Navigation Menu

Web Content Display (Global)

Subject redesign an opportunity for more passionate learning

Wednesday 18 January 2023

Ashwin embraced the new subject to explore neural networks and his own approach to study.

Web Content Display (Global)

As the SACE Board reframes education, it’s safe to say Ashwin Murugappa from Aberfoyle Park High School is a thriving learner.

“I really like the autodidactic path of learning.” Ashwin has particularly demonstrated his passion for deeper understanding and agency in learning. “You can achieve mastery and you will not have any gaps in your learning, and then you can learn at your own pace. So I prefer the autodidactic learning path rather than having it spoon fed to you through a classroom.”

Giving students the opportunity to thrive also involves lifelong learning and the ability to transfer learning, and Ashwin is on board.

“I've thought, particularly with this new model that SACE has adopted, they've got a holistic view of education, and I saw that exemplified in AIF. I really thought that the SACE pathway enabled me to explore multiple avenues and interdisciplinary skills to cultivate my character, as well as prepare me for sort of university studies.”

Part of that new model is the redesigned Research Project, Activating Identities and Futures (AIF); Aberboyle Park High was part of the initial pilot. Through the AIF, students explored an area of personal interest through a process of self-directed inquiry. They take greater ownership and agency over learning ‘how to learn’ and ‘knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do’.

“Certainly I think that AIF provides a far wider scope in terms of the modalities you can use to express yourself through,” Ashwin continues.

“With AIF you have these multimodal forms in which you can present your research which actually expands the scope of what you can do.

“I think that you would not have that abundance of opportunity in Research Project… and I think that really constrains the creativity, which I think is what inherently Research Project was about.”

Fran Charlton, Assistant Principal at Aberfoyle Park, agrees.

“I've taught Research Project since its inception. So having the opportunity to teach AIF this year has been fantastic because all of the students in my class all picked something that they were passionate about or was their career pathway, so it's a broader scope. Students have an opportunity to do practical research or something that's meaningful to them.”

For Ashwin, that meaningful research lines up with his career aspiration in brain-computer interfaces.

“I basically use an EEG headset, so something that records the brain activity, and then use another program to be able to interpret those recordings and using those signals. It's called a neural network, so like an AI model, and then that AI was able to classify what I'm thinking in a certain state of mind. That AI can then be able to then can determine when I'm actually thinking that thought, so if I reproduce it the AI can then perform an action on the screen.

“I've always been a STEM-oriented person and I also enjoy the humanities side of academia. So I wanted something that sort of integrated those two components and I thought that sort of biomedical sphere had that large human impact, but also I could make a profound contribution to I suppose human academic knowledge.”

Meanwhile for Ms Charlton, the AIF pilot opened student projects to allow for different styles of learning.

“AIF allows students to present their work in lots of different multimodal ways, so if a student's not fantastic at writing but is very good at articulating their learning, then they are able to do a voice recording and then show their learning that way. So it's really about what they've learned. What did they do when they didn't know what to do? If they came up against roadblocks, what did they do to overcome those roadblocks? It's about taking it and putting it into the real world context.”

That deeper understanding and agency for learning was exemplified as Ashwin explains his need to problem solve and adapt within his AIF.

“It was very difficult to actually reproduce the same motor thought [for the AI], so I decided to use more of a muscle artifact. I used a blink to control the movement of a PowerPoint presentation. Then I also mapped it to a Flappy Bird game, so using eye blinks I was able to play a Flappy Bird game as well.”

The AIF sets up students with their own unique ability to thrive after senior schooling. Ashwin has developed these skills to take outside of the classroom: “All of the SACE capabilities I think, are what sort of make the modern-day renaissance man. So they are sort of essential to develop day to day 21st century qualities. And I think they're applied virtually in every interaction, every environment.”

In 2022, 27 schools across South Australia embraced AIF’s first pilot test. More schools are participating for the second pilot starting in semester 1, 2023.