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Brett Dascombe


Brisbane students are leading the world in using cutting-edge technology to analyse global problems including Ebola and Malaria in Africa, E. coli levels in waterways, food security in the Sahel, coral health in the Great Barrier Reef and deforestation in Southeast Asia.

The incredible work of Wavell State High School Geography students is attracting international and national attention, with one student even presenting at a conference to teachers about how they are using spatial technology to analyse and provide solutions to real-world problems.

The inspirational and dynamic lessons are led by Geography teacher Brett Dascombe, who has won the Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Innovation in Teaching Award.

Mr Dascombe, who has his own YouTube channel and presents at conferences worldwide, has been sharing his resources and providing professional development for other teachers through the Geography Teachers’ Association of Queensland for more than a decade.

He was one of the first teachers in Queensland to embed geospatial mapping in his teaching and assessment and he now combines that with drone flying and the footage take from that for students.

The technology combination enables students to put together university-level assignments that take a deep dive into analytics to solve environmental and social issues.

“My Year 7 students have created swipe maps of the Great Barrier Reef – of healthy corals and not-so-healthy corals. They get excited by looking at the technology they are using, but they are also learning at the same time – it’s wonderfully engaging,” Mr Dascombe said.

His Year 12 students analyse E. coli levels in a lagoon on North Stradbroke Island.

“We take over data probes and we measure the water quality: we collect water samples, we send them to a laboratory and we test them for E. coli. We put up a drone and the students all collect individual data and shared data on that field trip and then we put it into an interactive web map,” Mr Dascombe said.

“One of my students has just been selected into the Queensland Planning Excellence Award as a finalist for her project on using that technology. Over the last two years we have had Year 12 students as finalists in the Queensland Planning Excellence Awards for secondary school students. Last year one of my students got a highly commended and in 2020 we took out first and second prizes in the Australian Spatial Science competition,” he said.

This year, a Year 12 student presented to teachers at the EduDrone conference, explaining how she used spatial technology for the North Stradbroke Island project.

“Those senior projects are just so exciting – the quality of work that the students are doing is university-level once they get through to that senior level,” Mr Dascombe said. “Teaching doesn’t have to be sitting in the classroom with a book in front you, it can be so much more these days with technology.”

It took an “18-year gap year” for Mr Dascombe to decide to study teaching. He said Geography was “exciting”, “wonderful” and “crucial” and teaching it was rewarding.

“The part of the days in the classroom when you see a ‘light bulb’ go on in a student’s head and they just get it, that is just really rewarding,” he said.

Mr Dascombe has won $5000 for professional development.

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