The STEM X Academy – Day 1

Let’s not mince words:

The STEM X Academy was a once in a lifetime learning experience.

 

In late 2017, I received a wonderful surprise – receiving word that I was one of just 70 Australian teachers selected from 390 applicants to attend the 2018 STEM X Academy in Canberra.

The STEM X Academy is a five-day residential teacher professional learning program run by the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA), in partnership with Questacon and CSIRO. Its appeal lies in its unique emphasis on empowering participant teachers by teaching them how to design, develop and implement their own STEM-based teaching resources, rather than presenting them with a pre-made package of activities (http://asta.edu.au/programs/stemx).

In preparing my application, I reflected on the professional hurdles I faced last year, and particularly my approach to integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM). 2017 was an experimental, learning year, but I felt like something was missing. I was the STEM Coordinator in a girls’ school, yet I wasn’t confident in my understanding of what STEM is, and how to teach it effectively.

So, in the second week of January, I flew to Canberra, joining 18 other Western Australian teachers attending the #stemx18 Academy. Many of us met at the airport, flying via Sydney on the smallest (and bumpiest) plane I’ve traveled on to date. We were lucky. Due to extreme heat and a broken baggage system at Sydney Airport, some STEM Xers arrived without their luggage, and others missed flights and were rerouted via the Gold Coast 🙁

Upon our arrival, we settled into our (terribly overheated, non air-conditioned) accommodations at Bruce Hall at Australian National University, and participated in some icebreaker games.

Day 1

We were up bright and early for breakfast on Day 1. Most of us hadn’t had much sleep due to the lack of air conditioning in our rooms, and jetlag wasn’t helping much either. Lack of sleep would become normal over the course of the week!

As primary teachers, we spent our first day at the CSIRO Black Mountain Laboratories, where we worked with the excellent CSIRO Education Team to explore and participate in an inquiry-based approach to teaching STEM.

Our base at @CSIRO Black Mountain Laboratories

We started the day exploring the Global Megatrends identified in the Australia 2030 Report, which attempts to outline the global challenges and future scenarios we may face in the coming decades. These megatrends can provide a framework for student inquiry and investigation into real-world problems.

We also had a brief insight into the current research areas at the CSIRO.

Future Scenarios Project

Our first major CSIRO learning task saw us split into teams, with each team assigned a global megatrend to explore and design a solution for. Our team worked with CSIRO Education expert Emily, and Dr Ashmita, a CSIRO Senior Research Scientist specializing in ecohydrology. In my understanding, her research focusses on the relationship between land use and the health/management of water systems.

Photo credit – Olivia B

Using an open inquiry process, we brainstormed questions and potential areas for our inquiry, choosing to categorizing them under global, regional, and local contexts. We were challenged to narrow down our inquiry to one quality question we could research and take action on. This was a harder and more complicated process than I had realised.

After extensive discussion, we decided to focus on the use of robotics and digital technologies for improving irrigation efficiency in agricultural crop production. We ultimately prototyped a mobile phone app, which would use data from ground moisture sensors and weather data to help farmers improve the efficiency of their crop irrigation practices. The sensors and weather information already exist, but we wanted to try and present the data they provide in a more practical and useful way on a mobile device.

After several frantic hours of intense collaboration, we pitched our idea and mobile app prototype to the rest of our primary group.

We ended the day with a visit to the CSIRO Discovery Centre, followed by a dinner back at the Australian National University. The highlight of the evening was a science show by Dr Graeme Walker, featuring vacuum cleaner bazookas, putting a doll’s head in a vacuum chamber, and blowing teddy bears sky high using compressed (and explosively released) liquid nitrogen! We were exhausted, but it was quite a show!

 

Returning for #iste17, a conference like no other

Well, in less than four weeks time, I’ll be traveling via Auckland on a 16 700 km journey to San Antonio, Texas. I will be presenting on my students’ learning adventures with Scratch game design and FIRST LEGO League robotics at the International Society for Technology Education Conference. Following ISTE, I’ll be embarking on my most ambitious journey to date, visiting Dallas / Fort Worth, Chicago, Denver, Glenwood Springs, Sacramento, and San Francisco over the course of four weeks.

