Another guest post, this time from Lee Hewes, an innovative primary school teacher from Merrylands East Public School. He writes here about how Minecraft can be integrated across all areas of the curriculum. Originally published on: https://leehewes.wordpress.com/
A few weeks ago I presented at a teachmeet at the the Sydney Powerhouse Museum, AKA the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. The topic was STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) + X (STEM+X). The idea was to share some of the things you have done and/or are doing in your classroom or workplace around integrating STEM with other KLAs, for example, a STEM and PE project would be STEM + PE.
When I was asked to present, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share how I’ve been using Minecraft in my classroom over the last few years and how it really can be used across all subject areas. Just like the ‘play’ within the game itself, what you do with it in the classroom is only limited by your own creativity and that of your students. Below I will share some of the cool things that my students and i have done and how they link to KLAs across the curriculum.
Above are some screenshots of some science projects that I have run with my students. Last year, my students completed a project with the driving question, “How can K/1L show their learning in Minecraft?” One of the groups made a representation of a silkworm life cycle by building the different stages and then sharing a screencast and overlaid audio to demonstrate what they’d learned.
Now, not only does this video demonstrate sound knowledge of stage 1 science outcomes, it also demonstrates how my students have achieved outcomes in the English syllabus by creating multimodal texts and reflecting on their own and others’ learning.
The other screenshots are of the seven buildings my year 1 class made during a science project in which they had to build a city in Minecraft. The driving question was, “Can mini MEPS people design a dream city?” Again, this crosses outcomes across both the science and English syllabuses. There was even a bit of stage 1 mathematics in there as we discussed the different areas and volumes of the buildings and had to count and measure distances between windows and doors with pinpoint accuracy. Plus it was loads of fun. My class still love visiting Lionfish City!
Technology and Engineering
Above are some screenshots of some work done in a Minecraft mod called Computer Craft. With this mod you program a little computerised turtle to build and dig for you. I made mine build a house for me and at the moment I have students from year 1 through to year 4 working regularly on Thursday mornings and within my year 1 class on a Friday to challenge themselves to do the same. Some of them are up to the point where they can get it to build four walls, and I will be teaching them how to write a ‘for’ loop in Lua so they can get the turtle to change inventory slots when it runs out of blocks.
It’s a really cool mod, because unlike more basic programming tools like Scratch, you can actually switch between a visual, block style editor and a programming editor which allows the keener kids to get a sense of what’s going on with the actual language itself. If kids can understand that, then they are taken a decent step towards a proper understanding of programming.
Now, computer programming isn’t in the NSW primary curriculum yet but there is strong talk to suggest that it soon will be, and kids who are doing this kind of stuff in Minecraft are already ahead of the curve.
I have been using Minecraft a lot this year for extension in mathematics. For example, if a kid in my class totally nails what we are working on during our first lesson, there is no need for them to be sitting with the rest of the class who need further practise or additional (pardon the pun) help from me. In many cases I set them a Minecraft challenge, such as building a clock to show me a certain time to the half hour (as above) or showing me the difference between two numbers by building a series of towers and writing the number sentence on a sign (as above).
As with the videos shown above in the science section, last year my K/1 class made some maths themed Minecraft videos in order to demonstrate their learning. One group madehouses out of 3D objects such as rectangular and triangular prisms, another shared knowledge of equal groups (multiplication), while another made a truly impressive and remarkable maths game in which are presented with a series of addition problems which increase in difficulty as the game progresses. Watch the video to see how it works. Again, these videos cross outcomes across several KLAs.
So, that’s the STEM stuff covered with Minecraft, how about the + ‘X’? Well, my friends, read on to find out!
I’ve already mentioned how making videos in Minecraft is great way to work with the English syllabus. There’s a lot of teaching and planning that goes into each video as kids storyboard and write scripts to plan for what they will be saying over each video. Of course, as they speak over each video, they have to make sure what tey are saying is clear and audible – hence, talking and listening!
Above are some screenshots of videos about Minecraft castles and dragons made by the K/1 Koalas last year. We read a bunch of stuff about castles and dragons and watched a whole bunch of videos to make sure we knew enough about each topic to speak over our videos. Again, it was loads of fun. Who wouldn’t want to learn about castles and dragons!?
My students also do a lot of writing about what they do in Minecraft. You see screenshots of a Minecraft story written by one of my students very early in the year using Storybird, as well as some great writing by another of my students using Kidblog. It’s a cute little Minecraft love story which she wrote at home and then brought in to school so she could type it up on her blog and search for digital images to add to it.
I also teach my kids to search for images that are ‘labelled for reuse’ so that they are aware that it’s inappropriate and illegal behaviour to go around breaking copyright laws. All this at age 6!
Now, there are any number of ways you can link art with Minecraft. You could get kids to do cool Minecraft paintings and artworks, or you could get them to make some interesting visual art themed builds based on their favourite artists. The limit is only placed by how creative you are in your thinking.
With my class, I decided to make an epically large, life sized gigantic creeper out of cardboard boxes and papier mâché. It took weeks and we had heaps of fun and made A LOT of mess. I still need to finish off the ‘pixels’ on top of his head and make it waterproof with some outdoor acrylic varnish. The kindy kids at school want to use it to post sight words on and do a weekly creeper hunt to find him located in random spots around the school. See, there’s that cross-curricular Minecraft stuff in action again – sight words!
Above you can see screenshots of a video I made for a year 3 class a few years ago, all about sun safety. It’s all about a zombie who sets off to go fishing with his friend, Ralph. He is a very sun smart zombie and before he leaves the house he makes sure to put on his sunscreen and a hat. When he meets Ralph, he discovers that he is not so sun smart and has forgotten to protect himself. He subsequently bursts into flames!
