Special Education Australia was started by Keith Wolfson, a computer programmer, computer analyst, businessman, and teacher with degrees in Business, Economics, and Education.
In 2005, after a long career in technology in business and a shorter career in secondary school teaching, Keith registered his company Pedacomp and commenced offering teacher professional development workshops. His primary interest was how teachers can use technology to enhance enhance student learning, rather than how to teach students about technology.
Pedacomp’s first workshop in August 2005 was “Using Web Page Design with Microsoft Frontpage to Enhance Student Learning” with sessions held in multiple venues across urban and rural New South Wales. The second course was “Using Microsoft Office as a Teaching and Learning Tool”.
The feedback from teachers who attended those two courses was highly favourable and in late 2005 approximately 100 of them wrote to the NSW Minister of Education, and the Director of the NSW Department of Education suggesting they consult with Keith Wolfson about Technology in Teaching professional development.
In 2006 Paul Martin, assistant to the NSW Minister for Education invited Keith to apply to have Pedacomp registered as an endorsed provider with the newly created NSW Institute of Teachers, which Paul Martin had responsibility for establishing.
After a stringent approval review Pedacomp became the first specialist Technology in Education professional development provider endorsed by the NSW Institute of Teachers.
(Paul Martin is now the Director of the New South Wales Education and Standards Authority, NESA, the enlarged successor to NSW Institute of Teachers, now responsible for curriculum development as well as teacher accreditation and professional development).
The Intervening Years
In the years of Pedacomp’s NSW Institute of Teachers endorsement the company provided professional development courses and workshops to over 15,000 New South Wales teachers from almost 2000 schools.
In 2016 Pedacomp conducted a series of pilot workshops in Queensland and Victoria of the course “Teaching in a BYOD classroom”. That series also achieved outstanding approval ratings. However, the logistics of conducting face to face professional development in multiple states was judged to be too onerous and the company chose for the time being to continue operating only in New South Wales.
In NESA’s most recent 5-year audit of Pedacomp they reported an average approval rating of over 80%, a significant achievement in a professional development area that many teachers struggle with.
Pedacomp and Remote Professional Learning
In 2018, before the name “Zoom” become commonly known around the world, Pedacomp became the first professional development provider to pilot a hands-on, interactive professional development workshop using Zoom.
Each of the participating urban and remote schools was pre-shipped a boxed, complete set of robots and coding devices, as well as laptops and tablets preloaded with appropriate software and applications.
On the scheduled day and time of the webinar the remote teacher groups linked into Pedacomp’s Zoom system from their school library or school staff room, listened to and discussed with Pedacomp’s presenter the theory being covered, observed his live demonstration of the software and robots, and then experimented themselves, with his on-line assistance, with the coding applications and robots.
The feedback from these workshops was excellent, with many teachers commenting that the experience was as good as or superior to face-to-face venue learning.
Pedacomp, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Education
Keith Wolfson commenced his close interest in artificial intelligence and robotics in 2016 whilst developing Pedacomp’s “Teaching in a BYOD classroom” workshop. His reading and research caused him to realise that in the near future robotics and artificial intelligence would change the nature of much of work.
Over the next few years, tracking the rapid pace of development in these two areas, he became convinced that within less than fifteen years the world of employment school leavers would be entering would be very different, offering both exciting new areas of opportunity for those who were prepared for the change, but closing off many areas for those who were not. In his professional development workshops he started to place before teachers the evidence of that coming change.
He also watched closely for developments that would allow teachers to utilise and take advantage of artificial intelligence in teaching and learning.
Pedacomp’s “Using Microsoft and Google’s “Breakthrough” FREE Artificial Intelligence (AI) apps to assist students with hearing, visual, and reading problems or disabilities” workshops.
That time arrived in 2020. Enormous strides had been made in webinar and Internet learning during the COVID crisis, and huge advances, unimaginable only one year before had occurred in Deep Learning, Neural Networked, Self-Teaching Artificial Intelligence systems. Among those advances were easy-to-use free Artificial Intelligence systems interfaces, available on the web, which placed these enormously powerful resources at the disposal of teachers in a form they could easily use.
In December 2020 Pedacomp conducted a pilot of the new “Microsoft and Google Artificial Intelligence apps” workshops in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, and, with the pilot receiving positive feedback, in 2021 implemented the full program for all teachers and schools across Australia and New Zealand.
Change of Name
In April 2022 in accordance with its new emphasis on the use of artificial intelligence in assisting teachers to assist special education needs students, Pedacomp changed its name to Special Education Australia.