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the professional voice of the Independent Education Union

V.41#2, 2011

Open space learning

Meeting modern needs or repeating past mistakes? n Gen-nets size up online exams n Should students be shocked?

Print Post No. 243184/0001 ISSN 1320-9825


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Contents: ie V.41 #2, 2011 editorial profile news reconciliation

teaching + learning

04 This edition Getting open space learning right.

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04 Kaleidoscope Fashion designer Akira Isogawa shares memories of school life in Kyoto. 06 Australia wide Professional and industrial news from the states and territories. 08 Towards reconciliation How the Yarning Strong series stops racist attitudes from becoming ‘hard-wired’. 10 Feature Is open space learning meeting modern needs or repeating past mistakes? 14 One in all in Social inclusion kit helps increase participation. 16 Online exams Why ‘gen nets’ are wary. 18 Shock value Controversial texts in the classroom. 20 Messages from the battlefront Bringing wartime history to life.

Open space learning: What are the pros and cons of this not-so-new approach?

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22 Childhood cancer How school communities cope. leadership support staff sustainable classrooms technology legal

24 Supporting leaders and building capacity. 27 The evolving role of school library assistants. 28 Workplace Climate Connectors.

Online exams: If you think gen nets are embracing them, think again.

29 Smart phone applications for busy teachers. 30 A brief guide to subpoenas.

conference diary/letters

30 What’s on and what readers are saying.

opinion

32 Talking point: Should learning a second language be compulsory?

reviews

34 Film Waiting for Superman.

18 Shock value: Why controversial school texts have a place.

Executive Editors Dick Shearman Deb James Terry Burke Editorial Committee Cathy Hickey Fiona Stutz Tara de Boehmler Sandra White Journalists Tara de Boehmler, Sue Osborne, Fiona Stutz Design Wendy Rapee Images: pp cover, 5, 10, 12, 16, 18,19, 22, 24, 29, 30, 32, 34. thinkstock.com.

IE is a tri-annual journal published by the NSW/ACT, Victorian and Queensland Independent Education Unions for members and subscribers. It has a circulation of 63,000. IE’s contents do not necessarily reflect the views of the IEU or the editors nor imply endorsement by them. Email NSW: ieu@ieu.asn.au VIC: vieu@vieu.org.au QLD: enquiries@qieu.asn.au IE online www.ieu.asn.au/publications/ Contributions Contributions and letters from members are welcome. Printing does not reflect endorsement and contributions may be edited

at the editor’s discretion. Email iemagazine@ ieu.asn.au Advertising Kayla Skorupon (02) 9779 3200 Advertising is carried in IE in order to minimise costs. Advertising does not in any way reflect endorsement of the products or services. Subscriptions IE is available free to members of the IEU, or by subscription. Kayla Skorupon: (02) 9779 3200 Printing Print & Mail: (02) 9519 8268 ISSN 1320-9825


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this edition

Akira Isogawa Fashion designer The Independent Education Union does not judge the value or worth of teaching styles. There is no Unionapproved pedagogical model. But we do heed member feedback – both positive and negative – as we work on your behalf. A move to re-embrace the open learning spaces characteristic of the 1970s has prompted a range of responses, including a largely negative response from members who responded to a Union survey. There are those who say open learning spaces boost teacher collaboration and learner connectedness, while others report loss of job satisfaction, concern for students’ learning, insufficient professional development, a range of health impacts and a lack of consultation. This issue of IE explores open space learning and asks what can be learnt from the past and present, to ensure the model is right for students and teachers. Also in this edition, we find out why some gen-nets are baulking at online exams, we look at ways to stop racist attitudes becoming hard-wired, and we explore ways of dealing with childhood cancer in the classroom. IE is always keen to hear about your experiences and to receive suggestions for topics you would like to see covered in IE. Just email iemagazine@ieu.asn.au.

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When IE caught up with prolific Australian fashion designer Akira Isogawa he was about to launch an eyewear range, create costumes for the Australian Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet, and present a collection at Paris Fashion Week. Despite the hectic schedule Akira was only too happy to share memories of his school days with Journalists Tara de BOEHMLER and Mary COLBERT.


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My schooling was very important to me. It was not just about gaining knowledge but also establishing my own personality.”

“I attended a public primary and secondary school in Kyoto, Japan, and was a very quiet student, probably one of the quietest in the class. But I had an ability to observe personality and I would absorb whatever was in my surroundings. “Our classes had about 30 students – boys and girls – and there was a real mixture. What was nice in primary school was that we all stayed together, with the same teacher, regardless of subject, for two years. It meant we got to know each other well. “In Year 1, when I would have been about seven years old, I remember the teacher was younger than my mother. She seemed like a little kid and I realised she was quite nervous. “I was quite fond of her and we got to know each other very well. Even though I was quiet, I felt she took notice and acknowledged me. I felt she was keeping an eye on me. “My brother and I attended school from morning to late afternoon and when we got home mother was working. Later she would prepare a meal and we would discuss what happened at school. We spent just a few hours a day staying in touch with our parents. We dealt with teachers much more. “When my Year 1 teacher came to our home for the annual visit, I was very nervous but also excited all at once to share her with my family. “I remember cleaning our home very well and telling mother we had to do it. “A more difficult time for me was the first time we had a male teacher. He was a bit older – about 50 – and I felt that if I remained quiet he would ignore me. I dealt with this by becoming more expressive and being more open.

“Every two years, when we changed classes and teachers, I would find those first three months quite difficult while we got to know each other. “Children can be cruel as they are so blatantly honest. They might say ‘you never speak’ or imitate me by not speaking. But after six months we would all get over it. “When I became more senior, in about Year 5 or 6, I realised I was one of the strongest students in art class. I felt quietly proud and really enjoyed my time here – especially the drawing. “My schooling was very important to me. It was not just about gaining knowledge but also establishing my own personality. “When I enrolled at Bukkyo (Buddhist) University, my parents thought it would be good for my mind-set. “But after three years I started to feel I was in a rut and needed to take a temporary break from my studies and Kyoto.

“I looked around to see what Sydney offered but couldn’t find the kind of clothes or fabrics that I liked. “The men’s clothes were fairly uninteresting and, even for women, there was not enough choice. I wondered if possibly I wasn’t being pointed to the right places but really I wasn’t impressed. So I physically started making clothes.” Feeling the need to acquire some skills in sewing and pattern-making, Isogawa enrolled in a fashion design course at East Sydney Technical College (TAFE), and supported himself by working as a tour guide. “That’s really when I felt I could be more creative. The multicultural element of Australia definitely inspired me to create something new – and continues to do so. “It isn’t always a case of east-west fusion, what I find really interesting can be east-meets-east. For instance Japanese culture mixed with Indian, Chinese or Indonesian elements.

“I wanted to experience something new. So when a close school friend suggested going to Australia on a working visa, I was keen – nervous about going out of my comfort zone but re-assured because there would be two of us.

“The first few years [launching my first boutique] were extremely difficult. I could no longer supplement my income as a tourist guide and coming up with the monthly rent was sometimes a struggle. I had to rely on my own business to survive. But I learnt so much in the process.”

“When my friend pulled out at the last minute I was nervous but decided I would still go ahead. And I am so glad I did because it was the turning point of my life, in many ways.”

These days Akira is working between Sydney and Melbourne, while he collaborates with the Australian Ballet, and his commitments are international. But he still appreciates the quiet.

Soon after arriving in Sydney in 1986, Akira enrolled at a private college to study English. “They were fantastic, devoted, helpful teachers [one of them even found him a room at guest house in Redfern],” he says.

“I love being busy, especially when I travel around the world. [But] when you’re in a plane you have no choice but to be still and I like that moment.”

“I knew so few people that I really couldn’t afford to be shy. 5


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Australia wide

NSW Major campaigns cutting through

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wo major campaigns are occupying NSW/ACT IEU members at the moment.

First, the Early Childhood Teachers are Teachers campaign has shown evidence of message penetration, with NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli naming the campaign during his speech at a State Early Childhood Education and Care Stakeholders forum on 1 June. The Minister acknowledged the IEU campaign when announcing a review of NSW Government funding of the early childhood education and care sector, including the Preschool Resource Allocation Model. The State has finally caught up with the rest of Australia and moved responsibility for all early childhood education into the newly formed Department of Education and Communities (DEC), acknowledging the long argued IEU position that early childhood education is not simply ‘childcare’. Second, a major Union campaign erupted in NSW when the new Liberal Government introduced industrial legislation worse than Work Choices, then gagged debate to ensure its carriage through the Upper House. The law allows government to set policy and regulate public sector wages on the floor of parliament. It denies the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) the ability to make ‘independent umpire’ decisions on public sector wages and conditions claims.

The IEU has immediately acted to join the campaign against the legislation, recognising the traditional link between salary and conditions outcomes in Catholic and government schools. Hundreds of IEU chapter meetings have carried motions condemning the legislation, calling on Catholic employers to publicly reject the approach. Over 2000 members have sent more than 8000 emails to MPs. The response so far confirms that members are opposed to bad industrial relations policy, wherever and whenever it happens.

QLD Haphazard preparation for Australian Curriculum

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reparation for the implementation of the Australian Curriculum appears to be proceeding in a haphazard manner. While employers have acknowledged that they will have to provide professional development and resources and ensure significant planning occurs in their schools, there is little evidence of this in the larger sectors. There are cases of good practice emerging. However, these appear to be isolated examples of individual schools doing the right thing. From the beginning of 2012 all schools 6

in Queensland will be required to implement the Australian Curriculum Foundation–10 in English, mathematics and science and in the Northern Territory in English and mathematics.

Many schools have the provision in their collective agreements for a ‘work impact study’ to be undertaken when ‘significant change’ is to occur within a school.

Clearly time is running out for schools to begin the process of mapping the curriculum across year levels and subjects.

Clearly the implementation of the Australian Curriculum is significant change and schools have been encouraged to call for these studies.

Time is also running out for schools to provide the professional development (including time for collegial discussion and planning) necessary for teachers to be in a strong position to deliver the new curriculum.

