The term 'Web 2.0' captures a set of interrelated trends in the way that people are interacting over networks, especially the Internet. One major trend is toward user-generated content. Individuals compose text or upload images from digital cameras to the Web, often to their own individual or group websites such as blogs or wikis. Such content blurs the line over 'who has the authority to "say" and "know"', which is 'surely set to be a challenge within education'. Accounts of this trend can be exaggerated since most blogs, for example, are inactive. Nevertheless, the mass media have responded to it (eg through 'citizen journalism'), allowing readers to contribute images, reports or comments to media websites. This unpaid amateur content, though often of poor quality, is acceptable to many consumers, thus eroding the place of professionals, such as photographers. A related trend is crowdsourcing, 'outsourcing for the procurement of media content, small tasks, even solutions to scientific problems from the crowd gathered on the Internet'. In another trend known as folksonomy, individuals can add informal, personalised but publicly accessible 'tags' or key words to their Web content. When many independently acting individuals start adding similar tags, patterns emerge, 'like sheep paths in the mountains', reflecting slight shifts in public thinking. The patterns are seen and used by corporate interests such as Google, Amazon and Ebay to adapt their services, and thereby restructure, and perhaps further centralise, the Web. A network effect occurs when masses of new individuals enhance the status of a Web service simply by joining it. The long tail refers to the fact that a great many products individually in low demand still have niche markets on the Web. Users can combine applications in new ways to create mash-ups, for example by combining Google Maps with a website about accommodation for rent. Other trends include the growing tension between online identity and privacy and the growing intellectual property issues raised by the generation, collection and aggregation of vast amounts of data on the Web. The report is addressed to Britain's higher education sector.
Social life and customs
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Computers in society
Where to (and why?) for extension mathematics
Volume 31 Number 4, November 2006; Pages 11–18
Advanced courses in senior school maths should give more emphasis to applied maths and mathematical modelling. Such practical applications of maths have driven the subject's development throughout its history. More attention to modelling of maths would encourage students in advanced senior courses to continue the subject at tertiary level, and would prepare them more effectively for the practical orientation to maths demanded in such courses. The use of modelling in senior school maths can also illustrate the relevance of the subject for many professional careers. The author discusses these issues in the context of the Extension 1 and 2 syllabuses of the final year Higher School Certificate maths course in New South Wales. The author found his extension students responded well to the 'real world' quality of a unit about the effect of wind resistance on projectiles. Advanced courses should pay more attention to topics such as ordinary differential equations and their application to science and engineering. Other valuable topics to cover would be matrices and vectors, as methods to represent and solve 'interesting problems', and aspects of discrete mathematics and number theory relevant to fields such as cryptography and pattern discovery. Room in the NSW extension syllabus could be created for these topics by removing content such as conic sections and polynomials. Computerisation has greatly broadened the range of real-world problems open to mathematical solutions, and has created many more opportunities to show students the real-world relevance of maths. Computers improve the efficiency of teaching time, particularly in multidisciplinary settings. They also provide visual representations to engage learners. However, ICT can compete with mathematical content as a learning objective for students and can be used to 'circumvent rather than supplement their natural thinking processes'. Assessment methods need to be substantially transformed, since research shows that large-scale pen and paper testing is unreliable as a measure of mathematical knowledge. The current emphasis on formative assessment in years 7–10 should also apply to the senior years, where open-ended investigation and problem-solving tasks, peer and self-assessment, and student journal writing should be practised. Advanced students should also be involved in test design.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsMathematics teaching
Transitions in schooling
New South Wales (NSW)
Senior secondary education
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Geek chic: getting girls into IT
March 2007; Pages 4–10
In contrast to other traditionally male careers, girls are avoiding the technology sector and higher level courses in IT. Most school students identify IT with hardware, programming, dullness and interaction with machines rather than people, or with the electronic entertainment and communication devices that both girls and boys enjoy. This image of IT is particularly off-putting to girls who tend, more often than boys, to desire jobs that are people-oriented, socially useful and ‘interesting’. School IT subjects often focus on unstimulating applications such as spreadsheets. However a further study has found that many IT jobs require extensive business, communication and teamwork skills, and are embedded within a diverse range of other industries likely to appeal to girls. The preponderance of males in IT creates a self-perpetuating male-oriented culture around itself. Schools, too, often hinder girls’ future participation in IT. Research indicates that teachers have a strong influence over girls’ subject choices. However, teachers and careers advisors are usually unaware of the real nature and needs of the IT industry, and reinforce misconceptions of it. When students struggle, IT teachers tend to encourage boys to take initiatives, but complete girls’ work on their behalf. Female IT teachers are in short supply and ‘are typically not well regarded within schools’ teaching staff hierarchies’. Male teachers tend to assert dominant roles in IT (eg by commandeering control of equipment and downplaying the skills of female peers). They also tend to provide a more male-oriented teaching style (eg by organising individual rather than group work in the subject). Boys tend to monopolise equipment within and outside class, and create a ‘boys’ club’ atmosphere around its use. Girls can be encouraged into IT by highlighting the real nature of the IT industry, encouraging group work and making the school IT curriculum more stimulating. Girls should be encouraged to become comfortable with computers through exploration of interesting features such as graphics. Rather than blame individual teachers, who are themselves subject to social stereotypes, there needs to be an overall challenge to the ‘masculinised culture of computing’. See online references on the Teacher magazine website.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Distance no object?
