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Using the power of the Internet to peak down barriers and give rural and remote students access to a broader curriculum is the goal of Coolah Central School Principal Brendan Maher, winner of the $15,000 Premier’s Teachers Mutual Bank New and Emerging Technologies Scholarship.
Presented to Mr Maher at NSW Parliament House on Saturday, 24 August, the scholarship will fund a study called ‘Fostering Student Success through Development of Connected Learning Communities’ that will draw upon knowledge from the best in Australia and New Zealand.
Formerly the Deputy Principal of the Western Access Program which connects rural and remote schools in K-12 in western NSW, Mr. Maher said the success and growth of that program spurred his desire to extend his work on connected learning programs.
“Combatting challenges for rural and regional schools in NSW is something I care deeply about. These schools are challenged with being able to offer a broad curriculum to retain students, staff turnover and needing further support with the new NSW curriculum, increasing staff capacity to deliver sustainable curricula and incorporating connected learning and digital concepts in the classroom,” Mr Maher said.
“I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact connected learning communities can have in engaging teachers and students in remote areas by offering them broad opportunities to learn without having to travel. Continuing to improve our current programs and create new school networks will make sure no schools are disadvantaged and are able to offer quality curricula to meet all students’ needs.”
Mr Maher said: “Schools need to work smarter and not harder and I hope the outcome of my study will raise awareness for schools that there are options and we don’t have to sacrifice curricula and the best teachers because the school is remote.”
The project will involve a study tour throughout Australia and New Zealand in 2014 to meet with school leaders who have developed successful programs as well as conducting webinar sessions on educational leadership.
Working as an educator for over 12 years, he is a qualified Technology, Applied Science, Information and Technology VET teacher. He previously implemented creative solutions for connected learning. In his current role, he has been very active in working collaboratively with local schools to develop networks to support staff and widen opportunities.