In the ever-evolving digital world, technology is continuously changing our lives and the way we are doing things. This is why mathematics and computing teacher Raphael Ulka (pictured above), is encouraging his students to research and learn as much as they can about technology and why science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is the way forward.

Originating from Kerowagi District in Simbu Province and the current head of the Mathematics Department at Rosary Secondary School, Raphael has been teaching mathematics and computing for the past decade. While previously teaching at Gumine Secondary School, Simbu, Raphael had the opportunity to participate in the PNGAus Partnership Secondary Schools initiative in 2019 where his team designed an upgraded water supply system for the school as part of their initiative project. Raphael also appreciated the workshops and discussions with his Australian counterparts around leadership. He said the right leadership was needed in order to achieve set targets.

“I have used technology to enhance my understanding and motivate students to learn by doing video lessons and uploading them on YouTube. I also encouraged students to use technology safely to enhance their knowledge,” Raphael said. He teaches his students about the appropriate use of online technology to ensure they use the internet in a constructive manner and not distracted from their learning.

Raphael decided to enhance his teaching skills by applying for the Graduate Certificate in STEM Education and commenced studies in 2020 at Queensland University of Technology.

“I wanted to learn more creative teaching pedagogies and how to use real-world experiences in my lessons so students have the opportunity to know about the changing world and can relate what they learn in the classroom to these changes”, Raphael said.

The impact of COVID-19 resulted in the short course transitioning to online studies. Despite the challenges brought about by this change, Raphael was determined.

“I am taking one day at a time to do what I can to at least acquaint myself with STEM through the course and be an agent of change in my area of responsibility.”

Raphael has also compiled a design thinking workbook as a teaching tool for teachers. He is trialling it in his mathematics department and hopes to later share it with other departments.

Design thinking is a problem solving skill that involves careful planning and use of available resources.

Raphael is nearing the end of his STEM course and is already applying his knowledge in his teaching and encouraging his students to use technology wisely. “There are many learning videos online but I advise students to use their phones appropriately so they don’t deviate from their focus by social media and other applications.”

He hopes that the importance of STEM can be widely recognised as an avenue for development.