Welcome to the June 2021 edition of the Digital Technologies in focus (DTiF) newsletter. We’re closing in on the final stages of the DTiF project. Phases 4 and 5 schools are wrapping up their final reports, teacher and student post-surveys and reflections.
ACARA’s DTiF team has gradually reduced in size as we have progressed through the project. Four curriculum officers remain. Due to a reduced capacity to travel in 2020, there has been a focus in Term 1 on visiting those schools that missed out on visits. Martin Levins has been working close to home in New England but also travelling to Northern Territory schools. Deanne Poole has been navigating borders and lockdowns to visit South Australian schools. Shane Byrne has been clocking up hundreds of kilometres as he supports schools including Condobolin in the west of NSW and Shalvey to the west of Sydney. Sarah Atkins has avoided flood waters to provide professional learning to teachers on the north coast of NSW.
With the borders open, we have also been able to complete some more STEM illustrations of practice in schools with a focus on Years 3–8 and a multi-age classroom.
On 12 June 2020, education ministers agreed that it was timely to review the Foundation – Year 10 Australian Curriculum, which has been in place since 2015. ACARA was tasked to undertake the review of the Curriculum by 2022. The overall aim is to improve the F–10 Australian Curriculum by refining, realigning and decluttering the content of the curriculum within its existing structure.
Have your say…
Your feedback is important – it will assist us to complete the review of the Australian Curriculum.
We need to hear from you if you have positive or negative feedback. If we only hear from people with positive feedback or vice versa, we may draw incorrect conclusions about the proposed revisions. Consultation opened on 29 April and closes on 8 July 2021. Visit the consultation website and:
- become familiar with the consultation curriculum
- become familiar with the survey format and questions
- complete the survey.
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]
The DTiF webpage, located on the Australian Curriculum website in the ‘Resources’ section, has been updated with new content to support your implementation of the Digital Technologies curriculum. This month we have added:
Digital systems assessment task – Years 3 and 4: Cooling the school
The digital systems assessment task provides a scaffold to teach about and assess your students’ understanding of how digital systems can be applied to monitor and collect information used for mapping and making judgements about the environment. Students are asked to record information using a range of digital systems and to investigate a school’s need and design solutions to improve the school environment by determining how ‘cool’ their school is. Find this resource in the assessment section of the DTiF 'Planning' page.
The DTiF in Conversation series of webinars
The webinars have captured some rich discussions with a range of teachers and professionals, which we are pleased to share as recordings you can watch on the ’Webinars’ section of the DTiF webpage. Guests discuss Digital Technologies concepts and provide real-world applications.
In the latest update, we have added presentations and discussions by:
- Nathan Alison from Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria, who shares insights about effective teaching of systems thinking.
- Elke Hacker from Queensland University of Technology, who shares her work on using virtual reality and gamification as part of a Queensland Health campaign to teach sun safety to adolescents.
- Paul Mead from She Maps, who discusses female role models and unconscious bias, geospatial mapping using drones and a new children’s book called Pippa and Dronie, which promotes female role models in Science and Technology.
DTiF Classroom – Exploring AI in the classroom
Simon Collier, DTiF Curriculum Officer, takes viewers though a lesson from the Digital Technologies Hub, exploring how machine learning can be used to organise photographs. The initial lesson is accompanied by a question-and-answer session with a student, and a session where curriculum officers and teachers discuss strategies for teaching artificial intelligence in the classroom. This series of three videos can be found on the ‘Teaching’ section of the DTiF webpages.
General-purpose programming languages tutorial
A new tutorial has been added to the ‘Tutorials’ section of the DTiF webpages
. In this tutorial video, Martin Levins, DTiF Curriculum Officer, takes viewers through the transition from visual programming (block-based environments) to general-purpose programming (text-based environments). This video will guide teachers as they assist students to move on from block-based programming to general-purpose programming languages and to understand the similarities between the 2 programming constructs.
DTiF schools – implementing Digital Technologies: what works?
by Melanie Hughes
One hundred and sixty schools started the DTiF project in 2017, each with different geographical locations, some with very small numbers of staff, some with internet connectivity challenges and each seeking to engage their students in learning about Digital Technologies whilst catering to their unique interests, needs and talents. There have been a wide range of strategies that the project schools found work best in terms of engaging students.
