Interested in VR? This might be up your alley

If you do want to learn about using immersive VR in classrooms then you might be pleased to learn that there are free downloads (until March 27th) available of my article ‘Embedding immersive virtual reality in classrooms: Ethical, organisational and educational lessons in bridging research and practiceVR pic boy

Abstract: Increasing numbers of children and young people are experiencing immersive virtual reality as part of leisure and schooling. Immersive virtual reality mediated through head-mounted displays presents significant challenges as well as tantalising opportunities for learning within schools. The purpose of this paper is to report on key issues that arose when embedding immersive virtual reality for learning into ICT and science classes in low-income high schools by providing a fine-grained account of how the research team negotiated scholarly and practical problems. The mixed method research used a participatory approach with teachers as co-researchers. Three areas are explored: (i) the ethical and safety issues of using IVR in classrooms;(ii) negotiating the organisational context of a school system and problem-solving within the context of institutional restrictions on internet access; and (iii) educational reflections on collaborative learning and gendered dynamics. We conclude that classrooms, as socially active and sometimes unpredictable places, yield unique and credible insights into the deployment of highly immersive virtual reality for learning.

The researcher’s digital footprint

Today I gave an information session on building an online presence for PhD students at the School of Education, University of Newcastle. The although the session was informal and I talked through the possibilities and how to’s of building an online presence, I did prepare some materials that pulls together research and advice. I also asked twitter and got some great responses which were added to the presentation. The latter exercise neatly demonstrated the power of twitter in terms of the usefulness and power of having an online network.


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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

What is a school leader?

This post is a part of a series being written for my EDUC6352 online masters students.

This fortnight we are looking the intersection of school leadership and policy. I argue that a part of the role of the school leader is being a mediator of policy. In the complex governance situation that is education in Australia, school leaders must negotiate policy that is developed at the Federal, National (nope, this isn’t a tautology – National policy is policy agreed on by the Federal and state governments, i.e. The Melbourne Declaration), State, local and school level. A part of the role is mediating these multiple levels of policy, determining what the school will focus on, and how seriously will take particular accountability measures.


Business people walking together in the city

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Equity and Disability in Higher Education

In the past 2 or 3 decades universities in Australia (and elsewhere) have opened their doors to a wider variety of students than in the past. Universities are accountable to the government for their level of success in widening participation and making higher education more accessible. Research has shown that the widening participation agenda has resulted in many more non-traditional students being able to access a university education. The  number of women, Indigenous students, students from a low SES background, first-in-family to attend university, and students with a disability are equity groups whose numbers have grown, particularly in the last 10 years.

However, the equity group that we know least about is students with a disability. Many such students choose not to disclose their disability to their institution which makes it difficult to determine how many such students there are, and to provide assistance to this group. Continue reading