Now is the time for schools to pursue their employers to instigate work impact statements to ensure the Australian Curriculum is managed effectively.


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NT Fight for funding surety

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chools in rural and remote areas across the Northern Territory have made submissions to the Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling Panel, highlighting the need for a viable federal school funding model to remain in place for non-government schools. Fourteen schools including 10 from Darwin and surrounding areas and three from the IEU’s Central Australian Branch made submissions to the Review. IEUA-QNT Northern Territory Branch Executive Member and Teacher at Sacred Heart School, Nuala Cullen, said it was crucial for school chapters to make a submission to the Review to ensure Federal Government school funding would not be jeopardised in the future. “Members of school chapters often have little idea of funding and where money comes from and how monies are distributed to schools,” Nuala said. “It is crucial that everyone is aware that schools have a budget and that in the case of Catholic schools and other

independent schools, they cannot exist on school fees alone.” Nuala said Catholic schools’ resources would not be as readily available and class sizes would increase if schools did not have adequate federal government funding to employ staff and retain experienced teachers. “In some schools, children who come from an Indigenous background, ESL students, students from a low socioeconomic background and students with special needs will be disadvantaged if funding is cut,” she said. “In turn, school fees would need to be increased in order to keep schools open. This again disadvantages those who struggle financially.” IEUA-QNT Organiser for the Northern Territory, Camille Furtado said: “Without the submissions organised by members at the schools who participated in the review, there would have been no voice to advocate for the best interests of schools in the Northern Territory.”

“It is a sad day for Victorians when a government strips certain people of their rights at work.” Vic Government rewinds equal opportunity laws

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n early June the Victorian Government overturned recent reforms to the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act, leaving staff in religious schools at risk of blanket discrimination based on their religion, sexuality or marital status. The vote on the Bill to remove the previous government’s amendments initially failed to pass Parliament because of the absence of the Women’s Minister Mary Wooldridge. However the Baillieu Government then changed the parliamentary rules in order to allow a revote and the Bill was passed. The previous legislation had been the

result of extensive consultation.

‘inherent requirement’ restriction.

The reforms, introduced by the former Brumby Government had been due to take effect in August this year and these had included an important restriction on employers’ rights to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs.

Staff in religious schools will be the largest group to be affected by this legislation roll-back.

Employers would have needed to demonstrate whether conformity with a religious doctrine was an ‘inherent requirement’ of a particular position.

“Over 40,000 teachers and support staff in non-government schools now are without the same workplace rights as other Victorians,” Ms James said.

VIEU had been active in the original consultation process, and strongly believed the legislation struck a balance between the rights to religious freedom and the rights of employees to be treated equally.

“It is a sad day for Victorians when a government strips certain people of their rights at work.”

VIEU General Secretary Debra James addressed a protest rally on 1 June at Parliament and said that the Baillieu Government should be ashamed.

 

The Ballieu Government’s amendments have now removed the

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Looking at life in the city H

ow do you stop racist attitudes becoming ‘hard-wired’ in people? Educate children about the lives of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, says Laguna Bay publisher Kaye Richards. IE Journalist Sue Osborne explores a new series of materials that do just that. Yarning Strong is a new education series produced by Laguna Bay but published and distributed through Oxford University Press. The Federal Government Indigenous Affairs Department supported the project, which was launched mid-year. “During the development of the series, one sentence kept us on track: ‘What’s it like being a young Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person living in urban Australia today’?” Kaye said at the series launch. “I’m pretty confident most nonIndigenous Australians would have absolutely no idea. “Certainly many kids at school wouldn’t, with most educational publishers to date focused on Dreaming stories, and life in rural, outback communities.” Apart from giving a more realistic picture of the life of urban Indigenous people, Kaye had a personal reason for producing the resource.

Stronger Smart Institute, said: “If only Captain Cook had access to the Yarning Strong series when he first landed . . . things might have been different . . . we might share a history that has integrity”. Yarning Strong consists of 20 books - fiction novels, graphics novels and anthologies, all written by Indigenous authors. The anthologies include bush tucker recipes, plays, poems, songs, artwork, cartoons, maps, and an extract from Kevin Rudd’s ‘Apology’ speech. In the novel Jali Boy by Ricky Macourt, Jali is sent to boarding school in the city, and finds life harder than he could have imagined, but discovers that he is a warrior at heart. In the novel Chainsaw File by Bruce Pascoe, Tyrone is suspended from school for arguing about Australian history with his teacher. He gets a job on a building site with his Dad and learns there’s more than one way to be a hero for his people. The series is organised into modules for ease of access by teachers: Law, Identity, Family and Land. The activities for each module promote critical literacy, reciprocal teaching and literature circles.

“Since I was a teenager I’ve been concerned and ashamed about the treatment of Indigenous people, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve been aware of the lack of progress towards reconciliation.”

The student books are supported by a comprehensive teachers’ guide with lesson plans for each book and specific assessment ideas linked to the language, literacy and literature strands in the new Australian English curriculum.

Also speaking at the launch, Chris Sarra, Executive Director of The

The DVD and CD-ROM provide an opportunity to hear firsthand from

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four Aboriginal people, as well as providing some historical background information suitable for research purposes. Kaye says teachers often steer clear of tackling Aboriginal matters in the classroom due to lack of confidence and information. “The teachers’ guide provides pedagogical references, background information on such things as sensitive issues, correct terminology and Aboriginal languages. “The DVD faces head-on many of the questions that are often considered too politically incorrect to ask.” One of the presenters on the CDROM and DVD is Larissa Behrendt, a Eualeyai and Kamilaroi woman who holds a Doctorate of Law from Harvard Law School and is Professor of Law at the Sydney University of Technology. She also authors the novel Crossroads featured in the Law module. The Yarning Strong series focuses on embedding the cross curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures in all learning areas, as required by the Australian Curriculum. The project has been guided by a national advisory committee of Indigenous educators who ensured the editorial approach was culturally appropriate but backed by sound pedagogy. The series is aimed at the upper primary and middle years student, Sally Morgan, artist and writer of My Place, and member of the Palyku tribe in Western Australia, says in the foreword that the series aims to reach


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by Fred Penny

European and Indian You look Asian, Pakistani, Jim and even Mario They call you Joe, John, e and any other scene You’re into Rock, Rap, Regga sion and hear it on the radio You watch it on the televi

“This lack of personal contact has contributed to a number of misconceptions in the wider community about the lives and cultures of Indigenous people.

to us some language” They say to you, “Speak ’ ’bout man? You say, “What you talkin I am speakin’ my language man”

“Unfortunately these misconceptions sometimes manifest in intolerant attitudes, which deepen rather than dispel stereotypes about anthology • 15 Indigenous Australia.

you’re in between You’re stuck on a fence, tell you “Be like a Black man” they be seen And when you do and can y, your way’s not true” They say, “Go away, Black

Vernon Ah Kee

road is hard Let me tell you people the , be free But be yourself, be proud even though they’ve tried They will not break you Take pride in who you are You are the Urba-rigini!

“A number of the stories and themes in this series address the impact intolerant views and racist behaviour can have.

14 • identity

sorry ... more than a word

the lens of his camera.

13 February 2008

the Prime minister’s sorry speech

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t is time to reconcile. It is time to recognise the injustices of the past. It is time to say

Wayne says “It was one of Australia’s most defining moments as a nation and is still

sorry. It is time to move forward together.

as fresh and vibrant in my mind as the day I photographed it.”

as Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry.

To the stolen generations, I say the following:

The photographs from this memorable day were featured in an exhibition one year on, to celebrate the first anniversary

On behalf of the government of Australia,

of the Apology. Wayne says, “I hope the ‘Sorry ... more than a word’ exhibition reminds people that as a nation we have a responsibility to continue the journey of Reconciliation.”

I am sorry.

Wayne Quilliam’s exhibition photographs are featured on the following pages.

I am sorry. On behalf of the parliament of Australia, I offer you this apology without qualification.

generations and their families: to those here today, so many of you; to those listening across the nation—from Yuendumu, in the central west of the Northern Territory, to Yabara, in North Queensland, and to Pitjantjatjara in South Australia. I know that, in offering this apology on behalf of the government and the parliament, there is nothing I can say today that can take away the pain you have suffered personally.

We apologise for the hurt, the pain and

Whatever words I speak today, I cannot undo that.

suffering that we, the parliament, have caused

Words alone are not that powerful; grief is a

you by the laws that previous parliaments have

very personal thing.

enacted. We apologise for the indignity, the degradation and the humiliation these laws embodied. We offer this apology to the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters, the families and the communities whose lives were ripped apart by the actions of successive governments under successive parliaments. In making this apology, I would also like to speak personally to the members of the stolen

24 • identity

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“Many non-Indigenous families have never met an Indigenous person, nor have they had the opportunity to experience first-hand meaningful aspects of Indigenous culture,” Sally writes.

and sometimes white You are black, you are brown and even blue Eyes of brown, black, green not just right You are short, fat, thin but thin and hooky too Big damper nose, pencil

As the official photographer for the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous People on February 13. 2008, Wayne Quilliam captured the spirit of the nation through

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out to young people.

The a-rigini Urb

Wayne Quilliam, NAIDOC 2009 Artist of the Year is recognised as one of Australia’s most influential photographers in both the Indigenous and mainstream world.

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“They provide teachers with an excellent opening for guided classroom discussions about sensitive matters.”

I talk same like you, White

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I ask those non-Indigenous Australians listening today who may not fully understand why what we are doing is so important to imagine for a moment that this had happened to you. I say to honourable members here present: imagine if this had happened to us. Imagine the crippling effect. Imagine how hard it would be to forgive. My proposal is this: if the apology we extend today is accepted in the spirit of reconciliation, anthology • 25

“They provide teachers with an excellent opening for guided classroom discussions about such sensitive matters.” IEU Indigenous Advisor Diat Callope welcomes the initiative and says a number of IEU members contributed to the series, including Lisa Buxton, a Catholic Education Aboriginal Advisor, who was on the consultative committee and the writing team for the lesson plans in the teachers’ guide. Details and orders: www.oup.com.au, or call 1300 650 616.

