Future Focused Learning – Regional NSW

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On Monday April 29, I had the great honour of speaking at the 2019 Regional NSW Future Focused Learning (STEM) Conference alongside the The Honourable Sarah Mitchell MLC (NSW Minister of Education), Mark Scott AO (Secretary of the NSW Department of Education) and the wonderful Adam Spencer from the ABC. This was day one of Term 2 for NSW and a student free professional learning day that attracted about 700 participants from all over regional New South Wales.

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Cessnock is an old mining town in the heart of the Hunter Valley’s wine region. These days, many jobs in the region are STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) based in the aerospace industry with Australia’s new fleet of FA-18 fighters needing to be maintained at the nearby RAAF Base Williamtown.

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With such a focus on STEM in education, this conference has become one of the largest STEM related education events in Australia and certainly the largest regional event.

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Dr Scott Sleap has been the leader of this initiative, building up up this conference with the creation of the Cessnock Academy of STEM Excellence, (CASE) a partnership between Cessnock High School, its feeder primary schools, and local industry. To help celebrate his achievements, Dr Sleap was one of the winners of the 2018 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.

Adam Spencer from the ABC was again the host this year and did a wonderful job entertaining the educators and introducing all the main presenters. He also provided autographed copies of his new book Adam Spencer’s top 100 to those who are interested during the breaks.

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The first of 5×20 min keynote presenters was Mark Scott AO Secretary of the NSW Department of Education and former head of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC).

Mark shared some of the amazing initiatives and policies that are being implemented by the NSW Department of Education stemming from their official purpose statement …

We preparing young people for rewarding lives as engaged citizens in a complex and dynamic society.

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The second speaker was Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, Vice Chancellor and President of The University of Newcastle. He was very passionate about schools and universities working together for better outcomes in science and technology engineering and mathematics. He was also very proud of the way his university has integrated the local indigenous community with over 1000 indigenous enrollments, 50% of them being the first in their family to graduate from a university course.

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Professor Zelinsky used this opportunity to launch a new partnership program with schools called Hero Teachers. This is to promote professional development in the University’s online postgraduate programs as well as provide financial assistance with the cost study, professional recognition and access to tools and resources to support in classroom activities for students.

The third presenter was Sarah Chapman,  STEM Ambassador at Townsville State High School and 2019 winner of the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Award Fellowship. She shared her passion for encouraging girls to be involved in STEM and the plethora of  programs she has developed and been involved with in her home state of Queensland.

Sarah has earned a number of awards during her teaching career

  • Prime Minister’s Science Teaching Prize 2013
  • Barbara Cail Fellow 2016
  • National STEM Ambassador – Science & Technology Australia 2018
  • Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute 2018
  • Commonwealth Bank Teaching Award Fellow 2019

These awards have provided her the the opportunities to visit schools across the globe that a leaders in STEM teaching and bring those experiences back to Australia.

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The next speaker was NSW’s newly appointed Minister of Education and Early Childhood, The Honourable Sarah Mitchell MLC. This was her first official presentation to a group of educators in her new role. It was so pleasing to hear her talk about the importance of adding the A for Arts in STEM. She provided many examples of how science, technology and engineering has been at its best when linked with creativity.

Her passion for education was evident and her advocacy for technology and creativity was a great example for the educators at the venue to hear.

This led very nicely to my presentation which was titled Preparing students for the automated workplace where I emphasised the importance of encouraging students to develop skills in creativity.

One of the many sources of evidence I shared was a 2019 study on LinkedIn by the World Economic Forum outlining that creativity is now considered the number 1 most importation soft skills required by employees.

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All my slides can be viewed via: http://bit.ly/adobe-FFL19

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It was a real thrill to be sharing the stage with the above amazing presenters and I thank the organisers for this opportunity.

I was also asked to run two repeated Adobe workshops titled Making STEM Fun with Adobe. The Adobe Spark apps were work-shopped as and I provided an overview of some of the amazing Adobe Creative Cloud applications that are available in every NSW Department of Education school thanks to a long-term enterprise agreement between the Department and Adobe. Here are some images from the workshop sessions …

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