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July 2019


Welcome to the July 2019 edition of the Digital Technologies in focus (DTiF) newsletter. Project schools continue to make progress in implementing the Digital Technologies curriculum. The activities undertaken by curriculum officers range from ‘On Country’ professional learning (see below the article on Leonora District High School) to consistent teacher judgement discussions in Perth. From school visits and professional learning in Normanton, Doomadgee and Mount Isa to professional learning workshops in Canberra, Bega and Moruya. Making connections for schools with other providers is also valuable; for example, Condobolin High School hosted an aquaponics workshop and the Think Digital bus visited Parkes Public School.

The project is now starting to reach more schools through the professional learning workshops. Steve Grant and I presented workshops in Canberra for the Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn Diocese. Take a look at the new STEM Connections workshops on offer on the DTiF website. Consider hosting a workshop and inviting other schools from your local area. You will also find some new school stories and resources on the website.


Julie King
Project Lead,
Digital Technologies in focus

Do you have some feedback on the newsletter and/or topic suggestions? Provide your ideas through your local curriculum officer, or via email [email protected]

What's new?

DTiF webpage update

The DTiF webpage, located on the Australian Curriculum website in the Resources section, has been updated with new content. Four additional school stories, more resources and two new professional learning workshops have been added. 


On Country with Leonora District High School

by Deanne Poole

Since 2017, Deanne Poole, DTiF Curriculum Officer for Western Australia, has been working with staff from Leonora District High School. This year she was joined by another Curriculum Officer, Martin Levins, to assist staff in using digital technologies during their ‘On Country’ staff development day. 

Leonora, Western Australia
Leonora, Western Australia

On Saturday 11 May, staff of Leonora District High School headed an hour north-east to The Terraces for their school development day (to be held on Sunday), along with two DTiF curriculum officers, Martin Levins from NSW and Dee Poole from WA.

'The Terraces’, commonly known as 'The Breakaways', are rock formations created by water and wind erosion of the plateaux.

After conquering a 4WD jump-up (very thrilling for me as a novice four-wheel driver), the group set up camp in a large clearing. A fire was lit and a make-shift kitchen constructed. Cars were parked fanning out from the fire, as these would be a shelter for the teachers’ swags.

There was a group of five babies that also made the trek out to our camp site. Mothered by Fifi Harris, the Aboriginal Education Officer, they were too young to stay home alone. Begrudgingly, the staff assisted at feeding time.

(L–R) Regina Carson, Dee Poole, Demi Van Uden, Leonie Creagh, Suzi Fowler and five adorable joeys
Left – right:
Regina Carson, Dee Poole, Demi Van Uden, Leonie Creagh, Suzi Fowler
and five adorable joeys

The evening contained a variety of tasks, including viewing Jupiter and its moons from a telescope set up by Sue from Museums WA (another camp-out visitor). With assistance of David Broun from CSIRO’s Two-way Science program, we used black-light torches to hunt scorpions. And of course, there was an obligatory campfire science experiment involving a stick, a fire and marshmallows – an ingenious way to learn about chemical reactions. It did require multiple tastings to confirm oxidation stage had been reached.

Jupiter (the little white dot)
Jupiter (the little white dot)

The morning welcomed us with a buffet of BBQ bacon and eggs for all. Staff who were unable to camp out arrived early Sunday morning to participate in the day’s events and join in the chef’s delectable servings.

The school development day consisted of a trek through The Breakaways guided by Fifi, who taught us the local language and stories throughout the journey. We were looking for footprints in the dirt, animal scat (droppings) and anything else that appeared interesting, including types of plants, insects, rocks and Aboriginal artefacts (important note: if you find any Aboriginal artefacts, it is important to not remove it from its location unless guided by local Elders). We located the tracks and scat of emus, dogs (possibly dingo), kangaroo and goanna.