Building meaningful connections to other learning areas
Linking literacy outcomes to Digital Technologies learning has been a popular approach by many schools. For example, incorporating the language of the curriculum in the classroom in a variety of ways, exploring algorithms through text using recipes, conducting procedural scientific investigations or through narrative in carefully selected books.
Figure 1. Dreamtime stories
Relieving Principal Lyndall Schuchmann from Mogo Public School (NSW) was keen to focus on combining learning about Digital Technologies and improving literacy outcomes for her students. One of the ways this worked well in her school was through a staged storytelling and writing activity.
Figure 2. Dreamtime stories created in PowerPoint
Years 4, 5 and 6 students wrote and illustrated paper-based Dreamtime stories, then turned these into digital stories in PowerPoint and finally created animated stories using visual programming in Scratch. The inspiration for these stories stems from earlier work where the school partnered with the local community to produce a book based on local Aboriginal culture, written and illustrated by students and titled ‘Grandfathers Gully’. Mogo Public School is located in Yuin country, which stretches from the Shoalhaven River to the Victorian border. The Yuin nation is made up of many language groups, including the Dharumba, Djirringanj, Dhawa and Dhurga. The local First Nations Peoples are actively involved in continuing the culture and language through their close connection with the school. The Dhurga language plays an integral part in literacy activities for students with Elders coming to the school, sharing their knowledge through stories, and providing students with an opportunity to learn on country to immerse themselves in both the culture and language.
Students were thrilled to see the finished product, which also included original sprites – snakes, kangaroos and magpies – that they designed and produced themselves using the drawing tools in Scratch.
Figure 3. Dreamtime stories in Scratch
Accessing equipment when you have limited budget
Mogo Public School has also organised robotics days with funding provided by NEC Australia to take students on an excursion to the University of Wollongong, where they had access to equipment not available in their school. Students learnt more about visual coding and were able to use Micro:bits and Arduinos to see their code come to life.
Parkes Public School (NSW) has provided its students with access to a wide variety of equipment by borrowing resources from the NSW public schools STEMshare service and the national CSER lending library from the University of Adelaide. CSER has a number of kits available to all schools in all states and territories. This new equipment has kept students interested and engaged, and exposed them to the resources the school did not have a budget to purchase.
Sacred Heart Parish School, Cunnamulla (Qld), solved the problem of accessing equipment in a different way by visiting their local library and using the library resources onsite over the course of several lessons. This partnership was shared in their school newsletter with pictures of the students using robots they had programmed.
Appealing to students’ interests
Finding opportunities to learn more about, and do more to teach, Digital Technologies can come from anything that captures students’ attention. For example, Mogo Public School (NSW) has implemented Digital Technologies to help students with literacy, social skills and problem-solving using block coding in Minecraft Education Edition. Minecraft is something the students really enjoy and incorporating it into their program has had a host of positive benefits including building visual programming skills, the development of online etiquette guidelines that the students developed and finally fostering positive behaviours.
Collaboration and connection
Rebecca Keogh from St Mary’s Moruya (NSW), who you can read about in one of the DTiF school stories, has found that professional collaboration has some very positive effects on building her skills and knowledge about how best to implement Digital Technologies. Rebecca is active on Twitter @BeckKeough1 where she learns and shares ideas with other educators. During 2020, when many of us were teaching and learning from home, she started an educators Facebook group for rural and remote teachers as a way of connecting others with resources to help them in all aspects of their teaching. Through Rebecca’s Facebook group, teachers were able to share information about free professional learning, including lesson plans and ideas.
Rebecca recently also started short online sessions she called Techspresso. In these sessions she shared her learning and lesson ideas for teaching Digital Technologies as well as invited colleagues and special guests to share knowledge and ideas with participants. These sessions often included a short demonstration of a device, software or website. Everyone involved has found the sessions very useful as they helped strengthen the professional learning network, build friendships and, more importantly, improve teaching practice. Rebecca has since gone on to extend Techspresso to Edulatte. Edulatte is active on Facebook and Twitter and extends beyond Digital Technologies to explore pedagogy and practice across all learning areas. With collaboration via 10 minute podcasts and online chats, she hopes to connect locally and globally to extend her own teaching practice further.