I made this as a lesson intro but you could quite easily get students to make similar videos about a range of health related issues, such as healthy eating and hygiene. Again, the only limit is your creativity.
More videos made by me. One is of a cute little Japanese song called ‘The Frog Song‘ which I learned with the same year 3 class for whom I made the sun smart zombie video. I made the song by tuning note blocks in Minecraft and linking them to pressure plates to walk across. I then took a screencast of me walking across them to play the song. The other video is one I made of note blocks being linked to red stone circuits in order to play the intro Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’, I got the timing a bit wrong, but hey, it was my first attempt and red stone circuitry is tricky!
I am yet to do this with a class, but when I do, I would love to teach them the frog song and get them to go and build it Minecraft using red stone circuitry, maybe when I get a stage 2 class. It will be loads of fun.
21st Century Skills
By now you would have heard a lot of talking about the need for kids to be equipped ’21st Century Skills’ such as communication, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, digital citizenship and ICT capability. How do we teach these skills? The ICT capability component is quite obvious with Minecraft, kids need to be able to navigate their way around a 3 dimensional computer world, using computer controls, while learning basic coding skills and knowledge of things like ip addresses in order to log on to your class server. However, what about some of those other skills?
There is a lot of ‘incidental learning’ which takes place on a Minecraft server. For example, in the screenshots above you can see a wither (a three headed Minecraft monster which flies around shooting flaming skulls at anything that moves). Now, obviously you don’t really want one of these flying around your server shooting at everyone and destroying all of your builds. Last year, however, one of my students purposely spawned one of these creatures in our class world, and it set about causing destruction. This prompted a server shut down and a lengthy class discussion around what it means to be a good digital citizen. How your online actions affect the online experience of those who share the same space. My students agreed that the wither spawning had not been a good idea and the student involved went on to write an apologetic blog post about what he had done and why it had been a bad idea. A blog post by a year one student regarding digital citizenship!
I also run a school Minecraft club on Wednesdays and Fridays in which I set club challenges using a Minecraft challenge generator. The amount of collaboration, communication and problem solving which goes on in these short meetings as students work together to meet these set challenges is amazing. Sometimes I jump in the world to help them solve these problems, but mostly I’m just there in the background watching as they work through the challenges together, all the while creatively mining and building away.
So there you have it, these are just some of the ways I have used Minecraft ‘gaming’ in my classroom and I’m sure I’ll find more awesome ways in future. You can see my presentation below if you’re interested, but I’ve basically just written you through it. Thanks for reading!
We have received the following Ministerial Fact Sheet about the National Innovation and Science Agenda from the Federal Department of Education and Training which may be of interest to members.
Measure: Inspiring all Australians in digital literacy and STEM
This initiative will increase the participation of all students and the community in ICT and improve their digital literacy. There will be a focus on tackling the digital divide by ensuring that students most at risk of falling behind in the digital age are given opportunities to participate and engage.
About the initiatives
School education ($50.6 million)
Upskilling our teachers The Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies provides teachers with a world class curriculum which prepares students for the challenges of the digital economy. The Government will roll out a nationally available, free online course – with dedicated support and some start up equipment for primary and early secondary teachers to help develop fundamental teaching skills and knowledge relating to the new digital technologies curriculum.Additional support, according to state priorities, will be provided to schools in disadvantaged areas through access to specialist ICT teachers who can provide extra in-classroom support to such schools for up to a term.
Upskilling our students
The Government is funding national computing challenges for all Year 5 and 7 students as well as a national competition “Cracking the Code” which will set various types of computing/coding challenges for Year 4 – 12 students. A computer science summer school for up to 60 Year 9 and 10 students will be held annually, focusing on students who are underrepresented in STEM subjects such as those living in disadvantaged areas.
Facilitating partnerships with industry
The Australian Government will provide support for at least 2000 flexible partnerships between STEM professionals and schools, helping students and teachers understand how STEM is applied in the real world. They will be introduced to emerging STEM innovations and potential career paths, student mentoring opportunities, and a better understanding of industry expectations. There will be a focus on brokering partnerships with women currently working in STEM.
Enhancing digital literacy through a whole-of-school approach
Principals and ICT school champions will be identifed to promote best practice and change management across all Australian Curriculum learning areas. $4 million in grants over two years will be available for 100 plus projects which partner successful school ICT leaders with other, less ICT capable local schools and which propose innovative methods of driving enhanced digital literacy across the curriculum.
Engaging in the early years ($14 million over four years)
As a part of a suite of initiatives (to be implemented with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science), the Australian Government will invest in the foundation of the STEM skills to promote positive science and maths experiences for children aged three to five. This will include developing online resource for teachers, parents and studentsand a series of apps to engage curiosity and learning.
The amount of funding for the measure and the timeframe
Total funding for Inspiring all Australians in digital literacy and STEM is $112.2 million. The Department of Education and Training’s initiatives total $64.6 million. These will be provided over four years. The initiatives commence from July 2016.
Why it is important
Ensuring the next generations of young Australians have the skills to equip them for the workforce of the 21st century is critical in maximising our economic and social wellbeing in an increasingly global and digital age.
Given the impact of emerging technologies will be felt disproportionately by those in low skilled occupations, it is more important than ever to increase digital literacy among the most disadvantaged students – such as those in low SES areas, Indigenous students and those living in regional and remote areas. The initiatives will also engage and retain girls in STEM studies, and address systemic barriers to STEM careers for women.
