A Visit From Northern New South Wales

We recently hosted the visit of a leadership team from a school in Coffs Harbour. The visitors had travelled to Sydney to learn specifically about technology integration occurring at a couple of schools in Sydney.

The visitors were treated to a smorgasbord of technology integration. They enjoyed opportunities to interact with the children and they were provided with opportunities to connect with teachers. 
As I journeyed around the school, facilitating the visit, I was privileged to witness  some great learning in action. This is possibly the best part of my job – seeing the engagement of our students and the innovative ways in which technology has permeated our learning programs. We are happy to open our doors and to share what has worked for us and make valuable connections with other educators too. 

Below is the plan for the visit which provides a snapshot of the experience.

Visit Plan:

1:00pm – Principal, ICT Coordinator  – Meet / Greet – looking at the Vision, challenges and imperitives

1:30pm –  Year 3 class teacher (ADE) sharing his experiences blending, flipping and helping to drive STEM initiatives

1:50 –  Librarian – eBooks, QR Codes and Aurasma 

2:00 – Year 4 Maths in action creating interactive games using Futaba

2:10 – Year 3 Maths in action, differentiated leaning in a blended classroom using Stile

2:20 –  Music Year 5, GarageBand in action – creating music inspired by Star Wars

2:30 – Year 1 HSIE, Wet and Dry Environments using Pic Collage

Year 1 HSIE, Wet and Dry Environments using Popplet

2:40 – Year 4 Student Share Time – looking at student work samples and teacher experience – including CBL and 3D Printing

2:55 – Year 5 Student Share Time – looking at student work samples and teacher experience – including Book Creator Science Journals, Stop Motion, Keynote, iMovie, Minecraft


Bringing Computational Thinking Into Classrooms

One of the challenges for us has been how we can make what we are doing with technology and innovation a simple and natural part of what occurs in classrooms. We have certainly achieved this, in some considerable measure, via our 1:1 iPad program. In our learning environment iPads are, for the most part, a bit like a pencil case. They travel everywhere with students and they are pulled out for purposeful use as required.

Like many schools we have tended to hang things like robotics, coding, Minecraft, 3D printing on as side bits – extracurricular or co curricular. What we are really striving to see is classrooms filled with options naturally incorporating coding, robotics, Minecraft, 3D printing, circuits, recyclables, crafts etc – maker spaces which entice, inspire and enable.

So how do we hope to achieve our vision?

Firstly the vision is dependent on developing pedagogy to enable the learning environment. We are committing ourselves to fairly major shifts in thinking as we recognise that we need to be providing more authentic challenges, cross curricular project based learning, physical environments which change learning dynamics, making thinking visible and gaining insight through effective formative assessment, along with differentiation and more personalising learning opportunities. This is not to say that these are not in play already because they are occurring in varying degrees across our classrooms. The shift just needs to more universally enabled and embedded. The circumstances are right for us to pursue further change and our more innovative teachers are seeking opportunities to enhance their classroom and challenge their students. 

The plan below is dependent on two funding streams. The first allocation is towards professional development and the provision of release time so that teachers can explore and learn. The second funding stream is directed towards hardware and software acquisition.

The program would aim to:

  • Map learning activities associated with coding / robotics to Curriculum Outcomes
  • Provide students authentic learning opportunities using code / robotics 
  • Identify first order barriers to implementation in the classroom
  • Identify effective enablers for teachers and students
  • Consider ways to differentiate and personalise learning for students
  • Provide a roadmap for future development and improvement 
  • Engage and excite the school community about a STEM infused learning environment.
  • Measure the learning outcomes and engagement of students through empirical and anecdotal measures

Phase 1: Acquisition

Aim: To provide a broad understanding and provide teachers time to focus on an area of particular interest based on potential integration into learning programs.

A pilot group of teachers is identified (4 teachers – one teacher per year group). Provision of training and development e.g. Scratch, Tickle, Orbotix, Sphero, Lego Robotics, Xcode etc (we are actively exploring options).

Pilot/lead teacher(s) will be released to examine makers kits and rate them for suitability for different age groups – vendors to demonstrate their products. Teachers will choose from amongst the coding/robotics options the applications that they believe will have most application with the Stage 2 and Stage 3 class groups. 

