Proud to be able to add another certification to my tool kit – that of official Sphero Hero!
Sphero is a fantastic robot for teaching coding to students of all ages. I have been using and promoting Sphero for many years with teachers and students and am very pleased to be recognised for spreading the word.
As I look at my other certifications, I am proud to be associated with such quality products in education technology!
I have visited regional and remote schools before, but nothing as remote as Imanpa! 200km drive from Alice Springs, I pull up at Erldunda to call the Principal, Steve, as this is the last phone reception, and let him know that I am on my way, 70km to go. I drive 7km off the highway on a dirt road and meet him in the school bus at the football oval (red dirt, no grass) and after introductions, he says “interesting choice” of my bright red Commodore SV6 hire car, “they’re going to love it”. He immediately makes the decision that he will lock it away in his shed! Oh dear! A teacher, Lauren, from another remote school has come for the week PD also and Steve’s partner, Carolyn, is also a teacher at the school. I meet their 2 boys and have an afternoon hearing about the community and their lives as remote teachers. Some of the stories make me nervous. As there is no accomodation for 200km, Lauren and I share a 3 bedroom house in the community.
I watch the teachers go about their daily duties – opening up, checking the grounds, cleaning the toilets, blowing the dirt off the verandahs, cleaning, vacuuming, disinfecting, washing uniforms, checking for snakes, turning on air-conditioners, checking emails, doing paperwork, talking to the kids as they come in, the jobs are never-ending and teaching hasn’t started yet. As the students arrive, they go inside to their shelf and put on their uniform before playing outside. It is hot! 40 degrees on the first day with a strong, hot wind like it is coming off a furnace. Most of the kids prefer being outside in the heat rather than the air-conditioned classroom, but even they come inside for lunch. Last week they found snake tracks in the dirt, but they hope it was a python and not a brown. The water in the shower and taps smells strongly of sulphur and everything is covered in a thin film of red dust, Then the news that they have picked some lice off their kids’ heads – I am instantly scratching my head!
Day 1 we have 6 students, the teachers’ 2 kids and 4 indigenous students (one of whom announces “You got a red Commodore”!). I will admit I am a little disappointed, given the enrolment numbers are 16, but we have a fantastic day. For some students it is their first time ever on an iPad. Day 2, news has got out of the new iPads, and we have 11 students, and 13 on Day 3! Some students come who haven’t been for 3 weeks. They don’t even want to go home at the end of the day and ask at lunch when we are going back in. They learned so many new things, always asking me questions or for help (“Bev”, “Veb”, “Vev”, “Bronwyn”) and were willing to give everything a go with such a great attitude and much enthusiasm.
Over the 5 days, we go through iPad basics, set up some Accessibility settings for personalised learning (a shame we can’t use dictation or Siri or anything that requires adequate internet on the satellite setup). We set up learning journals for reading and Maths in Book Creator – the teachers love the evidence of learning with videos from Explain Everything! and all the multimedia that can be included. We took the learning outside for photos and videos, and AR (Augmented Reality) was a big hit, as was Green Screen and Stop Motion. For a Maths activity, we get them to organise themselves into height order and then we time lapse while they build a Lego Duplo tower to measure themselves with informal units. We then use Numbers to graph the heights and the older students experiment with which graphs best represents the data. They loved using Maths apps and particularly enjoyed drawing their own self portraits in Keynote. And on the last day I got out my Spherosand they had so much fun – they were ecstatic when I said I was leaving them with them as a donation.
For most of these kids, English isn’t even their second language, but their third or even fourth! Most speak Pitjantjatjara or Yankunytjatjara, and don’t speak English at home, but there are 4 or 5 languages spoken in the community, so their efforts in school are all the more impressive.
The challenges of a small remote school are many; one of which is internet and WiFi! The iPads were set up by Winthrop in WA https://www.winaust.com.au/education-solutions/ , understanding the unique needs of remote schools. For example, MDM to push out apps is just not an option with the limited bandwidth and even apps authenticating the first time they are used is an issue, so they have them all set up and authenticated before being sent to the school, so they were literally ready to go from the time we turned them on – brilliant! This school is lucky enough to now have a 1:1 iPad program.
Very remote teachers are a special breed! There are numerous challenges, isolated from family and friends, yet they work very long hours, and want to make the kids’ time at school the best learning experience it can possibly be, as they know how important education is.
What a privilege to be a judge at the first Coffs Harbour regional First Lego League (FLL) competition this week. The buzz in the room was palpable! Such excitement and enthusiasm from all the teams. Some were experienced, some there for their first competition, but all walking away with huge smiles.
The 2018 challenge was Into Orbit and challenged students to find solutions to real-world problems in space.
Students didn’t just learn about coding, maths, science, space and robotics, they also learned about:
trial and error
dealing with disappointment
In addition to FLL’s trademark coopertition:
Coopertition is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete. (from https://firstaustralia.org/about-us/vision/)
the students are also marked on CORE VALUES:
As the emphasis is not just on the final challenge product, but the fun and learning along the way, students have a well-rounded experience, and all can achieve a level of success.
