Inclusion, integration, innovation: future-proofing education

Inclusion, integration, innovation: future-proofing education

With COVID-19 accelerating the switch to virtual learning, industry leaders say we must continue to integrate technology, embrace innovation and ensure no one is left behind.

From virtual classrooms to augmented learning and wholly online cultural exhibitions, technology has facilitated a rapid shift to online education in response to COVID-19.

And while innovative technology has long been driving change in the sector, 2020 has thrown into sharp relief the importance of integrated learning, accessible to everyone.

Inclusion

For Jackie Coates, the Head of Telstra Foundation and an advocate for the responsible and inclusive development of new and emerging technologies, bridging the digital divide is critical to ensuring education remains accessible to all Australians.

Speaking at RMIT’s virtual Future Impacts series, Coates said COVID-19 had put the spotlight on issues around digital inclusion and accessibility.

“When we think about online learning, we have to think about the barriers,” she said. “Do people have access to the internet? Devices they can use? Enough data to access what they need?”

Published annually by Telstra, RMIT and Swinburne’s Centre of Social Impact, the Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) provides a snapshot of our online participation by looking at access, affordability and digital ability.

The report is just one of the many ways Telstra is working to amplify and improve digital inclusion among Australians, but Coates said the work is ongoing.

“Digital inclusion is a shared national challenge, one made more pronounced by the impact of COVID-19,” she said.

“The ADII shows that there is more work to be done and urgent work is needed if all Australians are to benefit.”

NGV has previously worked with Code Club Australia, which is run by Telstra Foundation, on a series of workshops to develop students’ digital literacy skills.

Integration

Michele Stockley is the Head of Learning at the National Gallery of Victoria and oversees learning programs designed to engage diverse adult and student audiences.

She said museums are unique learning environments in an increasingly diverse education landscape and as audiences evolve, integrating technology experiences are key.

“As we’ve seen through COVID-19, learning and engaging with cultural resources doesn’t have to take place in a classroom or museum setting,” she said.

“Online plays a really important role in extending learning to a whole range of audiences who might not otherwise have had access to the physical spaces of a gallery or museum.”

She said that even as institutions reopen their doors to the public, things like augmented reality, technology-facilitated, hands-on learning and digital resources will remain an ongoing part of the broader offering.

“Online resources provide that ‘anytime, anywhere’ learning and address issues of equity that I think are so important for the future of education,” she said.

“Soft skills are also deeply embedded in technology interactions. I feel really strongly that students gain a wide range of skills, including those related to communication, collaboration, critical and creative thinking, through engaging with technology”.

Technology in action: Production of Pirjo Haikola’s Urchin corals 2020, commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased with funds donated by Brendan and Grace O’Brien, 2020. Photo Bradley Erickson

Innovation

Linda Knight is an Associate Professor in Early Childhood Education, Digital Media and Creative Practice at RMIT and said young people have a unique ‘maker’ approach to technology.

“Young people are confident innovating when it comes to how they use technology,” she said.

“They use different methods like hacking, pimping and tinkering to make devices and software do more than what is expected and to be more useful for longer,” she said.

It’s an approach she is excited to see and said bringing it into the classroom provides a unique opportunity to shift the focus from disciplinary learning, to a focus on materials and interfaces.

“We are starting to put the tech to work a bit more thoroughly and usefully in the classroom now,” she said.

“A big trend in education is the use of virtual and augmented reality, so as teachers and educators push the capacity of technology, they’re helping students build connections with different realities and think ethically about digital futures.”

Coates, Stockley and Knight spoke at the virtual event, The Future Impacts of Innovation-based Learning, part of RMIT’s Future Impacts Series. Watch the recording.

 

Story: Grace Taylor

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