ISTE15 in Philadelphia, where I took home an ISTE Emerging Leader Award, feels like yesterday. The memories of the people I met, the places I went, and the meetups with locals in Philadelphia, Virginia and NYC are very dear to me. If you plan to be at the conference. or live in/near the cities I’ll be exploring, please let me know. I’m always happy to catch up with Twitter folk, especially if you share my love of coffee, conversation, and/or photography. Especially coffee 🙂

 

My ISTE Presentations

FIRST LEGO League Robotics – Coaches’ Corner

Poster session with Aaron Maurer and Louise Morgan

Tuesday, June 27, 1:15–3:15 pm
HBGCC Tower View Lobby, Table 34

Are you interested in LEGO Mindstorms robotics, engineering, and computational thinking? Come along and meet three robotics coaches from Australia and the United States, and learn how you could empower your students’ STEM learning through the international FIRST LEGO League robotics competition (http://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/fll)

 

The Scratch Game Design Challenge (BYOD)

Wednesday, June 28, 1:00–2:00 pm
HBGCC 006AB

Michael Graffin  
Find out how to extend coding and computer science lessons beyond code.org by using Scratch to empower students to collaborate, problem solve, and share their learning through the creation of animated stories and computer games.

 

Scratch Game Design in Chicago, IL

I will be repeating my ISTE Scratch Game Design workshop in Chicago. If you live in the area, please come along to say hello! All welcome 🙂

Thursday, July 6, 10am12pm

Archdiocese of Chicago
Quigley Center, 835 N Rush St.

Registration: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe2NzAX1VUKRhgIvSfALcBrk0WZRXvSepNc6HWADuqMs9j6fg/viewform?usp=sf_link

On becoming an #ISTE Emerging Leader, Class of 2015

iste 2015

For many years, I had a dream … a dream that I would one day find a school where I would have the freedom to learn, grow, and innovate with ICT.

At the beginning of the 2014 school year, overwhelmed by the demands of (an overly ambitious) postgraduate study workload, and the terrible impact of WA Government funding cuts on my casual teaching income, I was once again starting to question my future in the teaching profession. I felt like I was standing at the crossroads – again.

Then, after practically giving up my search for a school which valued my ICT and global education expertise, I found one … by accident. As I returned for the 2015 school year, in a new ICT integration/coaching role, I applied for the Apple Distinguished Educator program, and several International Society for Technology Education Awards, showcasing my work at school & with The Global Classroom Project.

While I was bitterly disappointed with the outcome of the ADE application process, I was delighted when the The Global Classroom Project came Runner Up in the ISTE Innovation in Global Collaboration PLN Award, and then shocked and humbled to hear that I would be officially named an ISTE Emerging Leader, Class of 2015. This award is presented to educators 35 years or younger who transform education through the visionary use of technology.

A testament to the power of the PLN

As an Emerging Leader, I am the only the fifth Australian teacher, and first Western Australian, to be formally recognised by ISTE. This is an incredible gift; a personal and professional vindication in more ways than I could ever share publicly.

It is a true testament to the transformative power of my global PLN, without whom I would have left teaching a long time ago. Thank you to those who have believed in me, and provided support, guidance, and encouragement both publicly, and behind the scenes. I’d also like to sincerely thank the ISTE Young Educators PLN and the judging panel – I am very much looking forward to working with you in the years to come!

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ISTE Awards Luncheon
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A special moment with my fellow Emerging Leaders Mary Ellen Weeks and Kimberley Lowden, both from the USA.

#ISTE2015: The most emotional, yet inspiring conference I’ve ever attended

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Photo Credit: @TeachingSC

After a journey of some 30 hours and over 18000km (11,603 miles), I arrived in the United States for my first ever ISTE conference. It proved to be an incredibly emotional, sometimes overwhelming week. Despite the very best advice I received in the lead up to the event, I soon discovered nothing can quite prepare you for a conference with 20 000 plus attendees, over 1000 vendors, and nearly a 1000 workshops and presentations.

In trying to tell the story of my ISTE2015 journey, I’m going to focus on some key themes and experiences which stood out for me.

