Connecting school to community
Presented by Bronwyn Sugars, Department for Education and Child Development, South Australia
I’m Bronwyn Sugars. I’m from the South Australia education department and in a minute there will be some dots joined there. I’d just like to give you a quick context of the group that I work with, two big ideas that we have worked with, and something we need help with.
I’m the programme manager of a group called Outreach Education, and that’s 16 staff employed by the education department, 12 of which are teachers based in 12 cultural organisations. And that covers museums, zoos, botanic gardens, Parliament House, law courts, performing arts centre, and a theatre company. And within those museums is art museums, social history, natural history, et cetera.
Four of those staff are based in central office. I’m one of them, we have a support person. We have one person working on digital learning across the group, and another one person building up video conferencing, and we’re just at the beginning stages there.
We’re very blessed to have, our digital learning person has got a PhD in education, so that’s a wonderful crossover point there. We’ve been able to pick her brains. And that’s Kerrie Mackey-Smith who will be talking tomorrow with Karen Hogan about the work that they’ve been doing.
One of the things about our group is we meet regularly. People are in contact with each other, and we share our practise, and there’s certainly a strength in diversity. One of the things that I’ve noticed working with museums over the years, there’s a slight competitive element within museum culture. A lot of that is about numbers and audiences, but we have the opportunity to work across that, and I think that’s certainly given us a lot more pillars to how we work than perhaps people that are one-organisation based.
Like most big ideas you start with a question, and certainly the big ideas that we’ve come up with came because of the need to solve some problems and questions that we’ve been asking. Some of them, we’ve been asking for some time. One of them was the nature of our group’; we’re fragmented and we wanted to develop some credibility, for want of a better word, amongst teachers that what we were doing was very firmly based in what they were also trying to achieve in the classroom. So we needed some identity as a group.
One of the things, one of, I guess the points of my job is when you embed teachers in another organisation, there is the possibility there of people going a little bit feral. And I think that might have happened in other states where education departments have outposted people and they’ve become owned by that organisation, and one day somebody in the education department goes, hang on a minute, why are we paying all this money for this person that we don’t even know what they’re doing. So my role is to keep that group close to the heartfires, if you like.
So one of the ways that we decided we need to do that was to have a one-stop shop for teachers of all our programmes, which, while there still based on the organisation websites, we wanted one that focused on teachers’ needs and the sort of questions that they were asking. So not to dis marketing people too much, but we didn’t want that marketing gloss. We wanted a place where teachers could go, a searchable site where they put in their year level, their learning needs, curriculum links, whatever, and it would bring up all the programmes that we were offering as a group.
So it’s rather hilarious because I’m talking about technology and I have nothing to show you, and I’ve got a paper-based object here. This is a postcard that we’ve produce with our website on it. And if you grab those, if you haven’t grabbed one already, I would recommend that you go and have a look at the site, and that will make more sense.
The other question that we had, how can we use technology to model effective pedagogies, but also provide enough content to scaffold learning. I don’t know about you, but some of our sites, there is no captioning. Just think of a botanic gardens or an art gallery, dare I say, for teachers to come in and look at stuff, but there’s nothing around that. How can we provide enough content for them to know what they’re looking at, but not to bore them death with facts, but turn into an inquiry base. So that was another question that we had.
So we came up with using technology, but behind that technology, the technology was the answer when we finally got to that point. It wasn’t the immediate answer, let’s use technology. We wanted to have a provocative, which is good old-fashioned interpretation, the provocation, get people thinking.
That’s certainly what we wanted kids to do, and we’ve wanted teachers to do. We didn’t want teachers to be passengers. We wanted them to be actively engaged in the experience. Inquiry based, personalised, a learning approach that was designed to get students and teachers questioning and thinking.
So all that stuff around the social activity, the open-ended question, the stuff they take back to school to talk about afterwards, we didn’t want to give them the museum visit injection. That wasn’t the purpose of it. We wanted to bookend it into a learning situation, much bigger than the museum experience, even the at-school experience. We wanted them to go home and talk about it, to look up stuff themselves, to be inspired, to carry on.
We came up with two solutions in that. One was an app — It’s a trial format and it’s used in situ in the cultural organisations and that’s what Kerrie and Karen will be talking about tomorrow.
And the other solution was we’ve called it an inquiry table. It’s web based. If you go to this website, probably the best example of it is, it’s called the Curator’s Table, if you’ll have a look at that. But basically it contains primary and secondary sources and tools to interrogate those sources. And it’s built around a chronological timeline so people can orientate themselves.
But if you imagine, and the good thing is, we can do lots of little quick and dirty things around that. So we’ve got the template sorted, and the idea is that we just dump lots of different content in that and an inquiry question to explore.
Something we need help with. What’s happening in South Australia, which I’m sure is happening in other organisations, other education departments, the focus on pedagogy. We are consciously changing next year our client focus from students to teachers. And that was a question that was asked earlier. And using our collections and events to support teachers to build capacity in teaching and learning. And that raises lots of questions.
So I think some thought about who our clients are can start off all sorts of interesting conversations. Thank you.[APPLAUSE]