I spent a very productive 2 days of my school holidays at the ACCE (Australian Council for Computers in Education) 2018 Conference in Sydney. The theme of the conference was ImpaCT – how to ensure we are using technology to its maximum effect on student learning. (I also made an impact with my T shirt – very popular!)
As at any technology conference, one of the best takeaways is the people – networking, meeting some of those amazing innovators you’ve been following on Twitter and social media for years, catching up with friends and colleagues and meeting inspirational teachers, who just quietly do amazing things every day. Here are a few of my other standout takeaways from the 2 days:
We don’t write programs for computers, we write them for people – Programs are for people to use, the User Interface is important, and programs are written ON a computer but they are FOR the use of people.
DT vs ICT – Knowing the difference between Digital Technologies and ICT Capabilities. ACA (Australian Computing Academy) have these fantastic cards to get teachers thinking about which is which. The actual cards are awesome, but you can print your own here https://aca.edu.au/teacher-resources/
Be a master of the media not a slave to the screen – Kristy Goodwin – Inspirational speaker on Teaching the iGen, learning new terms such as infobesity, techno tantrums, moral panic, digital dementia. We adults/parents/teachers need to lead by example with technology use and digital distraction https://drkristygoodwin.com
Micro:bits – I have been waiting for the time to explore Micro:bits more and had the opportunity with 2 workshops. I have already ordered mine and am ready to tinker!
Creativity now is as important in education as literacy – Dr Ken Robinson. Creativity has gone from the 10th to 3rd in top 10 skills to thrive in 2020. https://cvdl.ben.edu/blog/top-skill-2020-creativity/ This ties in beautifully with Apple’s new Every Can Create Curriculum #everycancreate
Unpacking the Digital Technologies curriculum – James Curran did a fabulous unpacking of the National Curriculum and showed the great resources available on the DigiHub https://aca.edu.au/curriculum (Wishlist: It would be fantastic if we could have something similar for the new NSW Science and Technology curriculum)
Now to start putting it all into practice in the classroom …
You can now get recognition and be Kahoot! certified.
There are 3 tiers – Bronze, Silver and Gold – and when you’re ready to take the quiz, it is a Kahoot! (of course!). You need to pass one level before going onto the next and can learn more about Kahoot! in the process. It’s a great way to keep up to date with the latest updates and features.
You can then tweet your badge or print your certificate with your name. Use for your teacher identified PD hours.
I have had the pleasure in the last few weeks of running two iPad Learning Experiences (ILEs) with Boambee PS and Kororo PS. The ILE is designed to introduce schools to 1:1 learning with iPad and is a two week immersive experience, providing technical guidance and in-class teaching and learning support, assisting schools in exploring the potential of iPads in a 1:1 environment.
The programs were a huge success! As both teachers noted, 1:1 is the ‘game-changer’! Each student has their own iPad, so can edit and add to work easily. With every student with the same device, you know that every student has the required app, and are all able to work at the same time.
The overwhelming observation was the increase in student engagement. Students were more enthusiastic about their learning and were engaged in their schoolwork. Some of the tasks and activities included Numeracy work with arrays, Literacy work with spelling and reading fluency, movies with Green Screen and iMovie, iPad art work and interactive lessons with Nearpod. Teachers noted that the pedagogy remains the same, but teaching and learning with iPad adds another dimension.
Using the Apple Classroom app to monitor students and simplify workflow made classroom management easier – navigate the whole class of iPads to an app or web page instantly, lock the iPads when required, or my favourite – see what app every student is on to check they are on task, and if desired, view their screen in real time. The teacher is free to move around the classroom while still seeing what every students is doing.
Nearpod was also a game changer – the ability to see every students’ response in real time, and to share with the class or support and correct them immediately had instant impact, with some students recording improved results within a week.
Teachers also realised that it is not necessarily a large amount of apps that is needed, but a few core apps that can be used in many and varied ways. Book Creator and Seesaw were two such apps, which allowed for varying tasks and activities.
It was a pleasure working with such enthusiastic teachers and students and to watch the transformation of learning in the classroom.
Last week I had the pleasure of working with the staff of Indigenous Digital Excellence (IDX) for 3 days, training them in the effective use of iPads in education and how to teach Coding and Robotics to younger students. IDX is part of the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) in Redfern, and aims to increase digital skills amongst Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, to strengthen Indigenous participation in our digital economy. The staff are inspirational leaders and mentors and travel around Australia, to remote and regional areas, to engage Indigenous students in using digital technologies.
Our 3 days included intensive training in apps following the Apple Teacher curriculum, concentrating on Accessibility features of the iPad, Keynote, iMovie and GarageBand – apps that are particularly useful for story-telling and communicating with rich, multimodal texts and making use of the engagement of multimedia.