The power of the Unconference

Arriving in Philadelphia on Saturday morning with my good friend @lparisi, the weather turned nasty – and very wet. Forced to scrap my planned photo walk and city orientation, I immersed myself in the Hack Ed Unconference. Joining halfway though the day, I started meeting people I knew online, some of whom I’d been following for years; and joined group conversations about topics which interested me. I was less thrilled with the after party (I am not your typical party person), but meeting @lynnrathburn and her colleagues there made it all worthwhile.

Global Connections and Collaboration

Judging by the responses to our poster sessions, and the Twitter feed for several big Ignite presentations, connecting and collaborating globally was of interest to many attendees. I thoroughly enjoyed the Global Educators Brunch, hosted by @globaledcon and @VIFLearn; and the Global Education Day event. The brunch was made all the more special as it was the first time nearly all the #globalclassroom project leaders and organisers, from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and all around the United States, were in the same room. Most of us were meeting for the first time after over four years of working online.

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The Global Education Day was interesting, but its most important aspect was the people in the room. To sit alongside and converse with global educators who have inspired, guided, and helped make me the person I am today was an amazing, and very emotional experience.

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Coding and Makerspaces

I must admit this is a particularly big interest of mine at the moment, as I am trying to advise my school on the future direction of our ICT program. I am quite keen to delve into robotics and Makerspaces, and I loved the chance to explore the Maker and Coding playground events at ISTE. I played with Cubelets, shared my experiences with the MakeyMakey, searched for information on LittleBits, Squishy Circuits, and collected as much information as possible about 3D printing. I have plenty of pics, and some big ideas which I’ll be taking back to school.

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The opportunity to share my story & expertise in global education and iPad integration

When I applied to present at ISTE last year, I was well aware that the organisers accept less than half of all applications. I submitted proposals for the Global Classroom Project Poster session, an iPad Creative Challenge Workshop, and joined another poster session focussed on global blogging and the Student Blogging Challenge. To my surprise, I was accepted for all three – which was unusual to say the least!

The two poster sessions were incredible learning experiences, and I thoroughly enjoyed the informal, conversation based format – even though two hours proved utterly exhausting (and a little overwhelming). My workshop was a challenging experience. With just five registrations, four people turned up on the night. One left shortly after it started (I have no idea why), and one gentleman was deaf! Among the challenges was trying to run a group collaborative session with just four people, and working with American Sign Language interpreters to ensure my deaf colleague found the session valuable. I received positive informal feedback in the session, but I’ll admit it was probably the most challenging presentation I’ve ever given.

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Stories from The Global Classroom Project With Lynn Rathburn (USA), Heidi Hutchinson, Betsey Sargeant, Louise Morgan, Robyn Thiessen (Canada), Tina Schmidt, Barbara McFall, Anne Mirtschin (Australia), Michael Graffin, Julia Skinner (United Kingdom)
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Global Blogging – With Tina Schmidt (USA) and Julia Skinner (UK)

Thank you for the memories! 

Perhaps the greatest, and most emotional element of this conference was meeting Twitter friends, new and old, from all over the world. I lost count of how many hugs I received, and I won’t get started on the selfies :P. I had my first, second, and … who knows how many selfies at ISTE!

While sadly not all of my #globalclassroom PLN could attend ISTE, I was deeply indebted to those who made the trek, especially those two dear friends who drove 25 hours (each way) to come and see me. I hope I was able to make that incredible roadtrip worthwhile for you.

Dear @LParisi, thank you for picking me up at the airport in NYC, and the lift to Philadelphia. Your kindness, hospitality, and relative calm in the NYC traffic were deeply appreciated. I still maintain you have a very beautiful home – all protestations to the contrary :). (Please pass on my regards to your husband – it was a pleasant surprise to find a fellow photographer after a 30 hour trip to the USA. )

To @MrsSchmidtB4 and family, thank you for your warm hospitality. I still can’t quite believe that I was helping a “local” navigate Philadelphia, but I couldn’t have managed to see the city without your help :).

To everyone I met, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You made this conference one I will remember for many, many years to come.

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Join me for the Creative iPad Challenge Workshop at #iste2015!

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Do you have limited numbers of iPads?

Are you wondering how to use iPads to support student collaboration, learning and creativity in literacy and the language arts?

 

Join me for the iPad Creative Challenge, and explore the possibilities!

ISTE 2015, Philadelphia

Tuesday, June 30, 5:30–7:00 pm EDT

Marriott Franklin 1

Register NOW!