Building a professional network – or ecosystem, as we call it in the DTiF project – is definitely one of the best ways to build teacher knowledge and skills, whether that be with industry partnerships, involving parents and community or teaming up with local TAFEs, universities and other schools. So it’s no wonder Rebecca’s ideas have been so successful for her and her network of fellow educators.
In summary, successful implementation of Digital Technologies works best when schools:
- look for local links with businesses and industries and explore these with students
- engage students through areas of interest such as Minecraft, robotics, digital technologies careers and interesting stories in the news about digital systems and how people use them
- build or join a professional learning network of other educators with whom they can share ideas, ask questions and swap resources
- look for resources that enhance and build on what they already do; for example, explore literacy and numeracy opportunities when teaching Digital Technologies
- involve others and ask experts
- make use of available professional learning especially quality, free professional learning such as the CSER MOOCs or free professional learning advertised on the Digital Technologies Hub
- find sample documents such as scope and sequences on the Digital Technologies Hub for inspiration or modification.
Looking forward, looking back…
by Martin Levins
In ‘Looking forward, looking back’, the title song of his 100th album, Slim Dusty wrote:
There are strange days
Full of change on the way
But we'll be fine, unlike some
I'll be leaning forward, to see what's coming.
Even though the pandemic may not yet be over, and we may face additional lockdowns or deprivations, let’s lean forward and ask what we can learn from our 2020 school experiences.
I’ll start with a provocative statement: The photocopier is the natural enemy of learning.
When I think of a photocopier, I immediately think of a worksheet.
When I think of a worksheet, my mind’s eye sees ‘busy work’, ‘drill and kill’ and other similar educational epithets.
They’re a temptation for the tired and a perceived panacea for panic, but they often end up breeding boredom.
Aren’t they a hangover from the age-old, teacher-focused classroom, bound by four walls, which hasn’t really changed since the initial schooling systems were developed by the Prussian army in the late 18th century?
In many cases, bundles of worksheets were put out in sheer desperation by schools that had nothing else. This should now be changing, and not just for preparation for crisis. There’s a real opportunity to examine the worth of what we have been doing since the Prussian initiative.
Many progressive educators have suggested that being at home, or at least away from school, would light the fuse for a more widespread move away from this tired system.
This suggestion is based on data collected via observation and survey, and not just from the last year or so. The data comes from Australia, the USA, Canada, the UK, India and New Zealand.
John Hattie, Emeritus Laureate Professor and Chair of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership Board, refers to his experience as an adviser to the Qualifications Authority that oversees senior high school examinations in New Zealand.
During the devastating earthquakes of 2011, Christchurch’s school system was severely disrupted and there was ‘a cry for special dispensations for high school examinations’.
Hattie argued the opposite, basing his judgement on ‘strike research (research on the effect of teacher strikes on student performance), which showed no effects at this upper school level, with positive effects in some cases’.
“Sure enough, the performance of Christchurch students went up, and as schools resumed, the scores settled back down," he says.
“Why? Because teachers tailored learning more to what students could NOT do, whereas often school is about what teachers think students need, even if students can already do the tasks.”
It sounds perfectly obvious, but peculiar that, in his summary, Hattie:
urges teachers and parents to not panic if students miss out on 10 weeks or so of face-to-face learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also recommends no meaningless ‘busy work’ over the period (my emphasis – M.L.) and giving students sufficient opportunities to learn things they do not know.
Why “over the period” and not “from now on”? Are we to assign busy work from now on?
2013 TEDtalk winner, Sugata Mitra, Professor Emeritus at NIIT University, Rajasthan, India, describes how slum children, who see a hole in the wall around the university containing an internet connected computer, taught themselves how to use the device, despite not knowing the graphical and English ‘language’ of the machine.
Hole in the wall. Photo credit NIIT India
Contrast this with the USA Brookings Institution that made predictions in May 2020 that students would face a ‘COVID slide’, particularly in mathematics. They based this on what happens when a student is absent from school for a long time, such as summer holidays.
