To play or not to play: social networking, games and simulations as educational tools
Volume 15 Number 5, June 2011
The article examines the use of technology tools for learning. The first is social networking technology, which characteristically involve logins, the capacity to add images and other content, automatic updates about contacts' activities, and structured connections with individual 'friends' and with groups of collaborators. The forms of collaborative work which it allows can be used to develop students' literacy, research skills, technological skills and capacity for critical analysis. Such work allows 'distributed cognition' an immense collective thinking capacity. It also develops global awareness and cross-cultural skills. Students are making widespread use of social networking services such as Facebook, MySpace, World of Warcraft and Sim City outside of school. Authors such as Klopfer describe how students' use of these services involves them in collaborative, immersive and project-based learning, of the kind that stimulates higher-order thinking. These forms of learning are the ones needed to meet current and emerging workforce needs. Schools have approached social networking cautiously. Perceived dangers include cyber-bullying, efforts by strangers to elicit personal information, and online or direct personal contact with minors. However, 'the dangers appear to be overstated'. A 2007 survey in the USA found that the most common problems experienced by students was inappropriate images or language, problems also found with TV and popular music. Games and simulations constitute a second important form of technology that can be used for learning. Their popularity is evident in the fact that 12-year-old girls in the USA spend more time gaming than watching TV. Research to date suggests that gaming promotes rule-based learning, fast processing of information, and strategic thinking. Schools lag well behind industry, government and the military in using this technology for learning. Educators wishing to use new technologies for student learning should consider a number of issues. One is the school culture, including the mindset of teachers and students toward this type of learning. Other issues include technical infrastructure, teachers' technological knowledge, availability of technical support, teachers' and students' familiarity with the hardware and software required, and teachers' awareness of external resources, such as relevant literature or personal contacts, that could support the work.
Subject HeadingsSocial media
Teaching and learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Inquiry based learning
A lived curriculum in two languages
Volume 31 Number 3, September 2011; Pages 11–22
Bilingual immersion programs, sometimes known as content and language integrated learning (CLIL), offer a promising way for students to develop global competencies. In a recent survey, over 70 per cent of MLTAV teachers supported the inclusion of immersion models in a national curriculum. CLIL programs respond to several current trends. New cultural identities are forming as a result of global migration and student mobility, perceptions of economic globalisation, global media and growing connections between cultures. As a result of these trends, students have increasingly 'diverse affiliations with the language they are learning'. These trends generate the need for global competencies. These competencies include a positive attitude towards cultural difference, the ability to speak and think in languages other than the prevailing languages, and a deep, critical understanding of world history and geography and the global dimension of various socio-economic issues. The article provides two examples of successful language immersion programs. The first example covers 12 schools in Queensland which currently offer CLIL programs. These programs usually cover several but not all key learning areas in years 8–10. Early results from a study of these programs suggest that they involve a heterogeneous group of students, including native English speakers, native bilingual speakers, and 'global nomad' native speakers, with diverse language skills and home supports for language learning. The fact that maths, science and SOSE are included in these programs 'reveals a desire to de-marginalise second languages'. The increasingly global labour market allows schools to hire qualified bilingual teachers, either native or near-native speakers of taught languages. The article describes one sample school where a German language immersion program operated. Interviews with five teachers and 15 students indicated that the program had been successful in developing students' knowledge of global issues. Extensive use of the new media was a prominent feature of the program. The other example of successful language immersion was Telopea Park School in the ACT, where the program was founded on a formal agreement between the Australian and French governments. The immersion program involved the whole primary school, and students had the option of continuing the program in middle years. Each primary class has an Australian and a French speaker. During years 1–2, 80 per cent of class work is conducted in French. The figure drops to 50 per cent thereafter. The program harmonises Australian and French curriculum requirements. Analysis of the Queensland and ACT experiences highlights the potential of CLIL to advance students' global competencies and overcome the marginality of second language learning in Australia.
