Joining the moving mass draped in purple lanyards and loaded up with takeaway coffee cups, EducationHQ followed the throng of future-focused educators as they assumed their seats, ready for their first bout of keynote inspiration.
Over in the Future Leaders hall, chairwoman Jenny Luca, head of digital learning and practice at Wesley College, offered some of her own reflections on lessons already gleaned from the national event.
“Kids can learn earlier than we think they can ... our kids are quite remarkable creatures,” Luca asserted, before urging her audience to “grow with the changes” and adapt, just as their students must, to the demands of the 21st century.
For Luca, there is no place for a fixed mindset in education.
“Let’s have our minds and hearts open and be receptive to [all] ideas,” Luca concluded.
The energy was high as Dr Michael Cowling, CQ University’s senior lecturer in educational technology, took to the stage.
If delegates were expecting a run-down on the latest gadgets to work into their lessons, they were in for a surprise.
“Technology for technology’s sake is not what we are interested in,” Cowling began.
“It’s more about ‘how can we use it to enhance our classroom?'”
Citing ‘pedagogy before technology’ as his own personal motto, Cowling framed his address around the idea that the role of ICT in schools should not be to scratch some ‘technological itch’ of students, but rather, it must serve a distinct purpose. That is, it must meet ‘pedagogical goals’.
Technology, according to Cowling, does not always have to be the answer to problems encountered in the classroom.
If donning a clown suit is going to effectively demonstrate a key learning concept for your students, then pursue that option, he mused.
Cowling moved on to highlight one of his first research projects which used ‘mixed reality’ to enhance the learning experience for tertiary paramedic students.
Different to virtual reality, mixed reality or augmented reality is an experience which combines the digital, the virtual and the physical worlds.
When a cohort of distance-ed paramedic students began to complain that they lacked many opportunities for hands-on application of theory, Cowling teamed up with experts from Bond University in Queensland to come up with a tech-based solution.
The result was an app that gave the aspiring professionals the chance to simulate foreign object removal from a patient’s throat, using 3D printed utensils ( Ninety-nine per cent cheaper than the real tools of the trade, Cowling noted) and augmented reality markers.
This initiative, the educator promised, is just a taste of what is to come to schools.
Sticking true to his mantra, Cowling concluded by highlighting his very deliberate use of NAO robots in the tertiary space, which are not just there “for technology’s sake”.
At CQ University, ‘Borris’ the affable NAO robot is not just used to facilitate coding in the classroom; he’s more of a teaching assistant, asking questions on behalf of students and acting as a useful prompt for discussion.
“He can also perform pop quizzes for the teacher, these kind of NAO robots can be use for more than just coding and robotics - they can also be used in a general way in the classroom,” Cowling reported.
As an expert in the tech ed sphere, Cowling’s take on the role of ICT in learning might be considered somewhat unorthodox.
“Technology is not there as the be all and end all,” he concluded.