education

This is the second in our August series of guest blog posts by author, educator and media commentator Dannielle Miller. 


What is the one thing teen boys say they wish adults better understood about their lives?

Forget raging hormones, academic angst and peer pressure. When my team and I run our personal development workshops with young men the thing they tell us they feel is the cause of most inter-generational misunderstanding is their passion for computer games.

“I wish my parents knew that just because I like gaming doesn’t mean I am a loner or that I’m going to become a serial killer.” “I wish the adults that mock me for the games I play would at least learn a bit more about them, and how skilled I am at playing them, first.”

The very fact that we tend to only ever target in on young men when fretting about gaming highlights how misinformed we tend to be. The reality is that almost half of those who play are female, and approximately a third are aged over 35 years old (yes, it seems that we have already had a generation of young game-loving people emerge as adults, and yes most are happy, well adjusted and productive members of society).

The reality too is that gaming is actually highly social; players work together to solve problems, share tips and tricks, compete with one another. My biggest complaint when my son plays?

There’s too much noise as he’s animatedly chatting via Skype to the mates he’s teaming up with online.

And make no mistake. Gaming does develop valuable skills. It is a fluid intelligence mega-booster, encouraging participants to seek novelty, challenge themselves, think creatively, do things the hard way and network.

There are many surprising socio-emotional benefits associated with gaming as well. It has been shown to be helpful in alleviating depression (it is believed games distract people from negative thought patterns), in developing intrinsic motivation (gamers learn to overcome one obstacle after another), and in developing the type of 21st century skills that employers require (not only the familiarity with computer operating systems, but the ability to work and collaborate virtually).

As for the notion that games are violent, whilst it is true that some of the most popular games like Minecraft are not, many do have violent elements. While this doesn’t thrill me, it also doesn’t surprise me. Children’s games have long explored such impulses; be it through playing with toy weapons or soldiers, or through role-plays such as Cowboys and Indians.

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The real question is whether playing these types of games leads to more violent behaviour, and on that point the findings are mixed with most studies concluding that whilst for a person predisposed towards violence this might be triggering, for well-adjusted individuals it is not. In fact, some young men I talk to say that when they are feeling angry, playing a game that is aggressive can be a helpful way of channeling that rage safely.

All this is not to say we should white-wash the very real issues that need addressing in gaming such as the sexist and abusive way in which some female players and game developers are treated (something my son thinks is shocking) and debates around ratings. Games like the Grand Theft Auto series, which tend to attract the type of media interest that may have contributed to the current culture of fear and misunderstanding, are rated R (18+). They will, of course, like all forbidden fruit, appeal to younger kids as well and just like when they wish to view films that are not suitable for them, it is then that parental boundaries need to be established.

Leena van Deventer, a game narrative lecturer at RMIT and Swinburne Universities, argues parents have actually never been in a better position to engage with the games their children play, and setting boundaries is aided not only be the games rating classification system, but by better parental restrictions that can be set on game devices. “We don’t have to play every game before our kids get it, these days either”, she says. “We can jump on YouTube and watch a complete play-through of the game and decide whether it’s the sort of game we want our child to play.”

It is true that like anything a young person becomes passionate about, gaming can become addictive. However, It seems odd to me though that whilst we wouldn’t dream of shaming a young person who was obsessed with locking themselves off into their room to read books, it tends to be open season on the gamer.

The way to connect with our children about anything is to open ourselves to their interests, instead of reflexively dismissing the things they love as harmful or trivial. Rather than policing and patronising, we need to empathise with, and understand the world of, young people. Only then can we positively engage with them and effectively support them.

We need to be prepared to get in the game.

 

Dannielle’s books may be purchased at her web site. During the month of August only, if you use the code SKWIRK at check out, you will receive a 25% discount off all purchases.

The iPad was introduced in 2010, providing a compact and highly portable, yet accessible, medium through which to reach the internet, as well as a number of other functions. User numbers have grown significantly in recent years, with iPads being employed not only for work and entertainment, but also as an educational tool. This latter application has provoked considerable controversy, with some experts suggesting that screen use is detrimental to academic success, whilst others feel there are significant benefits to e-learning. Take a look at the benefits an iPad can bring to your child’s education, as well as the advantages of ensuring high quality textbooks are readily available as a learning resource.

