Using the power of the Internet to break down barriers and give rural and remote students access to a broader curriculum is the goal of Coolah Central School Principal Brendan Maher, winner of the $15,000 Premier’s Teachers Mutual Bank New and Emerging Technologies Scholarship.
Presented to Mr Maher at NSW Parliament House on Saturday, 24 August, the scholarship will fund a study called ‘Fostering Student Success through Development of Connected Learning Communities’ that will draw upon knowledge from the best in Australia and New Zealand.
Formerly the Deputy Principal of the Western Access Program which connects rural and remote schools in K-12 in western NSW, Mr Maher said the success and growth of that program spurred his desire to extend his work on connected learning programs.
“Combatting challenges for rural and regional schools in NSW is something I care deeply about. These schools are challenged with being able to offer a broad curriculum to retain students, staff turnover and needing further support with the new NSW curriculum, increasing staff capacity to deliver sustainable curricula and incorporating connected learning and digital concepts in the classroom,” Mr Maher said.
“I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact connected learning communities can have in engaging teachers and students in remote areas by offering them broad opportunities to learn without having to travel. Continuing to improve our current programs and create new school networks will make sure no schools are disadvantaged and are able to offer quality curricula to meet all students’ needs.”
The scholarship for the study – ‘Fostering Student Success through Development of Connected Learning Communities’ is funded by sponsor Teachers Mutual Bank.
Steve James, CEO of Teachers Mutual Bank, said: “Supporting educators who are working to improve education outcomes for students and teachers is a passion of Teachers Mutual Bank and Brendan is a very worthy recipient of this Scholarship. Technology is providing unprecedented opportunities to connect, and we’re delighted to support Brendan’s strategy of enabling schools and students in disparate locations to digitally interact. This will provide far-reaching benefits for years to come.”
Mr Maher said: “Schools need to work smarter and not harder and I hope the outcome of my study will raise awareness for schools that there are options and we don’t have to sacrifice curricula and the best teachers because the school is remote.”
The project will involve a study tour throughout Australia and New Zealand in 2014 to meet with school leaders who have developed successful programs as well as conducting webinar sessions on educational leadership.
The study seeks to develop ways to support schools across a more autonomous model of school networks, develop strategies to engage students across ability levels, break down barriers for rural and regional schools by using communication and connected learning technologies and investigate a trial policy with Department of Education and Communities (DEC) for the sharing of staffing and curricula.
Parts of the tour include meeting with schools involved in the Tasmanian eSchool program and reviewing how they implemented a program using various technologies to connect schools in the state. He will review how the implementation of future technologies can advance student engagement and opportunities for schools to create better networks.
Other highlights include going to several locations in New Zealand that are involved with CORE Education, that has allowed all schools in the country to work together to connect and share resources.
Mr Maher cites the example of one school having an excellent science teacher but not having a strong background in physics. Through video conferencing, students in that class could link up to a physics teacher at a connected school and learn without having to travel and allow staff to further build their capacity in delivering more aspects of their curriculum.
Working as an educator for over 12 years, he is a qualified Technology, Applied Science, Information and Technology VET teacher. He previously implemented creative solutions for connected learning. In his current role, he has been very active in working collaboratively with local schools to develop networks to support staff and widen opportunities.
About Teachers Mutual Bank
Teachers Mutual Bank, the former Teachers Credit Union, launched on 2 April 2012. Previously the third largest credit union in Australia, they were the largest credit union to become a mutual bank. With over 156,000 members, it currently has $4 billion in assets.
Teachers Mutual Bank’s award winning corporate social responsibility program was recognised nationally and abroad in the past year. This includes achieving international accolades with a gold rating in the Corporate Responsibility (CR) Index, published in the London Financial Times, one of few Australian organisations honoured.
For more information about Teachers Mutual Bank visit www.tmbank.com.au
Gillian Tatt, PR and Corporate Affairs Specialist, Teachers Mutual Bank on 0448 259 942 or 02 9735 9825.
Abby Hempfling, Consultant, Cox Inall Communications, on 0450 769 337 or 02 8204 3877.
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