Amrita Kharel was a recipient of Swinburne's Welcome Scholarship in 2017

Innovating the learning space

Swinburne supports Victorian teachers to develop their IT skills through Google funding

Dr Therese Keane is a dedicated educator and a strong believer in engaging Swinburne with the wider community. Thanks to Google she is now able to provide workshops in IT for school teachers. At the same time Swinburne students can participate in the workshops, gaining valuable teaching and communication skills.

In recent years there has been a strong focus on engaging and educating young kids in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Schools and the Australian government have put forward numerous initiatives. Swinburne’s Dr Therese Keane, a Senior Lecturer in Education who is based in the Faculty of Health, Arts and Design received funding from Google which has given her the opportunity to design educational workshops, in the field of computer science, for teachers. Workshops that have also encouraged current Swinburne students to build their skill-set while they facilitate these workshops.

Dr Keane has worked in a variety of school settings where she taught IT and was the Director of Information and Communication Technology. She holds a Doctorate in Education focusing on ICT Leadership in schools and has presented numerous seminars and workshops for teachers involved in the teaching of IT. In 2014 her efforts were recognised by the University when she won the Vice Chancellor’s Engagement Award.

It was teaching in schools for almost seventeen years that emphasised to her the importance and value of free professional development for teachers. When she discovered the Google Computer Science for High School funding, a worldwide initiative by Google, she immediately wanted to put through an application. The funding assists Universities across Australia and the world to set up a workshop, called CS4HS (Computer Science for High School), for teachers.

Driven by local needs, the funding brings educators together for a professional development opportunity with the goals of invigorating them about computer science and computational thinking, whilst providing tools and networking opportunities to help educators in the computer science classroom. The initiative started as a joint effort between a few universities in the United States to introduce high to middle school CS teachers to new and exciting technologies and curriculum. In Australia it is taught in line with the new Digital Technologies Curriculum, so teachers can get the most benefit out of the training.

It has been successfully running for three years now at Swinburne. In 2015 a two-day workshop was held for 30 teachers, Dr Keane explains:

"In 2015 we had a waiting list, our limit was 30, but our numbers vary year to year. I supervise the workshop myself, however I employ some dedicated Swinburne students, PhD students and some third year IT students, to teach the workshops. The students get a lot out of developing the workshop; professional development, collaborative skills, critical thinking skills and also presentation skills. Teachers love to take something home with them and in 2015 I asked Google if we could buy Mini Inventor’s Kits (Arduinos) for the teachers to use. By taking something back with them the teachers could keep practising and perhaps even use these kits with their students. Every year I gather feedback from the participants and then change the workshop based on the feedback; it is a collaborative process."

One of the tutors in the program, and a Swinburne student in the Bachelor of Engineering (Biomedical Engineering) (Honours), Cliff Warren enjoyed participating in the program:

"I enjoyed providing the teachers with an opportunity to see what I like about computer science, why I think it’s cool, and being able to hopefully instil in them the same child-like sense of wonder I get when I discover what is possible with today’s technology. What did I get out of it? It was probably the chance to teach the Arduino stuff, as I tinker a bit myself, but have never had to teach it - and the best way to solidify your own knowledge is to try to explain it to someone else."

Dr Therese Keane, Senior Lecturer in Education

The funding brings educators together for a professional development opportunity that invigorates them about computer science and computational thinking.

Dr Therese Keane, Senior Lecturer in Education