How it supports the Government’s agenda
The Foundation for Young Australians claims that up to 70 per cent of young people are preparing for jobs that, due to the impact of automation, will no longer exist in the future – especially in entry level occupations for schools leavers. The range of initiatives under the Inspiring all Australians in digital literacy and STEM measure will ensure future generations are STEM skilled and digitally literate. By supporting the implementation of the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies and closing the digital divide for Australia’s most disadvantaged and underrepresented students, the next generations of Australian students will have the skills to equip them for the 21st century workforce.
For more information visit www.innovation.gov.au
Leanne Cameron, President, ICTENSW
This guest blog post is from Joachim Cohen, Education Outreach Program Manager for Intel Australia and Contractor, Creative Activation. It forms the first of a three part series on STEM Education.
A passionate educator, excited by the potential the 21st century connected landscape presents to grow, harness and develop the skills of learners as creators. As an Australia wide Educational Technology evangelist with Intel I am passionate about professional development for teachers with a focus on STEM and educational innovation to ensure the best outcomes for schools, students and teachers.
It’s time to #STEAM up the curriculum to invigorate student’s interest in #STEM
I thought I would start this journey with a statistic from an Infographic Intel has recently created
65% of students in primary school are being prepared for jobs that don’t exist yet
75% of the fastest growing jobs require STEM skills 70% of Australian employers regard their STEM staff as their most innovative
Maker / STEM Infographic with Statistic and Quotation Links:http://bit.ly/STEMInfographic15
There is a clear imperative to grow STEM, that is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics competencies in our students, yet only a small percentage of our students take them up when given a choice. Sitting writing this article in Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (Formerly the Powerhouse) I am struck by the buzz of students exploring the physicality of STEM. Jumping through spaceships and steam engines, laughing in wonder at the size of computers that physically define Moore’s Law and driving the Mars Rover. So, the conundrum is how do we recreate this excitement in our classroom to drive and keep students engaged? With the Digital Technologies Curriculum now ready for introduction in some states and to follow with a similar emphasis in others, the time might be right to start an integrated STEM conversation with maker technologies the inspiration for a project that can span the curriculum, incorporate digital technologies and ignite student’s imagination.
How can we ignite interest in STEM?
Bunsen burners, measurement wheels, scones and toolboxes are always on the agenda at any high school open day, exciting students about the potential of STEM subjects and driving their eager path to high school. Yet as the real year 7 begins in many schools this is replaced with text based scenarios and minimal real world connections. Adopting a project based approach to learning can provide a platform to combine all these skills in a real world situation. Students can be presented with or develop a driving question and then use a process such as design thinking to investigate, evaluate, deconstruct and propose, develop and execute a digital solution. The model below is an exploration of the components:
Further Information and Conext: http://innovationtoolbox.intel.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/A-Teachers-Guide-to-the-Intel-Galileo-Final.pdf
The challenge then as a primary teacher or a cross-curricular secondary team is to ensure this project or challenge has the potential to jump outside the text and get physical keeping students motivated and engaging their natural drive to design and engineer. Providing students with access to maker technologies can provide the key and the inspiration they need and the tools to help engineer solutions.
Jumping on to a website such as LittleBird or Sparkfun or delving in to Gary Stager’s Guide to Creating and Inventing with Technology in the classroom you will find a plethora of maker tools available. In the majority they are simple and easy to use but importantly provide students with the ability to create and engineer digital solutions as well as providing a tactile connection for online technology, computational and mathematical tasks such as coding and programming. Effectively bridging the divide between the digital and physical worlds and providing the means to integrate technology, design, mathematics and science.
Arduino microcontrollers, sensing and doing computers:
As the Education Outreach Programs Manager for Intel in Australia, I am fortunate enough to have access to some really cool technology, but it is something with a little less bling yet so much opportunity that is catching students’ and teachers’ attention across Australia.
An Intel Galileo Board in action
The Intel Galileo (pictured above) is one example of an Arduino compatible Microcontroller Computer….in non tekkie terms a computer that senses and responds according to how it is programmed. Using computer code (technology and mathematical skills) connected through electrical circuits (science) students can design (engineering) solutions to real world or simulated problems that take the curriculum out of the textbook and in to a students reality across the curriculum.
So what are some STEM projects you can do with a Microcontroller?
How about a Mars Rover?: A smart robot requires computational coding skills to program its functions, scientific circuit knowledge to connect all components, traditional wood and metal technology engineering skills to create an effective design.
Pimp that pillow or soft toy: Add lights, a buzzer and movement or touch sensors to STEM up a favourite textiles technology task. Students will need to code their pillow, develop circuits and engineer safety through design.
An Automated Model Home: With the assistance of sensors and internet connectivity a microcontroller can provide the basis for home automation, and with a little extra work create data sets for use in science and mathematics. Construction, programming and design of the connected home taps in to technology and engineering skills. A real, tangible project with a connection to a student’s reality helping science and mathematics come to life with the infusion of the STEM skillset.
A Mars Rover, a Landmine detector….whatever you can invent
These are just some of the projects students across Australia have created that solve multidisciplinary problems with maker technologies, and at the same time giving students a reason to need and get excited about STEM.
Are you sitting there reading, wondering where the A went from the title? Some of you may have already been converted from STEM to STEAM, A being officially ‘Art’ but I like to think ‘Anything’ agriculture, architecture, automotive, because I challenge you to name an area of study in which design, technology and engineering cannot play a part. STEAM plays a vital role in playing down the ‘geek’ and adding in the ‘glamour’ to drive momentum towards STEM.