However, this (as they admit) is a big assumption in that summer vacation has no tuition at all, other than summer school, and this usually does not feature mathematics.
Michael Takayoshi, the principal of Cascade High School, Washington state, comments:
… rethinking of their work really helped people think about lesson design or user experience… ‘What can I trim?’, ‘What’s not clear?’ Getting to the core of what you’re asking students to do, and removing the things that may be superfluous.
This raises a similar question, as that prompted by Hattie’s comments: Why isn’t this the case always?
Educational commentator Alfie Kohn comments that:
Warnings about academic loss are not just dubious; they’re dangerous. They create pressure on already-stressed-out parents to do more teaching at home – and, worse, to do more of the most traditional, least meaningful kind of teaching that’s geared toward memorizing facts and practicing lists of skills rather than exploring ideas. Parents may just assume this is what instruction is supposed to look like, partly because that’s how they were taught (and no one ever invited them to rethink this model). And if standardized tests rather than authentic kinds of assessment will eventually be used to evaluate their children, parents, like teachers, will be inclined to do what is really just test prep.
Research carried out by the Ontario Public Supervisory Officer’s Association largely agrees with Hattie’s assessment. They found that school closures due to Hurricane Katrina showed that:
The effect on student achievement was not as great as many expected. Students were out of school between three and seven weeks and many had no schoolwork in this time: There was a drop of -0.17 from Katrina, but what is more surprising is how quickly the Parish evacuees recovered from the experience and actually began to see gains in test scores.
Like Hattie’s take on teacher strikes, they compared to vacation effect sizes, which were quoted as being very low.
The effects from school holiday are very small on students, and there is little reason to believe that the length of the school year has much effect at all. Note that the so-called vacation effect (-.02), summer school length effect (.08), the summer school effect (.19), and the effect of modifying school calendars (.08) are low.
Here, the biggest effect was in mathematics
There is data on the effect of teacher strikes and lengthy shut outs – and again the message is that the effects are very low, especially for students below middle school, but they increase after middle school, especially in maths.
Stephen Heppell, Director of the Felipe Segovia Chair of Learning Innovation at Universidad Camilo José Cela, Madrid, Chair in New Media Environments, Centre for Excellence in Media Practice, Bournemouth University, and Emeritus Professor New Learning Environments, Anglia Ruskin University. (He has a very big business card.)
He asks, “What do science + common sense tell us?” and stresses the importance of communication with all members of the school community and the crucial role of their wellbeing:
There is no ‘perfect way’ to do any of this. Most decisions involve a degree of choice. Below are just suggestions, but well-considered.
Parents and teachers will want to know and see that:
- the children are safe;
- the teachers are safe;
- the cleaners and caretakers and other staff are safe too;
- ·new systems are in place;
- the school has considered the many details and complexities;
- the school is still improving its caution day by day;
- ...and that learning is happening!
Recently launched research, carried out by Pivot Professional Learning and the Coalition of Australian Principals, calls out important findings on the impact of COVID-19. A synthesis of data from 456 school leaders across the country who were surveyed about how their work changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, what they are planning for 2021, and what types of support would be most valuable found that:
- Leaders of schools with an ICSEA score higher than 1000 were more than twice as likely to report a successful transition to remote learning than those leading schools with ICSEA less than 1000.
- Leaders of lower ICSEA schools were significantly more likely to say that their school had insufficient technology access.
- Leaders at higher ICSEA schools were twice as likely to report that students had learnt 91–100% of the curriculum.
- Leaders at lower ICSEA schools were more likely to believe the pandemic had a negative impact on student learning.
- Communication and crisis planning were rated the most useful pandemic leadership skills.
Note: ICSEA is an index of community socio-educational advantage that provides an indication of the socio-educational backgrounds of students; it has nothing to do with the staff, school facilities or teaching programs at the school.
The top 3 investment priorities for 2021 across all ICSEA levels and sectors were related to staffing. The largest proportion of principals (75.6%) rated investment in teachers as the highest priority, followed by social workers and school psychologists (72.3%).