 

As a result of attending this workshop, participants will:

  • Understand how to use the Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition Model to support their professional growth in relation to the implementation of iPad learning projects in their classrooms.
  • Gain confidence and integration skills through a hands-on collaborative learning challenge, exploring and creating an iPad literacy project which relates to their current teaching and professional learning needs
  • Contribute tips and teaching ideas to a collaborative online document showcasing successful iPad literacy and Language Arts project ideas, which can be adapted to suit their curriculum and grade levels.
  • Commit to taking on one iPad literacy challenge in their own classrooms following the conference.

Counting down to #ISTE2015!

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Late last year, I took a risk … applying to present at two poster presentations and a workshop at the International Society for Technology Education Conference in Philadelphia, USA.

To my utter astonishment and delight, I was accepted for all three! As an Australian teacher, and global educator, the opportunity to present at #ISTE15 is a rare opportunity to meet many of my international colleagues in person for the very first time, and a chance so share my story and students’ learning with a global audience.

As the conference draws nearer, the reality of this trip is starting to sink in … for the first time in my life, I will be travelling halfway around the world … visiting Philadelphia, Washington DC, and New York City. A trip of nearly 30 hours and 18 600 km (11 600 miles) …

If you’re coming to ISTE, I’d love to see you at our #globalclassroom and blogging poster sessions. If you need an added incentive, we managed to convince @TheHeadsOffice (Julia Skinner), creator of the 100 Word Challenge, to fly in from the United Kingdom to join us for ISTE 🙂

If you’re interested in learning how to integrate iPads into your teaching, I will be running my iPad Creative Challenge Workshop (Literacy) on the Tuesday evening of the conference – which gives teachers a chance to explore some of the best iPad activities I’ve discovered in my #ionapsict adventures. This won’t be a talkfest – it’s most definitely a hands-on session! All welcome!

After the conference, I will be heading to Washington DC (July 3-10), and New York City (July 10-16). If you live there, I’d greatly appreciate any advice you could give to someone visiting these cities for the first time. If you’re up for a coffee and a chat, feel free to get in touch 🙂 And for the keen photographers out there, any local knowledge you might be able to provide would be appreciated! I can’t help myself – I’m already planning my trip around the photographs I want to try and take!

 

ISTE Presentation Details

Stories From the Global Classroom Project

Sunday, June 28, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
PCC Broad Street Atrium, Table 17

The Creative iPad Challenge: Integrating iPads into Literacy and the Language Arts

Tuesday, June 30, 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Marriott Franklin 1

Global Connections Through Blogging
Wednesday, July 1, 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
PCC Broad Street Atrium, Table 1

 

Unleashing the Power of @AdobeVoice

Over the past few years, I have been privileged to attend two #Slide2learn events, in Perth (2013), and in Sydney (2014). Despite being terribly sick for most of the Sydney event, it made a deep and meaningful impact on my teaching practice.

At the 2014 event, Tony Vincent @tonyvincent introduced me to Adobe Voice, an extremely powerful tool for telling stories, narrating procedures, explaining a concept, and so much more. I have now successfully integrated this rich digital storytelling tool into Year 2 and Year 3 ICT and English classes, most recently in collaboration with our Early Childhood teachers.

Last year in ICT, I had a class of Year 3 students script and voice creative ‘newscasts’ and narratives. We had originally planned to create iMovies, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to find a more manageable alternative. I chose Adobe Voice, and was absolutely blown away by the results …

Staying Safe Online

Then, in Term 1, 2015, seeking a simpler alternative to Explain Evrything (which we used last year), I introduced my Year 2 and Year 3 colleagues to Adobe Voice. Working on an online safety unit, and keen to integrate ICT into literacy, we taught our students how to use the app to create “Online Safety” presentations, some of which you can watch here.

What have we learned?

