2015: A Long and Winding Road

2015 was a memorable year, of highs and lows. It was a year of experimentation, exploring possibilities, and learning how to be a coach and change leader. I learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes, and am starting to feel more positive about my future.

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ISTE – Building connections and relationships to last a lifetime

 2015 was the year:

  • I travelled to the United States of America for the ISTE 2015 conference, where I gave three presentations, and met so many wonderful friends and educators from all over the globe.Among renegades, boundary pushers, innovators … I felt at home. ISTE has to be one of the greatest highlights of my professional career so far.
  • I was recognised as an ISTE Emerging Leader, an award I am forever grateful for. Ironically, being only the fifth or sixth Australian to be recognised by ISTE has a significant disadvantage – in that most Australian teachers and school leaders I meet (who aren’t on social media) have absolutely no idea what ISTE is, and what this award stands for.
  • I graduated from Notre Dame University with my Postgraduate Certificate in Religious Education, bringing to an end 1.5 years of part-time postgraduate study.
  • Later in the year, I completed the requirements for my “Accreditation to Teach Religious Education”, which will enable me to continue teaching in the Catholic Education system.
  • In October, after nearly seven years, I became a fully registered teacher in Western Australia. Those currently going through the registration process in line with the Australian Teacher Standards will know just how much work goes into this!
  • I started to explore new learning opportunities in maker education, robotics, and STEM.
  • I learned a great deal about leading change within a school community. Perhaps the most important lesson being that teachers learn in a variety of different ways.

 

What’s been happening with #ipsict?

My new role this year was to work as an ICT integrator / coach, to support teachers’ professional learning with ICT and digital technologies. It was at times exhilarating, surprising, tumultuous, and challenging. Looking back, I see a lot to celebrate, and an opportunity to learn from my mistakes.

Introducing Digital Technologies & the Makerspace

We began exploring new avenues for engaging girls in ICT and digital technologies, with a particular emphasis on coding and robotics. The more I throw at my girls, the more they come back and surprise me.

  • This year, we introduced (i.e. took a deep breath and played with) BeeBots and introductory coding apps in Early Childhood; and started to explore the deeper possibilities of Scratch in upper primary. I was blown away by my students’ enthusiasm, problem solving, collaboration, and learning. One of my more memorable moments was sitting down with a Year 5 girl and basically asking “how on Earth did you do that in Scratch?”
  • The librarian and I started building our makerspace in our library, catching the attention of local university education researchers and the Catholic Education Office of WA. We have big plans for next year – watch this space!
  • I established our Digital Captains leadership positions, working with two Year 6 ‘digital leaders’ to test new robots, lesson ideas, and share our makerspace concept with the community at our Open Night – where they performed a robot fashion show! These two amazing students grew so much over the course of the year, and I look forward to following their progress as they enter high school next year. I have big plans for our next group of Digital Captains – next year will be interesting!

Establishing a new LEGO Robotics Program

In the Term 3 school holidays, I met the Engineering Outreach Coordinator at Curtin University, who roped me into judging the WA FIRST LEGO League Tournament, and generously loaned us two LEGO NXT robots.

In Term 4, we established a lunchtime robotics club with a group of Year 5 students, and applied for – and WON a FIRST Australia / Google robotics grant to set up our own robotics program. Next year, we will be taking at least one team of Year 6 students to compete in the FIRST Lego League competition! This has meant that my role will be evolving next year, as I will be leading the development of our new LEGO robotics extension program.

Looking Forward to 2016

2015 was, in many respects, a challenging year. Yet, I believe we have set a strong foundation for what is to come. As a school community, we’re moving forward … even if it is along a long and winding road.

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Establishing a Student Digital Leaders Program

At the start of the 2015 school year, I began working with two wonderful Year 6 students, who were appointed as our inaugural Digital Captains. Every week, for almost 9 months, we met for 30-40 minutes on Thursday mornings.

We didn’t have a formal structure per se, but over time, the girls helped define their role – learning how to blog; road-testing our new technologies (MakeyMakey and the Dash robot); and creating their amazing robot fashion show for our Open Night in Term 3. Towards the end of the year, they played a key role in running our lunchtime makerspace sessions, helping introduce our younger students to our emerging collection of robots!

In 2016, we will have four Digital Captains, voted for by their peers and teachers from a group of some 30(!) candidates! The program will definitely evolve next year, as I’d like the girls’ role to be more visible within the school, including presenting at school assemblies, and participating in robotics/ICT competitions. They will, no doubt, be involved in our makerspace program – where I am hoping to collaborate with our school librarian to run coding and design challenges.

In closing, I’d like to sincerely thank our inaugural Digital Captains for their patience, commitment, and sheer creativity. Girls; you helped pioneer what it means to be a Digital Captain at IPS. While there were many things I didn’t have time to teach you, we were able to achieve a lot together. Our school will be a richer place for your contribution. I wish you all the best in your future schooling, and look forward to seeing what you create with ICT in future years!