Yesterday I attended the annual English Australia (Queensland Branch) PD Fest.
My ride into UQ, St Lucia on Leki my flower bike put me in a particularly good mood. It was a beautiful morning despite the clean up still happening due to (ex-) cyclone Debbie having passed through. Although I admit to stopping on the bridge to marvel at the state of the Brisbane River (click on the Instagram link at bottom of this post for more photos of Debbie’s impact). Once on site though, I found a great spot for Leki to chill out for the day just near the Conference entrance with all the other bikes. It was lovely to have other delegates come up looking for me and tell me they had seen my bike outside I knew it must have been me. Leki is far better than any name tag!
What is the PD Fest?
This event is primarily for teachers who teach English at various levels to people from overseas. Delegates come from a range of organisations all over Queensland. Participants are in various roles (not just teaching), but the commonality is that we all work with International students, migrants, refugees or any other ‘English as a second language learner’.
I presented at this conference two years ago and so can appreciate the effort that the presenters and organisers put into making this event happen. This year I was interested in attending to see if there were any new ideas to experiment with in my class and to see what other projects, practices and approaches other teachers were using. I made an effort to meet a few new people, all of whom were interesting company and had a wealth of teaching (and life) experiences. There was a good array of sessions that were thought-provoking and useful – as you can see from the schedule below.
English Australia (QLD Branch) PD Fest 2017
Here is the full Conference Program book: 2017 PD Fest Program Book
$6 million Partnership Fund – anyone want some?
I stayed to the very end. I was keen to see the All Star Band play – and all day I been thinking about something that Patrick Mafenstein (Group Manager – International Education and Training Unit, Trade & Investment Queensland) had presented in the morning session. He had outlined the new Queensland state strategy focused on International Students and ELICOS Education – which involves a $6 million partnership fund. One of the stipulations to apply for this funding is that application needs to be a consortium (two or more organisations – to spread the resources, work and results around). Here is an outline of the Strategy and all its details: International Education Training Strategy to Advance Queensland 2016-2026
During his presentation, Patrick asked if anyone was thinking of applying for some of the funding and as far as I could see only two hands went up in a full auditorium.
At this stage, one of the PD Fest organisers jumped in good-naturedly to tell the audience that the EA Queensland Branch was in a position to apply (was a consortium) and would welcome ideas on some projects.
Supply bicycles to international students studying in Queensland
So this is my idea for English Australia to apply for a slice of the international student funding.
To address one of the major strategic imperatives (specifically #17, as well as community engagement), I think Queensland should pilot a program where international students are supplied with bicycles for greater educational, employment and recreational mobility.
This idea could go in any number of ways and is only limited by the imagination (and interest and budget of course!). Part of the program could be safety and some riding skills as well as basic mechanical skills (changing a type etc.) needed to get started.
Additional considerations would be things like helmets, lights, reflector and locks.
To my knowledge, there is no ‘educational’ initiative that is specficially addressing international student transportation needs, so it would be ‘innovative’ as well as being sustainable, novel and practical.
The cost of transportation is currently high for international students and the impact of being isolated and unable to ‘get out’ can have serious negative impacts ranging from boredom to depression – but having access to a bicycle is mitigates such issues – it also means students are out and participating in social community life.
Mobility is an aspect of student life that is fundamental to community accessibility and interaction, yet is rarely discussed. Bicycles are a great way for students to also access other livelihood imperatives, such as health, fitness and vocational opportunities.
Queensland has some great weather for cycling, so there is even more of an impetus to get students out and about and enjoying it.
There could be an opportunity to link into other local community groups and programs or develop the idea to meet other strategic imperatives. WOudl be good to link into the local community via canvassing and collecting bicycles and collaborating with local organisations and bike and/or men’s shed to refurbish appropriate bicycles for use.
Anyway, that was the idea I pitched to the organisers at the end of the day – will be interesting to see what (if anything) happens…I’ll keep you in the loop!