Putting it all together:
Design Thinking especially when combined with maker technologies in projects like those we have explored, provides the means to ensure the development of learners and individuals with the well rounded skill set demanded in the General Capabilities section of the Australian Curriculum. Take a look at the diagram below for a summary of the skills a maker inspired Design Thinking approach can promote. This is of course, in addition to the cross curricular links inherit in project design:
But I can’t, I am not technical?
An enthused teacher, lighting up the harbour bridge in one of our training sessions
If I can you can! I am a teacher-librarian who has always shied away from code, but I am now inspiring teachers and students with the Intel Galileo. I can make lights blink, sensors react, buzzers sound. I have come to realise it is not about the code but about the thinking behind it. It is all about using the code to solve a problem and developing and tinkering with code and design is problem solving and computational thinking in itself. Actually as a language teacher I have come to see code as really just another language.
Are you inspired to begin your #makered #STEM #STEAM journey and want to know what the next step is? Why not take a look at all the resources available on our resource site the Innovation Toolbox. As part of our efforts to assist schools get excited about STEM we have created this community driven website, here you will find all the resources to learn and be inspired, including a highlight video that showcases physical computing is possible in both Primary and Secondary settings:
Galileo Teachers Guide: http://bit.ly/GalileoEducatorsGuide
Galileo Introduction Slide Deck: http://bit.ly/GalileoIntro
Sample Projects: http://bit.ly/STEAMProjects
Innovation Stories: http://bit.ly/InnovationStories
Innovation Playlist: http://bit.ly/InnovationVideos
Physical Computing Continuum: http://bit.ly/GalileoContinuum
MacICT Course: Introduction to the Intel Galileo: http://www.macict.edu.au/professional-learning/introduction-to-the-intel-galileo/
The Teachers Guide, a sneak peek at one awesome Curriculum linked resource
Where can you begin?
Many teachers and school communities are reticent to dive straight in to the integrated STEM/STEAM space. Visiting schools across Australia, many have begun with the introduction of a MakerSpace or FabLab, a place to show teachers and students what is possible with STEAM tools like physical computers before taking it in to the mainstream. Add an Microcontroller like the Galileo to a suite of maker tools such as a 3D printer, Laser Cutter, and basic maker technologies, and you will inspire a generation…in the words of Gary Stager ‘Making is the best thing schools can do to prepare students to solve problems.’ Source: http://innovationtoolbox.intel.com.au/intel-blog/learning-in-the-making-how-the-maker-movement-powers-stem-and-student-curiosity-an-infographic/
In the meantime combine a MakerSpace with the introduction of a Project Based pedagogical approach using Intel’s Online Teach Elements professional learning program and you are in prime position to adopt a Maker / STEAM mindset that fosters critical thinking and prepares students for those 65% of jobs that have yet to be invented.
Educators, it’s time to inspire a generation!
Intel Teach Elements Courses: http://bit.ly/intelteach
Gary Stager’s Guide to Creating and Inventing with Technology in the classroom :http://bit.ly/MakerSpaceGuide
ICT Educators NSW held their Term 4 meet on Monday 26 October 2015 at TARA Anglican School for Girls. The focus for the evening was implications for NSW educators following theendorsement of the Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum: Technologies by the Education Council in September.
BOSTES (http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/) Inspector (Technology Education), Peter Thompson (@TechEdBOSTES), presented the first keynote. Peter has had a long association with ICT Educators NSW. As well as a source of information about teaching and learning in our area, he is an enthusiastic advocate for our organisation, and importantly, for the role for digital technologies in NSW education.
Peter spoke about the process in NSW that follows endorsement. It does not mean that NSW teachers begin teaching the Technologies curriculum next year. The Australian Curriculum: Technologies is not a syllabus and its implementation is different across jurisdictions in Australia. The 23 independent people who make up the NSW Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES) members now begin the process that drives syllabus development and educators across the years are encouraged to join the conversation informing syllabus development through contributing through the consultation processes.
Syllabus development in NSW is not a quick process. However, Peter reminded us that outcomes relating to digital technologies are already an important part of the existing mandated curriculum implemented in NSW schools. Teachers don’t need to wait for the new syllabus to design authentic learning activities promoting the type of problem solving that is inherent in computational thinking processes.
One teacher who is already doing this is Abi Woldhuis (@abiwoldhuis), primary school teacher and Innovation Specialist at Roseville College. Abi gave an overview that explained key concepts of computational thinking and presented many examples of how that can operationalised currently in NSW classrooms. Computational Thinking, according to Abi, is a ‘problem solving process that includes a number of characteristics and dispositions’ – so it is a way of thinking about problems and using digital technologies to help solve them. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the (U.S. based Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) has put together a one-page flyer that helps to define the concept.
Abi went on to explain how she operationalises these Computational Thinking dispositions and attitudes in her teaching. She taps into excellent programs such as the Young ICT Explorers and a number of resources by organisations such as Made with Code. Abi has generously curated a range of resources for educators across the years to tap into.
Below are the keynotes and resources provided by our speakers on Monday night. ICT Educator’s NSW thanks Amanda Hogan (@hogesonline) and TARA Anglican School for Girlsfor providing our venue and catering for our meeting on Monday evening. A special thank you to our presenters, Peter Thompson and Abi Waldhius for their time in preparing the presentations, allowing us to record their presentations and for making their resources available to our members and associates.
