Kookaberry: Shaping the Future of STEM

Our children are our future. Public domain photo supplied by NSW Government on Unsplash @stem.T4L

 

Primary school teachers in Australia have a new secret weapon: the Kookaberry


 

Educational institutions all across the globe agree.  Digital literacy is essential in today’s society. In Australia, the requirement to incorporate digital technologies into the classroom has increased focus on computer science, computational thinking, and other areas not previously taught until senior secondary programs, if at all. 

The National STEM School Education Strategy agreed by Australia’s state education ministers in December 2016 specifies:

  • Goal 1: Ensure all students finish school with a strong foundational knowledge in STEM and related skills.
  • Goal 2: Ensure that students are inspired to take on more challenging STEM subjects.

The introduction of digital literacy curriculum into primary schools reflect the changing requirements for success in today’s digital world, but resources for teachers are not evolving as quickly. Primary school teachers have always been “jacks-of-all-trades” as contrasted to their more specialised secondary teacher counterparts. 

With the addition of the curriculum requirement, how can a teacher find the time to integrate such a specialised subject into an already packed day?

The AustSTEM Foundation, a not-for-profit charity, has created a primary STEM learning platform and ecosystem with those challenges in mind.

AustSTEM Foundation’s New Technology: The Kookaberry

The AustSTEM Foundation created the Kookaberry to tackle some of the challenges primary teachers face and to help them teach the new Technologies curriculum with confidence. The Kookaberry is designed to make things easier for teachers and to ensure digital technology can be integrated into all subjects. 

What is the Kookaberry?

The Kookaberry is a digital technology solution to a current pedagogical problem. Current digital technology tools such as the RaspberryPi, Arduino or Micro:bit are excellent for teaching digital technology in secondary schools.  However, they require programming in order to deliver learning activities other than coding, which takes time and skill that many primary teachers may not have. The Kookaberry uses a wide selection of plug-and-play sensors, indicators and control elements. Simple menus navigate pre-programmed on-board applications. Independent of Wi-Fi and the internet, the unit is fully self-contained.

The device engages both students and educators directly with science, technology, and mathematics. The Kookaberry is a tool to bring real-world data and experiences into project-based learning throughout the primary curriculum. Its open-source technology is compatible with Arduino and the Micro:bit. 

What does it do?

The Kookaberry bridges the gap between the current digital tools on the market and the need for digital technology education in primary grades. It is useful and simple to use and can enhance primary teaching across the entire curriculum. 

The Kookaberry can function as a variety of different learning tools. It can be a digital thermometer, motion detector, clock, music generator, and can run classic games such as space invaders or pong. One of the most powerful features is its MicroPython on-board code editor, which allows teachers and students to modify the Kookaberry’s capabilities directly. What other edutech device can say that? Surprisingly, this awesome classroom tool won’t break the bank. The current target price is under $30 for a large quantity manufacturing run of this Australian designed device in Australia! 

How Can the Kookaberry Be Used in the Classroom?

Teachers can use the Kookaberry to meet curriculum standards for almost every subject. Within the digital ecosystem of the Kookaberry, there are many lesson plans to make learning easy and fun!

Why is the Kookaberry Important to the future of STEM education?

Dr Elizabeth Flinn of Middlesex University in England says, “[I]t is important that learners engage in plenty of hands-on group work and have opportunities for enquiry and for discussions throughout.  It is also important to introduce STEM activities as early as possible so that learners can develop key skills of problem-solving, critical thinking and mathematical reasoning from an early age.”

With the help of the Kookaberry, primary school students can answer questions such as:

  • What is a digital system?
  • What are networks?
  • What is data?
  • What is the goal of coding?
  • What is the relationship between inputs and outputs?

Active science and technology instruction improves children’s performance in STEM subjects. The Kookaberry can be used without lengthy programming and set-up time enabling digital technology to be integrated into more subjects, supporting teachers with new possibilities to meet curriculum requirements.  The challenges facing the world are creating demand for a new generation of engineers, scientists, and STEM-literate citizens. Understanding the basics of the scientific method, having a comfortable fluency with numerical data, and mastering simple programming are skills within the reach of primary students.  These skills are increasingly relevant with the rapid evolution of technology globally. In order to keep up, STEM education must start in the primary years.

What Can You Do?

The AustSTEM Foundation is conducting privately-funded trials of the Kookaberry in primary schools in NSW and in a University School of Education. The foundation intends to raise the funds to make it freely available to all Year 5 children across Australia in 2020.

Support the AustSTEM Foundation by spreading the word about the Kookaberry. Their current priority is to raise funds for trials, further development, and implementation of the Kookaberry primary STEM platform and its ecosystem of video tutorials, sensors, indicators, control elements, logistics, and teacher/student support communities.


If you would like to learn more or support this project, please contact John Phillips at john@auststem.com.au. John is a Director of the AustSTEM Foundation and the Manager of Education Projects at The Warren Centre.


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