Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Questacon and educational innovation

Students from three secondary schools have experienced the cutting-edge of design technology through an innovative, videoconference-based project delivered by Questacon. Source: Questacon.

Simon Leonard, Questacon leading the digital education revolution with 3D printing, The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July 2015

Questacon​ is known for its showcasing of Australian innovation, but it is also generating educational innovation. This is not surprising. Being a national centre in a place the size of Australia demands innovation and creativity to reach the nation.

Questacon has long responded to this “tyranny of distance” through approaches such as the acclaimed Shell Science Circus and numerous travelling exhibitions. In recent years they have added virtual learning experiences to their catalogue.

For all the hype, online learning is really hard to design well. Most of what is called online “learning” is really just online content delivery. It may involve multi-media, but it is fundamentally not that different to a textbook.

Education, though, is more than just a series of textbooks, and the Questacon team have been developing approaches that transfer the engaging and enacted approaches to learning for which they are famous to the online context.

About 15 years ago, a group of researchers from the University of Queensland conducted a large study that identified the things that happen in the classrooms that achieve good learning outcomes. The study, known as the Queensland School Reform Longitudinal Study, formed the basis of the Productive Pedagogies​ model in Queensland and also the Quality Teaching Model that was adopted in NSW and the ACT.

One of the key elements identified in this research was that in the most productive classrooms ways were found to make the learning “significant” to the students and connected to something outside of school. The idea of significance makes intuitive sense. Learners learn best when the learning activity has greater meaning than doing well in the test.

One only has to watch an episode of Quantum to know that science education has a seemingly endless supply of “significance” to offer, yet science education has largely struggled to translate the potential of the field into classroom practice. There are many reasons for this.

A reason getting a lot of coverage in recent years is that many teachers are weak in or lack confidence in their science knowledge. Of course, even for those with strong science knowledge, the links between the school curriculum and what is going on at the cutting edge of science are not always easy to make.

Attempts add significance to student learning by connecting them to experts in science and technology are not new. The CSIRO’s Scientists in Schools program does just this, and the use of video conferencing to connect students and scientists is now well established and has reached as far as Antarctica, and even into space.

Questacon’s educational designers are building on these approaches and adding additional layers to connect the work of real science and technology with children’s learning.

Questacon’s latest offering in this regard is the 3D Printing Challenge.

Read more.

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