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Open space learning T

meeting modern needs or repeating past mistakes?

here is no mistaking a movement when you see one. Schools across the country are busy refurbishing buildings, dismantling walls and traditional age-based class groupings and moving en masse into large open learning spaces. Is this simply a case of ‘retrofying’ education along with our home furnishings and wardrobes - a return to the interesting but ultimately shelved approaches of the 70s — or is this movement part of a well thought out redesign of learning spaces to meet modern learning and teaching needs? Cathy HICKEY and David FORBES look at the pros and cons.

How teachers plan and deliver effective educational experiences will somehow get worked out along the way.

It could be argued that Whitby’s rhetoric characterises the ‘change the environment and changes in behaviour will follow’ approach.

What has added controversy to the mix is the decision by two very large NSW diocesan Catholic Education Offices, first the Parramatta CEO and more recently Sydney CEO, to make a wholesale move to big learning areas instead of separate classrooms.

This top down approach is often doomed to fail because teachers feel thrown into, and flounder in a new hostile environment in which they have had little say.

There has been much criticism over the last decade or so that the design of schools and classrooms lags behind the innovations in pedagogy and technology.

He believes that the reorganisation of the learning environment will encourage teachers to work together more and learn from each other, allowing students to move around more flexibly from station to station, task to task.

However, one could question whether the fast growing move to large open space or open plan environments is about finally recognising the link between education and architectural design, or about systems forcing a wholesale pedagogical change. Does radically altering the environment result in teachers working in teams together on child-centred, inquiry-based and individualised programming approaches?

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Parramatta CEO Greg Whitby promotes the approach by saying that teacher quality is the most important aspect of student learning and he wants to stop teachers working in isolation.

“Agile learning spaces enhance good teaching by enabling teachers to collaborate and reflect on their practice, in order to refine their practice,” Mr Whitby says. “Agile learning spaces won’t benefit poor practice, so the focus must be on the learning and teaching occurring within these spaces, not just on the spaces themselves.

It is not that they are opposed to the underlying pedagogical concepts, but without appropriate preparation and planning, the environment can become dysfunctional and chaotic, student’s learning fragmented and teachers’ working lives stressful. At the same time, there are many Australian schools which individually have made similar radical changes to the learning environment of their students through more organic, bottom up processes. The structure of learning and student grouping is more flexible and adaptive, physical environments better suit the nature of learning activities, and team planning and teaching are supported by the time and financial resources. IE has certainly featured such schools in previous editions (‘Flexible Learning, No walls, no restrictions at Mernda’ IE V.40 #2 2010).


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Open space learning - the pros There is no denying that we are living in a rapidly changing world and as a consequence schools are faced with some real challenges. For a long period of time school design remained unchanged, based on the factory model, but now we see a trend where schools are reconceptualising their approach to teaching and learning and their physical spaces. The contemporary school is being characterised by a variety of open learning spaces, flexible furniture, ICT and a number of rich resources. Open learning spaces have built-in flexibilty in design and they aren’t restricted by walls. Today, particularly with the introduction of ICT, schools are looking at using more open and flexible spaces. Schools can use spaces to empower their students to want to learn anywhere and anytime. Students take more responsibility for their learning and movement. Schools are endeavouring to cater for students’ differing learning styles. In doing this there is a real attempt to personalise learning. Students and teachers work together. In this model students are able to move to areas where they can use resources that assist them to find the information they require. This model of learning is more than a teacher and student directed learning experience, it is about taking students from what they know and helping them make meaningful connections. The open environment can provide a strong sense of connectedness between learners. It allows many opportunities for cross-age tutoring and multi-age learning. The fact that the learners have to share these spaces and resources 11


“While these types of environments provide wonderful stimulus for learning they do not suit all staff or children.”

promotes a strong sense of social responsibility and enhances relationships within the school. The challenges of this design and accompanying pedagogy are many. A committed school staff is needed to make it successful. There are many planning and assessment issues that need to be discussed, teased out and sorted to keep track of the learning for individuals. Teachers have to be prepared to be flexible and open to the challenges of this environment and to work closely with their colleagues at all levels. As this approach requires intensive professional development, ICT rich resources and specific furniture and fittings, appropriate funding is a necessity.

Big responsibility The issue of increased teacher workload can become a problem as staff take on the shared responsibility for a larger group of learners rather than simply their own class. To make all this work, a team must collaborate to meet the needs of their students and be prepared to share the workload of planning and assessment. Teams need to have timetabled release together. While these types of environments provide wonderful stimulus for learning they do not suit all staff or children. Plans have to be put into place to support teachers and there should be some provision for the use of smaller, less public spaces in the school. This issue is one for the school leadership as they go about meeting the needs of members within their school community. David Forbes is a VIEU Officer and former principal.

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Avoiding the mistakes of the past One of the driving forces for educators and education organisations is improving learning outcomes for all students and effectively identifying and responding to student learning needs. To meet this challenge schools are striving to connect student centred learning, leading teaching practice and innovative learning spaces. How these central connections are made, however, is critical to success. The decision by the Parramatta Catholic Education Office to implement large open plan learning environments on a system wide basis gives us a timely opportunity to examine issues as they arise in schools, particularly in a top down model of change. However before we look to today, the famous quote on history springs to mind: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. So, let’s start with the past and one principal’s reminiscence.

He says: “For classroom teachers, the open plan classroom was akin to positioning a newly-designed open cockpit of a 747 jet in the passenger compartment surrounded by 250 exuberant, noisy customers and ordering the pilot to fly the plane with patience, empathy and skill. “For many children it was a loud, chaotic, confusing nightmare. Teacher stress levels rose dramatically, mainly because of the noise, the interruption, and the confusion of housing so many children in one space. “Diverse teaching styles, effective in self-contained classrooms, often proved inappropriate in this throng of lively youngsters. “Some special programs had to be radically altered or moved into storerooms in order to contain the noise level.

The past

“It wasn’t long before distraught teachers appeared in droves at principals’ doors pleading for walls or partitions …. gradually the gurus at head office were forced to eat crow.”

Former Ontario Principal Dr David McDonald worked for three of his 20-year career as manager of an open plan school.

Extract taken from article Lurching from Fad to Fad by Dr David McDonald, Organisation for Quality Education, December 1997.


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The present Teachers involved in the recent open plan implementation have alerted the NSW/ACT Independent Education Union to three major issues: the lack of consultation on the ground with teachers; a lack of appropriate preparation and planning leading into the significant change; and high levels of noise and distraction. In a survey conducted by the Union the following comments were typical of the issues raised. In an eerie, back-to-the-future way, they echo the very concerns remembered by Dr McDonald. n Lack of consultation: “We had several days of discussion regarding the open plan classroom curriculum. However, I would not call it ‘genuine’ as our concerns and ideas were not listened to or heard”. n Lack of targeted professional development: “We have been focusing on ‘improving learning outcomes’ but no-one seems to know anything about how to effectively manage large numbers of students in an open learning space”. n Loss of job satisfaction: “I honestly have never felt so disappointed, so disheartened, so depressed, so frustrated, so helpless or so strongly about anything in my life! I have felt very undervalued and my 22 years experience has counted for nothing this year”.

negative. The teachers … really have tried everything. So far, to no avail”.

are ignored. Implementation is only the beginning!

n Concern for special needs students: “Hearing impaired students in particular are at a greater disadvantage”. “This is the worst possible learning environment for students with disabilities and learning difficulties.” “It is extraordinarily difficult [for them] to cope.”

Learning for the future

n Teacher’s health issues: “More stress, unhappy coming to work and considering career change after very little time spent in teaching”. “Constant sore throat, anxiety levels higher, more arguments between staff.” “I find I am constantly on patrol rather than interacting and teaching. I feel like a jail warden”. n Lack of OHS procedures: “We have fought for sound proofing — amongst other things — all to no avail”. “The school OHS policy doesn’t mention agile learning spaces. There is nothing specific to open space areas”. In Victoria, the Union deals with similar issues. Even in schools where the implementing of open plan learning has, in the experience of most staff, been successful and rewarding, these comments reflect the concerns of some disenfranchised staff, often more recently employed, who in the end resign because they feel their issues of noise and fragmentation of learning

What we should take from experience, both past and present, is that properly connecting innovative teaching practice with learning spaces, and authentic, high quality support for teachers throughout change processes are central to success. A useful resource in this area is a publication produced by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development entitled Pedagogy and Space: Transforming Learning through Innovation. It outlines the key steps and looks at supporting processes necessary at each step. n Step 1 Data - Know the learning needs of students n Step 2 Invest in knowledge, understanding, skills and practices n Step 3 Determine the function and design of learning spaces This seems a simple enough recipe for success — let’s bank on getting it right! Cathy Hickey is the VIEU Education and Policy Officer.

n Compromised student learning outcomes: “A lot of wasted time, more difficult for resourcing, less work completed”. “Harder with the numbers of students and tracking is impossible. Constant changing of groups and teachers means that the teacher and group can’t continue or stay on a topic if required for student’s benefit”. n Distracted behaviour: “Too many distractions, too noisy”. “There has been a sharp increase in disruptive behaviour… the children’s focus/ attention has drifted... Their efforts have decreased, their motivation has waned and their overall work attitudes and application has shifted into the 13


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One in, all in Inclusion kit A

new resource developed by community groups, educators and the Victorian branch of the Independent Education Union helps schools raise awareness and increase the participation of all in school life, writes IE Journalist Tara de BOEHMLER. Have you ever noticed that student whose absences coincide with school excursions or who shies away from special events? Common Ground, Common Good: Responding to the challenges of social inclusion in Catholic school communities, launched in May, is helping schools identify when a family’s socioeconomic status is impacting the ability of a student to fully embrace the school experience. The kit shows schools how to improve their practices and do something about it. “It’s about inclusion and exclusion, and it’s about getting people to understand the difficulties some families face,” says VIEU Officer Peter Moran. Peter says students experiencing hardship at home can hide it well. You might spot a faded or incomplete uniform, but when they withdraw from events and programs they fear are too expensive, even their families may be none the wiser. For others, it may be their families making the call. A coalition of stakeholders, including VIEU, the Catholic Education Office Melbourne, Good Shepherd Youth and Family Services, Brigidine Secondary Schools Council, Australian Catholic University and Catholic Social Services Victoria, have been tackling the issue via workshops for principals, bursars and others involved in decision-making and policy development. The coalition, Meeting Point, finds these events well received. But they are 14

often followed by requests for more resources.

is getting a full and equal opportunity to learn.”

