The 'one last chance' for schools to remain viable


A panel of prominent educators gathered at the Sydney Vivid festival to mark the 10th anniversary of the Maker Movement, which promotes the active use of technology to create rather than to just consume.

Keynote speakers at the conference included education guru, Gary Stager, Kate Burleigh, managing director of Intel Australia and teachers who have embraced the use of creative technologies in their classrooms.

A major theme of the day was Science Technology Engineering Creativity and Mathematics (STEAM), which brings creativity and the arts into the existing STEM framework.

Stager, dubbed the ‘Godfather’ of STEAM in K-12 education, said it was “unconscionable” that the viability of STEAM was still in contention among educators in Australia.

“Australia invented 1:1 computing. The fact that we’re asking whether or not it’s good for kids right now in 2015 is unconscionable,” Stager said, adding that teachers should be embracing STEAM as a way of harnessing students’ 21st century skills.

“The best thing a teacher can do is get a student to solve a problem they didn’t anticipate.

“It might represent the one last chance we have at making schools a place we want our kids to be for eight hours a day. It’s the last best chance for schools to remain viable for the future”

Highlighting the relevance of STEM to the 21st century workplace, Burleigh said a major challenge was finding a way to increase students’ interest in this area of education as they settle into high school.

“How do we inspire students to embrace STEM?” Burleigh asked.

“How do we keep that hands-on learning experience interesting through secondary school?”

Teacher and director of the Mind Lab in Wellington, NZ, Matt Richards, said the Maker Movement – being student-led – may offer a possible solution.

“The Maker Movement is a student-led process. We’re moving away from that siloed approach to education, because that is not unified and it’s not keeping kids engaged. The Maker Movement links all areas together. Kids can get engaged and make what they want.”

Another keynote speaker at the conference was Cathie Howe, professional learning and leadership coordinator managing Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre. Howe said schools and teachers should heed the power of the maker movement and STEAM to energise student motivation and learning. 

“Maker’s education brings together many areas used to promote the skills that are needed in the present and for the future,” Howe said.

“Maker’s Movement brings passion for coding, robotics and augmented reality, and it gives students the motivation to learn.”