We also had a day on Coding and Robotics – how to teach students from Kindergarten how to think computationally, showing how to gradually increase and scaffold the learning to develop from block-based code through to syntax code. This included Swift Playgrounds – a fun app teaching Swift syntax language that smooths the transition from block-based code to syntax code – and the Everyone Can Code curriculum resources. All staff embraced the challenge and were coding in no time!
We also had a lot of fun coding with Sphero SPRK+. Sphero is so versatile and mobile, particularly important when IDX are going out on country and visiting regional areas, as it is easy to transport and very robust.
I really enjoyed my 3 days with IDX, they were enthusiastic and willing to have a go at new strategies and ideas, and I think their work is inspirational. I particular like the premise that IDX do not want to merely increase Indigenous digital skills, but are aiming for Indigenous Digital Excellence!
This week I had the privilege of being invited to Melbourne to work with the co-founders and volunteers of Code Like a Girl. Code Like a Girl is an Australian organisation, founded by Ally Watson and Vanessa Doake, to inspire more females to engage in careers in coding and technology. Volunteers, including app developers, coders, other technology-related professions and a teacher, work with younger generations of girls through workshops and Code Camps to inspire them to get into coding and careers in technology and also to encourage women in technology to take on leadership roles.
With Ally Watson, Co-founder of Code Like a Girl
I was slightly intimidated by speaking to these professional app developers and coders about coding (which is their profession!), but had a fantastic day! While their coding skills and experience far exceed mine, they were after strategies to engage the younger learners – ways to teach coding to students as young as 5 years old in ways that will engage them in their learning. This I could do! One of my specialties is ways to engage young students in computational thinking and coding from K-6, and they all had a great time learning about new ways to teach coding, with strategies they had never thought of. When they were younger students, coding was not taught in schools, so they were very interested to see the difference in teaching coding to young students compared to learning coding as an adult. We discussed that this could be an interesting study in the future, to see what difference there is in the ability and creativity of coders in the future.
The Get Started with Code and Learn to Code multitouch books on the iPad from Apple Education were the basis of our whole day session, exploring the many resources available to teachers to engage students in learning coding, including unplugged coding and app prototyping with Keynote. The books include hands-on activities to print out and video examples that can lead you every step of the way.
They were all very impressed with Swift Playgrounds, and the back end and front end coders commented on what a great quality app it was. All could see how engaging it is to students and how it introduces the important coding aspects such as while loops, conditional code and functions in a fun format.
Also a lot of fun was introducing coding with Sphero. I found it very interesting the different projects that professional coders were trying with Sphero – I said they have really raised the bar!
I had a wonderful day meeting these inspirational women who are such great role models to women and girls, and inspire young girls to know that they, too, can code and make a career in technology. Thank you for having me!
I would like to send out a huge thank you to all the schools and teachers I have worked with this year! It’s been a very busy and successful year running in-school training, courses and Apple Education events, and has seen me expand into regional Queensland. Next year is shaping up to be even busier!
This map shows the places I have visited to present Professional Development for teachers this year, and the red dots show where teachers have come from to attend my training (which doesn’t include a teacher who came from Jakarta!). I feel proud that I am making a difference, reaching metropolitan, regional and remote teachers and giving teachers the confidence to teach with ICT.
I have had many great testimonials this year, but these ones stand out:
The first time I worked with Bev, I became overwhelmed by the thoughts of all that could go wrong – wireless connectivity isn’t always reliable, I’ll just get the kids engaged and I’d be dashing around trying to troubleshoot. Well I have eaten my words with the robotics side – all has worked smoothly. I didn’t have to be an expert to get the kids to understand – I got them to do what I do – learn by doing, trial and error – amazing that these are the skills I try to embed into their thinking when they are doing ‘ordinary’ school work – transfers straight into coding – and they are so engaged and excited when I’ve given them a task – make them do this, make them do that – “Look, look” they’ll come running to me – best courses to freshen up the way we approach learning.
The most important thing has been that Bev is a ‘real’ teacher. She constantly refers to being in the class, working with the kids – this is value learning – not a staged video of a couple of kids doing the right thing and all is wonderful. She talks of the fails, how you learn from it. The kids, no matter what they’re labelled as, find this so relevant to their interests and all the while they are learning, learning, learning.
Sharon, Burke Ward Public School
When my supervisor told me to enrol in ICT and Coding courses, my stomach filled with butterflies. I was worried and had no idea what I was in for as I previously had little experience in the technology field. After a week with Bev Babbage, my confidence with using technology and a range of resources such as Dash, Sphero and Scratch has grown immensely, with all thanks to Bev and her passion for using ICT effectively in the classroom. This training has provided me with the confidence to teach robotics, coding and general use of apps to support student learning in the classroom. I am excited to be teaching these skills to my Stage 3 students and fellow teaching colleges.
Madison, Alma Public School
I wish all teachers a safe and relaxing break and look forward to seeing many of you again next year!