Key Learning AreasLanguages
Subject HeadingsSchool culture
Social life and customs
Languages other than English (LOTE)
'More tick-the-box': the challenge of promoting interdisciplinary learning in the middle years through the Australian history curriculum
Volume 31 Number 3, September 2011; Pages 72–77
Interdisciplinary learning is particularly helpful for middle years' students. The middle years are known to be a time of transition and potential disengagement, a time when students are trying to make sense of the world around them. The interdisciplinary subject, Studies of Science and Environment (SOSE), has been well placed to contribute to this process. However, under current proposals for the Australian Curriculum, history will be taught as a separate subject. The article examines whether the subject, history, will continue to meet the needs of middle years' students. The Shape of the Australian Curriculum 2.0 (Shape Paper 2.0) 'is developed on the broad premise that, "The disciplines provide the foundation of learning in schools'". However, the Shape Paper also provides for interdisciplinary learning through the cultivation of a set of skills termed general capabilities and three key issues termed cross-curriculum priorities. Throughout the electronic document, the use of digital media alerts teachers to numerous opportunities to develop students' skills and knowledge of issues. However, 'in the absence of a clearly articulated integrative framework' teachers may not make substantial use of these chances. The article reports on research in 2008, which explored this issue. The researcher interviewed seven middle school teachers who taught SOSE at Catholic or Independent schools in Queensland. The teachers all had professional backgrounds in history education. The teachers described how they approached the teaching of history within the SOSE framework. They were concerned that a forthcoming national curriculum would privilege 'tick-the-box' content over the development of students' skills. They saw integration of diverse topics as a way to develop deep understanding of issues and situations not easily placed in a disciplinary category, and were concerned that this learning would be lost 'if we drift down the path of just disciplines'. They also saw interdisciplinary learning as a way to help students to generalise skills across subject areas. The explicit and focused attention to history skills in the middle years would also help students during the study of history at senior secondary level.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsInterdisciplinary learning
Teaching and learning
Outside in and inside out: using a case study assignment in a reading methods course
Volume 38 Number 3, Summer 2011; Pages 133–149
To develop into effective teachers of disadvantaged students, pre-service teachers (PSTs) must go through two interrelated processes. They develop from the 'outside in' by acquiring knowledge and skills, and from the 'inside out' as they acquire the dispositions and identity needed for an educator of the underprivileged. A teacher education course in the USA has sought to develop both processes at once through an intensive case study assignment designed to 'enculturate' PSTs 'into the community of reading professionals'. The assignment occurs during the first year of an Early Childhood and Elementary Education program, in semester two, following a field experience the semester before. The classroom teacher involved in the first semester practicum nominates a struggling reader from the class, and during the second semester the PST works with the student one-on-one, in weekly sessions. The PST assesses the student, analyses the data and prepares an instructional program for the child. The PSTs involved met in groups to discuss experiences and help each other resolve problems. At the end of the semester the PSTs hold a 'parent conference', with teacher educators taking the parents' roles. Data was collected in three forms. PSTs reflected on their experiences through a log, seen and discussed with instructors at three stages, with the final reflective entry providing the focus for instructors' analyses. The evidence was obtained from transcripts of PST's collaborative discussions and a PST questionnaire. These qualitative results were analysed using a computer program. Results indicated that participants found the assignment an effective way to learn from the 'outside in'. Their competence and self-confidence grew; they connected theory learned during the course to teaching practice; and they received 'reality checks' as to the complexity and workload involved in effective tutoring of a struggling young reader. This learning overlapped with 'inside out' learning. Participants noted how their self-image as teachers developed through interactions with peers, with the tutored child, and with the teacher educators. The university classroom was important as a safe venue in which to 'try on' a teacher's identity. However, participants diverged in the extent to which they acquired the dispositions of an effective teacher. The evidence suggested that PSTs whose journals emphasised the difficulties of teaching were also inclined to focus on procedures rather than school students' outcomes, and sought explicit direction rather than general advice. PSTs also diverged in their opinions of the value of reflective logs.