Fast, portable and convenient

Unfortunately, textbooks can be heavy and cumbersome to transport. Even using a textbook can be time consuming and frustrating, as finding the information you need is frequently a challenge. In comparison, an iPad is light enough for smaller children to carry easily, can be used anywhere and most learners can find the information they need in a few minutes, making it ideal for flexible learning. A single device is all that’s needed to access comprehensive information on a wide range of subjects. Sites such as Skwirk, for example, contain over 16,000 learning resources, covering curriculum material for four to 14 year-olds.

Range of learning mediums

Textbooks contain writing, diagrams and photographs, but little else. This can make learning a dry process and can often deter children from wanting to find out more about a topic. One of the major advantages of e-learning is that in addition to these methods of conveying information, children can also enjoy video clips and animation, adding interest to the learning experience. Different presentations of the same information allow children to find a method which suits them best, enhancing retention and engagement.

Interactive

Textbooks contain plenty of useful facts and figures, but do not present opportunities for interaction. Conversely an iPad can provide numerous tests, quizzes, assessments and puzzles which encourage learners to remain attentive and retain the information they need. For children who have trouble concentrating, an iPad can work wonderfully well as an aid to study.

Appealing

Those of us who remember the pre-digital age will frequently favour textbooks, as they are familiar – a tried and tested method of obtaining high-calibre information when you need it. Whilst this is still the case, it’s important to recognise that premium, interactive content is frequently a more appealing way of learning for young people. The use of iPads doesn’t negate textbook use; rather it offers a route for accessing information which better suits many young people today, complementing more traditional methods.

Textbooks continue to play a major part in many educational experiences, particularly for advanced learners who need to access niche subject matter. For school aged children, an iPad which gives them access to high quality educational material can be of real benefit in enriching their learning experience in a wide range of subjects.

Skwirk is one of Australia’s biggest providers of online education resources. Following detailed study of the National Australian Curriculum, we have developed more than 18,000 useful tools, including education videos, iPad resources and interactive whiteboard resources. We cover English, mathematics, science, history, geography and commerce, from kindergarten level through to year 10.

Everything you need in one convenient location

For Australian principals looking to provide their students with outstanding resources, but without breaking the bank, Skwirk can save both money and time. For a start, Skwirk’s easy-to-navigate site means that all resources are found in one, convenient location. Even when accessing teacher resources across a range of subject areas, principals can take care of the job in one fell swoop. There’s no need to waste time trawling through hundreds of different sites, trying to work out which you can and can’t trust. Skwirk’s resources are all designed to meet the Australian curriculum – from the English curriculum to the science curriculum.

Resources for every learner

We’re well aware that students have various learning needs. While some are visual learners, others benefit from kinaesthetic learning. We also believe that students learn best when they’re inspired and interested in their lessons, rather than feeling like they’re a chore.

So we’ve worked hard to develop resources to suit every educational context – and every individual student – from animations that bring the history curriculum to life to sports-themed arithmetic games that ensure your students are learning the maths curriculum without even realising it. Not only does Skwirk make education much more affordable, it also makes it much more relevant, fun and inspiring.

Tools to assess, track progress and report

As much as we believe education should be fun, we’re also serious about it. It’s important for students to have a great time while they’re learning, but it’s equally important for them to make solid progress. So, to accompany our thousands of learning resources, we provide you with efficient, accurate tools for assessment. Once students have completed units, you can use Skwirk to find out exactly what they’ve learnt – and what they need to revise. For schools and principals, this means even further savings; there’s no need to spend extra money on assessment resources created by independent bodies. You’ll have everything you need at your fingertips, once you’ve signed up to Skwirk.

Questions?

Would you like to know more about Skwirk? Are you wondering what we can do for your school? Please feel free to contact us at a time that suits you. We look forward to bringing high-quality, affordable teacher resources to you.

Get a quote for your school, email: teachers@redapple.com.au

Or get a free school trial, click here.

Long gone are the dreary days of ‘chalk and talk’. We now know that the limited teaching strategies of old simply don’t work for all students. To instil a life-long love of learning in students, we need to introduce subject matter in a way that’s vibrant, interesting, inspiring and interactive. What’s more, each student’s particular needs and learning style must be taken into consideration – whether they’re learning the English curriculum or the science curriculum.

Teaching to inspire

That said, it’s one thing to acknowledge that modern students need exciting learning experiences; it’s quite another to make it happen. So how does a teacher make sure that students are not only learning, but also enjoying it?

