Smart Sparrow initiative receives gov funding boost

Smart Sparrow uses games and virtual labs to teach maths and science to high school students

Dror Ben-Naim, the inventor of Smart Sparrow.

Dror Ben-Naim, the inventor of Smart Sparrow.

A UNSW-led initiative between scientists and education experts has received a $1.64 million grant to help educate high school students about science.

Smart Sparrow uses games and virtual labs to teach maths and science to high school students.

The four modules of the program will include a search for life beyond Earth, allow students to explore where wild weather originates, examine infectious diseases, and a game-like scenario where students can enter a virtual nanoscale world.

The project will be trialled in 16 schools across Australia.

“Every student will be able to learn about real, relevant Australian science any time and at their own pace, regardless of geographical isolation or socio-economic status. And their teachers will be able to monitor the progress of both individuals and groups of students at the same time,” project leader, Dr Carol Oliver, associate director of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at UNSW, said in a statement.

She believes Generation Z students are digital natives who learn better in gamified situations than through traditional teaching techniques.

“These very different learners have the potential to become more scientifically literate than any generation before them. In our information-rich society it is critical that they understand science as a way of evidence-based thinking. Our future economy depends on it,” Oliver said.

The Smart Sparrow adaptive e-learning platform was developed at UNSW. According to its inventor Dror Ben-Naim, adaptive e-learning essentially means that content can be adapted to suit individual students within a networked educational environment.

Universities in Australia are currently deploying virtual labs and using technology such as Smart Sparrow.

For example, UNSW has developed adaptive tutorials in mechanical engineering using the software which requires students to draw a graph. Using an online graphing tool, the software is able to pick up when students make mistakes and adapt their lessons accordingly.

The Smart Science partnership involves UNSW, Smart Sparrow, the University of Western Australia, Flinders University and Arizona State University.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

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