AUSSIE EDUCATOR

The capacity to learn is a GIFT; the ability to learn is a SKILL; the willingness to learn is a CHOICE.

— Brian Herbert

Covid has impacted our society and way of life. It has had as great an effect in education as other areas. While disruption and uncertainty caused are obvious, several aspects will have a far longer and greater effect than others.

Take one area, Online learning. It has become a particular topic of interest in recent months. It must be clarified that it is not remote, correspondence or distance learning as used over decades [in one case, centuries]. These were predominantly pre-internet. In simple terms, “online learning simply means acquiring knowledge through the use of instruction provided via the internet. More specifically, this education is acknowledged to be pedagogical rather than self-selected” [1].

Whether it will be of benefit or not depends on us making quality decisions based on available evidence. How best can they be implemented ? What impact will they have on the current process ? Will they prove beneficial across the whole educational process ? Are there potential negative impacts and how will we overcome these ? What will it cost, in all aspects, and how will it be funded ? What can we learn from others who are further down this path ? ...

Evidence over recent times, through experience, research and commentary, raises both positives and negatives. Positives are regularly presented strongly while negatives, though not neglected, do not always receive similar consideration. In looking at what may be achieved from greater implementation, we need to fully understand both, while also considering individual application areas for appropriateness.

In the area of professional development, this is well underway. Face-to-face conferences/workshops/courses/ ... have dramatically declined. They are replaced by online presentations in various formats - live streaming, Zoom presentations, even hybrid presentations with both options available. These are still being offered well into 2021 and look likely to continue with greater access for global attendees, minus considerable costs to travel globally to reach presentations or, equally, to provide them for participants.

Tertiary usage is also far more advanced than that of the school sector. It has used online learning in multiple ways for some time. More than a quarter of students have been involved. There are many reasons why this has been the case. Demand for digital content is one reason suggested, though demand does not always indicate value or quality. Time factors related to usage is another. Easier and often ongoing access, individual control of learning and reduced costs are also contributors. Learning involved ranges from MOOCs to virtual lectures, even assessments.

This is not to say there are no difficulties. Student interaction can often be limited, if occurring at all. Included material has to be made accessible. Skill levels [especially technological] need to be maximised. Clear procedures and methodologies need to be understood by all. Even with their advanced usage, they still have difficulties to overcome. Some students indicate they feel “digital learning is equal to or better than face-to-face learning” [2]. Others appeared less impressed [3]. Concern relating to online assessment still exists [4]. It will undoubtedly improve, increase and become a norm for the sector.

A minimal number of schools were able to maintain or implement online learning quickly. Most areas experienced significantly greater difficulty. Among the biggest problems were : a] adequate time to implement it, b] skills required to do so effectively, c] having the resources to do so, and d] effective implementation for multiple groups within the system. The Rapid Research paper from the Chief Scientist [5] summarises these far better than most. He also makes note of “blended learning” [see more later]. Another paper from the US has related information but was done some months earlier in 2020 [6].

One essential requirement is to ensure equity of access for all students. This applies specifically to students with disability and students from low SES backgrounds, as well as all other disadvantaged students. Current evidence clearly indicates additional difficulties which limit their capacity to make use of online learning [e.g. 7 and 8] and are aspects essential for equity to apply.

One area of the school sector that may benefit from the process could be parent-teacher meetings. As one article indicates, “the shift to phone or virtual parent-teacher meetings to comply with COVID-19 arrangements have meant most of the logistical challenges of parent-teacher meetings have been minimised or have evaporated entirely” [9]. Think back to your experiences as either/or both parent and teacher and consider how much more beneficial such a meeting could be for both of you but, most importantly, the child involved. This could certainly be one winner to come out of such a change.

Perhaps one of the best summaries of where we might [and probably should] end up is found here. It takes a realistic look at online learning and its role with an emphasis on the blended learning model. The author includes 3 critical issues summarised here : online learning is not, and will never be, a silver bullet; a blended learning environment works best; and students must have access to technology, while teachers are not replaced but are well-trained and well-resourced. These points are covered in greater detail in the paper.