Hardly surprising was the finding that principals of lower ICSEA schools were 3 times more likely than others to nominate technology investment as a priority. This showcases the poor standard of technology in these schools and how difficult it was for them to respond to the COVID crisis with the technological solutions that were adopted by many other schools.
What can we make of all this?
My takeaway is to ask whether we measure what we value, or value what we measure?
Most of the commentary above regarding negative effects on learning concentrates on senior, final year students who are facing high stakes standardised testing.
This is a very small proportion of our national student body.
Discussion between Digital Technologies in focus curriculum officers showed that clear, concise and consistent messaging with the school community and consideration of wellbeing are the most important responses to the COVID crisis.
The best technology in the world is fairly useless unless this is considered.
Schools have often been compared to the huge cargo ships that traverse our oceans in that they take a long time to change course, but I personally take great comfort in the way that schools responded in the main with agility and with compassion before worrying about worksheets or stressing over the curriculum.
These successful schools adopted technology after considering the human element, which made their technological interventions much more effective.
Have you seen these social media channels and groups?
The DTiF team have put together a list of social media channels, groups and hashtags that we like to follow. You might like to consider following one or more. Many are interactive and encourage contributions.
Facebook pages and groups
This is the official Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) page, which is updated regularly with information regarding Australian curriculum, assessment and reporting.
- Australian Computing Academy
This is the official Australian Computing Academy page, helping teachers implement the Digital Technologies curriculum in classrooms across the country.
- Australian Curriculum Innovation
A space to share and connect with others who are engaging with the next stage of implementing the Australian Curriculum. Learners who want to design contemporary, relevant and creative experiences aligned with the Australian Curriculum.
- BBC Microbit and NEW V2 Computer
This was created as an educational forum for both beginners and experienced alike, a meeting place to share, swap ideas and help each other in the best way possible.
- Digital Technologies / ICT Teachers (Australia)
A group for IT teachers contribute, collaborate and discuss all matters relating to teaching ICT subjects, particularly Digital Technologies. Based in Australia, but teachers from everywhere are most welcome. They share new technology, assessment ideas, class activities and any other relevant material.
A virtual coffee lounge where F–12 teachers share, collaborate and create. Rich and smooth conversations in pedagogy and practice. This was started by one of the teachers from a DTiF school, Rebecca Keough.
- HundrED community
In this group, ideas and innovations are shared from HundrED as well as their community members, though the onus for participation is on each individual. Here, you should feel free to discover and share:
- news and resources
- collaboration through people and projects.
- Makey Makey Educators
This is a place for members of the Makey Makey educator community to collaborate, share lessons, ask questions and connect with each other. Classroom teachers, librarians, museum educators, afterschool group educators, all are welcome.
- Micro:bit teachers Australia
The micro:bit Teachers Australia group is aimed at providing teachers with information and resources to assist in the implementation of micro:bits into teaching and learning programs.
- Office of the eSafety Commissioner
The eSafety Commissioner is Australia’s national regulator and educator for online safety. They also help Australians with the removal of harmful content online.
- On Butterfly Wings~ Technology/STEM/STEAM
This is a group for teachers. Its main goal is to help make life a little easier as they program and enhance their teaching for the betterment of their students. They collaborate, share and learn from each other. This is a group for sharing resources and ideas for teaching years F–12.
- Remote, Rural and Regional Teachers Resource & Network Group
This is a networking and sharing group for teachers. Their objective is to support each other as they program, learn to teach digitally and to enhance their teaching for the betterment of their students. In this space, they collaborate, communicate with respect and learn with each other. This is a place for professional educational posts. This is a group for sharing resources and ideas for teaching years F–6.
- STEM Australia
STEM Australia was born from the minds of 3 teachers, working in a low socio-economic, culturally diverse public high school, who wanted to design STEM education for students as a way for them to be savvy, creative, caring and self-sufficient.
- Teachers of Digital Technologies – Australian Curriculum
A space where teachers can share resources and advice relating to teaching Digital Technologies.
- Teachers using data science
A place for teachers who are interested to use data science in their classrooms, to share ideas and resources, and to support each other.
