Education shaped by big data and Silicon Valley. Is this what we want for Australia?

This article was originally published on EduResearch Matters. Read the original article.AARE

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By Rachel Buchanan and Amy McPherson

The recent banning of smart phones in public schools by several state governments shows Australian policymakers are concerned about children’s use of technology and social media in school time. But what about the way our schools use digital technologies and, in particular, how the data collected by schools about our children is being used? Continue reading

Will we get an updated Melbourne Declaration?

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Signed on the 5th December 2008 the Melbourne Declaration supersedes the 1989 Hobart Declaration and the 1999 Adelaide Declaration. The Melbourne Declaration outlines ‘The Educational Goals for Young Australians’  and represented collaboration and joint agreement between all Australian Education ministers – the federal education minister and the eight education ministers of the states and territories. Goal One states that ‘Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence’ and Goal Two is that ‘All young Australian become: successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens’ (p. 7).

Many of the elements of the Melbourne Declaration were present in both the Hobart and Adelaide Declarations. Common elements of the three national educational goals documents include:

  • the desire for Australia’s schooling system to be characterised by ‘excellence’
  • a holistic view of education, which provides for students’ intellectual, physical, moral spiritual and aesthetic development.
  • to develop in students an appreciation of our cultural heritage
  • a desire to equip students for the future workplace and to meet the emerging needs of the economic workforce
  • to foster positive attitudes to vocational training and life-long learning
  • the creation of an active and informed citizenry
  • provisions for the development of students’ fitness and health
  • a robust curriculum that includes basic literacy and numeracy; computing and technological skills, maths and science; Australian history and geography, the creative arts, languages other than English, and a values education that includes ethics, environmental concerns and social justice.

In addition to these common elements, the Hobart Declaration (signed in 1989) describes the establishment of efforts to develop a national curriculum and the commitment of the states to the establishment of a common handwriting style, common age of school entry and strategies to improve the quality of teaching (MCEECDYA, 2009).

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We are due for an update

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‘The internet is all around us’ what children think of the internet

Recently, Tiana Murray (an early career primary school teacher) and I had an article published in the journal, Digital Culture and Education, which examines what 10-12 year old children think of the internet. We published it in an online open access journal which I think is a fantastic venue for this research as it allowed us to publish a sample of the children’s artwork about the internet. These beautifully demonstrate the children’s ambivalence; the internet is depicted as both being a joyous place and a place of danger. The article can be accessed here and the abstract and selected children’s artworks appear below.

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Evidence II: The mathematics strikes back

So just over 12 months ago, I blogged about the ‘Evidence for Learning’ [E4L] Toolkit, which was, then, newly available for Australian teachers as an accessible resource which purports to break down research in order to provide a metric of “what works”. (At this juncture I’m reminded of Dylan Wiliams’ warning that ‘everything works somewhere, and nothing works everywhere’). Anyhow, discussion about evidence is back on educational radars once more.

In my post last year I referred to the work of my colleague, James Ladwig, who at that time, blogged about why Australia does not yet have the research infrastructure for a truly credible, independent National Evidence Base for educational policy. James has returned to the topic of evidence again, writing about what is going wrong with ‘evidence-based’ policies and practices in schools in Australia:

Now just think about how many times you have seen someone say this or that practice has this or that effect size without also mentioning the very restricted nature of the studied ‘cause’ and measured outcome.

Simply ask ‘effect on what?’ and you have a clear idea of just how limited such meta-analyses actually are.

This is all very topical because yesterday’s report into the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools  recommends (recommendation 5.5) the establishment of a national research and evidence institute  to drive better practice and innovation. As an educational researcher myself this sounds very good, depending of course, on how evidence is defined and understood. Continue reading