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
Key decisions of a first-year turnaround principal
Volume 38 Number 1, 2010; Pages 33–58
Two researchers examined the role of a first-year principal who had been commissioned to lift the performance of a small, struggling, K–5 primary school serving a low-SES community in the USA. This intervention was part of the Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program (VSTSP), introduced by the State Governor and supported by Microsoft Corporation. The researchers interviewed the principal each month, in person or via email, over the course of the year. The interviews were designed to build a cumulative picture of the problems identified by the principal, her actions to address them, and her rationales for the actions. The principal encountered ill-defined problems, with few obvious criteria for determining solutions, and the problems were soon found to be entangled with other challenges. A key problem area was students' reading skills. The finding of the study support earlier research literature in suggesting several crucial tasks frequently faced by principals in such schools, and the competencies these principals need to deal with them. Principals need to establish the causes of the reading problems including limitations of the school's reading program, and of its implementation; and an awareness of other available reading programs. The principal also needs to decide on the frequency of school-level tests, the focus areas for testing, and the degree to which disaggregation of results is possible. They must decide on suitable interventions, including tutoring and after-school programs, as well as the timing of interventions, areas for intervention and how and when to conclude ineffective interventions. The principal needs ways to deal with ineffective teachers who are unable or unwilling to change, eg by reassignment or dismissal. In this regard principals must ensure that they are aware of personnel procedures and the likely response of system level administrators toward their actions. The article includes a description of a key controversy during the principal's first year: her decision to close the school's Montessori program. The authors note that the school's test results rose after the principal's first year.
Subject HeadingsEducational planning
School library/public library partnerships
Volume 18 Number 4, September 2011; Pages 21–22,24
Collaborations between school and public libraries offer an opportunity to advance students' learning, in terms of both test results and the cultivation of library skills. Such skills are likely to benefit the students in adult life, and may also introduce their families to the public library. Teachers may employ a number of strategies to foster school and public library partnerships. The first is to exchange hyperlinks between the two libraries, not just to home pages but to varied pages covering catalogues, opening hours and topics of particular interest to young people. Secondly, the school library should support the public library summer reading program, as a means to maintain students' literacy skills over the long break. This support may be planned well in advance. A third step is to run membership campaigns for the public library: the aims should be for every student to have a public library card. Fourthly, school librarians should make it their business to know about the public library's printed and electronic resources, including items such as games and e-readers. A fifth step is to host visits from public library staff, identifying events such as parent nights or fairs which they might attend, and special classroom needs which the public librarian could help to meet. Class visits to the public library might also be arranged. More complex forms of collaboration should also be considered. One option is to run workshops for public librarians on the curriculum, including recent developments and current trends. Another is to run 'homework helper sessions' at the public library, likely to be of particular benefit to disadvantaged students. A further option is to host or take part in special events involving both libraries, such as science fairs or visits by authors and illustrators, artists or other visitors. Once collaboration is in place it is likely to generate its own momentum. At a wider level, regional areas of education systems may wish to coordinate library skills training, involving both school and public libraries.
Not such a gay old time
October 2011; Pages 16–17
Research studies have consistently found that approximately 10 per cent of young Australians are attracted to members of the same sex. Since the late 1990s social attitudes have shifted towards more 'equity, visibility and support for sexual difference', including the right to have an education free from discrimination. The shift in attitudes has been evident in survey results which find that young people are now more likely to have told another person about their sexual preference, and that they receive support from approximately three quarters of those they tell. Homophobic beliefs and self-hatred are breaking down in the face of shifting social beliefs, so that, for example, same-sex attracted couples are now more likely to plan to raise children. Same-sex attracted people are now more likely to be active in the assertion of their rights. At the same time, however, there has been a rise in homophobic assaults, both verbal and physical, among young people. In four out of five cases abuse occurred at school. There is a close relationship between the experience of abuse and attempts at self-harm and suicide. Abuse also impacts on school attendance and retention levels. When the author and colleagues have presented these facts to school staff 'we almost always see fearful reactions about jobs and reputations and the scale of the task'. However, education systems are now issuing increasingly strong directives to prevent homophobic activity. Failure to protect student victims may also have legal repercussions. Addressing the problem of homophobia in schools may also work to improve schools' overall academic performance.
Gay and lesbian issues
Mathematics anxiety according to middle school students' achievement motivation and social comparison
Volume 131 Number 1, Autumn 2010; Page 54
A study has examined the extent to which middle school students' mathematics anxiety correlates to their achievement motivation, and to their self-esteem as determined by social comparisons. The study involves 156 students in year 8 attending a private tutoring centre in Turkey. Existing literature has linked maths anxiety to a wide range of variables including self-perception of their maths ability, to performance expectations, teachers' behaviour and attitudes, gender, and SES. It had also been linked to particular teaching approaches, including the application of uniform teaching methods to all students, and teaching only one single method for solving maths problems. The research found that high mathematics anxiety correlated to high achievement motivation and also to low self-esteem, and to a tendency to compare themselves to peers rather than to their own previous performances.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
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