- Teaching with Scratch
This is a community of educators who share ideas, questions and resources related to teaching with Scratch. Whether you are an experienced Scratch educator, or are just getting started, you are invited to contribute.
- Women in EdTech
This is a group for women in leadership roles to find each other and engage in meaningful discussions regularly. This is a safe and inclusive community to share ideas, challenges and progress while lifting each other up.
- Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE)
The ACCE is the national professional body for those involved in the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in education. This includes educators who teach computing / information technology subjects as well as all educators who strive to improve student learning outcomes through the powerful use of ICT.
- Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria (DLTV)
DLTV provides leadership, support, services, programs and resources to anybody with an interest in emerging technologies and information communication technology teaching and learning.
EdTechSA supports educators with teaching and learning using digital technologies in SA.
- Educational Computing Association of Western Australia (ECAWA)
This Facebook group for ECAWA members can be used to stay in touch, share resources and ideas, and generally stay in the loop.
- ICT Educators of New South Wales (ICTENSW)
ICTENSW is a professional organisation designed to support ICT educators in New South Wales. The aim of the organisation is to provide resources, professional development and a network of collegial support.
- Information Technology Educators ACT (InTEACT)
The Professional Association for IT educators in the ACT, InTEACT works with the ACS, CSIRO and Digital Careers to improve ICT education at all levels.
- Queensland Society for Information Technology in Education (QSITE)
This Facebook group is for members and friends of QSITE. It is a volunteer-led professional association for teachers who teach ICT subjects, those who embed ICTs into learning and teaching and the leaders who support them. This social network is for QSITE members to connect with each other and share their experience.
- Tasmanian Information Technology Educators (TASITE)
TASITE is a professional association for teachers and allied professionals who use information technology in education in Tasmania.
- TeachMeets are informal professional learning and networking opportunities for educators to meet and share inspiring and engaging ideas. The aim of TeachMeets is to start the conversation. Presentations are short, sharp and meant to inspire you to engage in professional conversations with the presenters and develop your professional learning network. See below state/territory groups and sub-groups:
- EdTech BNE
A group for teachers and innovators from Queensland to discuss, share and collaborate around developing thoughtful EdTech tools to improve student outcomes.
- New South Wales Technologies Teachers
This group is for technology/computing teachers from around NSW to network and share teaching ideas, resources, and experiences.
- Mid-North Coast Education
This group is not exclusive for teachers. People in business and individuals interested in talking about education and improving community links are welcome to join. Members are encouraged to post links to educational resources and events, professional learning or expos that the group may be interested in.
||Grok Learning @groklearning
|Australian Computing Academy @AusCompAcademy
|| Indigenous Science Network @IndigenousScie1
|Australian Data Science Education Institute @DataSciAu
|| Paul Hamilton – Using technology better @PaulHamilton8
| AustCyber @AustCyber
|| Prof. Lisa Harvey-Smith – Women in STEM Ambassador @lisaharveysmith
| CSER Adelaide @cserAdelaide
|| Prof. Stephen Heppell @stephenheppell
| Deadly Science @DeadlyScience
|| QuestaGame @QuestaGame
| DT Hub @DigiTechHub
|| Reconciliation Australia @RecAustralia
| eSafety Commissioner @eSafetyOffice
|| STEMEd Magazine @stemedmagazine Founder: @FiMorrison2
| Edulatte @Edulatte1
|| Technology 4 Learning, NSW Education @T4L_DoE
| Grok Academy @grokacademy
|| Techgirlssuperheroes @TGAsuperheroes
| Professional associations
| ACCE @ACCE_AU
|| EdTechSA @EdTechSA
| ACS Foundation @acsfoundation
|| ICTENSW @ICTENSW
| DLTV @DLTVictoria
|| InTEACT @InTEACT
| ECAWA @ECAWA
|| QSITE @qsite
| TASITE @TASITEtas
| Hashtags to follow on Twitter
| Teachmeet groups
Keep in touch!
There are many ways to connect and keep in touch... the newsletter, DTiF Wiki and the Digital Technologies Hub – here's how they all interrelate:
Tell us what you think!
Email us at [email protected] – we'd love to hear from you!