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Learning News Week 8 Term 4

The cartoon below is by Peter Steiner from the New Yorker on 5 July 1993. At the time, Steiner suggested he was looking for a quick humour line and recalled attaching no “profound” meaning to the cartoon.

The cartoon below is by Peter Steiner from the New Yorker on 5 July 1993. At the time, Steiner suggested he was looking for a quick humour line and recalled attaching no “profound” meaning to the cartoon.

Now it is considered one of the most famous and meaningful cartoons of the internet age. The cartoon symbolizes an understanding of “Internet privacy”: that stresses the ability of users to send and receive messages in general anonymity. The topic within embraces issues of cyber bullying to the freedom of the internet and the espionage surrounding free trade and trade wars between countries. This is all because the internet generally hides the user.

This concept links to the often quoted law of unintended consequences. This law suggests that actions of people—and especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. The exciting world of the internet, especially here for Ambrose Treacy students, can have both good and bad consequences at the same time. As the school year draws to a close, it is important that unexpected consequences are recognised and considered for the years ahead. For example, students can be one level higher in achievement by using their computers and the internet in a timely, constructive and skilful way. Fundamental programs such as Excel should be used extensively along with Cosmos Graphing to broaden a student’s understanding of statistics and algebra. Google searches can be highly productive when used in a timely fashion.

The distractions of the Internet are enormous and more than a few boys this year are a level below their inherent ability because of the distractions from the class theme and the loose guessing that is encouraged by many entertainment programs. Textbooks on-line can be useful but it seems that some students do not read these well at all. The key points are beautifully illustrated for the user but the student must still make the effort, engage their thinking and work with the text, not just skim past the colourful illustrations. I do not think the majority of this generation of students do this well. To be frank, as an experienced teacher, I have waited these past ten years to be replaced by a combination of computers and the internet. If Uber system can replace the normal registered taxi system, I thought surely computers and self-teach programs would replace me to the extent that I would be made redundant or used, at best, in a supervisory role. It has not happened because students cannot use these programs well enough to learn by themselves. If this is the case, then the argument can still be made that computers should not be used too often in class rooms. Direct instruction still has an important place in classroom learning. I live to teach another year I hope.

Which brings me to one of our themes for this year at Ambrose Treacy that is training our students through a liberal arts philosophy, where writing is the key to showing understanding in all the major subjects. Let’s begin with a good example by a nameless Year 8 ATC student in his recent Science exam addressing the question “Explain why an iceberg floats in the ocean.”

Although it is an answer to a science question, it is the deliberate use of writing skills that push the concepts of molecular structure into explaining a buoyancy question. As a school we are trying very hard to stress these skills and the approach. Although ATC is a school not a tertiary institution, this approach is broadly called a Liberal arts education. “Liberal arts subjects”: in a tertiary sense are considered to be English, Philosophy and Political science and they aim to teach people how to think, write and communicate. Here at ATC, English, Religious Education , History, Science ( STEM included), Geography are geared to teach our young people the same skills. To make a special case of it, Religious Education has an important role to play in the academic scheme. So often students will drop the lines “I am not a Catholic” or “our family don’t go to Church” as a desperate plea to be relieved of all responsibility to learn the subject. Please note here that most students would love to use the same lines for their Maths classes or History classes if they could.

As 2016 draws to a close, Catholic schools throughout Australia will not do an audit on their graduating classes to see how many of students are Catholics. Being a Catholic is essentially an invitation to the beliefs, values and practices. Academically, students can write to explain the Church’s view of the world and values and belief system that underpins it. After all, theology is defined as belief with reasoning. Hence, across at least these five subjects, writing skill remains essential and is the strongest skill to take our students through the many twists and turns of a career in today’s ever-changing digital economy.

Remember it was the late Steve Jobs who said unveiling a new edition of the iPad, “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It is technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”

Mr Greg Quinn, Assistant Dean of Learning