Welcome to the December 2020 edition of the Digital Technologies in focus (DTiF) newsletter. Most of the project schools are now finalising their project reports and it’s great to hear the considerable progress made by schools, even in a difficult year. Schools in phases 2–4 in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, ACT and New South Wales are reflecting on their achievements and planning for 2021. We will continue in Semester 1 to work with schools in Northern Territory and New South Wales.
While the Digital Technologies in focus project needed to adapt due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, it’s pleasing to see that many schools have continued their Digital Technologies journey. See the article by Deanne Poole about how three schools from Western Australia have continued their Digital Technologies journey and how the project outcomes helped them respond to COVID challenges.
At the end of December, we farewell Simon Collier and Peter Lelong and wish them all the best for new adventures. They will both be missed by their schools and by the DTiF family. Simon has worked with schools in Victoria, New South Wales and Northern Territory. I know schools have valued his knowledge, skills and commitment. Simon will be travelling in 2021 so he may still be able to support some of our schools as he travels the back roads.
Peter Lelong has provided exemplary service in all sectors over many years and has been a huge support for Tasmanian schools. His unfailing enthusiasm for all things digital will be missed. The Tasmanian DTiF schools have continued to engage with the project and it is great to hear that the learning has been sustained in 2020. One of the articles in this newsletter highlights a good news story from King Island.
Best wishes for the festive season and fingers crossed for 2021!
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 5 and 6
The Digital systems assessment task provides a scaffold to teach and assess your students’ understanding of how digital systems can be used to monitor and collect information about a school environment. Students are asked to record information using a range of digital systems and to investigate the 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.
Classroom idea: Exploring Digital Technologies through shopping (Years 3–6)
Students and their families encounter Digital Technologies concepts in many everyday shopping tasks. See the 'Classroom ideas: Years 3–6' resource (PDF 700 kb) that demonstrates how using concepts derived from age-appropriate content, combined with multiple points of entry to, and exit from, a shopping-related task might remove barriers to learning. The resource provides examples of learning experiences that respond to the individual attributes and characteristics of all students and suggests ways to remove barriers to their participation and progress. As a result, students may better engage in purposeful and authentic open-ended explorations that require critical and creative thinking and incorporate student choice and voice. Visit the Australian Curriculum website to read more.
The DTiF in conversation webinars
The DTiF in conversation series of webinars has captured some rich discussions with a range of teachers and professionals, which we are pleased to share as recordings you can watch in your own time on the ’Webinars’ section of the DTiF webpages. Webinar guests discuss concepts that help make links to the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies.
In the latest update, we have added discussions and presentations by:
- Jennifer Hemer from Natural Resource Management Tasmania, speaking about what's happening in the seafood industry in her state and how digital technologies are used to make the industry more sustainable
- Andrew Harris from the Hagley Farm school in Tasmania, sharing the work they are doing teaching Digital Technologies and its meaningful use in agriculture at the school. Andrew also provides examples of the ways students learn about digital systems and data collection.
Newly commissioned golf hole at the King Island District High school
by Phil Holbrook, Teacher/AST, King Island District High
It all started only a few weeks before the first DTiF session back in 2017. The Principal, Ben Murfet, was keen to give students an opportunity to gain career opportunities in a growing industry here on King Island. With incredible support from Cape Wickham Links, its General Manager John Geary and a handful of enthusiastic locals, the project got underway. This was considered a real-world, 21st-century project, and if golf was going to be a major drawcard for King Island, there would be employment opportunities – maintenance workers, green keepers, food and hospitality, to mention a few.
We had already developed a school café, providing students with hospitality skills. And now the development of a golf course provided a purpose for engaging with digital technologies as students designed the new school facility.
Move forward some three years and the golf hole is complete for our young budding golfers. Students have mowed and maintained the one-hole mini-course, maintained equipment, been involved with understanding irrigation systems… They are now enjoying using the hole and many are developing an interest in the sport.
We are now looking at how digital technologies are going to keep providing our students with more opportunities. Possibly automation and moisture sensors are our next step forward? I guess only time will tell.
DTiF schools WA: where are they now?
by Deanne Poole
Western Australian schools completed their DTiF journey in December 2019. Whilst there was a 100% completion rate, all schools finished at a different point in their journey. Each school improved teacher knowledge and capacity in both ICT and Digital Technologies (DT), along with a greater base knowledge for students. However, the DTiF project had an important overall goal to ensure sustainable implementation of Digital Technologies.
So, what happens once the curriculum officer is no longer cracking the whip and encouraging schools to meet deliverables by due dates and supporting teachers in and out of classrooms? And what impact can a global pandemic cause to teaching Digital Technologies?
I visited three WA metropolitan DTiF schools to investigate how they were travelling with the ongoing implementation of the Digital Technologies curriculum.
Note: Western Australian schools use the School Curriculum and Standards Authority (SCSA) Digital Technologies curriculum – otherwise known as the WA Curriculum.
School 1: St Maria Goretti’s Catholic School
Teaching staff: 20
Student population: 380
DTiF project question: How can we incorporate best practices and pedagogies when implementing the Digital Technologies (DT) curriculum?
The school was highly engaged with the project and also paid another organisation to further embed DT in classrooms. School leaders were very enthusiastic in upskilling all staff with DT and ICT capabilities. They regularly offered professional learning opportunities and whole-staff training.
The school is now delivering DT in a fully integrated manner and the DT/ICT language is now unconsciously used by teachers and students.
Coding, language and concepts were the biggest initial stumbling blocks for staff. The school ensured staff had many professional learning opportunities to develop their knowledge and will continue to ensure these areas are addressed.
Staff are very confident and when challenged with new digital resources, they are very willing to learn anything new. Some staff are more highly skilled, so the school has set up a great culture of DT leaders that support other staff.