Animal tracks can be seen as a way of representing data, as each print is a symbol that can convey meaning. The footprint can show us the direction of an animal moving to, if it was running or walking and, of course, if it was being followed by a predator. Looking closely at the scat of an emu can also show you if an animal is laying eggs, as the colour of the scat will changes – very handy to know if you were out looking for food.

Emu’s footprint – image from Measure app
Emu’s footprint (image from Measure app)

Motion sensor cameras had been placed by Dave (CSIRO) at the waterholes in this area so we were able to view the many animals that were visiting this secluded hole in the rocks. This was a great opportunity to collect data on the variety of animals.

Samples of each variety of plants were collected as we trekked. These were later sorted into groups to classify them for various purposes, including plants that have a known medical use or are known as local bush tucker. Plastic bags were placed over a range of plants to capture data on the transpiration rate.

Around a campfire lunch, a professional learning mini-session was delivered by DTiF officers on how to use a variety of ‘fieldwork’ ready digital technologies to capture additional data and images. This included using Google Streetview to capture 360° images to create VR tours; a micro: bit to create a magnetometer; the Measure app to measure and take images of items; and the Science Journal app to capture data on light.

The final activity for all staff was a task that the student rangers regularly practice. Teams of staff had to start a fire with a flint. This requires teamwork, technique and stamina. It was certainly not easy but all teams eventually completed the task although one team switched from the flint to using a pair of spectacles. (All staff are now officially ready to enter the Survivor!)

Suzi Fowler, Demi Van Uden and Dave Broun from CSIRO:
working hard to light a fire with glasses

Late Sunday afternoon, the Leonora teachers headed home, dirty and smelly but inspired with activities and knowledge that would link science, digital technologies, literacy and numeracy with cultural knowledge and the Wangkatha language.

Their students spent the following school week heading out to explore The Breakaways, guided by staff and locals with a series of tasks to complete ‘On Country’. On return to school, the students collected a variety of purposeful data and created reports that can be used to identify problems, such as the reduced number of emus that were spotted this year. The informed students were then able to pose and design possible solutions.

The Internet of Things and the Digital Technologies curriculum

by Martin Levins

The DTiF Curriculum Officer, Martin Levins, explores how advanced digital technologies and the modern era of hyper-convenience may lead us to ask ‘How did that happen?’ without focusing on the far more important question, ‘Is my data adequately protected?

Picture this: after dinner, Fred sits down to his computer and sees the following completely unsolicited email:


Fred hadn't reported a fault. How could this have happened?  

If we connect washing machines to the internet, then sensors in the machine can monitor it, looking for things like a motor that draws more current that its design specification, indicating a failing bearing or failing insulation.

Note that the motor hasn’t failed yet. The machine sends a message to the warranty provider, you respond and it all gets fixed. There’s no hauling it to a repair shop (or waiting for a serviceperson to check the problem) after it has failed.

While this has been possible for several years, the infrastructure and public acceptance haven’t. The much-heralded ‘Internet of Things’ or ‘IoT’ changes both. 

71IoT is not just light bulbs that change colour or an air conditioner that responds to a setting on your phone. The ‘things’ will range from the already existing light bulbs and thermostats to street lights (informing when bulbs are failing) to traffic sensors, from white goods to medical equipment. For many of these, the data collection and reporting back have been operational for quite some time: commercial planes have been sending data back to base about engine and airframe performance for decades. The difference is that now everyone is using the internet instead of private networks. Now, data is available to anyone if they have access to the system, either by fair means or foul.

This is the world we inhabit and need to understand – it’s all a bit like magic but more serious. The science fiction novelist and futurist, Arthur C. Clarke, is attributed with saying ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’. Magic confers power to the magician at the expense of others – simply because others don’t know how it’s done.

Ordinary citizens, seeing digital technologies as magic, can be made to feel that they have little or no agency, effectively disenfranchising themselves from an increasingly digital world. Many of us have experienced this when something digital ‘goes wrong’. However, while the mystique of technology may swamp us, fear not: we don’t need to be magicians. Technology is not smoke and mirrors, and education allows us to look behind the velvet curtain and learn the basics of how things work.

