No one method will ensure that Australian students are successful in school. There are so many factors that contribute to achievement, as well as a litany of reasons that cause students to lose interest, fall behind or check out.
Teachers in Australia, like their counterparts around the world, face the Herculean task of providing their students with a top-tier education that keeps interest high and prepares them for a successful future. Naturally, this is easier said than done, especially once things like budgets and available supplies are taken into account.
Fortunately, the increasing presence of technology in the classroom is opening up entirely new areas of opportunity that enterprising teachers can use to make education come alive for their students. While some of these innovations are cost-prohibitive, others are easily available through a standard classroom computer.
With the ability to bridge the gap between the farthest corners of the globe, web conferencing services have limitless potential in the classroom for students of all ages.
Fostering achievement among Australia's rural students
Distance has always been a significant contributor to educational inequality. Students in remote communities are often at a significant disadvantage compared to their more centrally-located peers. In fact, research from the Mitchell Institute showed that very remote students in Australia meet age-based educational benchmarks at a significantly lower rate than other students - 19 to 48 percentage points.
The research also showed that rural students tend to have lower levels of self-confidence and perseverance, don't feel like they belong and don't have the same access to services as other students in more populous areas. As a result, these students don't attend school as much, have a lower rate of university attendance and a higher likelihood of withdrawing from higher education.
By making an engaging education more accessible, web conferencing can help level the playing field for these students.
Providing high-quality education services to Australia's rural students through web conferencing platforms will become even more feasible in the future with the projected rollout of Australia's new broadband network. According to the NBN statement of expectations, the network will provide high-speed internet access to Australians across the nation, with download speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for all connections and 50 Mbps for 90 percent of locations connected by cable.
Once this level of connectivity is available across Australia, rural students will have a more stable link to remote classrooms and instructors, as well as the potential for a much more engaging education.
Providing tools for innovative teaching
Every year, countless teachers walk into their first classroom full of passion, energy and ideas for the months ahead. Sadly, for many teachers, that enthusiasm is dampened for many reasons, including a lack of resources to implement the dynamic lesson plans they've drawn up.
In the 2013 Staff in Australia's Schools survey, conducted by the Australian Council on Educational Research, respondents were asked to rate their job satisfaction based on 17 different factors. Results show that access to educational resources was among the five lowest-scoring areas for both primary and secondary teachers - only 67.8 percent of primary and secondary school teachers said they were satisfied or very satisfied in this area.
While there is no panacea for getting teachers the supplies they need, web conferencing is an affordable and versatile tool that educators can use to overcome limited resources. These are just some of the ways that it can liven up the curriculum.
Going beyond the classroom in the classroom
The world is full of experts in a number of fields who can help students connect to material in exciting new ways. With web conferencing, distance is no longer a factor for teachers looking to arrange a guest speaker.
Students in science class learning about Antarctica could hear from a researcher at McMurdo Station. An English class could have an interview with their favourite poet from another country. Mathematics students could talk with engineers in leading research labs around the world. The possibilities are only limited by imagination and time zones.
The NSW Department of Education's Distance and Rural Technologies (DART) Connections team took advantage of web conferencing to show the importance of standing up against prejudice and oppression by connecting remote students with Holocaust survivors for a lesson in living history.
Other programs can bring the outside world right into the classroom through virtual field trips. Rather than spending the time and money, students can visit exciting places from their desks. Many institutions are embracing the power of web conferencing for this purpose, including the National Portrait Gallery in the ACT. Based on a successful pilot program in March 2015, the gallery is looking to offer five remote sessions each week for remote students.
In the right hands, web conferencing can truly change the classroom experience as we know it, removing geographic boundaries and putting students in touch with people and places around the world. To learn more about opportunities for educators, contact us today.