Armidale school students who regularly visit the classrooms of their South Korean counterparts via the Internet met a special guest – the Australian Prime Minister – in a Korean classroom they visited on Monday.
Julia Gillard, in Seoul for the World Nuclear Summit, was at Gyeseong Girls Catholic School when students from four Armidale schools “dropped in” from a videoconferencing studio at the University of New England courtesy of the National Broadband Network and the UNE-based Australia-Korea ConneXion Project.
O’Connor Catholic College in Armidale is linked to Gyesong Girls School in the project, and the Prime Minister sat with the Korean students as they exchanged information with the O’Connor students about their respective countries’ singers, saints and sportspeople.
When Prime Minister Gillard joined in the conversation, students from Armidale City Public School, Ben Venue Public School and Duval High School had the opportunity, too, to ask her about her impressions of Korea. Those three Armidale schools are linked to three other Korean schools in the Australia-Korea ConneXion Project.
The Prime Minister said the classroom connection was an example of “the future of education” as the NBN opened the world to students.
Led by UNE’s Dr Myung-sook Auh, the Australia-Korea ConneXion Project is funded by the University itself and the Australia-Korea Foundation within the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It also involves partnerships with technology companies that supply the hardware for the schools.
The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, congratulated Dr Auh on her leading role in the innovative project. “Broadband is literally opening up the world to students,” he said, “exposing them to people and ways of life that would otherwise be mere abstractions to them.”
“In the months ahead,” Professor Barber said, “UNE hopes to extend broadband into the remote management of farms, the delivery of health care into retirement villages and the delivery of numeracy and literacy programs into the homes of children and adults at risk of being left behind.
“When the school students involved in the Australia-Korea ConneXion Program graduate from university they will take all these advances for granted, and they will have learnt to use the NBN in ways we haven’t even begun to imagine yet.”
Professor Victor Minichiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions, said UNE was proudly using the technology of the NBN to take education to a new level.
“The Australia-Korea ConneXion Project demonstrates clearly what will become increasingly possible in education,” Professor Minichiello said. “UNE – a regional university – and local schools are demonstrating innovation and leadership in expanding opportunities to understand the cultures and learning styles of different countries, and to be part of a global learning community.”
THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, at Gyeseong Girls Catholic School in Seoul. Clicking on this photograph reveals a video image of UNE’s Chancellor, Richard Torbay (seated at rear), and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber (standing), in the UNE videoconferencing studio with Armidale school students during the link to Korea.