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03 August 2017

WA students ready for the future

It’s a common question all young children are asked many times – “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It was an easy one to answer when many of you were children, but times are changing.

Today, it’s estimated that 65 per cent of children starting primary school are now likely to work in roles that don’t yet exist.

What does that mean for the age-old question we ask of children?

If you are a parent or close to a school-aged child, you will have heard of coding, robotics, drones, 3D printers and other futuristic words you may not recognise. Schools have been quickly adapting to this changing world and are setting up our children for this new future reality.

At Ashdale Secondary College in Perth’s northern suburbs, students are doing projects that as little as 10 years ago would have been the stuff of dreams.

With the opportunity to work in ‘super classes’ of mixed year groups, and in flexible learning spaces such as the ‘creative lab’ and ‘makers space’, students in schools across Western Australia are participating in revolutionary learning programs.

Video game design, digital media, digital photography, media arts, mechatronics and an electric vehicle challenge are now part of the timetable.

In one ‘creative lab’ students are programming robots, making music with flowers, printing 3D models, dancing around in front of a green-screen while creating a virtual reality and building arcade games. With an exhibition of works by the photography students on the walls of the entrance, it’s a feast for the creative senses.

Current research into the workforce of the future indicates that innovative and creative thinking are essential skills to be able to proactively look ahead and prepare for when the future arrives.

Principal of Ashdale Secondary College, Deborah Doyle, says the school prepares students to be capable and responsive – not just for today, but for the future.

“A key focus for us is to develop students’ skills in both collaboration and innovation so they not only have the ability to cope with change, but to thrive with it,” she says.

Along with these newer subjects, students have for years been working with virtual reality, 3D printing, laser cutting, computer-aided design and robotics as part of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Bertram Primary School prides itself on working in this high-tech space. One of few Apple accredited schools, has converted the school library into an ‘exploratorium’ for students as young as four years old to play, build, learn and experiment with technology.

Principal Geoffrey Hood says schools need to stay on top of the latest in technology.

“I personally don’t believe that students should be coming to a school that is less technologically advanced than their home environment,” he said.

Both Bertram Primary School and Ashdale Secondary College have already embraced the new curriculum subjects that will become compulsory in Western Australia from 2018.

The School Curriculum and Standards Authority recognises that technologies enrich and impact the lives of people and societies globally.

From next year, it is compulsory for schools to teach the new Western Australian Curriculum: Technologies. With its two components of Digital Technologies, and Design and Technologies.

Lindsay Hale, Executive Director of Statewide Services, at the WA Department of Education says the schools will be expected to include computer programming and related activities in their teaching and learning programs.

“Schools are aiming to prepare students for emerging industries and technologies while building their skills in teamwork, problem solving, creativity, independent thinking, critical analysis and communication,” he says.

“We have high expectations for all of our students. We monitor job options for the future and seek ways to support students with plans to study for these jobs once they leave school.

“These days, because of the rapid growth and evolution of technology, the workforce is changing at a much faster rate than ever before.”

At Treendale Primary School in Perth’s regional town of Australind, coding, robots and virtual realities are on the agenda from Pre-primary. Instead of students learning their left and right as they did in the past, they are learning the basics for pre-coding where left and right become the building blocks learning how to code.

As a wireless Apple Distinguished School, all students have access to iPad and Macbook technologies from Pre-primary to Year 6.

Principal Leonie Clelland says she has an obligation to support children to become confident, curious and resilient learners.

“We must expose them to the technologies available to us now while also teaching them to be adaptable,” she says.

“We believe very strongly in creation, not consumption. Children need to learn how to discover, to find out and to explore – not simply learn facts and repeat them.

“The skills we are teaching our students are skills they will need no matter what their path in life.”

Taking it to the next level, Comet Bay College in Secret Harbour is preparing students to not just solve existing problems but to identify future challenges faced by generations to come.

As early adaptors of the new curriculum subjects, the college is pushing the boundaries of traditional learning and education.

Associate principal Phil Casas says it is increasingly important for schools to prepare students to think about their participation in this world.

“We need to enable our students to research and design innovative solutions to real-life problems, to question the integrity of information presented to them, and to engage with the ever-increasing array of technology in their lives,” He says.

Similar to Ashdale Secondary College, Comet Bay College is offering students a wide range of state-of-the-art specialist subjects along with university links, career expos, traineeships, summer camps and extension programs.

From next year students can even take a drone technology operations course and get a drone operator’s licence through the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Imagine a future where robots, artificial intelligence and smart technology dictate our life and our jobs – will you be able to keep up? It certainly sounds like schools in Western Australia are making sure our younger generations are ahead of the game!

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