Learning how to engage with a high-tech tomorrow | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Learning how to engage with a high-tech tomorrow

Programming driverless cars, coding and robotics are part of USC initiatives helping Fraser Coast students and teachers prepare for a digital future.

USC has partnered with Pialba State School, Hervey Bay High School and Aldridge State High School to provide their students and teachers with hands-on exposure to the latest digital technologies through in-school lessons and professional development sessions.

USC Lecturer in Education Dr David Martin said the University planned to expand the programs into other Fraser Coast schools next year.

“This is about developing the knowledge and skills of current teachers and USC’s Bachelor of Education students so they can prepare the next generation for a future where digital technologies will play a central role,” Dr Martin said.

“This year we have run a very successful pilot at Pialba State School, where our pre-service teachers have helped pupils as young as Prep engage in coding and robotics,” he said.

In collaboration with the school’s teachers, the University students have planned and co-taught units which embed the latest digital and robotic technologies into subjects such as maths, science and English.

Deputy Principal Peter Genrich said the partnership was a way to progress the school towards the Queensland Government’s vision of creating 21st century primary schools.

“Many of the future jobs that our current primary school students will be undertaking will involve being creative, innovative and being able to collaborate with others face-to-face and online,” he said.

“Our students are actively engaged in solving challenging tasks using robotics, coding, digital systems, information systems and learning all about being cyber safe.”

This term at Maryborough’s Aldridge State High, USC Education student Curtis Muller has also been delivering a series of digital technology lessons as part of the University’s Make, Integrate, Explore (MIE) research project.

During the lessons, the school students used gadgets, such as electrical circuits, sensors and basic electric motors to develop their computational and abstract thinking using algorithms, patterns and logical reasoning.

The sessions culminated with students assembling a motorised model car and programming it to navigate a maze, simulating the process of programming a driverless car.

The MIE Lab initiative will be rolled out into other Fraser Coast schools next year and is funded by the Higher Education Participation and Partnership Program which aims to increase access and participation in higher education.

USC Fraser Coast’s digital technologies partnerships with local schools evolved from a 2017 initiative led by Dr Martin to develop a dedicated Makerspace lab at the University’s campus in Hervey Bay.

“The Makerspace lab is a quality teaching and learning environment that uses digital, robotics and multimedia technologies as well as fabrication devices such as 3D printers,” Dr Martin said.

“It began as a new concept to build the confidence and capacity of USC’s Education students and quickly developed to where our students are running professional development workshops to share their technological knowledge and skills with practising teachers.”

— Clare McKay

Pialba State School students Sienna Piggott and Mia Kenny with USC Education Lecturer Dr David Martin.
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