01 December 2010
Aboriginal plumbers tap into teaching innovation
Cyril Yarran wearing the telematic sunglasses, with teacher Wayne Ellerton.
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A group of Aboriginal apprentice plumbers are trialling new learning and teaching technology as part of their training at RMIT University.
The students are using telematic learning equipment - small cameras fitted into sunglasses that record how they go about their tasks.
The work can then be downloaded and reviewed, providing a record of students' practical ability that can be used for assessment.
The students can also compile their work as an e-portfolio to demonstrate their competencies to a future employer.
The apprenticeships are part of an innovative scheme, where Aboriginal youngsters come to Melbourne from across Australia as employees of the CEPU plumbers' union.
The students, mostly from Western Australia and the Northern Territory, work on a variety of Victorian job sites, including the desalination plant, and undertake 11 weeks' training at RMIT over three years.
Cyril Yarran, a second-year apprentice from Kalgoorlie in WA, praised the scheme.
"It's totally different coming from a small town to a big city, but becoming a plumber is the best thing I did.
"When I finish I'll go back home and help my community."
Plumbing teacher Wayne Ellerton said the telematic cameras fitted an approach of learning theory on the job through group work.
"We're still in an experimental stage but the camera glasses allow the students to review their work and self-assess.
"We're also able to replace many written exams - students can prove in practice that they have the necessary competencies."
Milton Nomikoudis, from RMIT's Learning and Teaching Unit, said: "This has been a great partnership between the University and industry to create successful learning and real employment outcomes for our Indigenous plumbing students.
"A key to the success of our work has been the transformation of our learning and teaching.
"Through a generous grant by the Telematics Trust, we have been able to purchase new technologies that are making the learning experience more engaging, enjoyable and relevant for our students."
Students can record their skills for review.
These apprentice plumbers come from Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Victoria.