The Le@rning Federation (TLF) now has over 6,800 items of high-quality digital content available to schools across Australia and New Zealand. The June 2008 content release offers senior secondary students learning objects in English and Literacy, Mathematics and Numeracy and Science. TLF has licensed 31 interactive simulation tasks (gizmos) from the US-based ExploreLearning. Learning objects for assessment purposes are being developed and are now available for Years P–9. For Australian History, the Discovering Democracy series is now available. It gives students the opportunity to explore a range of issues and events relating to the development of Australian democracy. The first 54 recorded interviews for TLF Australian Voices project are also available. They include first-hand accounts from people in the creative arts, medicine, sport and politics; experiences of war and natural disasters; and accounts of working and everyday life. New partners for digital resources include the Australian War Memorial, the Australian Museum and the State Library of Queensland. A new series of learning objects has also been designed specifically for the Early Years. These include Letter Planet, Dragon Jumble and the Words and Pictures series. Some of the new learning objects can be sampled on the TLF website and catalogues can be downloaded from the Teachers section. For specific queries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Commonwealth Bank Foundation has joined with the Australian Curriculum Studies Association, and is supported by Business Educators Australasia, in delivering free workshops on financial literacy. The Startsmart Teacher Development Workshops will be held this month in a range of capital cities. Register online at www.startsmart.com.au.
In the USA the National Security Language Initiative was introduced by President Bush in 2006 to teach the youngest students Chinese and other foreign languages considered critical to the nation's future security. The emphasis is on 'critical needs' languages, including Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Hindi and Farsi. The 6-year-old education law also requires that teachers be highly qualified – generally that they have at least a Bachelor's degree in the subject they teach or pass a subject-matter test. But many people fluent in critical languages don't meet the requirements. Under the Bush initiative, grants are provided to help people with these language skills to receive training and certification. The goal is to add 1,000 new foreign language teachers by the end of the decade. See article in Education Week 9 July 2008 (registration required).
Queensland's Minister for Education and Training, Rod Welford, has praised the State's system of externally moderated school-based assessment as having several advantages over one-off 'high stakes' exams. 'Research has shown our system produces reliable and comparable assessment of student achievement at higher levels than typically found in the marking of public exams,' he said. 'A further strength is that students are judged on their performance over two years of study rather than on one day of the year.' See the Minister's media release 20 July 2008.
Michael Coutts-Trotter, Director-General of Education and Training New South Wales, has called for more coverage of the Holocaust in the State's mandated history course, noting that 'you can get through compulsory schooling in New South Wales and never know that the Holocaust, the destruction of Jews in Europe, actually happened'. The website of the Sydney Jewish Museum covers a range of educational resources on the Holocaust and on Australian Jewish history, culture and religion, with links to the school syllabus in New South Wales. See article in The Australian 10 July 2008.
'Abracadabra', a new web-based education tool, has been found to increase the concentration and literacy skills of children struggling to read and write. 'Abracadabra' showed promising results during a 10-week trial at primary schools in the Northern Territory undertaken by Charles Darwin University's School for Social and Policy Research. See media release 3 July 2008.
Australia has some of the longest full-time work hours in the OECD, according to Dr Lyndall Strazdins, an expert at the Australian National University (ANU). Over the last 30 years, the amount of time parents typically spend in paid work has moved from 45 hours a week to 70 or 80 hours. The extra workload has a greater impact on the careers and wellbeing of mothers, due to their disproportionate role around family commitments. See ANU media release 12 May 2008.
An article in The Age 14 July 2008 reports that Victorian public school teachers who no longer wish to teach in may be offered up to $50,000 to resign their positions. The scheme would follow a similar program offered by the Queensland Government.
Flinders University is offering a new Graduate Certificate for middle school educators teaching the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IBMYP). Flinders will also offer a Masters in Education (IB). Both qualifications will be offered under an agreement between the University and the Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO). See media release 16 June 2008.