It also indicates other research from the UK, USA and Australia found strong or even superior educational outcomes from blended learning compared to classroom or online learning. This is similar to findings indicated in [5] and [6]. It certainly appears the way to go.

Where to now ? It will require understanding, care and a definite, workable plan for where we want to end up. Based on modern information, neither face-to-face nor online is the primary solution for the most effective learning process. Together they may provide the optimum choice. We already have face-to-face, “And online learning is not going away”. Let us proceed carefully, aware of all that is involved and find the solutions required to maximise the best of the combination. Everyone can only benefit from doing so.

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You will now find completely updated pages covering Christmas, the Multifaith Calendar, Special Days, Sign Language and New ! Famous Australians that we hope you find useful. We will continue to add revised and updated pages over the remainder of the year.

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We still retain the resource links compiled earlier this year, with some additions. It will be retained to the end of the year, then reviewed as to future inclusion. Use this link to access Australian and International links.

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There is a continuous supply of documents produced about all aspects of education both here and overseas. It is difficult at times to select only a few each month [‘Life wasn’t meant to be easy’]. Several items listed below are felt to warrant at least a mention. Many are from this year so are genuinely current. See what you think about each and whether you agree or not. Most are Australian in origin. Follow links that pique your particular interest.

Bridging Secondary and Higher Education. The Importance of Self-regulated Learning

2020; Stella Vosniadou. ‘University learning places high demands on students for complex and independent learning, namely learning that requires the ability to plan, monitor and evaluate one’s work and to control one’s motivation and emotion. In this article I argue that more attention should be paid to the promotion of self-regulated learning in secondary schools. This can be achieved by helping teachers understand how to enrich students’ knowledge about learning and strategies to manage it’.

Future-proofing students : What they need to know and how educators can assess and credential them

2020; Sandra Milligan, Rebekah Luo, Eeqbal Hassim, & Jayne Johnston. ‘Future-proofing our students means ensuring that they learn a wide range of skills, or capabilities, that will allow them to thrive in increasingly complex global workplaces. A recent review of school reporting to parents in Australia provided no evidence that schools are requiring, assessing and reporting on the learning of these capabilities, even though some of the capabilities have been part of the Australian Curriculum since 2012’.

Impact of learning from home for disadvantaged children

2020; Stephen Lamb, Quentin Maire, Esther Doecke, Kate Noble, Sarah Pilcher, Sergio Macklin. ‘Most schools across Australia were completely unprepared for the coronavirus [COVID-19] and for moving to virtual learning. Unequal internet access is just the tip of the iceberg of the challenges some students face in doing their schooling online. The paper, Commissioned by the Federal Government and the Australian Government's Department of Education, Skills and Employment, looks at the limited available research showing the impact on learning of remote teaching, and models the potential impact for disadvantaged groups. The issues that schools confront when it comes to home learning for those who face challenges relate to five key factors’ detailed in the report. This addresses a number of issues raised in media and numerous commentary articles.

Leadership Strategies for a Higher Education sector in flux

2020; Warren Bebbington. ‘After six months of pandemic restrictions, the mood in Australian university communities has never been so bleak. Faced with [such] an array of challenges, the role of leadership in a university has never been more taxing. In the shadow of COVID-19, university leaders have a pivotal opportunity to rethink their institutions’. The author looks at a range of requirements, possibilities and potential strategies which could have impacts. Is he right ?

Parents’ perspectives on home-based learning in the Covid-19 pandemic

2020; Glenn Fahey, Blaise Joseph. ‘Schools have been fully or partially closed around the world to support containing Covid-19 — prompting schooling to shift from the classroom to the home. More than ever, Australian schools and parents combined forces — under difficult circumstances — to support students’ learning. This paper considers parents’ perspectives from supervising their child’s home-based learning, based on a survey of 803 Australian parents [NSW, Queensland, and Victoria] with children attending government schools. The research on parental involvement and engagement is also briefly discussed, in order to contextualise survey findings and propose recommendations for policymaker’. Makes for interesting reading.