Peter Thompson presentation pptx format – ThompsonICTENSW20151026Peter Thompson Presentation in PDF format – ThompsonICTENSW20151026
Peter Thompson Presentation – Audio Only (mp3)
Peter spoke about the following resources during his presentation:
A unit of work integrated Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – the iSTEM course http://www.meprogram.com.au/2013/11/istem-course-ready-to-go/Australian Curriculum: Technologies (ACARA)
CEDA – Committee for Economic Development of Australia – Australia’s Future Workforce. On 16 June 2015, CEDA released a major report focused on the future of Australia’s workforce. The report is available for download on CEDA’s website.
Office of the Chief Scientist – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the National Interest: A Strategic Approach. The report can be downloaded from their website.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future (September 2014):
Progressing STEM Skills in Australia (March 2015)
The Warren Centre’s 2015 Innovation Lecture with Salah Sukkariech Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems UoSyd; Nov 17.
At the end of Peter’s presentation, Leanne Cameron showed us a clip created by TASITEand ACCE called Demystifying Digital Technologies:
Abi Woldhuis presentation pdf format – AbiWoldhuis20151026
Abi Woldhuis presentation Audio only mp3
Abi spoke about the following in her presentation
Made with Code by Google – https://www.madewithcode.com/Promotional Video clip showed by Abi – https://youtu.be/aFF8PYDU0D8Google’s Computational Thinking Guide Computational Thinking for Educators, an online course where you will learn what CT is and how it can be integrated into a variety of subject areas https://computationalthinkingcourse.withgoogle.com/preview
Promotional Video clip showed by Abi
Debra Bourne, Vice President, ICTENSW
This guest blog post is from Chris Woldhuis, Head of Professional Development and Student Opportunities at Northern Beaches Christian School. Chris is an innovative and experienced IT Educator, who has now progressed to developing special programs within the school, presents regularly at conferences, and coaches staff.
This is Chris’ report on a different way to structure the Northern Beaches Outdoor Education Program.
Northern Beaches Christian School Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning
Creativity is an important aspect of IT and Design. When considering the current camping or Outdoor Education program, Northern Beaches Christian School, decided to reinvent the program and create options for staff to choose the types of programs on offer and for students to be able to choose the program they participate in. Essentially, a passion based co-curricular program.
IT & Design is one of the programs that has experienced significant student interest and has generated a number of projects that continued to develop after the initial program.
In 2015, around 80 students chose the IT & Design program. They were given a wide variety of ideas to spark their imagination. Their task was to generate an idea and shape it into a proposal. Most students utilised the current resources available at school to create their projects.
Students then proposed their ideas to the IT & Design team leaders, made up of staff and external experts. The team worked through the proposals with students changing some of their ideas, refining them or keeping them as is.
As students arrived at the Design and Production Suites at NBCS for the program, they were given a quick welcome and introduction to the team and they were welcomed to start their work. Some examples of the projects are below:
A number of students arrived at camp not knowing what they were going to do, they started exploring the equipment and resources available and sometimes joined other groups who needed more people.
The projects were interesting and varied, but what made the program fantastic was the engagement of the students. Full engagement. So engrossed in their projects that they needed to be stopped for break times. They turned up early and wanted to stay late.
Problem solving was happening consistently. As a number of the students were aiming to create something they were unsure was actually possible, normal techniques sometimes didn’t give the desired result. New ways of working had to be engineered.
The management of skills within teams was also evident. Comments like: “You’re good at building, so you take this complex model and I’ll help you program it once it’s built” or “This model has a higher difficulty rating, so you focus on that otherwise we won’t have time to complete the model”.
A good example of the nature of the problem solving, was the WWII model creators who completed numerous tests and experiments. They wanted to get the correct texture of the ground to make it authentic but had to consider the drying time fo the glue to fit into the schedule.
Steve Jobs once said that:
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.
Did this program improve creativity? Absolutely yes. The students were challenged by the tasks they chose. Challenged to express, produce, invent and innovate. Some even edged into the space of imaginative creativity. How did the program create this? By encouraging and allowing connections to be made, between students, staff, experts, resources and time.
Where is the program headed? What is in store for 2016? It’s not clear yet, students will have the final say.
It is with great excitement I write that on Friday, 18th September, 2015, the Education Council endorsed the Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum: Technologies, “where students can learn important skills in problem solving and technical skills such as coding, right from their early years” (see full report here).
For those who have yet to familiarise themselves with the new Technologies Curriculum, you can find the Rationale and further details here. From this page you will see that the Australian Curriculum: Technologies includes two distinct but related subjects:
I recommend you look at the comprehensive Scope and Sequence for each subject that can be found in the navigation bar on the left of the respective pages. These outline a cohesive progression of study that should prepare our students well for their future. Those who have had the opportunity to examine the new curriculum agree it will ensure that all Australian students have the opportunity to explore the full Technology experience throughout their schooling. That is, in addition to learning to simply use ICT (as required by the General Capability already embedded in the Australian Curriculum), they will be creating and producing with technology.
So what does this mean for the average classroom teacher? Well, it depends on the state in which you teach (curriculum is ultimately a state-based decision). Victoria made their intention clear to move ahead with this new Technologies Curriculum last week by launching a new webpage. Similarly, other States and Territories have also begun implementation plans. However, for those teaching in NSW, the path is less clear. As I noted in an earlier piece (NSW and the Australian Curriculum: What is all the fuss about?) we may have to work with the current subjects for a while yet. If NSW doesn’t want to to be left behind, NSW teachers, parents and students need to make our concerns known. Write to BOSTES about your desire to have NSW adopt the new Technologies Curriculum, especially in the Secondary School where a review of technology-related subjects has not been undertaken for quite some time.
Watch this space and hopefully we will be able to bring your more good news in the near future.