Volume 12 Number 3, October 2006; Pages 20–21
A technology that allows music classes, performances and collaboration between musicians to be conducted over the Web has recently been released from the Internet2 consortium in the USA. Coaching, informal recitals, meet the composer sessions and distance learning can now involve individuals across countries, with multi-conferencing for up to 50 sites at a time. The Internet2 consortium comprises over 200 universities working with industry and government organisations on developing the Internet. The group’s focus is on delivering high-speed network and data transfer technologies. Thanks to the ‘massive bandwidth’ provided by Internet2 systems, audiovisual data does not have to be compressed. As a result, material has high-definition video and high-fidelity sound, overcoming past experiences of poor resolution, jerky images and delays associated with latency. Internet2 is '3,000 times faster' than the average current broadband speed. While universities have each spent around US$1m to develop existing infrastructure to Internet2 standard and capability, costs may decline in future. A digital video transport stream (DVTS) is being implemented as a platform. A DVTS can run on a desktop computer and requires less technical support than previous Internet2 systems. It is suggested that the recent developments will see high-speed videoconferencing become commonplace in the next ten years.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Subject HeadingsAudiovisual education
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Professional development ... fresh and free!
Volume 11 Number 1, 2007; Pages 18–19
Library staff at a number of schools in Victoria, including Aquinas College in Ringwood, have adopted a program of regular visits to one another as a cheap and effective form of professional development. Each library staff member visits another library once a term, and reports back at a team meeting the following day. The team meetings are also used to track the success of the new ideas that are implemented. Rather than employ relief workers, the staff cover each other’s duties for the day. Staff choose which library they visit, perhaps on the basis of a particular program or promotions being run, new buildings or where they have a contact. Staff have found that even ‘humble libraries’ offer ideas, and that those with limited staffing or resources are often the most innovative. The visits have yielded a range of developments, such as producing bookmarks to promote genre lists, particular authors and open days, attaching stars to new books to attract borrowers and using reviews by staff and students to market books. Staff now create ‘teen-friendly’ invitations, thank-you cards, flyers and displays to attract students. The addition of canteen vouchers as student prizes proved highly popular with students. Participants are usually school libraries, although other library sectors are becoming more involved as the program develops.
Science technology and mathematics teaching and learning in rural South Australia: problems and prospects
A research project has examined conditions for the teaching of maths, science and ICT in rural and regional South Australia. The project examined three government schools and one Catholic school, two covering preschool to Year 7 and two preschool to Year 12, based in representative regions of the State. Local industries in the areas include various combinations of farming, fishing, horticulture and tourism. The researchers carried out focus group interviews with separate groups of teachers, students and parents, chosen in conjunction with the principals. The importance of maths was widely understood as preparation for higher education in science, applied science and engineering. However, students, ‘and in some cases teachers and schools’, did not grasp the importance of school maths for higher education in health sciences, business or accounting, or for tradespeople such as electricians and carpenters. The regions are short of skilled maths teachers and short of opportunities for teacher PD in this area. Science teaching also suffers from lack of specialist knowledge, and from lack of equipment. Primary school science was found to be haphazard rather than sequentially developed. In the senior years science and maths are often provided in the form of distance education, but the students tend to see this option as inferior and do not take it up. The consequent lack of school science and maths graduates in the regions perpetuates their shortage of teachers in these subjects. Links to local industries and work with the local environment offer considerable potential for rural and regional science education. Building these links requires the allocation of additional resources, particularly the appointment of science coordinators. In terms of ICT there was generally adequate access to hardware, apart from home access for Indigenous students. In at least some cases Internet connections were said to be unreliable. Significant problems in ICT include lack of technical support, lack of teacher PD and teachers’ reluctance to pursue such PD. The project occurred as the second phase of the SiMERR initiative. Rural and regional access to quality education is a human rights issue; however, previous research has found that parents in remote locations think their children’s access to education is decreasing.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
Subject HeadingsSouth Australia
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
February 2007; Pages 74–79