We recognise that teachers may have a stronger connection or see greater potential with certain applications and this can be accommodated providing the teachers have a broad functional understanding of others. We are keen to see provision of diverse options for students in the longer term. It is expected that the pilot teachers would consider ways in which coding / robotics might be incorporated within existing learning programs.

Provision of 2 full days release per teacher.Provision of professional development resource personnel as required – providing specific training re coding and robotics. 

Phase 2: Implementation

Aim: To provide project based activities to engage and facilitate learning in a “Code Camp” – for students and teachers.

Pilot teachers develop a “Code Camp” series of lessons which target basic code and robotics skills and knowledge based on their experience in Phase 1. These will provide immersion opportunities for students and other teachers. Code Camp sessions would aim to provide for differentiated learning and would be run by the pilot group collaboratively with different class groups during our alternative activities week, which runs each year at the end of Term 4. Activities e.g. creation of a robotic dance, developing a solution to an authentic problem, or a solution to an authentic challenge. 
Provision of 4 days (one day per teacher) release time for pilot teachers to enable development of Code Camp activities etc. 

Evaluation of Code Camp Series. This will provide guidance to teachers for the development of programs that will leverage code / robotics in Term 1, 2016.

Phase 3: Application

Aim: To integrate Code / Robotics into learning programs and activities.

Participation of our students and teachers in external events / maker spaces e.g. Future Schools. Partnering with other schools etc.

Teachers work to integrate coding / robotics into one or more of their learning programs during the next three school terms. This may apply to Science and Maths specifically or may be a part of integrated Project Based Learning e.g. Challenge Based Learning, Problem Based Learning, Inquiry Based Learning etc. 

Enter groups in ICT Young Explorers 2016 and other learning challenges (Measure of success – if coding / robotics feature strongly as part of student work).


Update progress  to date: Stepping Out With Robotics and Coding | Learning Journey

@ The Future Schools Conference


 About twenty of our Year 3 and 4 students had a wonderful experience at the Future Schools Conference on 11th March and 12 March. The students participated in two full days of rich, Curriculum linked, learning with various forms of innovative technology.

Datacom, one of our professional development / technology partners, had arranged this extraordinary experience as a part of their involvement as a Future Schools Conference Sponsor. Furnware, another participant, provided a range of innovative furniture for the students to use while completing the various activities.

 “Furnware are thrilled to be part of the Future Schools Conference and the opportunity to join forces with Datacom who provided the perfect platform for the student’s to participate in an exciting, collaborative and flexible 21st century learning space.”  (LW, Furnware Pty Ltd.)

 Datacom arranged for the students to work in small groups of 3/4 and rotate through the activities throughout the two days. 


Day one – Year 3: The learning activities for the year 3 students were based around their current History unit of Community and Remembrance. 

Students investigated signs and symbols of community groups through internet research. They collaborated using a OneNote Document to record their findings through written, drawn and video/audio recordings. Students then provided feedback to each other through a shared OneNote Notebook highlighting learning and asking focus questions.

Students created designs and symbols that represented themselves. Students brainstormed things that were important to them and how they can be represented symbolically. They used these patterns/symbols/colours to decorate clothing and/or cars on the “Design and Drive Sketch Book” and “Fashion Design Sketch Book” from Crayola. The students then scanned their creations into the corresponding app which turned their designs into 3D models they could manipulate on their iPads.

 Students designed and created a pendant which symbolised themselves or their family.  Students learnt about 3D printing. They designed a pendant/model to represent themselves or their family based on their knowledge about community symbols. They drew their designs on Furnware’s whiteboard table. Using the Maker’s Empire 3D modelling app the students built their designs into a 3D model and had it printed out on a 3D printer.


 Day two – Year 4: The learning activities for the year 4 students were based around their current History unit – Early Settlement (My Place).

 Students imagined they were on the First Fleet. They discussed what it would have been like to arrive in an unknown place – how different it would have been and the journey they took to get there. They brainstormed their ideas in text and pictures on Furnware’s whiteboard table. They then created a 3D model of something that the early settlers would have seen/experienced when they first arrived in Australia.