“The social inclusion kit we have now developed includes a practical handbook to assist schools to more fully identify the composition of their school community and use this knowledge to review policies and practices,” Peter says.

As a member of the Meeting Point committee, Anne says she has used the kit with staff and parents and it has even inspired a different approach to fundraising for building projects.

“It’s an opportunity for staff to test the reality against what they imagine to be the case. We do this through a range of exercises that can have surprising results.” One activity, called a ‘Power Walk’, involves each staff member choosing one of a series of cards summarising the income, nationality, health, age and gender of a fictional character. They answer a range of questions by stepping forwards, backwards or staying put. By the end of the task there is often a clear line down the middle of the class. “The exercise is a powerful awareness raiser and many people find it quite profound, to go through and witness the results first-hand,” Peter says. The kit also contains exercises to help calculate the total cost of schooling, case studies for reflection, national and international principles, conventions and declarations, and ideas for working with low-income families. “We need to ensure school policies are truly inclusive and do not leave families embarrassed or excluded.”

Full picture Principal Anne Garvey of St Bernadette’s Primary School, Sunshine, North Victoria, says it is important for a school to have a “full picture” of a child’s needs when teaching them. “This helps us to make sure everyone

“Instead of getting families to fund a brick and putting their name on it, it was suggested we do a sausage sizzle to fund bricks from every family. We are also limiting our fundraising activities to one or two per term. “Social inclusion is not just about money. It is about belonging.” Anne says the resource also provides school communities with an opportunity to ‘map’ the issue more broadly. “It gets us asking ‘what does school inclusion look like in our car park, in the staffroom, at parents and friends meetings, in the playground and even in the way we speak and behave?’ “This is not just about the inclusion of students but the whole school community.”

Unique approaches Peter says there are many examples of schools addressing inclusion as an issue, and coming up with unique and successful approaches. Some recognise that a composite fee instead of smaller expenses throughout the year works best. Others might use events such as Anti-Poverty Week to roll out awareness-raising exercises, which can map the way to positive change. One initiative by the Brigidine order involves a relief fund that school communities can donate to, which is used to support families for whom inclusion is an issue. Schools contribute 10 per cent of any surplus and a number of teachers and staff


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members make regular voluntary donations to the fund via salary sacrifice. Brigidine Secondary Schools Council’s Michael Doyle says Victorian Catholic primary schools have already received the social inclusion kit and it is now being distributed to the State’s Catholic secondary schools. But he says the resource could be used in any school, regardless of sector.

“The strongest predictor of outcomes is the socio-economic status of families and the biggest challenge we face is breaking that correlation.”

“The kit can be used in any context. In its current form it’s more focused on Catholic schools, with the rationale explained in the context of responding to Christian values. “But the activities are not designed uniquely for Catholic or Christian schools. They could be used in any setting.”

Universal issue Michael says even relatively affluent school settings have pockets of disadvantage within them. “You can’t generalise and say, ‘because we’re in a middle class setting everyone is well off and we don’t have to worry about these issues of access or affordability’. “The strongest predictor of outcomes is the socio-economic status of families and the biggest challenge we face is breaking that correlation.” Peter says an important aspect of approaches inspired by the resource is that actions are taking place “in such a way that maintains families’ dignity.” “Schools rarely mean to exclude. It’s a matter of raising awareness levels and understandings about what some families and students are going through and developing supportive school policies and practices.” The next step for Meeting Point is to develop the Common Ground, Common Good: Responding to the challenges of social inclusion in Catholic school communities kit as an online resource. To find out more contact pmoran@ vieu.org.au.

Top: Meeting Point launches the Common Ground, Common Good: Responding to the challenges of social inclusion in Catholic school communities social inclusion kit. Bottom: Workshop participants demonstrate the Power Walk.

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‘Gen nets’ wary of online exams

“It’s such a high stakes thing for them, they have to be sure it’s going to work.”

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ne would expect today’s tech savvy students to relish the concept of online exams, but it may not be that simple, writes IE Journalist Sue Osborne. In NSW, the Board of Studies has been grappling with the idea of students taking both School Certificate (SC) and High School Certificate (HSC) exams online for some years. While there is no political imperative to establish online exams, the Board itself feels the need to stay in step with the times. “It is reasonable to assume that, as the use of computers and digital technology increases in both study and the workplace, students will expect to see those changes reflected in the exam setting,” Carol Taylor, Chief Executive of the NSW BoS says. Similar to online marking, online testing could lead to cost efficiencies

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and a more streamlined system in general. In NSW all Year 10 students now undertake the Computer Skills Test online. Ms Taylor says it has taken several years to develop the applications, input systems at schools, receiving systems at the Board and human resources to support this exam.

Pilot project Last year a pilot project was conducted in which 23 government and non-government schools could offer the School Certificate English Literacy test online. Only 400 students opted to do it, about 10 per cent of the candidature. A Board exit poll found those who opted for the exam were mostly touch typers who had a computer at home. The pilot is continuing this year, with the Board comparing results of students who take the exam online


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and with pen and paper, particularly focusing on equity issues. There are also studies underway on how technology can assist students with a disability during exams. What is becoming apparent to the Board and others is that the introduction of online exams is not as simple as it sounds. There are logistic, technical and philosophical challenges ahead.

Clicking and cramping In a case study undertaken in 2009 the University of Tasmania developed an online exam for students in its Bachelor of Education program. Twelve per cent of students taking the exam complained about the loud noise of their fellow students tapping on the keyboard. One said: “The noise of the clicking of keyboards was very distracting. The sound makes you feel rushed”. Another student said: “This was great! I can type much faster than I can write and no hand cramps!” Yet another commented: “I am a bit of a Luddite. Also I can’t type. So instantly I felt at a disadvantage”.

“They said they’d prefer to take exams with pen and paper. It was almost like they didn’t want testing interfering with their territory.” Larry says students are just as wary as many teachers might be of the new approach.

“What about handwriting? How are markers influenced when they are confronted with an exam written in hard-to-read handwriting compared to typed text? “Touch typists also have an advantage compared to slow typists.

He recommends a long lead-in of mock online exams to allow both teachers and students to become accustomed to the idea, before real exams begin.

“It’s a different type of pedagogy when you’re working on a computer, and we have to be careful we’re not marking computer skills over knowledge of the subject.”

The Board already provides an online multiple choice practice test that draws on questions from previous HSCs and SCs.

The Board seems to be taking these kinds of concerns into account and adopting a ‘suck it and see’ approach.

Ms Taylor says this provides a popular resource for students, as well as a test bed for technology.

High stakes Larry says exams are “such a high stakes thing” for students, they have to be sure taking them online is going to work. “They are afraid of change as much as anyone. “When we have NAPLAN exams or other exams we do them with a pen and paper, so we could end up with a bifurcated system if SC and HSC exams are online.” Equity is critical too.

These university students may be older than ‘generation net’, as current school age-students are sometimes called. But English Teacher, IEU Rep to the Board and former HSC Marking Supervisor Larry Grumley has heard similar comments from school students.

“It a student has no computer at home, or the school is disadvantaged and has few computers, where does that leave the student when he or she sits down in front of a computer for what might only be the third or fourth time ever to take an exam?

“I asked my students whether they would like to take exams online and they told me computers were ‘their thing’, and it would not be right to use them for exams.

“Another issue is that kids spend so much time texting and using that language, when they are online they might automatically fall into that mode.

Apart from student attitudes, the logistics of making sure all schools have the technological capacity to participate equally in the process is a huge one. A technological group and a reference group are responding to these challenges and developing projects to test various issues. “The partnership formed between the education sector and the Board is critical in developing and executing these projects,” Ms Taylor says. No firm timeline exists for the introduction of online SC and HSC exams. The Board will continue to gather data that “brings the objective closer”.

References Fluck A, Pullen D & Harper C 2009 A Case Study of a Computer-based Examination System, Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25 (4) 509-523, University of Tasmania.

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Shock value – controversial texts building resilience

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s there a place for classroom texts dealing with controversial issues? RMIT Senior Literacy Lecturer Julie Faulkner tells IE Journalist Tara de BOEHMLER that not only are such stories helpful educationally, they can be vital on a personal level. The book Smithereens, edited by Richard Baines and published by Oxford University Press, has been used as a classroom resource since the late 1990s. But when a complaint from a parent inspired a sudden media frenzy earlier this year, many heard of it for the first time. For Dr Faulkner, it was an opportunity to use the text and surrounding controversy as a workshop exercise for her English method students, who share a collective interest in issues of text selection and engagement. “What was interesting in terms of a media issue was how few who were commenting had actually read the book in question. The editor was an English teacher and in Smithereens he presents a series of short stories that he says have the power to shock and challenge.” 18

In the introduction Baines describes a Smithereen: “Smithereens are small. They fly through the air. Things get blown to smithereens. A Smithereen can be dangerous. It is the same with these short short stories. Small is beautiful. Short is beautiful. But only if something important happens in that small space and short time. Some of these stories are shocking. Others are challenging. Some leave the reader slightly bruised. They are smithereens.” The main complaint about Smithereens concerned a short story, ‘Sticks and Stones’ by Annii Miethke, dealing with a teenager’s suicide. It is followed by an exercise asking readers to imagine the character could have written a message to her parents and friend, and then to compose that note themselves, making them different in subject matter and tone. “Smithereens is meant for students in Years 5 to 9 but I do believe it is more for Years 8 and 9. The way I present it to my Senior Literacy students, using extra-textual framing, we acknowledge everyone will read it differently according to age, socio-economic background, level of education, experiences and current circumstances.