President, NSW Educators NSW
Carrie Anne Philbin of Geek Girl Diaries blog fame, and a global leader in STEM education, kindly agreed to do a brief presentation at our Term 3 meeting on Monday 3rd August. Additionally, ICTENSW helped spread the word that the Powerhouse Museum provided a unique opportunity for Science, Technology and Maths teachers and curriculum leaders to engage with Carrie Anne and Sydney’s own Nicky Ringland. Details were:
When: Wednesday 5 August
FREE Lunchtime Keynote with Carrie Anne Philbin and Nicky Ringland
12midday – 1pm, Powerhouse Museum Theatrette
FREE Evening Workshop with Carrie Anne Philbin
4.30pm – 6.30pm, Powerhouse Museum Thinkspace
Carrie Anne Philbin produces the Geek Girl Diaries, tweets a lot, wrote the popular book ‘Adventures in Raspberry Pi’ and is the principal educational evangelist at the Raspberry PiFoundation. Carrie Anne is also responsible for Picademy, the Foundation’s free professional development experience for primary and secondary teachers, open to individuals around the world.
Nicky Ringland is one of the founders of Grok Learning, an educational startup teaching the world to code. A serial volunteer, Nicky is also an Outreach Officer for the National
Computer Science School, an initiative of the University of Sydney, and runs outreach activities (workshops, camps and competitions) to inspire and educate high school students
and teachers in computer science.
For an account of the events, please check out the twitter streams sent on those days with the hashtags #ICTENSW, #Picademyau and #MissPhilbin. Did you fail to secure your place? Don’t miss out again. Sign up to receive our regular posts, or better still, join ICT Educators NSW and receive a discount when you attend these events.
This blog post is from a very special guest. Jonah Maranan sat the HSC in Industrial Technology Multimedia in 2014, and was selected to appear in the exhibition of major works. He worked extremely hard in the HSC and achieved a top mark in Industrial Technology. This is his perspective of the subject.
Think 2013: the year when Edward Snowden leaked information that refuelled the spark of global privacy concerns over the Internet, and the 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who was released in cinemas with David Tennant in it. You know, important stuff. But probablyone of the most important events that occurred was the beginning of my HSC year in December and in turn, the beginning of a HSC Major Work.
My Multimedia teacher, who was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had the pleasure of having (she totally did not tell me to write that, but seriously I’m being sincere), told her Multimedia class the same thing she told her previous classes:
“I’m always right.”
No wait, hang on. That’s not it. It was:
“Listen to my advice.”
Best piece of advice I was ever given during the HSC.
And I think students looking back would agree with me when I say that 90% of the time, the teachers were surprisingly right. For once. Just kidding (a little bit). Fixing essays, tweaking projects, following formulas in a structured way, and for once, fix your illegible writing.
Anyway, my teacher told us to start planning our projects immediately. Do something over the holidays, do some solid research before coming in next lesson, and make sure you have the capacity to do it, instead of watching an 18-minute YouTube video figuring out what the hell masking is on After Effects before October. I want to say I did all that, but it was the holidays, so I did a little: come up with an idea.
I loved comic books and film-making. I loved old-timey science-fiction in the 50s and 80s, where almost everything was props, costumes, cheap lighting and cheesy plots. And I also love the Fallout games (Fallout 4 and Doom, everyone!). So, why not make a major work out of it? My original plan was to create a science-fiction short film that takes homage to the 1980s and 1950s (arguably, the greatest decades of science-fiction films) and a small 12-page comic book that exists in the universe of the short film I was creating. In other words, a short film of 5 minutes and a prop replica that exists in the short film. That was my original idea. Probably one of the most important things I ever learnt during my Multimedia Major Work is that you can not be too complacent with the original idea you have. You must adapt to the changing circumstances as the year progresses. You must learn how to kill your (metaphorical) baby.
I became overly concerned with creating a proper plot for my short film and comic book.
What is the story I can tell? Who are the characters? Why are they important? And then I realised:
‘What have I actually done? How’s my folio doing?’
And like the hero my teacher was, she said that the HSC major work was about showing enough skill; impress them with your mastery in post-production effects and graphic design, not how well you can write a screenplay. That’s English Extension. Teachers marking the major works will have 20 minutes to mark your work. They want to see your progression throughout the year, your evaluations, the folio essentially, and probably, the last thing they will watch is the final product. It was the reality check I needed.
That’s when I changed my project. I decided to switch priorities of dedicating my time to creating a comic book that homages to 1950s comics and the Fallout universe, and an accompanying science-fiction short film trailer that can be watched in a good-old 1950s drive-in. Good move, me. Finding the time to work on my folio, an integral part to the assignment, learning how to create something with the Adobe suite and simultaneously creating that thing.
I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t easy. As the title may suggest, I am a perfectionist. Every little detail counts. I would spend the entire day and most of my night until 1am fixing small details on one page of a 24-page comic book. A lot of late nights, a lot of stressing, and then there is the rest of the HSC to worry about.
I used a variety of techniques to create my comic book. I utilised Wacom graphics tablet to draw my assets from scratch, place them into Adobe Illustrator and colour them using Adobe Photoshop, and then organise them in Adobe InDesign. I also sketched my assets on A3 pages using pencils and ink brushes, scanning them, scaling them down in Adobe Photoshop to the recommended size and refining outlines when digitised in Adobe Illustrator. It was important, of course, to take into moderation and always keep learning on how to be more efficient: in my folio work and my major work.
