Digital encyclopedia tells a new story of learning for schools

Premier Mike Baird speaks that the <i>Australopedia</i> launch, picture by Terry Clinton

Premier Mike Baird speaks that the Australopedia launch, picture by Terry Clinton

In summary: 
  • The NSW Premier and Minister for Education have launched a UTS-developed digital encyclopedia for schools that will encourage schoolchildren to tell their own stories and those of their communities
  • Australopedia will be introduced initially in a group of Sydney high schools along with remote Indigenous schools in Western Australia and Queensland

Encouraging schoolchildren to tell their own stories, and those of their communities, is at the heart of an innovative online educational resource recently launched by the NSW Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli.

Australopedia, a digital, multimedia encyclopedia built by students as part of their normal school work has been developed by the UTS International Research Centre for Youth Futures to be introduced initially in a group of Sydney high schools along with remote Indigenous schools in Western Australia and Queensland.

"Australopedia gives these schools the opportunity to model what will become a national endeavour," said Director of the International Research Centre for Youth Futures and creator of Australopedia, Professor Rosemary Johnston, who has been developing the idea for several years.

"This is a new model for project-based, interdisciplinary, self-directed learning and real-world collaborations with families, local school communities, businesses and organisations," Professor Johnston said.

"It will encompass stories and oral histories from local citizens and local heroes, explore the local impact of real-life issues and apply STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and STEAM (STEM+arts) knowledge to possible solutions.

"It will also discover local Indigenous histories, legends and languages and give a platform for appreciating, protecting and enhancing the local environment."

From the left, UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs, Premier Mike Baird, Kerryn Baird, Professor Rosemary Johnston, Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli and Minister for Planning Rob Stokes following the Australopedia launch in NSW Parliament House. Picture by Terry Clinton From the left, UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs, Premier Mike Baird, Kerryn Baird, Professor Rosemary Johnston, Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli and Minister for Planning Rob Stokes following the Australopedia launch at NSW Parliament House. Picture by Terry Clinton

Speaking at the 3 August launch at NSW Parliament House, Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli said the curriculum developed by the Board of Studies worked for the vast majority of students, but not "for every single student."

"That's why it is important that there are other paths for students, other opportunities to engage them in learning and to for them to see its relevance and importance," Mr Piccoli said.

Premier Mike Baird said Australopedia would give schools in regional and remote communities an incentive and mechanism for students to enjoy being at school, to connect them to their community and to students at other schools.

"I think this program has the capacity to connect them, to promote their story, their community, their organisations… I think through that the kids will enjoy school more and be inspired to keep going," Mr Baird said.

The Sydney high schools inaugurating Australopedia are already part of the Centre for Youth Futures' IMC Sky High social justice program for schools in low SES areas, supported by IMC Financial Markets and Asset Management.

UTS Vice-Chancellor Attila Brungs told the Australopedia launch that the IMC Sky High program was an exemplar for the kind of collaboration between universities and business "that I'd like to see more of."

"It is an authentic real-world partnership that fosters collaboration and brings together researchers, community and industry," Professor Brungs said.

"Initiatives like IMC Sky High have helped participants to develop and realise their potential, to encourage and enhance aspirations for the future and to inspire continuing participation in education."

Premier Mike Baird interviewed at the Australopedia launch by UTS journalism student Han Nguyen. Interview recorded by Media Arts and Production student Eugene Wong.