In a world of emerging technologies that engage our children at home, there is vast opportunity for teachers to use technology to engage students in the classroom and to access resources to enhance the curriculum
Bridges Connect is a collaborative project developed by the Bridges to Higher Education initiative which aims to use technology to engage students and teachers within the classroom, and to bridge the gap between schools and universities, regardless of geographical location. Bridges to Higher Education is a collaboration of five universities – the University of Western Sydney; the University of Sydney; the University of Technology, Sydney; Macquarie University and the Australian Catholic University – supported by 25 partners from government and non-government organisations across NSW.
Bridges Connect offers the following programs aimed at teachers and students:
- Robotics in Schools Program: Robotics are used as a teaching/engagement tool in the classroom. Teacher training instructs teachers how to build, program and create challenges using LEGO ® NXT Robots. Schools are then loaned a complete robotics kit, including teacher resources, to service a class of 30 students for up to an entire term. A 90 min lesson is also given by a robotics expert via the NSW Department of Education and Communities’ (DEC) Connected Classroom videoconferencing.
- Curriculum Related Video Conference Series: Full day video conferences are offered on different areas of the curriculum. On each day several academic speakers give presentations using Connected Classroom videoconferencing to enhance the curriculum, and provide students and teachers the opportunity to ask questions. Sessions are filmed and resource videos created for schools to download. Current videos can be viewed here.
- Classroom Technologies Teacher Professional Learning Workshops: Workshops are offered to support teachers in the use of Connected Classroom technology, including Interactive White Board, Video Conferencing and Adobe Connect, and to demonstrate how it can be used to enhance student learning. The program also offers training on the use of iPads for curriculum design.
The main objectives of Bridges Connect are to build teacher capacity and raise student educational engagement.
Bridges Connect has been funded through the Bridges to Higher Education initiative as part of the HEPPP Partnership component competitive grant process. The Bridges to Higher Education initiative is funded from December 2011 to December 2014.
Bridges Connect will work with up to 60 classes per year, reaching up to 4,000 students and their teachers by the end of 2014. The reach and impact of the program are being monitored as part of the Bridges to Higher Education Evaluation Framework.
Samples of progress to date:
- 96% of teachers reported being better supported in their efforts to motivate/engage their students to learn
- 100% of teachers reported improved skills in their discipline of focus
- 100% of teachers reported that participation had expanded their teaching practices
- 100% of teachers reported that they have been able to better motivate their students, and
- 100% of teachers reported that they have been able to better engage their students in learning.
Continuation beyond 2014 will be subject to funding opportunities; however the scope of this project incorporates the development of sustainable resources for continued use within schools.