DTiF newsletter

April 2020

Welcome to the April 2020 edition of the Digital Technologies in focus (DTiF) newsletter. We are now in the final year of the project, and the beginning of Term 1 saw a flurry of school visits. With a change in staffing, Deanne Poole and Peter Lelong have been supporting schools in South Australia and Central Australia, as well as continuing to touch base with their Phase 1 schools. Melanie Hughes has visited schools in Far North Queensland and the ACT, and Shane Byrne has headed to Gulf country. Many of our Queensland schools have been finalising their projects and it has been great to listen to the ‘Progress report 4’ webinars and reflective podcasts from Tasmanian and West Australian schools as a wrap-up to their projects. See 'What’s new'.

The events of recent weeks have, however, changed how we are supporting schools. The curriculum officers continue to offer email, phone and webinar support to their allocated schools. We have added new pages to the DTiF wiki: advice for online or remote learning, advice on developing a school readiness plan, curated resources by topic, and helpful video resources including tutorials. See DTiF wiki.

We have also established the online DTiF staffroom, available on Wednesdays at 8 am, 1 pm and 4 pm AEST. Curriculum officers will be available at each timeslot to provide advice or to just have a chat as you navigate new ways of working. Check emails or the wiki for links. We are also exploring other options, such as offering an online DTiF classroom. Email your curriculum officer with your ideas of how we can support you and your students.

Our 10 professional learning workshops are all available as live online events. Contact us if you and your colleagues and friends would like to engage in some professional learning. We are interested in exploring new ways to support implementation of Digital Technologies and to increase ICT capability.

Stay safe and positive.



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 April update

The DTiF webpage, located on the Australian Curriculum website in the ‘Resources’ section, has been updated with even more new content to give you great ideas for 2020. There are additional Digital Technologies curriculum planning resources and new classroom teaching ideas, including how you can use QR codes to teach digital systems and data representation. There are also new links to materials that may help you get deeper understanding of the key ideas and key concepts of Digital Technologies.

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One of the new resources is aimed at assisting schools to think about resourcing Digital Technologies. The resource provides ideas for both plugged and unplugged approaches.

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School story updates

‘Progress report 4’ webinar recordings and reflective podcasts have been published for St James Catholic College, Cygnet, and South Kalgoorlie Primary School. ‘Progress report 3’ webinar recording for Green Hill Public School is also published along with the project proposal, professional learning ecosystem, timeline, podcast and podcast transcript.

Visit the DTiF webpage.

Digital Technologies and students with special needs

by Kim Vernon

The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration by the Council of Australian Governments Education Council (2019) outlines the vision for education in Australia. It highlights, “Our vision is for a world class education system that encourages and supports every student to be the very best they can be, no matter where they live or what kind of learning challenges they may face”. An Education Council report, which gathered data on students in Australian schools receiving adjustments for disability (2017), indicated that as many as 19 per cent of students nationally are receiving some level of support due to a disability or learning difficulty.

Many students with special educational needs use digital technologies to provide and enhance educational support, but what does the Digital Technologies curriculum look like in a classroom where students have special educational needs?

Curriculum officers in a number of states and territories have been working with schools with special education units and with student populations with high needs to explore how students can engage with the Digital Technologies curriculum. Patrick Kelly, ACARA’s Curriculum and Assessment Specialist, Student Diversity, has visited two DTiF schools to provide professional learning and advice. As a result, Patrick and I collaborated to develop a workshop to reach more teachers.

In February, a workshop was run for teachers in Central West, NSW, with a theme of planning the Digital Technologies curriculum for students with special educational needs. With a particular focus on computational thinking, teachers were asked to find entry points for their students within the concepts of computational thinking.


Universal design for learning (UDL) is an instructional planning framework for meaningfully engaging a range of learners, including students with disability, by proactively addressing barriers to learning. Within the context of the Digital Technologies curriculum, UDL can serve as the instructional framework in which teachers can embed the necessary supports, technologies, and strategies that lead to effective instruction for a broad range of learners.

Image source: CAST

The Digital Technologies curriculum provides opportunities for students to be highly collaborative because of the focus on finding solutions to ambiguous or ill-defined problems. As in other areas of student collaboration, students with diverse needs and their peers may need to be taught the necessary skills to work successfully in collaborative environments. For more information on planning using the UDL framework, visit the ‘Digital Technologies Hub’ – ‘Inclusive Education’ section.