“Much of the media coverage regarding Smithereens was based on an assumption of very innocent 13-year-olds being corrupted by teachers who choose this text. But it is teachers’ responsibility to know their students and how they will be reading, which is why they probably would not get them to read something like this in the first week of Term 1.” Dr Falkner says the suggested notewriting task is an exercise in purpose and audience, but that exercises can be modified to suit a particular classroom’s context. “Teachers could ask students to write something that might change [the main character] Nola’s outcome, ie ‘What would you like her parents and friend to know?’ They could create a dialogue to make people feel more connected. “This is not just about literacy. Engagement is fundamental. You have a cohort of digitally engaged students and it is a challenge for English teachers to engage them in text. “It is also helpful for teenage students who can have fears about what is happening to them because,


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“Childhood is not about being wrapped in cotton wool. Plenty of young people live in abusive households or experience difficulties.”

when texts dealing with topics like these are well taught, they can build resilience.”

“Effect Theory says audiences are like sponges and if you introduce ideas they will absorb them.

Criteria leaves room for creativity

Texts dealing with anorexia or bullying are examples of these.

“But reading is about coconstructing. It is a socially negotiated process in which the role of the teacher is to challenge, critique and reflect and to encourage their students to do the same.”

The Victorian Association for the Teaching of English (VATE) website details criteria for educators to use when selecting texts, including:

“Childhood is not about being wrapped in cotton wool. Plenty of young people live in abusive households or experience difficulties. A lot of the media around controversial texts is about adults feeling uncomfortable rather than the students. “English is a powerful subject because it speaks to their lives. In that sense, learning to read deeply is a tool for living.” Dr Faulkner has had her own experiences of presenting difficult subject matters in class. At one stage a poem dealing with death was presented to a Year 12 class after a student’s family member had committed suicide. It’s another example of individual students’ experiences impacting the way they process texts and it emphasises the responsibility of teachers to be alert to this.

Dr Faulkner says it is the responsibility of teachers is to know their students but involving the wider community can assist on many levels.

n That the texts allow students to develop a critical appreciation of the craft and aesthetics of language and to experience the enjoyment and pleasure offered by reading.

“I used to run a book club for parents when I was teaching Year 12, which helped them to understand what texts were chosen, why and how we would be approaching particularly controversial ones.

n That the texts have intellectual merit. That the ideas and issues explored in the texts, in addition to being appropriate to the relevant age group, be significant, challenging and complex.

“You can also have all kinds of discussions with colleagues. You and your students only stand to benefit from involving others.

n That the texts be accessible to as wide a range of students as possible within a particular year level and class. That the language of the texts and the ideas explored in the texts be comprehensible to as many students as possible.

“Ultimately, it’s about what you teach and how you teach it.” Dr Julie Faulkner is a Senior Literacy Lecturer at RMIT and a former high school English teacher.

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“History is a story, told by many storytellers, that links the past to the present. Through an understanding of their own and others’ stories, students develop an appreciation of the richness of the past and its implications for the future.” (Shape of the Australian Curriculum: History 2009)

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Messages from the battlefront

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ow better to bring wartime history to life than by presenting students with touching letters, photos and other mementos exchanged between mother and son, husband and wife or others during conflict, writes IE Journalist Sue Osborne. Forever Yours, Stories of Wartime Love and Friendship is a new education resource produced by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Australian War Memorial, for primary students. We’ll Meet Again – Australian Stories of Love in Wartime is a companion publication aimed at secondary students. The resources provide insight into the personal experience of war from the perspective of the relationships forged, separated, broken or lost in wartime. Forever Yours features 10 touching stories illustrating the love of a husband and wife shared in letters and photos, a mother’s love for her son

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detailed in the pages of her personal diary, the everlasting bond between brothers after one dies in battle and the love formed between a man and a woman from opposite sides of the world. There’s even the story of Corporal Adam Exelby and his explosive detection dog Kylie. We’ll Meet Again uses many of the same resources but includes learning activities and opportunities for further study using the inquiry method and source documents. “These resources have perfectly captured the personal stories of love and loss experienced by the family and friends of our servicemen and women distanced by war,” Veterans Affairs Minister Warren Snowden says. “We want today’s students to have an understanding of, and an empathy for, the sacrifice of our servicemen and women, and to be grateful that it was their sacrifice that has given us the freedoms that we enjoy today.”


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“Letters from home! Who can imagine what it meant to us?” Wartime history is an important part of the Federal Government’s new Australian Curriculum. Authors Heather Tregoning-Lawrence and Robyn Siers say in the introduction to We’ll Meet Again “personal stories are revealed by exploring some of the beautiful and evocative objects, images and works of art found in the National Collection of the Australian War memorial”. Human Society and its Environment Coordinator at Regents Park Christian School and IEU Member Ron Inglis says Forever Yours is “yet another high quality publication for schools produced by the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs. “The resource provides many sources to engage the interest of secondary students and the text is most suitable for this age group. “History teachers will find Forever Yours to be most valuable for lessons in Australian history and for exploring the themes of love, separation and war.” The material is largely drawn from the Of Love and War exhibition, elements of which can be found online at www.awm.gov.au/ exhibitions/loveandwar/indexasp.” For more information about the resources, see www.dva.gov.au/ commems_oawg/commemorations/education/Pages/education resources.aspx.

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Coping with childhood cancer in the classroom “Young people with cancer find it easier to return to school if relationships with their friends have been maintained throughout their absence.”

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hen a child is diagnosed with cancer the impact is not only felt by the child, but also their friends, peers, teachers and school communities, writes IE Journalist Fiona STUTZ. Students will have many questions, concerns and emotions to deal with upon hearing such news. The role a teacher plays in ensuring their class is reassured and educated is important. The teacher also plays a crucial role in facilitating a smooth transition back into the classroom for a child with cancer. However, how does a teacher learn to come to terms with their own attitudes and beliefs while at the same time providing the necessary support and information for the students and the child with cancer? Individuals have different coping strategies when they find out someone they know has cancer. 22

When that person is a child, students and teachers alike need help to adjust to the impact of a cancer diagnosis.

Teachers themselves may find it daunting to deal with the child’s diagnosis of cancer.

With the right information and support, school communities can be confident that they have the right tools to understand what is happening and the education of the child can continue.

The Cancer Council Queensland Understanding Childhood Cancer A Handbook for All Teachers is a valuable resource to help teachers gain an understanding of childhood cancer to help them deal with the difficulties faced by a child with this diagnosis.

Supporting the classmates All students will have certain feelings about a classmate who has cancer. Students may be fearful of the disease or afraid to communicate with the sick child, adding to the difficulties and isolation already being experienced (Cancer Council Queensland 2011). Communicating as openly and honestly as possible with the students, giving them the opportunity to voice their concerns or ask questions and even planning a lesson about cancer will help them understand what is going on with their classmate.

The handbook explains that, with permission from the parents, a teacher can gather information in order to understand the effects of the type of cancer and treatment to be undertaken, and what information they would like shared with the class. “The child’s class will be concerned about their friend’s condition and they need to be given appropriate information about cancer and to be prepared for the return to school” (Cancer Council Queensland 2011). The class can establish and maintain contact with their classmate in


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hospital or at home during this time. This will ensure the respect, support and understanding when the child returns to school. “Young people with cancer find it easier to return to school if relationships with their friends have been maintained throughout their absence” (The Cancer Council NSW 2011). San Sisto College Guidance Counsellor Kyra Greisbach said the Brisbane school has processes in place so that when a member of the community is affected, they encourage students to design and/or write cards to ill students.

Settling back into school When a child returns to the classroom they will need assistance, both academically and personally. Teachers need to have realistic expectations of the child, according to the Cancer Council of Queensland handbook, and be kept informed of their medical needs and effects of treatment. Special considerations in exams and assignment deadlines may also be needed. “This may include providing catch-up work in different key learning areas, organising an in-class buddy (who can help with note taking or recording assignment due dates) or adjusting homework assignments and deadlines” (The Cancer Council NSW 2011). The teacher should also be aware of the psychological effect of cancer and be prepared to deal with these issues, such as emotional difficulties, anxiety, peer relationship difficulties and school work frustration (McDougal S, 1997).

“Thus, it is critical that a comprehensive plan involving the family, peers, the teacher, and the school psychologist be implemented for the school reintegration process of a child with cancer.”

When a parent has cancer When a parent has cancer, the child may display changes in their behaviour, school performance and social relationships (The Cancer Council NSW, 2011b). The student may want to talk to a teacher about their feelings, and should be allowed flexible deadlines or extra tutoring. It is important that the school and their teacher can assist in any way possible.

Helpful tips The Cancer Council has online resources for each state to help teachers understand childhood cancer for the classroom. Explanations of childhood cancers, helpful tips to provide educational support in hospital and at school, ways of integrating the child back at school and a list of community organisations that can provide information about cancer and resources for schools, such as CanTeen, Camp Quality and Redkite, is outlined in the handbooks. Every year Cancer Council Queensland runs a free professional development seminar designed to help educators support children and young adults through a personal or family-related cancer diagnosis within a school setting.

for educators to be aware of how to identify, help and refer young people for further support to ensure their wellbeing. Staff at San Sisto have attended these seminars and say they always find them helpful and responsive. With the right information and caring support, teachers and school communities can not only assist the child with cancer, but also their peers and friends as well.