Well, for a start, it’s crucial to find a point of real-life interest. Say, for example, a student is struggling with learning the maths curriculum. For many people, rows of abstract numbers don’t mean much. But put them into a context – whether that be counting money, for those interested in shopping, or counting waves, for those who love the beach, and the entire picture changes.

That’s why, here at Skwirk, we’ve put time and effort into developing online education resources that appeal to students at their points of interest. We’ve created more than 18,000 teaching tools that make sure students are engaged and that learning is a joy – rather than a gruelling task.

Meeting a range of learning needs

There’s been ample research to prove that there’s more than one way of learning. Some students remember facts, ideas and skills best when they’re presented visually. Others learn best by getting active. We know that simply giving kids textbooks and asking them to read, take notes and memorise, doesn’t work for everyone. So, in addition to making sure students are interested, teachers must give them access to a variety of learning strategies.

Again, this is where Skwirk comes in. Name an education tool – such as iPad resources, interactive whiteboard resources and education videos – and you’ll find it on the Skwirk site. What’s more, all teacher resources are produced with the Australian curriculum in mind. Skwirk covers every aspect of the national curriculum, from the history curriculum to the science curriculum.

‘We home educate our children and use a variety or resources to facilitate learning for our children. Our two oldest children were at school for several years before we commenced our home educating journey. We home educate our three girls (aged 11,9 and 7). Since starting home education we have seen many educational resources come and go, mostly due to the kids not enjoying their work. Skwirk is one of the resources that is here for the long haul and gets the thumbs up from all three girls.

We use Skwirk as part of our daily learning activities. The layout of Skwirk and the entertaining way in which it is designed greatly increases the enjoyment the kids get from using it. Kacey uses Skwirk at grade level 3, Lauren at grade level 5 and Courtney at grade level 7. Each Skwirk level is appropriately designed and aligned with the age of the kids and the curriculum. The kids use all aspects of Skwirk, giving them a more rounded Kid on Skwirkapproach to learning. They read, complete the activity sheets, watch the animations, participate in the animated activities and watch the videos. These different learning approaches capture the attention of all of my kids. Courtney enjoys the reading, Lauren loves the animations and Kacey likes to watch the videos and do the exams.

The structured, progressive approach of Skwirk makes it really easy for me to set activities for our kids, as it does not require lesson planning and design from me. The lessons are already planned, designed and listed in a logical, easy to follow format. This means the kids are doing most of the learning, rather than me doing it all. Because Skwirk is laid out and clearly defined under core curriculum areas it is really easy for me to keep records and comply with the requirements of the NSW Board of Studies. I think Skwirk is also helping the kids to become independent thinkers and learners as they are now familiar with learning without me having to lead them all of the time.’

Homechoolers can get 30% off of Skwirk’s resources during July with the discount code ‘home’.

Join Skwirk as a home educator today, click here to get started.

Being the Content Manager is a huge responsibility when working on a website like Skwirk. Teachers, schools, parents and students need to be able to rely on and trust our resources. We need to constantly think about new ways to supply content. A lot of this comes from feedback and the direction of the Australian Curriculum. Here’s an example of what an average day is like working as he Content Manager on Skwirk…

8:30am – Check overnight emails from the site’s feedback system. The back end of the site functions exactly like the Lesson Editor for teachers, which means I can make modifications to chapters and assessments within minutes of getting some feedback. Our favourite example of this is from the early days of the new site. A teacher emailed us asking if we could update a page of content about local government to show an Australian mayor. We were able to call her back 15 minutes later and show her the new page with a picture of Sydney’s Lord Mayor.

We also have a quick staff meeting every morning. Sometimes this is about what kinds of deals we’d like to offer parents and teachers; sometimes a member of the team has seen a news article that means I can update a chapter with interesting new information.

10:15am – Around recess we hit the phones to catch up with teachers across Australia who are current trialling the website. This is a really valuable process as we can get feedback from educators who are in their first weeks of learning about the site and how it can help them plan their lessons. We often use this time to give teachers a quick walkthrough of the site’s features in terms of building lessons and searching for content using Australian Curriculum codes. Our consultants have gotten lightning-fast at this – we’ve clocked one walkthrough at 12 minutes!

11:30am – Time to review content and media for whichever sections of the site we’re working on. Recently this has included updating Secondary Maths content, making additions to Primary English content, and adding Shakespeare to the English Texts section. I’m very proud of the way we can both commission new content for the site from great professional teachers from around Australia whilst making use of Public Domain and Creative Commons media from across the internet. I also take the time to review what other sites we love and respect are working on. There’s no right or wrong way to use Skwirk, which includes matching it with resources from places like the ABC Splash website.