Computational thinking concepts

When we look at breaking computational thinking down into smaller concepts, we begin to see that this type of thinking is not only crucial to learning for students with special educational needs, but in some way, it is already part of the many skill sets that students with diverse needs are already engaging with. Table 1 shows the alignment between the key concepts of the Digital Technologies curriculum, typical special needs strategies and links to some classroom ideas.

Table 1: Aligning key concepts to strategies and classroom ideas for students with special needs

Key concept

Special needs strategies

Links to classroom ideas

  • Using visual cues to support students during activity transition time

Quick response (QR) codes placed around the room to guide students on expectations of a task.
Using a chequered cloth over laptop trolleys to indicate that an activity has concluded.

  • Daily routines
  • Visual timetables
  • Flowcharts
  • Sequencing excursions prior to visits, for example a supermarket
  • Life skills: cooking and changing for swimming lessons

Illustration of practice: Year 1   procedural writing

F–2 classroom idea: smiley face biscuit challenge

  • Breaking tasks down for students. For example, using graphic organisers to support their learning

  • Sorting images to explain behaviour expectations 

Illustration of practice: Year 4 Science

  • How can students represent their understanding by using different types of models?

Illustration of practice:
Year 8 Geography (landforms)

  • Exploring patterns in the world around us. For example, songs, dance and colour

 F–2 classroom idea:
 exploring patterns with lids

Data: Data may include characters (for example, alphabetic letters, numbers and symbols), images, sounds and/or instructions that, when represented by number codes, can be manipulated, stored and communicated by digital systems

  • Exploring data in everyday life

F–2 classroom idea:
what’s in your lunch box

F–2 classroom idea:
grouping and sorting

Years 3–4 classroom idea:  collecting litter data

Computational thinking in practice: A set of cards that give simple activity ideas for parents and teachers on each of the six aspects of computational thinking


DTiF010 workshop: Digital Technologies and students with diversity

This workshop, DTiF010 Digital Technologies and students with diversity, is now available either face to face or online. The workshop is NESA-accredited. If you are interested in this workshop and would like to host an event in your area or express interest in an online event, please contact Mark McCarthy on [email protected].

This workshop will assist you to: 

  • understand the purpose, intent and key concepts of the Digital Technologies curriculum and the different ways of thinking within the curriculum
  • explore specific advice with regard to meeting the learning needs of students with a disability  
  • understand how planning can ensure all students are able to access and participate in the curriculum 
  • collaborate with others to share ideas for teaching, learning and assessing 
  • become familiar with further resources to support you with the introduction of Digital Technologies. 

DTiF – the Tasmanian experience

by Peter Lelong

In early 2017, 12 schools were invited to take part in the first phase of the Digital Technologies in focus (DTiF) project. Two meetings were held in Tasmania, with leadership teams from the north and south of the state to introduce the project plan and to start planning action research. Among the Tasmanian schools were the two islands of King and Flinders schools, the remote west coast schools of Zeehan and Rosebery, and the most southerly school in Australia, at Dover.

Fast forward to March 2020, with all twelve having now completed their engagement in the DTiF project. Support will continue for the remainder of 2020 as the schools go on their journeys of implementation, assessment and reporting.

There have been many highlights from the three years, where individual teachers have been working with myself, ACARA’s Tasmanian curriculum officer, and supported by the national DTiF team. In 2018 teachers, Cindy Thornton from Flinders Island District High School (DHS) and Trudy Ward from Clarendon Vale Primary School, enrolled in a Graduate Certificate in Digital Technologies with the University of Tasmania. Both completed their studies and had their work published on the Digital Technologies Hub.

Trudy Ward developed a lesson that challenged her students to problem-solve using micro:bits and sensors and create a self-watering garden at the school. The soil moisture sensor project integrated science understanding and computational thinking to build sustainable watering practices.


Cindy Thornton from Flinders Island DHS created a series of lessons, where students were challenged to create a program to automatically switch on an air conditioner.


On the West Coast of Tasmania, principals Sharon Woodberry at Zeehan Primary School and Jill Richardson at Rosebery District High School applied for and won a grant from Schools Plus, and put the funds towards purchasing resources for all four government schools on the west coast including the schools in Queenstown and Strahan. They have built a west-coast cluster focusing on developing the digital literacies in all students to enhance the options for students in their remote communities.

Principal Tom Eastland from Dover is working with the Tasmania Department of Education architects and Professor Stephen Heppell to develop an innovative learning space for students in Years 11 and 12.  As principal of Dover District School, Tom wishes to glean ideas from Professor Heppell on how to create engaging environments for students to support the teaching of Digital Technologies.

