CQUni 'Professor Tech' Michael Cowling recognised with Australian Teaching Excellence Award

25 February 2021

In 2020' while battling a cancer diagnosis and dealing with the challenges of COVID-19' CQUniversity Brisbane Associate Professor Michael Cowling called on his love of teaching to get him through.

It was this passion for teaching and learning that has earned him an Australian Teaching Excellence award at the 2020 Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT).

The AAUT recognise quality teaching practices and outstanding contributions to student learning. Recipients' with the support of their institutions' further contribute to systemic change in learning and teaching through ongoing knowledge sharing and dissemination.

Associate Professor Cowling is the fourth CQUniversity academic to receive the Teaching Excellence Award since the awards were launched in 1997. He has received a citation in the past' but this award provides national recognition of his work in physical science and related fields' with only one award in this category presented each year.

'It's really exciting – I'm on cloud nine'' he said.

'I really value the recognition. It's a peer-judged award and what they're saying is that what I am doing is worthwhile. I couldn't have done it without the enormous support of CQUni's L&T Excellence team (part of the Learning Design and Innovation directorate)' including Marlene Page' Nadine Adams' and Dr Tilly Hinton.'

As a strategist' innovator and educator' Michael works tirelessly as 'Professor Tech' to train school students' CQUniversity students and staff in various technologies' including augmented reality' virtual reality' robotics' 3D printing and more. His 'Weaving Technology into the Fabric of the Classroom' workshop series for K – 12 teachers was the recipient of a 2019 CQUniversity Opal Award for Excellence in Engagement – Learning and Teaching.

In 2019 he was diagnosed with bowel cancer and spent much of 2020 undergoing surgery and chemotherapy. Thankfully' the treatments were successful' and he was able to bounce back' revitalising his training delivery around COVID-19 to keep his stakeholders engaged.

'I just took it one step at a time' and I had great support from the School of Engineering and Technology' particularly the Head of College Associate Professor Marilyn Wells'' he said.

'My aim in moving my courses online was to ensure they remained interesting and relevant. This sometimes meant leveraging new technologies' and sometimes just meant working out how to deliver a lecture over video.

It's about learning what the students need – learning should always be student-focussed.

'My approach has always been pedagogy before technology. You have to think about what's going to be most effective – if that's Augmented or Virtual Reality that's awesome' or robotics' that's awesome too' but it might also just be lego bricks and an iPad too.'

He said ultimately the AAUT was looking for a teacher at heart.

'They're interested in your practice – they want you to be a teacher and see how you've pushed your expertise out into other areas.

'They want to know what I've done with technology and education – like AR and VR in paramedic science' or computer networks' or anatomy with our heart MR app' and they want to know it's been effective in changing student learning.'

Associate Professor Cowling's high level of leadership' by running workshops in schools and with CQUni staff around technology also was recognised by the award.

He realised that the award would open many new doors and opportunities.

'It does help professionally. I'm definitely aiming higher in the academy' but ultimately I just want to get that love of technology and comfort with technology to as many people as possible' including educators and CQUni staff'' he said.