Category Archives: Learning tech

Kids who code from ‘The Weekend Australian’


Supporting writing skills through computer programming?

How Can Coding Improve Your Child’s Writing Skills?

I’ve been struck by recent arguments (like the one in the article above) about the link between the activity of coding, and of writing in classrooms.

I think there’s a danger in pushing the links too vigorously: for sure, the more logical, analytical kind of writing shares many characteristics with sequencing and compiling lines (or other forms) of code, but the best writing often exploits and subverts convention. Perhaps it is unfortunate that, in the example above, the analogy is primarily with creative writing. The approach being promoted leads to formulaic writing that I would propose should be challenged, not entrenched, when writing creatively.

I accept that, in the early stages of teaching extended writing, a formula – or scaffold – is helpful, but overdependence on scaffolding, as I’ve observed in English/ Language Arts teaching even up to senior secondary classrooms, is too restrictive to produce authentic writing, in my opinion.

BYOD @ SRC – our experience this year

It’s certainly been an interesting year, rolling out a BYOD program in a school where an additional 200+ students will be joining us at the same time.

For an overview of the year, visit the College’s blog, which I started and then maintained as a way to collect information about developments as they occurred, and to which parents could be directed. This saved an enormous amount of repetitive email replies, and assisted parents – particularly those joining us in 2015 – in understanding the philosophy as well as the practical requirements of the program.

Our starting point was the lack of recurrent Federal Government funding for 1:1 devices, purchased in 2011 and 2012. As these devices approach end-of-(useful)-life, a replacement strategy was needed. We had three options, at the end of the day:

  1. retire all of the devices and return to labs
  2. purchase College-owned devices and continue to lend them to students
  3. make the provision of a suitable device the responsibility of the family.

Clearly, we’ve opted for the third of these: the first would see learning suffer, and the second would still be funded by parents. Our rationale for the third, in terms of the reasons in its favour (as opposed to against the other two options), included:

  1. recognising that students and families will already have devices they prefer to use and which are compatible with their home networks
  2. breaking the expectation that school-appropriate technology is only that which the College provides – with a wider range of hardware and software in play, students’ perceptions will shift in this regard.

Our rollout is staggered, so that 3 of our 6 year levels will be BYOD in 2015, and the other 3 in 2016. For details, click here.

Some factors that have simplified matters:

  • As we had already removed student network drives, we did not have to plan for their access via BYOD.
  • Much of our teaching materials for students is on browser-based sites such as Sharepoint and Schoolbox, helping us to be more device-agnostic
  • Our use of an e-commerce portal (optional) has streamlined major support issues for us by consolidating support through one log/ helpdesk
  • We have been able to use retired College devices as swaps when BYOD devices require extended offsite support
  • Our infrastructure – particularly wireless – has been tweaked and upgraded to cope fairly well with the number and variety of devices.

On the whole we would count the year a success. There were some teething problems with deliveries and collections, and a relative small number of devices have had chronic problems requiring multiple returns, but these have been managed. Mind you, those families affected by the repeated failure of their device have justifiably not considered the year a major success, but we have been able to issue replacement devices and monitor the fairly slow repairs process, providing feedback where helpful.

We are about to begin the second phase of the rollout, with the remaining 3 year levels requiring BYOD in 2016. We are updating the blog, hosting a device information session supported by most vendors (Apple and Microsoft will not accept our invitation to show off their wares, as opposed to HP, who are sending a representative), and opening up the e-commerce portal for orders in Term 4.

On the whole, our transition from College-owned devices to BYOD has been relatively painless.

FutureSchools Conference 12-14 March 2014 – my thoughts

The FutureSchools Conference 2014 was held at Australian Technology Park in Everleigh, Sydney. This literally post-industrialist site,drawing attention to its 19th C construction and more recent 20th C re-construction, seemed a fitting location for a conference that focused primarily on what a future school might look like.


Day 1 was advertised as a ‘Masterclass’ with Stephen Heppell. Originally billed as the chance to work with Stephen in a small group, the session blew out to a large lecture-style presentation; nonetheless, there were some illuminating insights from Stephen’s long and varied career. Days 2 and 3 were the Conference proper. With a range of schools – independent / affluent government /  struggling government – talking about topics such as learning space design; re-conceptualising organisational structure to promote post-industrial learning models; transparent, student-chosen  technology; extended learning periods with flexible timetabling; student voice; peer instruction and flipped instruction; engendering staff enthusiasm for change; and project/ problem-based learning. Below are links to my posts about some of the sessions that offered relevant prompts for my own professional work. Incidentally, the twitter stream was relatively active and can be viewed here.

The programme for the two days of the conference were:

Day 1:

  • Stephen Heppell Keynote
  • Northern Beaches Christian College (Sydney) Keynote
  • Brisbane Boys’ College building program
  • St Raphael’s School (Melbourne) managing transitions
  • Belmont Primary School (Melbourne) modernising a heritage listed school
  • New South Wales Dept of Education and Communities identifying future directions
  • Panel discussion: creating your vision for the future school

DAY 2:

Eric Mazur Keynote

  • Scoth Oakburn (Tasmania) placing technology at the forefront of inspiring learning places
  • Stonefields School (Auckland) designing learning hubs
  • Australian Science and mathematics School (South Australia) ‘FutureSchool’
  • Newington College (Sydney) student panel discussion
  • Churchie (Brisbane) effect of design on learning
  • Mordialloc College (Melbourne) flexible learning and teaching

Leadership Culture 201: Two steps to transforming your school

Simple but effective. Avoid the tempation to leap on every latest trend; rather, find the one core goal and make it happen.

anne knock

CompassTwo steps to transforming your school:

Step 1: Find your true north

Step 2: Do everything that will make Step 1 happen

Many of us agree that the historical model of school is broken and not serving the future, or even the present. Often the factory analogy of separation is used to describe the education that many of us received:oldschool

  • Separated rooms

  • Separated teachers

  • Separated classes

  • Separated furniture

  • Separated preparation and planning

This model has led to teachers as the driver, represents dependence and independence (not interdependence), one size fits all, confrontation, control and the relational tensions that often arise. Students usually become either compliant and passive vessels, or defiant and active resistors.

Many educators know that transformation is essential, collaboration is necessary and rethinking student success an imperative. We also know that it’s not a simple thing to transform a school, but perhaps distilling the magnitude of change to a few…

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