The two island schools, on Flinders and King, are progressing with the support and encouragement of staff to engage their students in computational, design and systems thinking.  Both schools are making good use of the CSERMOOC lending library to bring resources into the classrooms across a range of year levels – something that these students may not otherwise have access to. 

The University of Adelaide CSERMOOCs have been presented at staff meetings in all 12 schools as part of the expectation for involvement  in the DTiF project, with some schools requiring all new teachers who come to the school to complete this online professional learning program. This has seen the building of teacher capacity to maintain and sustain the implementation of Digital Technologies at these schools.

The Herdsman Cove, Gagebrook, Clarendon Vale and East Derwent primary schools have all been participants in the 24 Carrot Garden program, sponsored  by MONA, to encourage students to engage in growing their own food at school. The opportunity to introduce digital technologies through the use of micro:bits as moisture sensors and other Digital Technology resources, both plugged and unplugged, has been successfully implemented in a number of these schools.


Finally, St James Catholic College, with their Stephanie Alexander Garden have built a Digital Technologies program around the implementation of growing a range of produce at the school.  The ability to integrate components of the Digital Technologies curriculum proved to be very helpful. The story of St James and their DTiF journey has been captured on the DTiF website. 

The importance of leadership cannot be underestimated. It’s leadership that has been one of the most critical factors in the success of the project in the 12 schools in Tasmania. Where school principals have an expectation that teachers implement the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies, it happens. With the provision of ongoing support, both professional learning opportunities and access to resources, there has been an appreciation that the teaching of Digital Technologies offers important opportunities for the students and their future.


Do you know about… CSER MOOCs?


Since 2016, the Computer Science Education Research Group (CSER) at the University of Adelaide have had an amazing team of project officers in each state and territory, working closely with schools, teachers and stakeholders to support F–12 Digital Technologies implementation in schools. The team have facilitated an incredible 1,800+ professional learning sessions, reaching over 27,000 educators far and wide across the country. Although CSER's project officers will be finishing up at the end of April, CSER's massively open online courses (MOOCs) will remain free and open for teachers to continue self-paced professional learning and to explore the excellent resources being shared by teachers in the course communities.

There are a whole range of topics to keep you excited and growing, from teaching the fundamentals of Digital Technologies in F–6 through to teaching artificial intelligence (AI) in primary and secondary years. Below are just some of the opportunities:

  • CSER has recently released new AI, virtual reality and augmented reality lending library kits for schools to hire along with many lesson plans that are free to download.
  • CSER's PL-in-a-Box program will continue to support educators to easily facilitate professional learning in schools with ready-made workshop slide decks.
  • Individual support is now available for teachers working remotely and from home to understand Digital Technologies implementation. Register in a CSERMOOC with a CSER education officer, and book a day and time that suits.
  • All you will require is a gmail account to register and access to a desktop or laptop computer. You will connect using the video conferencing tool, Zoom.
  • Schools can request an offline version of the popular CSER Digital Technologies Education MOOC on USB via the CSER MOOC website. Scroll to the bottom of the page (underneath the list of available MOOCs), where you will see a ‘Request Courses on USB’ button.
  • Inspired by the LEGO challenge... CSER Adelaide have 30 days of CSER Digital Technologies activity challenges! Teachers and parents, you can download the slide and remix the activities.


Keep an eye on the upcoming newsletter and tweets for further support resources in remote and online teaching. Visit the CSERMOOC website

DTiF20200408Light bulb teaching moments

Martin Levins, DTiF Curriculum Officer for New England, NSW and Top End Remote, NT, was working with students on a data collection activity…

In a school last week, I had F–5 kids and we collected leaves in the playground as a data collection and categorisation exercise.

After categorising on the basis of shape, size, venation, alive or dead, etc., we sorted the leaves into whole or partially eaten, moved the uneaten ones out of the way and sorted the eaten ones into most eaten to least eaten. I asked, “Which leaves are the tastiest to bugs?”

So, we had a category for the ones that were eaten, sorted according to tastiness. I thought this was as far as it would go, but then a thought crept in (it happens occasionally).

ML: “Who has searched for something on Google recently?"

Student: “Me, I searched for Harry Potter.”

ML: “So Google put to one side all the things that weren’t about Harry Potter and sorted the things that were in order of popularity (or tastiness, if you want to continue the metaphor). You just did a ‘Google search’ on the tastiness of leaves (for bugs) in your schoolyard!”


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! 

Email us at [email protected] – we'd love to hear from you.