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How digital technology is ushering in a new age of learning

Rebecca Merrett | Dec. 12, 2014
Digital disruption is driving education outside the boundaries of the classroom and into a host of new online opportunities.

At the University of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT) educates the educators on how to develop course content specifically for online, including looking at how to maintain engagement to prevent dropouts, Murray says.

Turning libraries into makerspaces
Interacting with new technologies is also a core focus across several Australian schools. To do this, book repository libraries are being transformed by several institutions into makerspaces, allowing students to tinker and experiment with technologies and learn in a non-structured environment. One of the first schools in Australia to transform its library is St Columba Anglican School in NSW. Its director of e-learning, Matt Richards, says his year 9 IT students are developing first-person shooter games for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, while year 3 students are designing electronic controllers for games.

The makerspace also consists of MaKey MaKey kits, Bo and Yana robots, Leap Motion 3D controllers, a 3D printer and scanner, Chromeboxes and old computers students can take apart and hack into franking machines to make them better.

Michelle Jensen, president of the School Library Association of NSW, is also creating a makerspace in Hoxton Park High School's library. It consists mostly of six Raspberry Pi devices and a 3D printer. Students are taught how to code and program through combining the Raspberry Pi with the game, Minecraft.

"A lot of children don't know about programming, so using Raspberry Pis is one way of getting them to look at how to program because it is open source," she explains. "When they are working in Minecraft, there's another screen they can see that has all the code."

Jensen teaches students that if you code something in the back-end, it can have a real-world impact in the game. "They write some code in the computer and it turns on a light on the sandwich board," she says.

"I like to just teach them the basics first... then it's self-directed learning. That's what the makerspace movement is about -- letting kids tinker, explore, fail, and kids learning from each other -- and me facilitating that and giving them access to these kinds of [tools]."

Richards agrees the role of the teacher nowadays is to be the facilitator. "A lot of the searching for and processing of information happens outside the classroom because that is more effective. Then the in-class time is used for communication and answering questions and helping each other.

"Information is retained if people actively search for it. This is why we are using things like '20 per cent time' and 'genius hour' to encourage students to seek information because they are actually interested in it, and it has a real-world implication."


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