Primary Connections is a teacher professional learning and curriculum resource program that aims to support science teaching in the primary years. It is innovative in that it links science with literacy, uses cooperative learning, integrates assessment with teaching and learning and adopts an inquiry-based approach to scientific investigations. An innovative, scientifically literate population will be one of the mainstays of Australia’s future knowledge economy, and it is therefore essential to begin fostering scientific literacy and curiosity in the primary years of schooling. However, science is currently given low status in the primary curriculum, and many primary teachers lack the confidence and skills necessary to teach science effectively. These problems are compounded by competing systemic demands with respect to curriculum in Australia. Two competing curriculum models are being played out, neither of which give sufficient attention to the crucial issue of engaging students in science. The first model, found in Victoria and Queensland, as well as New Zealand, is the reduction of customary curriculum content into a smaller set of ‘essential’ skills. The rhetoric of these reforms, including terms such as Thinking, Higher Order Reasoning and Rich Tasks, are ‘like foreign language terms’ to science teachers accustomed to transmitting 'Established Knowledge'. The second model is reflected in the Australian Government’s National Consistency Project. In this project, science is one of five areas for which a sequence of core knowledge is being prescribed. The project appears to ignore completely the new skills prioritised in the first model. It also emphasises conceptual scientific knowledge, missing the vital connection between scientific concepts and their contexts that has the potential to increase student engagement. Throughout all levels of compulsory schooling, young Australians should be given opportunities to study science in ways that are related to topical issues or other contexts relevant to their lives, such as obesity, water availability or modern weaponry.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsScience literacy
TLF learning objects in science classrooms
Volume 52 Number 4, Summer 2006; Pages 42–44
Learning objects (LOs) are multimedia digital materials designed to motivate students to learn, to reinforce existing skills, to provide extension activities, and to present scenarios that can’t be directly accessed, such as space travel or nuclear reactions. LOs are interactive, requiring students to ‘make choices, answer questions, construct patterns’. Learning is scaffolded for students through forms such as animated demonstrations, automated feedback, and links to further information. LOs are tagged with metadata, allowing teachers to search for material on a given topic. Unlike many LOs on the Web, those from The Le@rning Federation are rigorously tested for quality. The constructivist approach used with LOs means that students ‘hypothesise, experiment, collect data and analye them’ like scientists. Students are able to proceed through LOs at their own rate. Teachers may find LOs useful to introduce a topic or for ‘niche usage’ within it. While LOs are designed for individual use, teachers may decide some are suitable for group work. Teachers need to judge the prerequisite knowledge their students will need for a given LO. As they are designed to be re-usable in many settings, some contextual information is usually required for any given activity around an LO. Students use LOs in different ways. Those students who tend to skip textual instructions in the LOs should be encouraged to re-explore them more carefully. Teachers need to decide how much help to offer students, bearing in mind that LOs are designed to require minimal teacher input. One option is to encourage students to collaborate to solve challenging problems. Some LOs contain assessments such as quizzes, others prompt open-ended responses that teachers will need to check. Teachers will usually wish to hold debriefings sessions. Compared to realistic physical scientific inquiries LOs are ‘less messy, less dangerous and almost mistake-proof’, but it is preferable to ground students in realistic experience of actual physical contexts, where accessible, to emphasise a concept’s application to the real world. A recent review found that TLF LOs are ‘of global standard both technically and pedagogically’.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsScience teaching
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Hand-hygiene facilities and food-safety education: a survey of New Zealand schools
Number 2, 2006; Pages 2–6
Hand-hygiene, including both washing and thorough drying, is an important but often overlooked element of public health. In 2005, 175 New Zealand schools, representing a broad spread of school levels and demographics, responded to a survey about hand-hygiene teaching and facilities. A total of 77 per cent of schools provided soap, hand-drying facilities, and either warm or cold water for hand-washing, while 41 per cent provided cold water only, and 15 per cent did not provide soap. Almost 95 per cent of schools reported teaching a hand-hygiene protocol for handling food, and a similar figure applied to the teaching of general food safety. A total of 43 per cent of the teachers surveyed had a qualification in food safety. These qualifications were more common among intermediate and secondary teachers than at primary or early childhood levels. While most teachers favoured print, video or DVD resources to deliver food safety information, about a third of the sample used websites in their teaching, most often the Foodsafe Partnership or the health and home economics pages on Te Kete Ipurangi. The results of the surveys are more positive than those of comparable surveys conducted in 2000 and 2004. However, this may be because prior surveys did not include early childhood centres, which appeared to provide the best hand-hygiene facilities. Almost all early childhood centres in the sample provided warm water, soap and paper towels, probably because they are inspected and licensed by the public health service. In contrast, the results from schools are cause for some concern. The New Zealand Ministries of Health and Education are currently working together to introduce mandatory hand-hygiene standards, and funding for schools to upgrade their facilities. While many schools identified vandalism as a disincentive to providing better hand-hygiene facilities, this issue is likely to decrease if the importance of hand-hygiene is emphasised to students. Demonstrating hand-hygiene using fluorescent gel and an ultraviolet lamp, creating a school hand-hygiene policy, and ensuring students wash and dry their hands for 20 seconds each are just three measures schools can take to improve hand-hygiene practices.