 Students investigated famous Australian explorers. In a shared OneNote Notebook students brainstormed all they knew about a variety of Australian explorers. Each student contributed their own knowledge to each page of the OneNote Notebook. They used both text and drawing to record their knowledge. Then students researched one of the explorers on the internet to find out something that wasn’t already known (already recorded on the page). When they found the additional information, the recorded it on the page as a voice recording (so as to avoid cutting and pasting information). 

Students took on the role of explorers at the Future Schools Expo. Students discussed how the early explorers would have found out new things and reported their findings back to their home country. They worked together to solve the Datacom treasure hunt through working out a series of clues around the expo. These clues came up on their iPads when they were at the correct booth. Students took pictures of interesting technology they saw at the expo and used these to put together a report to take back to school indicating why this type of technology would be good for their learning.

 One of the other Conference sponsors commented

“Future Schools is a great chance to see the current innovation that is taking place in education and to have the teachers who are driving that change in the one place. The Visiting students were a big hit at the expo. They were thrilled to be there and to be able to learn and participate in the wonderful learning activities provided by the Datacom educators.” (JR, Stile Education


Stile: A Few Impressions


Early in Term 3 we commenced a trial of an application called Stile. You can read in more detail on a previous post https://rhp123.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/a-stile-ish-journey/
Since my first introduction to Stile, over a year ago, I have toyed with doing a trial. I think, now that we are concluding our trial, that Stile might be the truly robust teaching / learning solution that we have been seeking to team with our iPad Program. I must stress here that nothing is ever perfect. I still like Edmodo, Dropbox and iTunes U etc. I also keep stumbling on great new options like the new Glogster app. Possibilities are growing and the ground is constantly changing. One of the things that appeals about Stile is that it can easily fit into an eclectic environment like ours. When choosing something new, to use across K to 6, we need to take a firm step particularly as this application (Stile) will cost the school money.

When we came to undertake our trial, during Term 3, we needed a reasonable amount of time to really get the trial up and running across the K to 6 classes. This was provided. We also needed to run our trial across all of our classrooms. We wanted to know whether Stile would be suitable and be adopted by all age groups and potentially by all teachers. We wanted to know if Stile would make a significant difference wherever it was employed. I must say that the Stile team have been very helpful and supportive throughout and their willingness to accommodate our needs has helped to make our trial a meaningful one.

As our trial has drawn to a close we have sought teacher impressions. These are provided below via an exit survey which we posted in Google Forms. We sought responses from teachers who had really engaged in using Stile as part of their regular classroom activity during the trial period.




Towards Digital Technologies

We have been employing our Year 6 Student Technology Committee to run a Minecraft Group. The group meets twice a week and the Year 3 and 4 participants have been actively involved throughout. The Year 6 students have worked as mentors / teachers and have created lessons and worlds for the younger students to help them to learn and expand their understanding. We chose to purchase several user accounts for the online version as opposed to the less expensive iPad app. I really liked the dynamic of using the older students to lead, manage and enable the younger students. It also enabled me as a Minecraft beginner myself. The creative and collaborative nature of the game has made this group very exciting to work with and I have really enjoyed seeing the interactions and authentic learning occurring.


As we start to grapple with the “Digital Technologies” aspects of The Australian Curriculum applications such as Minecraft may provide a vehicle which could be integrated into learning programs.

The Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies (F–10) comprises two related strands:

Digital Technologies knowledge and understanding – the information system components of data, and digital systems (hardware, software and networks)
Digital Technologies processes and production skills – using digital systems to create ideas and information, and to define, design and implement digital solutions, and evaluate these solutions and existing information systems against specified criteria.


© Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

Next term we will have a group that will work on Lego Robotics. Another group will be learning to create special effects in movies. These too will hopefully add to our digital skill repertoire and will marry to Curriculum more directly in the future.
I have had several students starting to independently develop coding skills and a few have successfully created apps using Xcode. I can see that coding could be very effective across the Curriculum.