Student engagement is much improved and is particularly high when DT or ICT is embedded into the lesson.
Ved, Ella and Shravya, Year 4 SMGCS students (WA), working together to create stories
COVID-19 created some delays in ongoing professional learning opportunities, but the school easily transitioned to remote learning as they were already set up with digital skills and teacher support networks. Due to all staff already using a variety of online learning and portfolio tools, it was an easy transition. This school was able to utilise some of the COVID transition to online learning time to also support teachers’ wellbeing, as there was no need to catch-up or train staff to use digital tools. The school became a beacon for other schools and assisted other schools that were not so ready for digital teaching. Limited digital resources in students’ homes meant that they could not be fully online and the school supported students with physical learning packs.
The school’s advice: Admin is key, good staff supported by admin. Good technical support to help reduce IT issues aided in seamless use of technologies. Our IT had originally had many issues but we spent money to build wireless capacity.
Chelsea, Joanne and Alexandria, Year 4 SMGCS students (WA), flexible learning with ICT
School 2: St Munchin’s Catholic Primary School
Teaching staff: 21
Student population: 294
DTiF project question: How can we achieve integration of the Digital Technologies curriculum into teaching within all year levels in our school?
Two staff members deliver Digital Technologies and ICT lessons to classrooms and the teachers build onto these lessons and complete all required reporting.
Administration has provided a range of professional learning opportunities for staff, including from DTiF team and The University of Adelaide’s CSER project. This aids classroom staff to build on their DT knowledge and now their ICT skills have also greatly improved, which is helping teachers to develop in confidence.
Staff have identified high engagement levels in students when embedding DT or ICT in lessons.
COVID-19 created some regression in teaching DT in the classroom, as other priorities appeared. However, teachers were far more prepared for remote learning due to the improvements in their ICT skills. Staff were already familiar with the online learning platforms and were able to seek immediate support from peers as needed. The school easily transferred to online learning. The school community had limited access to devices at home, so the school utilised all digital devices they had and allowed students to take them home, using the library borrowing system. The school continued to survey families throughout to identify if there were any technical needs in either physical resources or skills so the school could support the families to resolve issues. DTiF had underpinned the skills needed and assisted in teachers’ readiness.
Teachers who suddenly had students with access to one-to-one devices due to the school’s COVID response were very enthusiastic to have their students continue using them in the classroom once they returned to school. Going forward, the school is hoping to manage the staff desire to use devices more, possibly increasing resources and endeavouring to ensure that the digital usage is productive and based on the substitution, augmentation, modification, re-definition (SAMR) model and technological, pedagogical and content knowledge (TPACK) principles.
The school’s advice: To assist students with their remote learning, the school ran a variety of online sessions for families and students. These included sessions on how to use the device or tools, mathematics support and extra support for students with learning needs.
Nguyen Thuong, Year 6 SMCPS student (WA), placing art into a digital portfolio
School 3: Lockridge Primary School
Teaching staff: 18
Student population: 260 and growing
DTiF project question: How can Digital Technologies (DT) aid in developing the social and emotional capabilities of students in Years 1–6?
The school engaged with the project enthusiastically but have had a high turnover of staff, including the DTiF team leader, which had some minor impact on the continuity of the project. Fortunately, a new project team leader came on boardwho continued to use the DTiF resources to deliver ongoing professional learning and provided regular classroom visits to demonstrate DT in action. The new leader’s advocacy for the project ensured there were good DT and ICT impacts at the school.
In 2021, a new STEM teacher starts, who will take over the teaching and reporting of DT. The STEM approach will be delivered in combination with classroom learning.
Staff are now quite enthusiastic to utilise ICT in the classroom as they have witnessed the high engagement of students. The combination of the new STEM teacher delivering DT and ongoing productive ICT strategies being embedded in the classroom should see further gains in staff and student knowledge and skills. Teachers are feeling much more confident to try new digital tools and even share their knowledge with their peers.
COVID-19 impacted learning and the school opted to pursue a mixture of online and paper packs for remote learning. Many students do not have online access at home. DT delivery became less of a priority. The pandemic also paused ongoing DT professional learning until recently, when the school held a staff STEM professional learning day with all teachers using the range of school resources and attending a variety of mini sessions. The school is very intent on ensuring all staff continue their ICT and DT learning journeys as it will benefit the students’ engagement, and engagement can assist students with their social and emotional needs.
The school’s advice: Staff can learn Digital Technologies along with the students, there is no need to know it all. Learn together.
Have you seen ...
ACARA’s STEM Connections updates?
ACARA’s STEM Connections project aims at investigating a cross-disciplinary approach to the teaching of STEM disciplines. The STEM Connections report, illustrations of practice and work samples available on this page are products of the project. The illustrations of practice explore the experiences of five of the participating schools and the work samples provide examples of integrated STEM tasks. Three new vodcasts have been uploaded and reflective podcasts, where teachers reflect on what they have learnt about STEM education five years on.
St Stephen’s Primary School (Victoria) recently published an illustration of practice video, highlighting some of the progress made during the DTiF project. The focus of their Years 1–2 STEM Connections illustration of practice was a culminating task after a unit of work exploring endangered animals. The aim was to have the students demonstrating their scientific knowledge through the design and engineering of an interactive display.
The school focused on building the capacity of staff and students in all STEM disciplines by utilising external expert support. Support was embedded throughout the project, and skills and knowledge were developed across domains.
Click the image to watch the video
DTiF video series
The team has been busy recording a series of videos to support teachers. You can find the videos on the ’Webinars’ section of the DTiF webpages. Series topics include:
- online learning
- types of thinking
- literacy in Digital Technologies
- numeracy in Digital Technologies
- visual programming
- key concept – digital systems.
Keep in touch!
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