Change theory: a force for school improvement
Number 157, November 2006; Pages 1–14
Years of unsuccessful education reforms point to a need to consolidate the growing body of ‘change knowledge’ about why reforms succeed or fail. Three recent US education reforms have appeared strong, but have not delivered on their potential. The first is standards-based reform initiatives. Despite ample funding, these have failed due to an overemphasis on outcomes rather than the instructional strategies necessary to achieve them. The second reform is professional learning communities. These are prone to superficiality, as teachers ‘don’t know what they don’t know’. They are also often perceived as short-term innovations and discarded ‘once the going gets rough’. Furthermore, professional learning communities often remain within individual schools instead of establishing the inter-school linkages that support long-term sustainability. The third flawed reform is ‘qualifications’ frameworks aimed at developing and rewarding effective school leaders. These will not succeed without concomitant changes to school and systemic cultures. The author’s research team has identified seven premises that underpin the application of ‘change knowledge’ to school improvement, illustrated by two examples of successful reforms in Ontario. A focus on motivation is most important, reflected and supported by the other six premises. Building capacity and focusing on results is essential, without judging performance until the capacity to achieve is in place. Learning should take place in context, challenging teachers to observe and be observed in actual classroom settings. Change should also extend to contexts beyond the school, managing the ‘distractors’ in everyday activities in order to concentrate on the bigger picture of improvement. Planning should not become a substitute for action, but action must be followed by systematic reflection. Schools, communities, districts and states must commit to ongoing mutual interaction and influence. Finally, changes inevitably take time, and change agents need persistence and flexibility to ‘stay the course’. The application of change knowledge does not represent a ‘quick fix’. It requires deep-seated resistance to cultural change to be confronted and overcome. However, as a growing number of education leaders are realising its benefits, there is potential for change knowledge to have an enduring place in the field of education reform.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
February 2007; Pages 1–22
The recent public attention given to values in education has made school values a powerful force in competition for enrolments, especially between the public and private sectors. Prior research has shown that social and emotional factors frequently take precedence over teaching and learning when parents are choosing a school for their child. Using their analysis of the public websites of four schools on Queensland’s Gold Coast, the authors describe how schools are using values as a selling point in their public profiles. The sample schools represent a combination of public and private, primary and secondary, urban and rural, and large and small schools. The researchers used a combination of methodological tools to analyse the pages on each website on which values were addressed. The first school’s prospectus page demonstrated the kind of language schools use to appear to be complying with the values outlined in government policies. Closer analysis demonstrated that, in fact, the school was maintaining traditional school-directed values that had been in place for many years. The second school’s website included a page which explicitly set out the ‘right’ road as a smooth and straight one, in contrast with the ‘bumpy road’ of ‘irresponsible’ behaviour. This implies a behaviourist approach to values education rather than a communal approach where values are negotiated by the whole school. The third school highlights a tension between traditionalism and diversity by acknowledging the ‘diverse values’ of Australian society and then immediately listing six ‘central’ values which every child is expected to embrace. The final school emphasised values of care and support and emphasised ‘do the right thing’ as the single, overarching school rule. This loose definition may be an astute marketing technique, as it enables parents to provide their own interpretations without the school alienating any potential consumers. Overall, the website show that schools are relying on traditional, school-directed behavioural approaches to values rather than exploring more negotiated and communal values development. This may be a response to market pressures to exercise corporate values and present themselves as high-performing, low-risk investments.
Subject HeadingsValues education
School-based leadership development programs offer an effective, locally contextualised succession process. By contrast, current leadership succession and development programs are not producing the quality or quantity of leaders required. A number of models of teacher leadership are available. Quality mentoring of future leaders is one way to address the increasing complexity of leadership positions. Mentoring can instil confidence in potential leaders and impart important knowledge of job requirements. Mentoring involves coaching, feedback and modelling. Offering acting leadership positions is another means of attracting aspiring leaders, as long as the positions involve real developmental opportunities. Such positions currently have an important influence over whether staff ultimately apply for official leadership positions in schools. Newer models of school leadership stress a collaborative approach and collective responsibility. This approach flattens the organisational structure. One such approach is shared leadership. Shared leadership is built on partnership, equity, ownership and individual commitment. Developing leadership capacity in schools brings some clarity to the changing role of principals. Collaborative leadership styles acknowledge that the viewpoints of others can offer alternative solutions and improvements.
Subject HeadingsTeaching profession
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