Issues

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In 2003, over 15 years ago, a Department of Education, Science, and Training conducted a review of teaching and teacher education called Australia’s Teachers, Australia’s Future, which looked into the advancement of innovation, science, technology and mathematics. This 2003 report  noted that:
  • a declining proportion of students completed Year 12 studies in physics, chemistry, biology
    and advanced mathematics
  • there were insufficient numbers of highly trained teachers in science, technology and
    advanced mathematics
  • there was uncertainty among primary school teachers about how best to teach science,
    accompanied by primary teachers’ relatively low levels of interest and academic attainment in science and mathematics
  • teaching did too little to stimulate curiosity, problem solving, depth of understanding and continued interest in learning among students, or to thus encourage them to undertake advanced study in science and mathematics at school and beyond.

"There have been further reviews and some changes since 2003, notably the implementation of a national curriculum, which itself has been reviewed since it was implemented. A great deal has been
written on the importance of STEM to Australia’s future. It is therefore concerning that a report written this long ago still accurately portrays the present state of affairs." Challenges in STEM learning in Australian schools: Literature and policy review. ACER 2018 (page 9)

Teacher Quality

"Has something changed in the primary education workforce, the primary curriculum or
the primary school students that explains the decline in performance and interest in STEM?"

One policy response to this perceived area of weakness has been to recommend placing specialist
STEM teachers into primary schools (Caplan, Baxendale & Le Feuvre, 2016; Prinsley & Johnston,
2015). Pezaro (2017), however, warns that science specialist teachers in primary schools are not the
answer if they simply provide release time for class teachers who then don’t have to worry about
science teaching. Professional development that enables generalist teachers to build skills and
confidence in STEM teaching is seen as a more sustainable strategy" Challenges in STEM learning in Australian schools: Literature and policy review. ACER 2018 (page 4)

Current Digital Technology Platforms

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Current digital technology tools such as the ArduinoTM or Micro:bitTM are excellent for teaching digital technology in secondary schools.

However, the requirement to programme them before they can begin to deliver any sort of worthwhile learning activity other than coding, is a serious impediment to their use in primary schools and their universal acceptance across the curriculum.

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The complexity of their connection to sensors and other peripherals; reliance on the internet; and lack of on-board data storage; also serves to isolate them within the Technologies curriculum.

Technology Equity

A research paper by Trevor Cobbold, national convener of Save Our Schools, uses data from PISA 2018 to demonstrate that Low SES secondary schools in Australia have fewer and poorer quality educational materials such as textbooks, laboratory equipment, instructional material and computers than high SES schools.

About 20% of students in low SES schools have their learning hindered in this way compared to one per cent of students in high SES schools.

The gaps between the proportion of students in low and high SES schools whose learning is hindered by a lack of educational materials and poor quality education materials are the 7th largest in the OECD.

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Professional Learning 

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Training teachers how to code at scale through online courses such as those provided by the Computer Science Education Research Group at Adelaide University only requires a computer and access to the internet.

 

On the other hand, professional learning for the hands-on experiential and project work required for Science and the non-coding aspects of the Technologies curriculum (eg, design) requires additional resources and additional face-to-face interaction with skilled mentors.

This has traditionally been delivered at significant cost to small groups of individual teachers through local workshops or as part of a seminar or conference.

In NSW alone, there are some 15,000 teachers teaching around 195,000 students in years 5 and 6 (Stage 3). A new online approach is required if professional learning is to be delivered affordably at scale to thousands of teachers dispersed over a large geographic area.

 

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Integrated Learning

The ability for students to measure and log real world data will enhance learning in subjects across the curriculum, but existing educational tools are either industrial grade - and therefore expensive - or component based requiring time to set up and prior technology experience.

Instant data will make Science, Mathematics and many other subjects much more exciting and relevant to the real world

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