References Cancer Council Queensland 2011, Understanding Childhood Cancer A handbook for all teachers, http://www. cancerqld.org.au/icms_docs/60437_ Understanding_Childhood_Cancer__A_ handbook_for_all_teachers.pdf McDougal S 1997, Children With Cancer; Effects and Educational Implications. Indiana University, http://www.ped-onc.org/cfissues/ backtoschool/cwc.html#anchor293767 The Cancer Council NSW 2011, When a Student has Cancer, http://www.cancercouncil.com. au/html/schoolsandcommunities/ schoolsandchildcare/cancerinschool/ downloads/chapter3_studenthascancer. pdf The Cancer Council NSW 2011, When a parent has cancer, http:// www.cancercouncil.com.au/ html/schoolsandcommunities/ schoolsandchildcare/cancerinschool/ downloads/chapter4_parenthascancer. pdf

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Gemma Ward says with many stressors associated with a cancer diagnosis, it is important 23


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A focus on leadership building capacity

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climate of increased educational accountability and community expectations is resulting in high levels of scrutiny on school leadership, writes Dr Mary OSKI from the Catholic Education Office Melbourne. National and state governments are defining more clearly than ever before the outcomes they expect from the school system at both primary and secondary levels. One of the many challenges this highlights is the nature of leadership preparation and succession planning. The increasing complexity of leadership demands the development of planned and systematic professional learning across the broadest spectrum (Ingvarson et al 2006). Within this context the case for preparing and developing principals is now critical and there is growing recognition that school leadership requires a different skills set from classroom teaching if leaders are to cope with their increasingly complex environment (Bush 2010). Two key developments initiated by the Catholic Education Office Melbourne (CEOM) have sought to address the issues related to leadership preparation and succession planning. The development in 2005 of the Leadership in Catholic Schools: 24

Development Framework and Standards of Practice (Leadership Standards Framework) developed in conjunction with the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER), was a critical foundation for subsequent innovations as they “capture a distinct set of agreed leadership practices for leaders in Catholic schools” (CECV 2005). The clear articulation of what constitutes effective leadership within a Catholic school was fundamental in addressing the varied needs of school leaders according to experience, career stage and context. The development of the web-based CEOM Leadership Continuum in 2007 provided the scaffolding for an authentic differentiated approach. The Leadership Continuum structures leadership learning opportunities according to six phases: n emerging leaders n established leaders n aspirant principals n initial principals n experienced principals, and n mentor principals. Upon the establishment of the continuum it became apparent that a significant gap in the offerings existed within the Aspirant Principal phase.

This was the catalyst for developing a new initiative entitled Rethink Aspiring to Principalship. This program was established in partnership with the CEOM Leadership Committee, representative of key stakeholders including primary and secondary principals, VIEU, ACU and a range of relevant CEOM personnel. The Leadership Committee was keen to pursue an approach to principal preparation aligned with international best-practice. This encouraged significant participant control over their own leadership learning, situated within their own school contexts (Piggot-Irvine 2011). The key to this approach was the development of leadership capabilities underpinned by the Leadership Standards Framework, created in collaboration with AtkinsonConsulting. The subsequent 11 leadership capabilities are outlined in the diagram (opposite) and provide the basis for a 360° leadership diagnostic tool. The Leadership Capability Index along with a Leadership Styles and Work Culture Index are the means by which robust feedback for effective leadership within a distinctive Catholic context is made available for aspirant principals.


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Importantly, the capabilities represent the minimum number of characteristics that make the greatest contribution to performance. Focusing development on those capabilities provides a significant opportunity to greatly improve performance (Atkinson Consulting 2008). Another important feature for the Aspiring Principal program was the inclusion of experienced principals within the learning context. One of the thrusts for developing future leaders should be through encouraging practising principals to act as role models and showcase their skills. The profession has an obligation and responsibility to become involved in peer assistance, mentoring and coaching to assist the development of new leaders (O’Mahony & Matthews 2003). Subsequently the key features of the program provide each participant with the opportunity to: n receive three rounds of 360° collegial feedback over time to provide an insight into their leadership capability, style and influence on the work culture of the school, n implement and monitor an individualised ‘on the job’ leadership learning plan which assists participants in their current role as well as preparing them for future roles

n shadow a principal other than their own within the second year, and n participate in workshops aligned with operational aspects related to applying for a principal position and the early demands of principalship. Since its inception in 2008 for the Archdiocese of Melbourne the program has expanded to embrace aspirant principals from across Victoria enabling the participation of senior school leaders from Ballarat, Sale and Sandhurst Dioceses. The increased number of participants has contributed to an enriched professional learning experience for participating Catholic school leaders. Approximately 160 aspirant principals have now been involved in the program and graduates are increasingly finding it a distinct advantage in seeking principalship positions. In the Archdiocese of Melbourne alone, 65 per cent of all first time principals in 2011 were graduates of the Aspiring to Principalship Program. The uptake of this initiative, in stark contrast to other contexts, both nationally and internationally, indicates a strong and healthy interest in principalship within the Catholic sector in Victoria.

References Atkinson Consulting, 2008 Handbook for Re:th!nk Aspiring to Principalship, CEOM, Melbourne. Bush T 2010 ‘Leadership development’. In: Bush T, Bell L and Middlewood D (eds) The Principles of Educational Leadership and Management, SAGE, London. Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Ltd (CECV) 2005 Leadership in Catholic Schools: Development framework and standards of practice, CECV, Melbourne. Ingvarson L, Anderson M, Gronn P & Jackson A 2006 Standards for School Leadership: A critical review of literature, Teaching Australia and Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, Melbourne. O’Mahony, G. & Matthews, R.J. 2003, ‘Learning the role: Through the eyes of beginning principals’, paper presented to the 84th Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago. Piggot-Irvine E, 2011 ‘Principal Development: Self-directed Project Efficacy’ in Educational Management Administration & Leadership, May 2011; vol. 39, pp. 283-295.

Dr Mary Oski is Leadership and Accountability Manager at the Catholic Education Office Melbourne.

Leadership capabilities for Catholic schools Thinking clearly ◗ critical enquiry ◗ evaluating analytically ◗ thinking ‘big picture’

Deliver outcomes ◗ living out the faith ◗ co-creating success ◗ achieving outcomes

Leading & inspiring ◗ creating clarity & purpose ◗ surfacing potential

Within each of these four domains there are a number of leadership capabilities

Engaging others ◗ listening + understanding ◗ influencing others ◗ fostering relationships

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A little help goes a long way

Maureen Stella, Principal St. Richard’s Primary School Kilsyth, Melbourne

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was initially made aware of the Rethink Aspirant Principal Program through a colleague who said it was a good way of clarifying your thoughts about the role of principalship. As I had just completed a two-year Masters degree in Educational Leadership, through Australian Catholic University, I was keen to continue learning about leadership. Partaking in the 360 degrees program gave me direction on how to improve my leadership skills. The feedback I received from the surveys provided me with clarity in the various aspects of leadership. This not only assists you as a leader but also with life skills which are transferable to your personal life. The Rethink Program was an opportunity to analyse data that directly related to how I saw myself as a leader and just as importantly, how others viewed my leadership.

It enabled me to challenge my own thinking and perceptions. The program provided me certainty that the career path of principalship was the one I wanted to undertake. The residential component of the program gave me the opportunity to network with other colleagues from not only the Melbourne diocese, but also from Sandhurst, Ballarat, Geelong and Sale. I was fortunate in being appointed Principal mid-way through this two-year leadership program and I am now participating in the CEO Principal Induction Program. I see the Aspirant Principal Program as an important step on the leadership journey (which never ends) and I am pleased to see a couple of my deputy principal friends participating in the program this year. There are many positives of this CEO Aspirant Principal Program and I would encourage aspirant leaders to consider taking up the opportunity.

Committed to building capacity

Barry McLellan Principal St. Benedict’s Primary School, Burwood, Melbourne

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am now in my 15th year as principal. I firmly believe that for a school to best meet the needs of our students, leadership needs to be distributed across the school. It is important that teachers who hold positions of leadership and other staff are encouraged and trusted to take on new roles within the school. One or two people cannot bring about or sustain consistent school improvement. A team working collaboratively can. In recent times our school has been involved in the Building Leadership Capacity Program and the Supporting and Creating a Performance and Development Culture Program. This has involved the school leadership team in offsite professional learning and initiatives including feedback, mentoring and customised individual learning plans for staff. Surveys taken before and after these programs indicate that staff see school leadership in a more favourable light. Over the last three years I have been involved in the Shadow Principal program. On two separate occasions deputy 26

principals have shadowed me for up to two days as I went about my normal duties. I found these opportunities most rewarding. Hopefully this experience will be valuable for our new leaders. One of the deputy principals has now moved onto principalship. The Shadow Principal program gives aspirant leaders a snapshot of the role and also some insight into how to manage complex demands. When we first become a principal there is so much to learn and this program enables some of this learning to occur before actually taking on the role. I believe that all of these activities have certainly enhanced the leadership capabilities of our staff and in the case of the Shadow Principal program, I would hope the leadership capabilities of staff at other schools. The overall aim, in my view, is to improve not only our school but in some way to assist other schools to improve. This is a process that, while sometimes demanding, is an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of the children and their families.


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Don’t judge a book by its cover

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oday’s libraries are about a lot more than just books technology is playing an increasingly crucial role. As libraries evolve, so does the role of the school library assistant. IE Journalist Fiona Stutz spoke with Toowoomba Grammar School Library Assistant Julie-Anne Crosby about the new demands of her job. Julie-Anne has seen many changes occur in school libraries over the years. Originally she worked with a card catalogue system that later gave way to a computerised system. Now her library uses a fully-integrated library and information management application. When she began as a library assistant 15 years ago there was no teacher librarian employed at the small Lockyer Valley school and she had to learn from scratch how to manually enter every resource into the library. Julie-Anne says this was a huge task, with only minimal help from a teacher librarian from a nearby school and volunteer parents. Books and card cataloguing has given way to interactive whiteboards, projectors, scanners and even digital cameras. As students learn new technologies and ways of utilising computer systems, library assistants go along for the ride.

Adapt and survive “I’ve adapted and learnt the new system and it’s fantastic. What computer systems can do makes it easier for staff and students to look up resources.

