“This $6.9 million commitment allows the University of Adelaide to expand a program that is having a real impact on the skills of teachers in disadvantaged and Indigenous schools to implement digital technologies in their everyday teaching,” Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne says.
“As a key pillar of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, this funding means teachers can take advantage of cutting-edge professional development sessions that the university has developed in collaboration with international partners including Google,” Pyne added.
Associate professor Katrina Falkner, head of the School of Computer Science at the University of Adelaide, says around 5000 teachers have enrolled in the course in the last 18 months, but most have been from urban areas.
“With this expansion of the program, what we’ll be able to do is have a person on the ground in every state and territory in Australia who can go and work in regions, work with schools and help them get access to the course materials through any difficulties they have,” Falkner says.
There are presently two MOOCs available to teachers, one covering Foundation to Year 6, and another for Years 7-8.
Falkner says they are designed to be worked through at a teacher’s own pace, with approximately six to eight weeks worth of material covered.
A Google+ community attached to the course is also proving beneficial for participants.
“So they work through the course, each week might be addressing a new concept, and then the teachers in the course will be asked to come up with an activity idea for their classroom, and then share that back with the community,” Falkner says.
“What we’ve found is that the online community is really good at helping to connect people and that’s where the real wealth [of information] is.”
Falkner says the expansion of the program will also see new course materials created for Years 9 and 10.
“That will help teachers take that final step through the curriculum to help provide additional ideas and activity ideas for teachers who are teaching at a more senior level.”
And for schools which have limited access to new technology, opportunities will be created for them to engage like never before.
“[We’re going] to be able to take a copy of the course that we can distribute in an unplugged way, so we can basically have the resources available locally for schools that don’t have really high access to broadband or internet access ... basically take it to the teachers, which is what we need,” Falkner says.
“We’ll also be setting up a national lending library of digital technologies education equipment, so we’ll be able to have robotics and all sorts of digital equipment that we can send in a lending library and basically rotate through schools ... so that every school can get access to expensive but really interesting and motivating equipment.”