BY KERRY ANDERSON
Digital crusader, Tim Gentle’s, passion for regional, rural and remote Australia has prompted his latest challenge to get people on board with digital learning. His new catch cry of ‘Get on Board’ may be coming to a rural town near you!
As the finishing touches were being applied in preparation for the official launch of the Think Digital Coach this week in Brisbane, Tim Gentle took me for the first ever on-board tour explaining why he has embarked on this very ambitious adventure to take digital education out into the region.
Renowned for his boundless energy it has been interesting to read Tim’s posts on social media the past few months as his latest, and by far most challenging, project has taken shape. Maybe, just maybe, there were times when even Tim might have felt just a tiny bit overwhelmed?
It all suddenly gathered momentum in 2015 when he entered a competition. With his usual infectious enthusiasm he put his case forward and duly found himself presented with a coach courtesy of a Bus Recycle Program sponsored by Young’s Bus Service in Rockhampton.
“I have my sleeves rolled up, a coach ready for fit out and a wealth of education to share,” he announced to the world.
A series of photographs has recorded the transformation of the coach courtesy of family, friends and a team of tradespeople, accompanied by a running commentary expressing Tim’s overwhelming gratefulness and just a hint of weariness.
Underpinning this whole project has been Tim’s passion for regional, rural and remote Australia and a clear inequality when it comes to the ability to adopt and use technology.
“Rural people are getting left behind,” says Tim. “The digital world is not slowing down and I want to help them to keep up. This is why #ThinkDigitalCoach is bringing technology out into the region.”
He admits to feeling a bit like a crusader over the past ten years since the concept was first sketched in a business planning workshop.
“None of this happened overnight, a lot of time and energy has gone into it.”
Not quite at the same speed of developing technology, his initial concept started with a 4WD vehicle and trailer fitted out with a satellite dish and grew into a full sized road coach thanks to Young’s Bus Service.
Essentially the coach can be used to host small groups for in-house education as it travels around to rural towns and schools. He will also be training up community champions who will have the opportunity to come on board for a week of training with him.
Tim has over 30 seminar topics that can be delivered in house or via webinars and on-demand-learning. I’m chuffed to learn that, as a result of a professional development day that Tim and I collaborated on in 2015, he has also developed a new topic of Maximising a Digital Classroom for teachers and also a session for students to engage in a Makerspace session.
So how will it be funded?
Tim will work with local governments and corporates who will sponsor the Think Digital Coach to visit their region.
Commissions from sales made via the Think Digital Coach Program will be placed into a Magic Pudding Fund which is the not-for-profit arm of this enterprise. Tim explains that 50% of the fund will be used to provide free internships to Community Champions to enhance their skills and usefulness to their communities, and 50% to maintain and fuel the 6-wheel Digital Coach.
A digital roadshow tour of the Mallee and Sunraysia will be the Think Digital Coach’s first pilot test after which Tim is planning to be on the road for several months at a time covering various parts of Australia
Recently announcing that his family is relocating from Bendigo in Central Victoria to Philip Island, Tim explains that this is so wife Kylie and the children will have family support while he is on the road.
“Being away from my family, is the one sad part about this project,” he admits.
In the meantime regional, rural and remote Australia will become his new family as he brings digital learning to the outback.
KERRY ANDERSON: A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia. She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace opportunities.