Since I was initially creating a short film, I spent the entire holidays filming and making sure it was all right, until I changed it. After changing my Statement of Intent slightly, I had all these video assets to create something spectacular. From meteor showers and image compositing to 3D backgrounds and laser beam effects, it took a long time learning at home and applying it at school to create all these assets and compile them in Adobe Premiere. I’m not sure if you noticed, but our school LOVED the Adobe Creative Suite. For better or for worse.
There’s nothing more satisfying and also odd at the same time when you realise you’re done. Am I really done? Is that it? Is it finally over? Wow, that went by so quickly. It wasn’t then until I realised that a lot of my time spent creating this Multimedia Major Work was all about planning and evaluating, rather than actual doing. Organising an efficient time plan, finding efficient processes to create something yet shows enough skill, researching media in the 1950s and 1980s for inspiration, and killing almost every idea that were critically evaluated from your peers, teachers and most of all, you in the Development of Ideas. It was important to keep track of what I was doing so I kept a blog to track my development over the Major Work year. I constantly updated my teacher with my progress as a way of validation mostly for the sake of me keeping a less-stressed mind (if that were even possible, during the HSC). But I will tell you, once your folio is finished, your video is uploaded and your other media is printed, you can’t but help put your fist in the air on the footy field. Or go on a float during a city parade and sing ‘Twist & Shout’. I may have been watching a lot of John Hughes’ movies before writing this.
I loved my HSC Multimedia class, when we talked about the right pronunciation of cache or when our principal tried the Oculus Rift for the very first time, and I’m proud of the work I created even if it stressed the hell out of me. And I guess hard work pays off, because I was invited to showcase at the Annual InTech Exhibition for getting 97% on my Major Work. And I also received the coveted Band 6, that every student wants in their HSC year for their ATAR.
So what can you do as a teacher as December arrives or what you can do now to say to your students? Tell them to be optimistic and a little stressed as well (because stress genuinely helps). Tell them to always be evaluating every idea they have, run it by you or their peers. Tell them to research on a daily basis and gathering inspiration. Tell them to update their folio every time they make progress because they will forget what they did that Friday afternoon. But most of all, make sure you give them advice and that they adhere to it because it’s YOU who has the most experience with the HSC, and it’s their first time.
Or, during December, you can tell them, “Welcome to Hell”, put your feet up on the desk and watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens as you sit there laughing at the misery of your students. Okay, maybe not that last bit, but seriously:
One of the most important things you can do right now is to listen to the teacher’s advice (especially during the HSC year) and watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens this December. You know, important stuff.
Short-Film Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEIw9HbMO7c
Evidence of Progression – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaLO0nRNoCo
In-Tech Exhibition Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgLM24otDJY
This blog post is the second of a new ICTENSW initiative to include guest bloggers who are examples of innovative educators, and their thoughts on technology. This blog post is from Dan Bowen, who is an innovative educator, and ICTENSW member, who tweets @dan_bowen
The reason I have put pen to blog on this subject is not as an educational advisor or tech person but as a Dad of three young kids under eight. Coding and computing seems to be polarising and confusing people in Australia even at the top.
Take this recent news item as an example. Bill Shorten suggests that “Coding is the literacy of the 21st Century, and every young Australian should be able to read and write the global language of the digital age”.
Tony Abbot in response suggests that “He [Bill Shorten] said that he wants primary school kids to be taught coding so they can get the jobs of the future. Does he want to send them all out to work at the age of 11? Is that what he wants to do? Seriously?”
So what going on? The lack of knowledge in the media and the need for quick sound ‘bytes’ have meant that this entire discussion moves the public eyes to that of coding. Just as a quick introduction, there is more to computing than coding. Similarly do we believe that teaching music should always be about one genre or teaching art is all about painting in watercolour. The Australian curriculum for digital technologies is an excellent curriculum and has had in depth review. As we are all aware it has been implemented in many states locally but NOT ALL and has been subject to several debates of late including this one from ICTENSW. However underpinning this curriculum area is a plethora of creative, problem solving and broader concepts that are skills that every employer deems critical in the current and future workplace.
As someone who has spent time looking at curricula in different countries around Europe and now Australia, it’s clear that for a country to maintain its competitive edge it is not about the code – it is about the application of the code, the process of development, the problem solving and creativity to build solutions that matter (and work).
Being able to program is one of the major skill sets you may need but to move the economy forward we need to develop digital entrepreneurs and more effective software developers in Australia and globally. Countries cannot ‘app’ or ‘program’ themselves out of a recession. And I think this might even prove to be a false economy. I have worked on several projects over the years where the creative talent has been sought away from our shores. The Photoshop developer from Singapore, the web developer from his basement in the UK, the moodle technical support from a China and the digital music developer (who is also a full time student) from the US, I could go on.
‘Coding entrepreneurs are needed – a workforce that innovates’
Coding entrepreneurs are needed. We need a workforce that innovates and has ideas. We need to develop the creative and innovative – NOT the robotic. For example: when we think of the creation of worldwide products three concepts spring to mind:
The fruit syndrome – innovation driven in the US, for example the Apple iPhone, but mass produced in China and Asia. Programming and hardware can be a cheap commodity in many cases. We will never compete with the millions of coders coming out of the emerging markets so the ideas are where it is at.
The Italian Job – A quick quiz. Pizza and Espresso were invented in Italy, by whom? I bet you don’t know. But you would know they are now known and developed by Starbucks and Pizza Hut. We need to be thinking as a developer making the products more scalable and possibly more targeted to customers’ needs. Making things better and for a better world.
Flappy bird syndrome – Two years ago a low graphics game was removed from several ‘App stores’ even though the creator claimed it was making him $50,000 a day on advertising. Quick wins are few and far between. This is the same mentality as telling our kids they will be a soccer player when they grow up (even though there is more likelihood that they will play for an EPL team than create a one-off app that will make them millions).
