Teaching for the small screen | The Canberra Times

Australian teacher Rachel Coathup is leading the way in developing and encouraging best practices in digital learning for children. Picture: Supplied

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Teaching in a 1:1 iPad school in London means every student has access to their very own digital device. Screen time can be a contentious issue – but despite the naysayers, ACU alumna Rachel Coathup believes digital learning can enhance education and provide a unique opportunity for kids to get creative.

Since she was a high school student, Rachel knew she wanted to be a teacher.

“I organised work experience for myself at my old primary school,” she said. “When I took my first class for the afternoon, I remember going home and saying, ‘This is exactly what I want to do’.”

When it was time to select a university, Rachel was equally single-minded. “I still remember when I went to ACU for the first time during Open Day. From the minute I stepped onto the campus I knew this was where I wanted to study teaching.”

ACU’s Canberra campus is holding an Open Day on Saturday 20 August. It’s an ideal time to visit ACU, take a tour of the facilities, meet students and staff, look at study options and check out the new accommodation facilities.

London calling

After a stint working in a small Catholic school for two years, Rachel, like so many Australian teachers before her, was searching for the next challenge and settled on a move to London.

“It’s very easy for Australians to get teaching work in the UK,” she said. “I contacted an agency, had a Skype interview and I found out I had the job on the same night.”

Rachel went on to become Head of Digital Curriculum at a London school, which involves teaching computing to years 1 to 5 and developing and delivering the digital curriculum. After six years as a teacher she is now back in Australia working as an Advisor at ClickView, an Educational Video Learning Platform supporting teachers and schools to use video to turn passive viewing into active learning.

“Digital learning is a big part of education today. In my school everyone had their own iPad in years 3 to 8,” she said.

Teaching the teachers

With young eyes now so often set firmly on small screens, Rachel believes the need to review how teachers integrate digital learning into the curriculum is more important than ever.

“My teaching role involved training, meeting with and assisting the other teachers to share how they can integrate digital learning into their lessons,” she said.

“It also involves a lot of self-training and learning for us as well, as we have to keep up to date with regular changes to technology. And we must be willing to embrace new educational tech movements ourselves.”

Rachel Coathup says parents should be encouraging their children to use technology actively instead of passively. Picture: Supplied

Active duty

Most students have already been exposed to devices long before they make it into her classroom.

“Most kids have used a smartphone or iPad before they have even spoken!” she said.

“But while we might think students are competent users of technology, mostly they have only learnt how to use these devices passively, such as knowing how to swipe, open apps or watch videos.

“This means that my biggest focus becomes more about giving students opportunities to share their learning and understanding in creative ways. To help them become active technology users, I’ll set them tasks like creating their own digital posters, comics, ebooks or videos.”

The balancing act

Rachel’s message about technology often extends to the parents too.

“I want everyone to remember that with technology, it’s about balance, which is something we adults often forget ourselves,” she said.

“I think parents should be encouraging their children to use technology actively, such as when searching for information, sharing pictures from a holiday, or taking creative photos and videos and putting them together in a comic or ebook. Let them explore.

“We have to keep our focus on how students use technology to add value to their lessons,” she said. “But if the kids can do the same task using pencil and paper – then they should.”

Are you ready for an experience like Rachel’s? Explore teaching and professional education courses at ACU and ACU Online.

Visit ACU for Open Day at its Canberra campus on Saturday 20 August from 10am to 2pm. You can also join online on Saturday 10 September, 10am to 2pm.

If you’re not sure you’ll meet the entry requirements, explore ACU’s pathway diplomas. There’s always another way. Choose your pathway or entry program to ACU that’s most relevant to your recent schooling or qualifications.

ACU Student Accommodation also offers a range of student accommodation scholarships to assist students to relocate to ACU campuses, and alleviate the financial stresses or other barriers, impeding your decision to accept an offer to study at ACU. Residential students can benefit from an environment where residential life and pastoral care programs are focused on supporting students to thrive and achieve success. From 2023 ACU will open the new custom-designed Blackfriars Residence on campus, giving students the opportunity to live on campus.

This is branded content for ACU.

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