Whilst we have moved to a 1:1 iPad program we have realised the need to provide other devices as a part of the learning environment. Limiting ourselves to just iPads, as brilliant as they are, would be counter productive especially if we want to work in higher end applications such as Minecraft, Adobe, Xcode etc.
One of the things I noticed with the Year 3 students using Minecraft in our activity group was that some had no laptop capability. We have provided some fast, new MacBooks and Windows laptops in technology hubs in a couple of locations and clearly we need to expand access and continue to up skill our students. As we reinvent our learning spaces we need to ensure that students have access to many different devices in addition to their primary device (which at this time is an iPad).
Last week I attended a Microsoft teacher event and I felt that both Windows 8, Windows 365 and the new Surface seemed to be coming of age. I also got the impression that “365” might be adopted more widely in NSW schools later this year. Clearly providing a wide range of opportunity and capability is crucial.

Journeying with Abdul Chohan

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a seminar where I listened to (and engaged with) Abdul Chohan speaking about his school in England, Essa Academy http://www.essaacademy.org/vision-and-ethos.html. This is the second time that I had had a chance to be inspired by his story.
A metamorphosis occurred which saw the school achieve substantial (meteoric) improvement in academic outcomes for its students.
There were clearly a number of contributing factors which enabled this transformation. The solution which transformed Abdul’s school was unique and needed to be unique. There was, however, a central theme. Key to the school’s journey was the need to change belief. Abdul asserted that
“One person with belief is better than 99 with interest.”
All participants and stakeholders needed to be a infused with belief. Central to this was the belief that

“ALL will succeed.” And “Cognition is not fixed.”

In their model technology was a key platform for exchange of information etc between students and teachers. Teachers and students needed to believe that this technology was simple and reliable for adoption to occur.
Their initial implementation (2008) involved supplying iPods to all students. It involved providing a robust internet and wireless capability. Their internet was enabled through a fibre connection offering 100 Mbps up and 100 Mbps down and the wireless a state of the art Meru network http://www.merunetworks.com. The iPods offered both simplicity and reliability and the apps, many of which were free, empowered the students and teachers. Two mandatory applications were used for delivery and for response. iTunes U was required to be used by all teachers to deliver content and (the paid version of) Showbie was used as a key response platform by both students and teachers. These worked well together and provided a simple, reliable exchange between teacher and student. One of the immediate by-products of the adoption of this communication loop was a huge reduction in paper costs.

Teachers were also supported with professional development. The school innovated their approach by removing “pupil free days” and then incorporating these hours into regular PD sessions for all teachers during the normal school week. This meant that teachers’ out of hours time wasn’t impacted and that they could meet on a weekly basis to collaborate, share and learn. Once again this supported the teachers belief in their capacity and capability to improve student outcomes and engage with technology tools.

What Abdul was keen to stress was that their journey was about the pedagogy. There plan wasn’t about technology or about changing spaces. Their plan was about the pedagogy and about improving outcomes for ALL the students, about personalising the learning to suit student needs. It was about creating rich learning opportunities which aimed to leverage the SAMR Model http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/to transform. The leadership would formulate strategy and then enlist the support of players to make it happen. In the case of iTunes U, by example, a group of teachers and leaders across the school were recruited to develop programs, become expert, become advocates and infuse across the school. The technology was just the vehicle which was, at the bare bones, simple and reliable making adoption easy.

The parents and the community in general were an important part of the journey. The school worked hard to form relationships with the parents and community. They used food, which is often so culturally important, to bring their community together so that they could deliver messages, educate, inform. Parents too needed to believe and be invested in the vision.

iPad Impressions

Students started using iPads, as an integral part of their learning, in 2011. Teachers, students and parents embraced these simple, powerful devices. iPads have opened possibilities to really expand the learning opportunities of the students, particularly when teamed with excellent pedagogy.
In 2013 the School committed to providing iPads to all students from Year K to Year 6.

A number of surveys were conducted (late 2013) to gauge the attitudes of our school community to the program. This data provides important feedback about the iPad program and will be helpful in informing our approach in 2014.

Survey of Parents


Survey of Students
4 = Strongly Agree



Survey of Teachers
4 = Strongly Agree


A Wordle reflecting teacher impressions