So where does this leave us? Ideas matter, original thinkers matter, BUT everyone coding well doesn’t matter. Having an appreciation of code and the processes of abstraction and decomposition of problems, I would argue, are even more important.
What shortage of programmers?
The UK and Australia do not have a shortage of computer programmers. They do have shortage of good software developers. This is something we need to work on in the curriculum. And for development there’s much more to it than just programming. It can take years to develop the skills and knowledge needed to build reliable, maintainable, secure and scalable software.
It is not the ability to write clean new software, but the ability of the software developers to adapt existing software which can keep pace with and even lead the competition – that is the key to success in industry. Generating a lot of mediocre programmers will result in the need for more developers to correct legacy code that was written poorly. Finally, in industry, to keep up the pace, most development teams are overstaffed, and we know that a majority of software projects fail to deliver any real value when developed like this.
Bubbles and sound bites, such as the Year of Code, although very good could flood the market with average or below-average programmers. When the market is flooded with non-competent programmers then it is very difficult and time consuming, as well as risky, to identify really good developers and maintain the advantage.
So how can we develop entrepreneurship and software developers? Here are some ideas:
Implement the digital technologies curriculum properly and if that can’t be done every state to take it on board and do it consistently;
Teach ALL kids to appreciate code – and not be afraid of it;
Teach MOST kids the basics of coding, process and project management. This group includes the students who will have the entrepreneurial ideas and will deliver innovation;
Teach SOME kids to develop code efficiently and in detail so they become effective developers who can code for scalability, re-use and maintenance;
Upskill the media commentators and government officials to understand the breadth of software development and design and highlight that it is not all about coding!
And here are three final thoughts:
There have been many mathematicians with far greater mathematical knowledge than Einstein. However, his application of the knowledge allowed him to innovate and see things differently. His elegance in developing solutions and theorems provided a springboard to future generations of mathematicians to develop them further, for example with quantum and string theory.
The OECD school rankings do not (as yet) measure creativity and innovation and will certainly not help any economies innovate themselves out of a recession.
Most people reading this will be very pro-technology but we need the majority to start thinking about the Australia and the economy that we want to build for our kids. It’s all very well living in a beautiful country but we need jobs that create products, excite people, innovate and actually motivate for people to lead the world rather than be led.
Last year my school invested in Remark OMR Software (Optical Mark Recognition) in order to improve students multiple choice responses. Some HSC subjects take 20% of their mark from multiple choice, so although it is important to have students write well for the short answers, and for extended responses, it is also important to give students practice in all types of questions that they will get in their examinations. Remark also includes a feature to generate reports which give an item analysis which allows teachers to address common misunderstandings of content. For example, the question 5 graph at the right of this paragraph shows a section of the report generated from Remark. This allows me as a teacher to go back and look at distractor A and explain to students why that was not a correct answer. In the case of this question, more students actually got the question incorrect. Since my exam only has 10 multiple choice questions, I used to do this same thing with a pen and paper tally sheet, and graphs in keynote. However, the software helps to save time in the generation of reports. This is where the power of this software really comes in. It not only saves time, but adds value to the feedback to students.
ZipGrade Cloud is an IOS and Android app that allows you to print off answer sheets, and then use your phone to scan students responses. The beauty of this is that every teacher in the school can have access to it, and do it in class so that students get instant feedback. Unlike other digital versions such as Flubaroo, or Socrative, teachers don’t have to pre-prepare anything, they can use already existing exams (such as past HSC exams), and keep copies of answer sheets in your drawer. The answer sheets, unlike Remark, don’t have to be specific to the exam that you are running. The workflow is basically, students sit the exam, then you set up a new exam on your phone, scan the sheets, and generate the results. This doesn’t create the pretty graphs that Remark does, but you can export to CSV and then create the graphs yourself in Excel. The cost difference between this and the Remark system is substantial. The ZipGrade app is free for 100 scans to try out, then they have a variable pricing structure, where you can purchase for either 2 months ($2) or a year ($7). If the school was considering a Volume purchase, they can purchase the app for $10 with no recurring charges.
Aside from answering paper based multiple choice responses, there are also a number of web based tools and apps available that are student response clickers. Socrative, Kahoot, Poll Everywhere, GoSoapbox and E-Clicker are all systems that allow students with individual devices to respond to a question with then immediate feedback to the teachers. Each of these use different devices and systems. For example, PollEverywhere uses SMS technology, whereas Socrative and E-Clicker are apps. I particularly like E-Clicker, as there is also a computer version for the teacher, so that you can create quizzes on your computer (so much easier to type than ipad). These are all reasonably priced (under $10), or free for teachers, and all are free for students.
Finally, if you are a Google Fan, you can create a form in Google forms, which is easy to do, but does require some preparation. I created this one, by looking back through old exams that I had constructed, and copying and pasting across. The good thing is, if you have a list of bullet points, it will allow you to paste into the google form with every point then becoming another option. Once you have answered the form yourself, then you can run an add on for Google Docs,Flubaroo, in order to get it to automatically mark your responses, and then email students their feedback, straight away. It also generates you a spreadsheet, which highlights questions that are worthwhile going over with with students. (see right)
The power with all of these systems are the analytics provided. This gives you the opportunity as a teacher to determine where are the gaps in your student knowledge, and then to design differentiated learning activities in order to address those gaps. There is also the added benefit of giving teachers feedback on construction of multiple choice questions, including appropriate development of distractors.
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