Teaching rural students with podcasts

Name
Louise Hobbs
From
Kaniva, Victoria
Work
Secondary Teacher, Science, STEM, Business and Agriculture
Passions
Science Communication, Videography, Educational Equity

Louise Hobbs grew up in Kaniva, right near the border of Victoria and South Australia. She didn’t know what she wanted to do after high school, but now, after studying a Science undergrad, she realised it wasn’t medicine. Now she’s doing a Masters of Teaching, and using technology to help rural students learn. Listen to Louise’s study podcasts here, or follow her on Youtube and Instagram.  

It all started with a love for science

Did you know you wanted to become a teacher?

Oh no! Certainly not. I think that was my whole thing… going through school I felt a lot of pressure to have my whole life mapped out ahead of me. Throughout high school I always took a lot of opportunities, this was reflected in my VCE subject choice as I wanted to keep my options open. I thought maybe I’d like to go into medicine, maybe I’d like to do radio, maybe I’d like to do some sort of science communication job – I was just never really sure. 

I have always had a keen interest in Science, I love how Science is always changing and coming up with new solutions to everyday problems. When I was in Year 10 I was lucky enough to be a part of the John Monash Science Schools Regional Exchange program. It was on this placement that I connected with other like-minded students who also were interested and passionate about Science, this cemented the idea that this was the field I wanted to pursue a career in. But even at this stage, I was still unsure of what this might look like.

That’s what led me to do a broad science degree. I think it was ultimately with the hopes of doing medicine but throughout my degree I started to realise that wasn’t what I wanted to do, and that’s what has led me to where I am today. 

So after I finished Year 12 I completed a Bachelor of Science at Monash University where I majored in Pharmacology and minored in Immunology and Business Management.

What led to teaching? 

There’s a bit of a difference between teaching and medicine! When I initially undertook my degree, I was planning on sitting the GAMSAT and entering postgraduate Medicine or Pharmacy. When I undertook my placement in second year, I realised that people didn’t really care whether they were receiving a Beta Blocker or ACE inhibitor, instead they wanted instant results from drugs without undertaking any lifestyle change. I really reflected on my time during placement and thought maybe I would be better suited as a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative, especially considering I would be communicating with medical professionals who care about drug types. 

In my final year I won Monash Department of Pharmacology’s Pharmaceutical Representative Presentation award, but through the whole process I realised that I wouldn’t be part of a positive change in people’s lives and, the best way I could possibly achieve that would be through education. 

It was really a culmination of this and the misinformation throughout COVID that led me to the realisation that STEM has been poorly delivered in schools and that I wanted to be part of changing that.

Louise teaches Science, STEM, Agriculture and Business classes. 

And now you’re using podcasts to help teach Science and STEM?

I originally was thinking of doing some sort of revision video to help the students try and understand some of the concepts. Especially if they’re away from school, it can be difficult for students to catch up. 

I also wanted to teach them how to study. When I was in high school, I never knew what the difference between study and homework was. I felt like I needed to create something that was a bit innovative and was something that students would be able to access when they got home. 

The biggest problem I saw with Youtube was that a lot of students don’t have that much data at home. Especially because we’re in the country – the internet is poor. Most students have satellite internet and that just doesn’t cut it. So it’s not really an option to say hey, just watch everything online when you get home. 

So knowing that, I instead came up with the idea of spotify. It comes included with a lot of mobile carrier plans, it doesn’t use extra mobile data. I remember back when I was going through Year 12, I was commuting from Kaniva to Horsham. I remembered that I used to listen to podcasts on the way, they don’t use a lot of data, and that was what started the idea. 

Since the announcement of the latest Victorian lockdown, I actually ended up producing Youtube content as an alternative to WebEx delivery. Whilst this has proved effective and I would look at continuing this in potentially a flipped classroom model, I intend to continue podcasting due to the ease of accessibility and the fantastic study tool it provides to senior students.

Watch Louise’s videos on Youtube

You want to make sure rural young people get a great education? 

I’m really passionate about trying to give country kids access to the same educational opportunities that city kids get. That was a big thing for me. When I saw the John Monash Science School Program I thought WOW. This is a school that has almost unlimited resources. This is next level access to facilities and infrastructure. Yes we’ve got resources in the country, but we need to think innovatively – we don’t have a synchrotron next door. Which is what we did there – we walked across the road to the synchrotron for one of our chemistry lessons. But out here in the country we can’t just go next door. We’ve got distance as a barrier. I think it’s really important that small country schools work together and think of innovative ideas to help support our students to achieve the best educational opportunities. 

So for now, I’ll keep doing the podcast. I haven’t found a lot of other resources like this to use. If the students are happy with it, and keep finding it useful, I’ll keep making them. 

What would be something you would say to those who are undertaking year 12 at the moment?

That it’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do. There’s so much stigma and pressure in Year 12 that you’re supposed to know what you want to do, but my advice is keep your options open, do a variety of subjects and do a broad degree. I changed my major three times throughout my degree because I realised I didn’t want to do what I was doing, and that’s okay. I felt so much pressure in high school to have my whole life planned out, if I could offer any advice to my past self or a current Year 12 it would be to not stress about your future as everything has a way of working out for the best if you keep your options open.

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