mauhAn innovative project that is enabling school students in Australia and South Korea to visit each other’s classrooms via the Internet was strengthened by the signing of new international agreements at the University of New England last week.

The day (Thursday 8 September) began with a videoconferencing link between students at Armidale’s Ben Venue Public School and their counterparts at Cheongsol Primary School in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea. Representatives of the NSW Department of Education and Communities, UNE, and two leading IT companies visited Ben Venue School to observe the Australian end of the live link.

Later that day, Memoranda of Understanding were signed between UNE, which leads the “Australia-Korea ConneXion” (AKC) project, and the two technology companies – South Korea’s Samyang Data Systems and Cisco International. These MOUs build on the cooperative relationship between UNE and companies that supply and maintain videoconferencing equipment for the project.

Ben Venue Public School is one of six Armidale schools – both primary and secondary – involved in the AKC project. On Thursday a panel of Ben Venue students spoke to their Korean counterparts about aspects of Australia’s natural and social environment, and there was an impressive demonstration by two young Ben Venue gymnasts – Stephen Offner and Caitlin Schuman. It was then time for the Korean students to reciprocate with their own presentation. Currently there are 10 Australian schools and 10 South Korean schools involved in the AKC project, with the primary schools engaging in this kind of exchange once a week, and the secondary schools once a fortnight.

After the demonstration, the visiting delegation – led by Mr Yeongju Choi, CEO of Samyang Data Systems, and Mr Andrew Thompson, Director of International Business Development for Cisco Systems – travelled to UNE to meet the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, and the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of The Professions, Professor Victor Minichiello, for the formal signing of the MOUs.

Mr Choi said he believed that the MOU was “a milestone in a partnership” that was contributing to “mutual understanding between cultures”. “This partnership will help our dream come true for children in Australia and Korea,” he said. Mr Thompson said that Cisco International was keen to find partners who would be leaders in the next wave of educational innovation, and that the company was impressed by UNE’s involvement in this process.

Professor Barber told the visitors that UNE shared their vision of educational innovation through the creative use of new technologies, and that the possibilities were “very exciting”. Both Professor Barber and Professor Minichiello thanked the UNE project team, led by Dr Myung-sook Auh from UNE’s School of Education, for its work on the AKC project itself and for facilitating the events on the day. The project is conducted through the UNE-based National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR) with the assistance of SiMERR’s Director, Professor John Pegg, and his colleague Dr Chris Reading, who are both members of the project team.

“Currently, the project is designed to help Australian students in rural and regional schools learn more about other cultures by working with same-age peers in that culture,” Professor Minichiello explained. “In the case of Korean students, the focus is on learning about Australia and Australian ways and, in doing so, to practise their skills in speaking English.”

THE PHOTOGRAPH of UNE’s Dr Myung-sook Auh displayed here was taken at Ben Venue Public School during the video link.

This article was written by UNE’s Marketing and Public Affairs and reproduced here with their permission.

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