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Cows with GPS collars boost student digital literacy

A research project being jointly undertaken by CQUniversity agri-tech researchers and the cattle production team at Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges (QATC) is being used to boost the digital literacy skills and knowledge of high school students. 

Dr. Amy Cosby, Senior Research Officer at Central Queensland University, is managing the project, which extends student learning by giving them the opportunity to be involved in utilising emerging technology in the form of GPS tracking collars on cattle.

Dr Cosby said the project, called ‘GPS Cows’, includes students in research that is being undertaken currently at the QATC beef property at Blackwater Queensland. 

 “The GPS Cows project aims to improve the skills and knowledge of rural students in digital literacy through an applied agri-tech learning resource. The project is a collaboration between QATC, CQU and several high schools in Queensland and New South Wales,” she said.

 “Through the GPS livestock tracking research program already being undertaken, there is a huge volume of data being generated by the cattle – everything from how they graze the paddock, when they move to water, how they behave as a herd and so much more – to provide information that improves the productivity of the beef industry.”

 Dr Cosby said the project allows students to collect their own GPS livestock tracking data and enables them to gain an increased appreciation and knowledge of the role of technology in agriculture and the social, economic and environmental benefits that can be obtained.

 QATC Access Ag will be some of the first students to have the opportunity to be involved in the GPS Cows project.  Access Ag Program Coordinator Ms Stephanie Banditt said this is an exciting opportunity for the Access Ag students, who complete Year 11 and 12, and also two agricultural certificates over two years at Emerald Agricultural College.

 “QATC’s teaching philosophy is all about hands-on learning, and increasingly this is about getting practical with technology that is currently used or emerging in the agriculture industry,” she said.  “The students will be involved in collecting and analysing the data to answer key questions about animal behaviour; skills which can be translated into a career in beef or in other tech-influenced jobs.”

 Both Dr Cosby and Ms Banditt feel strongly about the importance of the GPS Cows program.

 “Making programs like GPS Cows available to QATC students, amongst others, is crucial to build the skills and knowledge of students who will be the future of agriculture in Australia,” Dr Cosby said.

 “By exposing students at young age to agri-tech such as GPS tracking of livestock they will be more comfortable in adopting it on their own properties when it becomes available or advising others on the benefits of doing so.”

 GPS collars are now deployed on cattle at QATC for the GPS Cows project, and enrolments in Access Ag for 2018 are available now by contacting QATC.

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