1:00pm – Lunchtime! Being an information junkie I usually spend my lunchtimes walking the local neighbourhood listening to podcasts. I usually get back to the office with at least one new idea for a chapter or resource.

2:00pm – Back in the saddle to keep working on the site and take calls from teachers and parents. As Skwirk is used by parents and homeschoolers as well as teachers we always take the time to speak with parents who are interested in using the site to help their children get the best possible education. This is also the time of day when I’ll chat with team leaders about what kinds of questions and comments they’ve been getting from teachers as they trial and subscribe to the site. We have an excellent relationship with the schools who subscribe to us and many of the resources we develop are based on the discussions we have with our partner schools.

5:00pm – Done for the day!

It’s been a busy period for Skwirk. Highlights over the past few years have included helping the site take on a bold new form with amazing features, aligning our thousands of resources with the Australian Curriculum, and making great connections with educators from all over the country. Remember we are always looking for new ideas for content. Please contact us with any information you have on Skwirk. Contact the team, (02) 94383637 or email us, teachers@skwirk.com.au

Happy Skwirking!

  • Bill Cohen

With school off for 6 weeks, the Professor decided to take a holiday after a ground breaking year, by indulging in his passion for history by exploring from Kelly Country to the Grenfell Goldfields.

The Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk in Seymour. A must do for anyone with an interest in Australian Military History

The Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk in Seymour.
A must do for anyone with an interest in Australian Military History

After spending the day wandering around Seymour on the Heritage Walk, at the Australian Light Horse Memorial Park and the Vietnam Veteran’s Commemorative Walk, the first night found the Professor staying at the Harvest Home Boutique Hotel in Avenel. This rather nice hotel has beautiful gardens, Damian the landlord is an absolute champion and the pizza shop next door is arguably one of the best in Australia, they even slice the prosciutto fresh!

Any fan of Ned Kelly needs to visit Avenel, as it was here that Ned saved the life of Richard Shelton, went to school and his father passed away. The green silk sash that the 12 year old Ned was awarded by the Shelton family for his act of bravery in saving Richard’s life, was worn under his armour many years later at Glenrowan. Hughes Creek, in which Richard was drowning, is classed as a fugitive waterway (not a pun at what Ned became). A fugitive waterway constantly shifts course and the amount of flow through the seasons, which is why it looks so empty and small in our picture! The professor then continued the Kelly country exploration with a visit to Glenrowan. It was here that Ned was captured by the police after the siege and the other members of the Kelly Gang were killed.

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The Harvest Home Boutique Hotel in Avenel. Exquisite gardens, beautiful rooms and next door to the best pizza!

Moving north and keeping on the bushranger theme, Professor Skwirk decided to relax at a farm stay near Caragabal, in the Central-West of NSW. The farm actually occupies what was part of Ben Hall’s station of Sandy Creek, of which the police inspector Sir Frederick Pottinger burnt down Ben’s house, and is quite close to the Wheogo range of hills where it is believed Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall and the gang divvied up the loot from the Escort Robbery at Eugowra.

Grenfell, just 40 kilometres from where this all happened, is probably best known for being the birthplace of Henry Lawson (as an aside, it is also where Stan McCabe, the Australian Cricket Legend, grew up). The Professor spent plenty of time checking out O’Brien’s Lookout, which still has some of the original mines and crushing equipment from what was once the richest Goldfields in the colony. He also visited the birthplace of Henry Lawson, spent time with the brand new statue of Henry in the main street and took a walk up to Ben Halls Cave and the historic Seaton’s farm.

The spot that Ned was captured at in  Glenrowan

The spot that Ned was captured at in Glenrowan

The Professor chats to Henry Lawson, in the main street of Grenfell.

The Professor chats to Henry Lawson, in the main street of Grenfell.

“You were born on Grenfell goldfield – and you can’t get over that.”

Said Grenfell to My Spirit, Henry Lawson, 1911

The summer holidays over, the professor is now back at work ready to help.

Checking out the plinth marking Henry Lawson birthplace. The sugar gum in the background was planted by Henry’s Daughter, Bertha.

Checking out the plinth marking Henry Lawson birthplace. The sugar gum in the background was planted by Henry’s Daughter, Bertha

The Glenrowan Inn burned down when police set it alight to get the Kelly Gang

The Glenrowan Inn burned down when police set it alight to get the Kelly Gang