“You can have websites and you click on the link and it takes you straight through from the catalogue into a website. “It’s like anything, when you’re first trying to work out how to use it it’s all a bit daunting but once you’ve learnt what to do and know where you’re going it’s great. “And you’re learning all the time. You’re tracking around and then you think, ‘oh, hang on a minute, I think I’ve found a quicker way to do that’ and you’re constantly learning and upgrading your skills.” As the face of a school library, teacher assistants must be organised, able to multi-task and manage everything on a day-by-day basis.

Julie-Anne says her role can be demanding as her workload increases.

More training needed There’s also a lack of PD for library assistants. “You’re just supposed to pick up by osmosis new technology without being given any sort of formal training. There’s lots of aspects of this new system I still don’t know how to use.” Though regular PD may not occur at a school level, Julie-Anne is still willing to learn and holds a Certificate 3 in Library and Information Services and is studying for a Bachelor of Arts. “I’m finding a lot of what I do at uni I can translate and bring into the workplace.”

Carrying the load

Recognition

Julie-Anne says many library assistants and technicians take responsibility for teaching themselves about new technologies to further develop their knowledge.

“The unit that I’m doing at the moment is on public relations and a lot of the work you do in the library is public relations,” Julie-Anne says.

“You have to be motivated, inspired and interested in your job to keep doing that.” As a result, library assistants are often “pushed” into working at a much higher level; and in Julie-Anne’s case, essentially functioning as the library manager. “There seems to be more and more library technicians and assistants being pushed up into that library manager position and some schools no longer have librarians, so assistants are essentially working on their own. “If you are a library assistant and you are asked to do something, you just have to step up and do the best that you can.”

She would like to see the role of library assistants given more recognition. “We have to be seen as a paraprofessional. I know when I first started in this role you were thought of as a ‘dogsbody’ for teachers to run errands, to do their photocopying, to sit and read to students. “They are realising we can perform a lot of tasks and be very functional and helpful in the classroom and the library, so the role of the teachers aide in the library system has grown. “You should be recognised for what you give to your job, for your contribution, and certainly for your expertise, skills and knowledge.”

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Climate Connectors saying ‘Yes’ U

nions are calling on members in all industries to become Climate Connectors and drive the shift towards cleaner technologies while keeping big polluters in check, writes IE Journalist Tara de BOEHMLER. Union members by nature come together to build a better life, and their contribution to the environmental movement is well documented. The union movement’s current approach to tackling environmental challenges takes more than a leaf from the Your Rights At Work campaign. It’s about mobilising activists on a micro and macro level, keeping them informed and coordinating campaign resources. The Climate Connectors campaign was initiated in 2008 by the Queensland Public Sector Union with members who were its Your Rights at Work activists. “They were our base and we advertised it more generally as it became a much bigger thing across the country,” says campaign spokesperson and QPSU Officer Mitch Hart. “It’s exciting to see that it has now expanded to many more unions and, while the majority of connectors are in education or the public sector, other unions are taking it up more and more.” The current focus is putting a price on pollution, but Mitch says priorities will be different for each union, as will the approach. “For manufacturing unions it might 28

“Working together we can be more effective than a lone voice.”

be about supporting people in getting the skills to enter new industries and about industrially representing these workforces while, for public services, it’s about the increased pressure that will be placed on services as a result of climate change and the health impacts.” The Nurses Association has put out a ‘health report’ showing how climate change is a health issue and Mitch says mining unions understand that what motivates workers is “not that they love coal. But what they do love is well-paying unionised jobs”. “Unions need to talk to their members about this issue and to be on the front foot.” Mitch says teachers have a “really significant role to play”, with students potentially suffering the brunt of insufficient action in the future. “The pollution tax is the main game at the moment and it’s an important step in tackling this issue,” Mitch says. “We are encouraging people to have the conversation at work and engage on the issue of the policy changes around the pollution tax.” Mitch says this includes supporting working people through assistance if there are increased electricity costs and also through dollars that go into cleaner technologies and a just transition for workers. “Whatever union you are from it is important that you are speaking with your colleagues about it. Whatever hat you wear.” Find out more at www.climateconnectors.org

NSW/ACT IEU Member and Australian Catholic University Lecturer Marie Fisher is on the Union’s Environment Committee and is a Climate Connector. “I have always been concerned about the environment and like to consult with like-minded individuals about the best ways to approach government to ensure that the legacy we leave is a positive one. “By being a Climate Connector people can be involved by representing their community when critical policies like the carbon tax are on the agenda. Working together we can be more effective than a lone voice.” Marie has presented ideas for teaching climate change to the ACT Government and jointly run workshops about teaching climate change to young people.


technology

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here is a world of smart phone applications to assist the work of educators. NSW/ACT IEU Member and Teacher at McCarthy Catholic College Keith HEGGART shares his pick. Few people would deny the impact that the iPhone has had on the Australian public. More than 300,000 iPhones have been sold in Australia since its release, and one can only imagine the number of apps that have been downloaded from the app store in this time. There are plenty of other smart phones out there as well. It seems like every second teacher or student has a smart phone of some description. But are these phones just a flashy toy for playing music and games, or do they have any value for the busy teacher? One thing teachers don’t have a lot of is free time, so if these apps can help teachers plan lessons, take the roll, organise their day or deal with other bits of ‘administrivia’, I reckon they might just be worth the hefty price tag. Below, I discuss some of the apps that I’ve used and what I thought of them.

Educate There are a lot of apps out there that promise to replace your teacher’s chronicle but not many of them deliver.

The closest that I’ve found is Educate. Made by iKonstrukt, this app turns your iPhone into a handy tool for teachers. It allows you to import your timetable (customisable with the number of days and periods), take the roll for students and also email all of your students at the touch of a button. You can also store phone numbers for parents and guardians, and call them as well. The app has the potential for you to add grades to assignments, and you don’t have to worry about losing the data, because it will back up to google docs. Best of all, the app is free! Educate is available for iPhones, but there are rumours of an Android version coming soon.

Score A little bit simpler than Educate, Score is useful in a different way. Simply put, Score allows you to track scores for different groups. Let’s say you’ve got six groups in class, they are participating in a quiz, and you need an app to let you track each group’s score - well, this app will let you do just that. Score is available from the App Store for $1.19.

Dropbox

(found at www.dropbox.com) is an online file storage system that gives registered users 2GB of free space. Your dropbox is accessible anywhere you have the internet - including on your phone once you download this handy app. This means you can read documents and PDFs, watch film clips, even access music and image files from your phone at any time. Dropbox is free, and is available for both iPhones and Android phones. And some others you might want to look at: n iThoughts is a handy mind-mapping tool n Graph calc gives your iPhone all the functionality of a graphical calculator n Datewheel is a handy little app that tells you how many days until an event that you’ve entered n Edmodo is the app for the educational site of the same name n Scvngr creates online scavenger hunts for excursions n Remote turns your iPhone into a remote control for slideshows. Keith Heggart is an Apple Distinguished Educator. And yes, he uses these apps in his classroom.

This is a bit of a funny app because you need to use your computer with it to get the most out of it. Dropbox 29


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legal

Teachers and subpoenas: a brief guide M

any educators will encounter a subpoena (sometimes known as a ‘witness summons’) at some stage in their professional lives. Teachers in particular are commonly subpoenaed in family law disputes, and in child protection matters.

What is a subpoena? A subpoena is an order made by a court to compel the production of evidence. There are three types of subpoena: n subpoena to produce documents. n subpoena to attend Court and give evidence n subpoena to both attend Court and give evidence and produce documents. Failure to comply with a subpoena may amount to a contempt of court. When you receive a subpoena there are a number of questions to consider.

Has the subpoena been validly served? In many courts, service of a subpoena is not valid unless it is accompanied by ‘conduct money’ – a (small) amount intended to cover the cost of compliance. Check whether the subpoena was served in time. For example, in the County Court the subpoena must have been served four days prior to the court date. ‘Short service’ may mean that the subpoena is invalid.

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What do I have to do in order to comply? In the case of a subpoena to produce documents, the person to whom the subpoena is addressed has an obligation to take all reasonable steps to locate the relevant documents that are in his/her possession or control and produce them to the court by the date specified. The definition of a document is quite broad, and includes ‘any record of information’. This includes photographs as well as emails and other electronic records.

At whose request was the subpoena issued? The most useful point of contact in relation to a subpoena is usually the solicitor or person at whose request it was issued (‘the issuing party’). If you have been subpoenaed to attend court, it is worth a call to the issuing party beforehand to ensure that the case is proceeding as scheduled — it may be adjourned or may settle prior to the listed hearing date.

Do I want to object to the subpoena or seek to have it set aside? Do I have grounds to do so? There are a number of possible grounds for objection to a subpoena. They include: n the subpoena has been issued for

an improper purpose: for example to obtain documents in relation to another claim n compliance with the subpoena would impose an unreasonable burden, or the subpoena is too broad or uncertain n compliance may disclose identity of mandatory reporter. Evidence that identifies or is likely to lead to the identification of a person who made a mandatory report may only be lead with consent of the court or the consent in writing of the reporter n if a subpoena touches on a mandatory reporting issue, you should seek legal advice n disclosures made by sexual assault victims. If subpoenaed material contains or may contain disclosures of sexual assault made to a counsellor or medical practitioner, special considerations apply. Note that privacy in itself is not a basis for objection to a subpoena. However, it is sometimes possible to negotiate with the issuing party to redact or withhold sensitive information. If you wish to object to a subpoena it is important to obtain legal advice, as this is a technical and complex area. Never, ever ignore a subpoena. Mary Simpson, Senior Lawyer, Legal Services Unit, Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.