The Potential of Online Learning for Adults : ...

Early Lessons from the COVID-19 Crisis. 2020; OECD. ‘The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in a significant increase in online learning by adults. Much of the training that had started as face-to-face in classroom environments has been pursued online. As such, the crisis provides a powerful test of the potential of learning online. It also highlights its key limitations, including the prerequisite of adequate digital skills, computer equipment and internet access to undertake training online, the difficulty of delivering traditional work-based learning online, and the struggle of teachers used to classroom instruction. This brief discusses the potential of online learning to increase adult learning opportunities and identifies some key issues that the crisis has highlighted’.

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News Headlines

Universities :

Productivity Commission calls on unis to act on students mental health [18/11]

Laureate sells Torrens University to Strategic Education in $880m deal [17/11]

Growth in demand for job-ready degrees [17/11]

Graduate job advantage retained in COVID-19 labour slump : new survey [16/11]

How to support junior staff in a time of turmoil for universities [16/11]

University vice-chancellor salaries are ‘ridiculous’ [16/11]

Test fail attacks an organised campaign [13/11]

Aus. Gov changes foreign veto bill to ease university concerns [13/11]

‘Unprecedented interference’ ? Universities push for more changes to foreign veto bill [13/11]

Uni partnership to train ‘homegrown’ doctors in regional Queensland [13/11]

The ups and downs of life as a university student during COVID-19 [12/11]

Unis equip young Australians for the future [12/11]

Dan Tehan and great research expectations [12/11]

‘Debate stifled by Chinese university students’ [12/11]

Global rankings are distorting universities’ decisions, says ANU chief [11/11]

International Students :

Our unis do need international students and must choose between the high and low roads [18/11]

Australia : Covid-19 restrictions could result in 50% int’l student drop [17/11]

Aus : only 16% consider virtual options – survey [16/11]

Australians first : PM says international students have to wait [16/11]

Despite the politics, Chinese students keenest to come to Australia [16/11]

Time To Release The Magic Pudding of International Education From The Covid-19 Freezer ! [15/11]

Federal government asks states to draw up plans to accommodate returning international students [15/11]

Plenty of room for quarantine, say student accommodation providers [13/11]

Australia border restrictions to lift for 300 Asian students [12/11]

Australia to lose half of international student population by mid-2021 [12/11]

“Australia needs to know we won’t wait forever” : international students [12/11]

COVID border bans leave international students facing lonely Christmas in Australia [12/11]

Why Australia shouldn’t abandon international education [12/11]

Canberra universities resume discussion on returning international students to ACT [12/11]

International students could return to New South Wales by Q1 2021 [11/11]

Schools - Teachers & Students :

International Baccalaureate accused of ignoring plight of Victorian students [18/11]

School funding : public good and economic growth [17/11]

Fears for pupils who logged off [16/11]

Scholarship applications rise after pandemic struggles [15/11]

Teachers say nurses in NSW schools should not replace counsellors [15/11]

Early Childhood :

The child-care sector needs an overhaul, not more tinkering with subsidies and tax deductions [17/11]

Chifley report calls for new approach to early childhood education in Australia [16/11]

Why early childhood education services should be more like school [13/11]

Victoria and NSW have funded preschool for 2021. It’s shaping up to be a federal election issue [12/11]

Vocational Education :

VET policy initiatives - 2020 [18/11]

Nowhere near a national approach for JobTrainer [18/11]

Celebrating Australia’s World-Class Vocational Education and Training Sector Award Finalists [16/11]

Vocational degrees get the jobs [15/11]

Other :

New report reveals top concerns of Australia’s youth [18/11]

Maths teaching at schools and universities must lift [17/11]

Outside School Hours Council of Australia launches as new peak body for OSHC sector [17/11]

The social and political causes of increasing educational participation from the 1980s [16/11]

Merlin Crossley on learning, it’s a people thing [12/11]

Pandemic widens gap between government and Australians’ view of education [12/11]

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