Talking Devices

Let’s talk about which devices for which age group. During March, I attended a Digital Technologies 7-10 professional learning workshop which deconstructed the Western Australian Curriculum. It was a great opportunity to see what other teachers were doing in their schools and how they interpreted the DT curriculum.  For myself, one of the presenters, Maria D’Cunha from Hampton SHS, shared a story that gave me some confidence in how my journey was progressing. Like many of us, Maria was building her own Digital Technology skills and knowledge, she acknowledged that she was also learning, and not just her students. However, the biggest thing which she shared and which hit home for me was that she knew her students, she recognised that coding was something that many of her students knew nothing about and she started from that point. It didn’t matter that they were high school students, she gave them time to play and experiment with devices which many have labelled as being useful only for Early Childhood and Junior students. In Maria’s case, the devices available were BeeBots. BeeBot_blinking

So, why is this a big deal? Well, in my journey I have sat and listened to many teachers sharing their stories, and I have listened to the expectations of those developing the WA Digital Curriculum, and the message in some cases has been that within a high school setting students should be learning and using a scripting language. Now, this is doable for those students lucky enough to have had experienced a thorough ICT background with a passionate, qualified teacher and the available hardware/resources but not all students have had this opportunity. In fact, many students may not even have access to a computer or device at home, nor internet access. Starting your program at a lower level is ok and will give students time to develop the confidence, skills, and knowledge which they need. I am not saying don’t challenge students just put some time into introducing the basics, give them time to experiment and explore the new devices, software, and applications, before setting higher level tasks. We want students to develop a passion for Digital Technologies and not be turned off and frustrated by attempting tasks beyond their initial abilities.

So, what do you start with? If you are lucky enough to be in a DETWA Primary or District High school you would have received in Semester Two, last year, a Digital & Design Technology kit filled with robots and maker gadgets. This came with a document outlining which device/gadget was suitable for which age group, very handy for getting started. However, many schools are still in the process of purchasing suitable devices and it is a little confusing as to what may work for which age group. What can be recommended on device websites may not always work in the classroom setting or be appropriate for the curriculum. If you are hoping to reduce that frazzled teacher feeling (wishing you had extra limbs to be able to help all students at once) and you want students working independently with devices, it is worth putting in some time doing a little research.

My suggestion is to use your teacher network to gather information from those in the know who have used the devices and have hands on experience using them in the classroom. Having used several robots and devices myself I thought I would share my devicesopinion and what I had been advised by other educators in my professional network. I have created a document that compares the advice of the companies, DETWA and those in the classroom. If you are interested you can access it here in the curriculum resource page. It is a work in progress and if you feel you could contribute further information based on experience please take the time to email me. All suggestions and advice would be very welcome and helpful in completing the document.

Please remember that this is based on personal experience and just a suggestion, your own experience and the experiences of others may be completely different due to many factors, including student prior knowledge and the reliability of the technology infrastructure within your school.

hAPPy holidays

Happy holidays to all. We are halfway through the silly season, if like me you have been madly cleaning, cooking, shopping, wrapping and hosting during the last few weeks, you should be enjoying the calm before the New Year celebrations.

For me this means couch time, yes, the ultimate lounge lizard, with a few dips in the pool, some Xmas rum balls and holiday bubbles (champagne), my iPad and a few new books…heaven! So, what am I reading?

Online I have been catching up with some of my favourite topics and websites, or exploring new ones. First up, Brightworks-an extraordinary school. I love to read what the staff and students have been up too during the last few months. This school to me is the ultimate STEAM school with a whole school broad focus topic, CHOICE-freedom in teaching/learning for students and staff, plus technology integration with purpose. The dream school which many of us long for, or are trying to create through our learning programs.

I also checked in on Rachel Van Dyke’s blogs, Rachel focuses on teaching ‘Real World’ and STEAM art projects. Once again, building creative thinking is high on the agenda, as is using available technology and software to build design skills. Rachel has three blog sites, Teaching Elementary Art ( STEAM projects), Teaching Real World Art and Design (for High School) and her personal artworks blog.

gamestar-mechanicI have also been looking for websites and ideas on gamification and game making, and came across a great lesson on the Bloom into Ed Tech blog site. The lesson focuses on using Gamestar Mechanic to build knowledge on game design and build game design skills by creating your own game. The Gamestar teachers link gives a good run down on how to use the software, and recommends it suitable for Year 4-9 students.

The last online share is this great Prezi Edu production created by Clint Stephan, in 2014. It is a rundown of 60 Apps in 60 Minutes, well, actually 74, to use in the classroom and for your own teaching and organisational purposes. I found it to be great for any newbies, 60-appaas there is a whole range of apps to meet a range of teaching and learning needs, and also a few gems which may have passed us experienced iPad users by. It is a good reminder of what is available, I found several apps that I hadn’t used in a while or had forgotten about, and quite a few that were new to me. A great way to add to your own professional learning, download and trial a few apps for the new teaching year, in 2017.

If you are looking for a few Digital Technology and STEAM focused reads, these are what I am reading on Kindle (and hard copy):

  • 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Computing (100 Ideas for Teachers)  This is proving to be a great read with lots of different ideas for teaching and learning technology/digital technology knowledge and skills across the curriculum. 
  • From STEM to STEAM: Using Brain-Compatible Strategies to Integrate the Arts  Hhhmm…coming from an arts background I can understand some of the negative reviews regarding this book, however, for the everyday classroom teacher it gives very good examples for science and math focused creative activities. 

  • Stem by Design  A great text to get you started designing STEM lessons and projects. It gets into the nitty gritty, the why and how, about developing STEM programs.
  • Classroom Activities for the Busy Teacher I bought the hard copy, as it is a great resource for those using EVO3 LEGO robots, which we have in our school. It may also be useful for other robotic devices, as inspiration, for you to adapt the lessons to work with your school’s selected robot.