So, back to our message-sending washing machine. How can its behaviour and impact be addressed in schools? In the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies, Years 7 and 8 students are expected to ‘investigate how data is transmitted and secured in wired, wireless and mobile networks, and how the specifications affect performance’ (ACTDIK023).

By Years 9 and 10, the expectations increase to ‘investigate the role of hardware and software in managing, controlling and securing the movement of and access to data in networked digital systems’ (ACTDIK034).

Of course, washing machines may be capable of emailing, but they can’t think for themselves so it’s the designer’s responsibility to take into account the security and privacy of data. Note the reference to security in the content descriptions above and how the notion of security and privacy increases in sophistication.

Most of us associate security with passwords, PINs and passphrases, although it goes far beyond that, but let’s start there.

Cybersecurity starts with you

GettyImages-528286738At last glance, I had around 500 passwords for work, university, banking, superannuation, health care, MyGov, airlines, hotels, car rental, Uber, Netflix, iTunes, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, software updates, data backup sites, insurance, online shopping sites, OPAL card, magazine subscriptions, NRMA, electricity and gas accounts, solar energy reports, phone and internet accounts, online courses, travel sites, home WiFi and home WiFi admin.

It is a good exercise to think about how vulnerable you would be if your passwords were compromised – even worse if you use the same password over and over again.

Let’s look at the last in that list above: your home router. It has an access password – the one you type in to join the WiFi network, it also has an admin password, used to change the behaviour of your router. In my travels, I’ve noticed how routers are often set up. Amazingly, many hotels, cafés and BNBs have default passwords on their routers. If I were a malevolent person, this would allow me to shut everyone out of the network, access their communications and, in some cases, discover their passwords.

Many, including myself, use a password manager to generate and store passwords, and to remind me if I have used the same password elsewhere. A quick and easy security measure, however, is to change the admin password on your home router. This will not only protect your identity, but it will also stop ‘bad actors’ from compromising your newly installed washing machine and other Internet of Things devices.

An advertisement that I read recently asked “Why pay $45 for a ‘smart lightbulb’ when you can buy one for $5?” One reason for price disparity is that the $5 bulb has a very low-cost computer inside and is missing the smart components to prevent security compromise or allow updates. The gateway for security breach to those bulbs is your home router. Your bulbs could be recruited to a botnet: an army of small devices that carry out the bidding of a bad actor, perhaps flooding Netflix servers so you can’t watch movies, controlling our washing machine or doing the same to the computers that control our electrical grid.

And we wouldn’t like that.

Have you seen... the Schools Cyber Security Challenges?

9The Schools Cyber Security Challenges  are designed to provide high school teachers with resources to support the teaching of cyber security concepts and to inform students of career opportunities in the field.

The challenges are classroom ready and aligned with both the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies and the ICT capability.The Schools Cyber Security Challenges have been developed by the Australian Computing Academy at the University of Sydney, in partnership with AustCyber, ANZ, BT, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac.

11Do you know... about the Computer Science Field Guide?

Feeling a bit bamboozled with some of the concepts in Digital Technologies? You’ve probably heard of CS Unplugged, but another useful resource from over the ditch is the Computer Science Field Guide.

Developed by a team led by Professor Tim Bell, it is an online interactive resource for high school students learning about computer science. But it is also a great resource for teacher professional learning.

Do you know about... the Office of the e-Safety Commissioner’s education resources?

See online safety resources for schools, parents and communities.

Keep in touch! 

There are many ways to connect and keep in touch... the newsletter, DTiF Community, DTiF Wiki and the Digital Technologies Hub – here's how they all interrelate.  


Tell us what you think! 

Contact the ACARA Digital Technologies in focus (DTiF) team via email at [email protected] – we'd love to hear from you!