Innovative teaching methods embracing technology to support regional teachers were the focus of the recent Digital Harvest conference held on August 18th in Wangaratta. In2science eMentoring Coordinator Robyn Gamble and Support Officer Rachael McCullough attended the conference to promote the In2science eMentoring program to regional schools in attendance and contribute to the discussion about how digital resources such as eMentoring can help connect students in regional areas.
Biology teacher and podcaster Andrew Douch’s keynote address highlighted the need for Australian teachers to prepare students for future demands of the global economy, drawing on an analogy of an ice skater moving to where a puck is heading rather than where the puck has been. He pointed out that because of the unprecedented ease of access to information, educators need to equip students with skills that can’t be automated or outsourced overseas. He said the emphasis needs to be on ‘connecting the dots, not collecting the dots,’ meaning helping students learn how to use the abundant information at their disposal in more clever ways.
He also advised teachers to embrace the so-called “Air New Zealand” Teaching Model, automating repetitive teaching tasks by recording lessons on YouTube or as podcasts, to free up class time to focus on the more important human interactions with students and help them develop skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving and teamwork.
Another speaker, Mark Woolley from the Wollongong Catholic Education Office, asked the approximately 180 delegates to write one word to inspire your students in STEM. Mentoring scored among the highest in the audience! He noted the declining rates of STEM subject enrolments, particularly for girls and observed that students were less willing to be challenged in school. One possible solution he suggested was to encourage students to enter competitions. Mark also shared a number of online resources for teachers which you can access here.
A range of workshops were on offer to help teachers come to grips with coding, 3D design, invention, virtual reality and how to integrate these into classroom teaching.
The In2science staff members also had the opportunity to visit a participating eMentoring school Galen Catholic College while in Wangaratta. There, they met some students to hear first hand about their experiences working with eMentors and presented them with a school participation certificate. One year 10 student, Maddy, said she had enjoyed the help her eMentor had provided: “I had a lovely mentor who answered all of my questions and helped me understand new science concepts that were being studied in class.”
Another year 10 student, Imogen, said her mentor had helped her gain more of an insight into life beyond school: “it helped give my aspirations direction and let me have an insight to what life could be like after high school.”
The visit was a valuable opportunity for In2science staff to build upon relationships with regional teachers and help them realise the full benefit for their students of connecting with eMentors. The In2science team is looking forward to attending Digital Harvest 2018!