As we’ve experimented (played) with the use of Adobe Voice in the early years, we’ve discovered a few useful tips worth sharing:

  • Younger students need some explicit modelling of how to use the app, especially for how to add their first names to the final credits (to make identifying the work easier), and saving the completed product to the Camera Roll and Dropbox.
    • It is important to balance ‘learning through play’, with some explicit teaching
    • I intend to create a poster explaining the ‘Save to Dropbox’ process which we can post in the classroom for student reference.
  • Have students write out their scripts prior to using the app. Scripting the presentation leads to a more polished result, and also encourages students to ‘think’ carefully about what they want to say, rather than making it up as they go along.
  • We found we needed to encourage students to say only one or two sentences per slide – some thought they had to present all their information on one slide!
  • Students need to be taught how to match images and music to the tone and content of the presentation. For example, a horror music soundtrack is probably not appropriate for an explanation about ‘Staying Safe Online’!
  • Having an authentic audience and purpose is powerful – students learnt that they needed to speak clearly and sensibly when presenting an explanation video which will be viewed by people outside their classroom.
  • Build in some time for reflection and discussion. We found sharing the final products with the class, and talking about what they did well, and where they could improve, was a very valuable part of the teaching and learning process.

Where to next?

Given that I am in a new integration / support / coaching role this year, I am taking a slightly different approach to integrating iPads in the early childhood classes. Based on collegial feedback and my personal observations, I’m focusing on helping teachers become confident, independent users of just one or two creative / digital storytelling apps per Semester. I’m also trying to develop my early childhood pedagogy and teaching techniques through observing and team-teaching with my colleagues, learning and refining my approach as we go.

I am looking forward to seeing how we can integrate Adobe Voice next Semester!

Flat Connections, Sydney 2014

Heading to Sydney for Flat Connections marked an important milestone, namely the first time I have ever visited the East Coast of Australia! Held at the SHORE School, Flat Connections proved to be an amazing conference, where I met many friends, new and old, and discovered leadership and multimedia skills I didn’t know I had 🙂 

(Distracting) view from SHORE School
(Distracting) view from SHORE School

Flat Connections was a conference involving teachers and students, with some flying from Canada, the United States, and Iran; and saw teachers pitching and presenting to students, and vice versa. I was working with Leadership Team 9, a diverse bunch of Australian high school teachers, and my friend from Iran. Given two days to come up with a multimedia product showcasing a global project or idea, we decided to focus on creating a pitch for secondary teachers to start exploring the power of global connections in their curriculum and learning experiences. While we had our stressful moments, I was extremely impressed with how we bonded as a team, and capitalising on our various strengths, we produced a result we were happy with.

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Leadership Team 9

 

Some Takeaways

  • I really appreciated the hands-on focus of this conference. It truly wasn’t a conference where you could turn up and vegetate. You had to make a real, collaborative contribution, and you certainly were never bored – just mentally and physically exhausted! Someone once said that this conference was “hard fun”. They weren’t joking. It was the most challenging, yet most rewarding professional development I have ever participated in; and I would love nothing more than to do it all again in future years!
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Team members working on voice over
  • I was also extremely impressed with the students, aged 10-16, who simply blew me away with their creativity, presentation skills, and ideas. I think the greatest lesson of this conference was never underestimating what students can do when given the time, resources, and opportunity to “think big”, and explore the other story. A case in point is  “The Passion Project” student video, which conveys the argument for 20% time so eloquently. Please sign their petition! 

 

Join us Virtually @ the Flat Connections Conference 2014

It’s just two weeks until I fly out for the Flat Connections Conference in Sydney! As much as I’d love to see everyone there in person, this is one of the few conferences which you can attend virtually, and I hope you can join us online – for FREE!

You can find out more details, and sign up for the Virtual Conference (even as a team member!) at http://tinyurl.com/flatsydney, and the virtual kickoff meeting is happening early next week, on June 8/9, depending on your timezone.

For more details about the conference, I highly recommend the official website – http://www.flatconnections.com/sydney-2014.html.

If you’re in Sydney, and would like to meet up, tweet me. Looking forward to meeting a few long-time friends there!

The Global Classroom Project: An Australian Teacher’s Story

It has been somewhat remiss of me, but having so much to do over the past few months, I am only now sharing the slides and recording from my presentation at the #OZeLive Conference, which was held some months ago. It’s good to be back to blogging, and there are a few more posts in the pipeline.

My thanks to the OZeLive coordinators for an amazing conference, and the opportunity to share my story. The YouTube recording of the presentation is embedded in the slides; however, if you wish to watch the Blackboard Collaborate version, please click here.