The Island in Schools project uses an online virtual world to improve mathematics, science and statistics education in secondary schools.
The pilot program was originally funded through RMIT’s Learning and Teaching Investment Fund (LTIF) Subsequent funding received from the Australian Maths and Sciences Partnerships Program (AMSPP) will see the program expand into 2015.
RMIT’s Learning and Teaching Investment Fund (LTIF) project was funded for $30,000 and the AMSPP for $96,360.
RMIT researchers have developed innovative classroom activities and resources to support secondary school education in mathematics and statistics.
The teacher-led activities engage junior secondary school students in aspects of the mathematics and science curriculum that relate to scientific experimentation and data investigations.
Using an online virtual world known as The Island, the program provides an enriched and contextualised virtual experience to help improve student understanding and attitudes toward mathematics and statistics.
The Island was originally developed by Dr Michael Bulmer from the University of Queensland. The Island simulates a human population where avatars represent people with genetically-realistic families, houses and communities. These communities are dispersed throughout a simulated geography with its own maps, suburbs, weather models and climates.
The program motivates students by using realistic research scenarios where they interact with the virtual human and conduct investigations that demonstrate real statistics applications.
Students apply scientific rigour to their investigations including ethical considerations, probabilistic reasoning and representative sampling. From proposing a research problem, through to the collection, analysis and presentation of data, the students have access to material and data not commonly available at a secondary school level.
Approximately 250 year 9 and 10 students and 18 mathematics and science teachers across four Victorian secondary schools have used the resources so. Students were surveyed on their attitudes to mathematics before and after their virtual experience. It is anticipated that exposure to a richer, more interactive activities will improve student attitudes and increase their awareness of mathematics and statistics tertiary pathways.
The Island and associated project manuals will be made freely available to Australian secondary school teachers. Professional development programs will also be created to help instigate the innovative science, mathematics and statistical teaching resources. These professional development models will include workshops and in-class sessions where teachers act as advanced students.
Thanks to further funding from Australian Maths and Science Partnership Program (AMSPP) the Island in Schools project will continue into 2015. The focus will be to build upon the existing resource base to cover the Australian Curriculum from Years 7 – 10 in both mathematics and science. Further schools will be sought for participation from both Victoria and Queensland and professional development opportunities will be provided to existing and newly partnered secondary schools.
The project team acknowledges and thanks the following schools and teachers for their enthusiastic participation in 2014:
- Josie Crisara (Principal)
- Cameron McGregor (Head of Faculty – Mathematics)
- Megan Lutton
- Asanka Gunarathna
- Helen McNeill
- Alistair Shaw
- Sally Snowden
- Peter Taylor
- Andrea Thorneycroft (Head of Faculty – Learning Support)
- Elsa Tsalapataris
- Titus Lal
Brunswick Secondary College
- Vivienne Tellefson (Principal)
- Liam O’Grady
- Nicholas Kemp
- Karen Ferguson
Diamond Valley College
- Greg Williams (Principal)
- Jacquie Last
- Andrew Budisa
Ivanhoe Grammar School
- Roderick Fraser (Principal)
- Jeff Capuano (Director Education and Research Unit and Acting Head of Mathematics – Plenty Campus)
- Sean Delany
- Angelo Ratskos
- Mandi Wels
- Rachael Zammit
Schools interested in joining as partners are encouraged to contact the project leader, Dr James Baglin.
- Dr. James Baglin (Project Leader)
- Associate Professor Anthony Bedford (Project Team Member)
- Minh Huynh (Project Team Member and PhD Candidate)
- Casey Hill (Project Officer)
- Dr. Stephanie Damiano (Project Assistant)
Joining the 2015 AMSPP Project
- Dr Michael Bulmer (University of Queensland)
- Professor Helen MacGillivray (Queensland University of Technology)
- Dr. Steven Bowe (Swinburne University of Technology)
- University of Queensland
- Queensland University of Technology
- Swinburne University of Technology
- Brunswick Secondary College
- Aitken College
- Ivanhoe Grammar School
- Diamond Valley College