a digital context,” Geelan says.
He notes that leadership is another important component of the course.
“Also [explored is] that critical focus of not just doing tech for tech’s sake. What’s the importance of this particular technology? What can it do better than face to face [communication]– or whatever it’s replacing? But what can it not do as well?
“How do we keep the good bits of the old stuff as well, using tools for what they’re good for?”
Thinking critically about the benefits of technology is one important way of assessing its merits, and Geelan feels that it’s essential to offer educators pedagogy which supports these new tools.
The connection between the course content and teachers’ day-to-day work in the classroom is also important, and the Youth, Digital Culture and New Learning major encourages students to “take what you’ve learnt in this course and apply it in your context and tell us how its working in that context,” Geelan says.