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Letter

Diary n NSW/ACT IEU Women’s Conference The IEU Women’s Conference on 19 August at the Mercure Hotel, Sydney, has the theme ‘Women and Equity – achievement and action in the IWD centenary year’. Keynote input at the conference will come from ACTU President Ged Kearney and from a panel which will consider past, present and future equity issues. Contact Pam Smith or Betty Tan on (02) 9779 3200 for further information or to register.

n Asia Pacific Autism Conference The Autism Association of Western Australia’s Asia Pacific Autism Conference runs from Thursday 8 September—Saturday 10 September at the Burswood Resort, Perth, A wide range of leading international and national speakers will come together to exchange ideas on current scientific findings and best-practice in working with children and adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Details: www.apac11.org

n Queensland Education Resources Expo Queensland Education Resources Expo is on Saturday, 10 September and Sunday, 11 September at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Southbank. Whether you are involved in early childhood, through to school level or higher education, the Expo will

reviews

to the editor

showcase innovative ideas, products and services to enhance your career and workplace. Visit www.quedrex.com.au for event details.

n NSW/ACT IEU Support Staff Conference The keynote speaker at this technologythemed conference, on Friday 16 September at the Mercure Hotel, Sydney, is Doug Ashleigh, Director of Knowledge Management and ICT from the Sydney Catholic Education Office. Doug will discuss emerging technologies in schools. Call Cassie Barnes on (02) 6623 4700 for details.

n NSW/ACT IEU Environment Conference Head of Planet Ark John Dee will be keynote speaker at the IEU’s Environment Conference on Friday 21 October at the Mercure Hotel, Sydney. John Dee is one of Australia’s most influential figures in the environment movement, and was 2010 NSW Australian of the Year. Call Iva Coric on (02) 9779 3200 for details.

Garrett out of tune In response to Peter Garrett’s wrong-headedness on standardised testing, I suggest that instead of a book-burning, all teachers who were once Midnight Oil fans get together for a CD, LP and cassette burning— with apologies to the other exmembers of the band. Yes, I still have a Midnight Oil cassette. The pressure to conform to Julia Gillard’s parrot-like mimicry of the New York schools model must be overwhelming in the Cabinet room. Mr Garrett’s description of reports that contradict the effectiveness of the NAPLAN testing regime as ‘not instructive’, is arrogant, hypocritical and a distortion of the truth: come in spin-doctor. How can we sleep while our beds are burning? US forces give the nod. It’s a set-back for (our) country. The conga-line of suck-holes just got longer, only they’re dancing on the other side to the wrong tune. The Government’s tune is like some kind of warped Americanised Idol reality show only the stakes are much higher, while the quality of the music is at an all-time low. No wonder we’re all deserting the ALP in droves. Remember Kevin 07, when a lot of us worked to get a Labor Government installed? Only now do we find that they are doing to us what conservative governments have been doing to teachers for a long time—screwing teachers to the wall of public opinion, however misinformed. Paul Saxby, Bundaberg QIEU Member.

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Should learning a second language be compulsory?

technology

A world of opportunities hould all students study a language? I think so! I love studying another language.

I have learned Japanese for seven years, through primary school and all of my secondary schooling. I enjoy having the ability to read, speak and comprehend parts of a new language. I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I realise how far I have come from the very beginning when I had to work hard to make heads or tails of what was happening. Now, I feel confident that I can talk to people from foreign countries about their lives. I dream about travelling

Stronger connections Jonathan Tucker Teacher, St Finbar’s Primary School, Glenbrook, NSW We reside in a multi-cultural country but often only really live within fairly narrowly defined worlds which can limit our experiences, self-awareness and acceptance of others. Prior to emigrating to Australia 16 years ago I spent 12 months studying Japanese at the equivalent of TAFE as I felt it would help me to assimilate more easily as a teacher. I assumed that a country physically close to Asia would be developing future links by introducing students to the languages and customs of its neighbours. 32

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somewhere completely new and it is not a far-fetched goal.

Megan Saunders Student, Mt Alvernia College, Queensland

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I have the confidence to talk to people who speak lots of different languages – not just Japanese speakers. I have many travel and study and work options opened to me because of my languages. I know many people express regret about not taking up a second language because they didn’t like the languages offered. Perhaps if there were more languages available to students, more people would have elected to study one. This would be well received by many students, and a welcome addition to their knowledge gained throughout their schooling lives. I know many people aspire to try a language after completing school. They go to night classes. I may join them. Spanish for me!

Learning a second language I felt would allow us to make stronger connections with the world around us. Having grown up in Wales I was fortunate to have the time to study not only my native languages of Welsh and English but also French. Now 30 years later, whilst I could probably only manage to order a basic meal or ask simple directions whilst visiting Paris, I still retain the sense of being a part of Europe, an awareness that was developed as I studied a second language and culture. At my present school the students have the opportunity to study Japanese for an hour each week. This gives students a chance to compare and contrast different cultures with their own way of life, allowing them

to widen their choices while realising that what sets us apart is smaller than those things which bind us together. This was clearly displayed at our school during the recent tsunami and earthquake in Japan which affected a region familiar to our Maltese Japanese Teacher. Children within the school initiated a range of fundraising activities to raise not only awareness but also a financial gift to people seen as ‘kindred spirits’. Learning a second language offers many benefits and advantages both within the classroom and after school life, enabling the mastery of useful skills and knowledge but also the ability to make connections with a wider world.


Cultural insights Maree Dellora Languages Curriculum Unit Manager, Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

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earning another language not only reveals how other societies think and feel, what they have experienced and value and how they express themselves, it also provides a cultural mirror in which we can more clearly see our own society.” (Edward Lee Gorsuch Chancellor, University of Alaska, Anchorage) Learning another language can offer students new insights into their world. Our thought patterns are only as flexible as the language we use. When students attempt to use another language their minds are starting to travel down the paths used by speakers of that new language. Intercultural learning occurs when students gain insights into the different ways of categorising the world around them used by speakers of that other language.

However, every turn of phrase or utterance that students learn can be laden with information about the speaker’s world view. “Greetings” is one of the time-honoured topics taught in language classes for beginners.

Carmen Anders, KLA-Language Other Than English (LOTE) Head, St Rita’s College, Clayfield, Queensland

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support the mandatory hours for languages, however my concern is how they will fit into a weekly timetable.  To learn a second language students need continuity and need to really be immersed into the language.  At the moment some primary schools only offer 30 minutes a week, which may have limited use.  By the time the students see the language teacher again they may have

Students could reflect on why this would be a traditional greeting as compared to ‘How are you?’ and how it might be linked to the great famines of mainland China. In Hindi, a common greeting is ‘Namaste’ which translates as ‘I salute the spirit within you.’ This would provide students with food for thought about the deep spirituality influencing the lingua franca of India. We offer students a tremendous gift to when we allow them to gain insight into and respect for the diversity around them. Learning another language also “strengthens cognitive and general learning capabilities such as creative and critical thinking” (ACARA Shape Paper) and enhances literacy skills. A student’s first language and other languages work in partnership to strengthen and enrich their repertoire of literacy practices.

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“Yes”, you may say, “but you’d have to become very fluent in the language to gain these insights”.

A bilingual Australia

Strong cultural insights can be uncovered just through learning simple greetings. In Mandarin a common greeting translates as ‘Have you eaten (rice) yet’?

It is a mistake to assume that only academically strong students should learn another language at school. Language learning offers important skills and understandings for all students.

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forgotten what they learnt the week before. 

It is generally accepted that the younger the student the easier it is for them to learn a second language.  Generally, their brain is more responsive to learning a language. Young learners are more likely to repeat things the teacher teaches them and they have a memory more likely to retain a language.

By the time they come to secondary school the student should have a good knowledge of the language.  It is also important to continue with learning the same language [they learnt in primary schoo] in high school. 

I personally would like to see the same numbers of hours dedicated to Year 7 until Year 12, which if possible should be at least 120 hours per year. However, I know it may be challenging fitting it into the timetable.  The core subjects need a certain amount of hours per week, but we don’t want to forget the elective subjects. If the students don’t get [continuity in LOTE] then they might forget what they learnt in primary school. Most people in Europe are bilingual and even trilingual. I believe Australian can be bilingual as well.

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Waiting for Superman “The premise of the documentary is that literacy and numeracy rates in US schools are disastrously low, and something needs to be done before the US falls behind other countries.”

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new documentary, Waiting for Superman (2010), released in cinemas this year, and out on DVD shortly, highlights the shortcomings of the American education system. There have not been many documentaries made about education and the impact it has on children and society, possibly due to filmmakers seeing it as too difficult a subject for a mass audience. A few examples worth looking at are: n Hoop Dreams (1994), a documentary about two African American teenagers, their culture and schooling, and their attempts to become professional basketballers. n Davis Guggenheim, who directed Waiting for Superman, also made a film in 2001 following the fortunes of five teachers in the first six months of their working career. Called The First Year, this ground-breaking documentary created quite a stir at the time, revealing issues about US education that people did not want to know. n Spellbound (2002) investigated the hopes and dreams of eight teenagers

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from different cultural backgrounds, all attempting to be champion spellers. n Mad Hot Ballroom (2005) highlighted a group of primary schools in the US that used competitive dancing as a way of improving the cultural and educational backgrounds of various children. Waiting for Superman is based around the 1950s TV show and the idea that everyone is waiting for a saviour to rescue them from the terrible education system existing in the US. It’s an angry documentary detailing the significant failings of the system. It’s well researched but may lack objectivity. No documentary can ever be totally objective, but Guggenheim portrays the education system as a mess for many reasons. The key advisor to the film, Geoffrey Canada, has his own axe to grind. It focuses on five children and their families participating in a lottery to gain access to some highly regarded public schools, which have a restricted intake.

For families that can’t afford private schools, and want to avoid public schools with a poor reputation, this lottery is ‘make or break’. The premise of the documentary is that literacy and numeracy rates in US schools are disastrously low, and something needs to be done before the US falls behind other countries. Guggenheim blames the system itself, which needs more funding and an overhaul of its practices; and teacher unions that have created permanent employment, meaning ‘bad’ teachers are impossible to remove. He also says the unions have the power to veto any changes to the system. The film forces the viewer to debate its key findings and provides comparisons to the Australian system. Its points are arguable, challenging and disturbing. See it for yourself and make up your own mind. Peter Krausz is Chair of the Australian Film Critics Association and is a film journalist and broadcaster for various radio stations and publications. Email peterkrausz8@gmail.com


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