Student Technology Leaders Project – One Term On


Earlier this term, I rebooted our Student Digital Leaders program as part of my involvement in the Education Changemakers Aspiring Leaders program. The idea was to develop a partnership-wide program that involved students mentoring teachers on how to use technology and how to use it authentically to support student learning. Students would collaborate across sites to develop resources and to learn from one another. Through this approach, I was aiming to build students’ leadership capacity in terms of technology and to build teacher capacity in using technologies across the curriculum. Why focus on this? Digital Technologies is a relatively new curriculum area and teachers report that they lack confidence in this area, as well as in integrating technologies in other learning areas. Furthermore, in my experience, kids are more engaged when technologies are incorporated. I focused on using students to provide support to teachers as I am passionate about teachers learning with and from students and students are arguably the most knowledgeable users of technology.

The Context

At my current site, we have a lot of technology available to us and whilst there are pockets of staff using it, it’s not being used to its full potential. There was already a Digital Leaders program in place, which involved approximately 40-60 Years 5-7 students who completed projects of their choice (e.g. building an amusement park in Minecraft).They participated in 1 x 90 minute session per week. With the exception of a few Digital Leaders (who supported our Primary Special Class with Minecraft), there was no transference of their skills across the school.

The Process

After the last EC workshop, I researched various models of Student Technology Leaders and I came across Generation YES. It was a course that students could work through and was linked to the curriculum (albeit a US curriculum). I pitched my vision and framework to our Leadership team and invited feedback from them on how to sell the program to teachers. Their recommendation was to link the program to the Australian Curriculum (AC), assess students’ work and report back to their teachers.

I incorporated this into my pitch to the Digital Leaders’ teachers based on my knowledge of how they influence each other. This pitch was to get buy in, as in the previous term, I had overheard comments from teachers, such as “I don’t see the value in this program across the school” and “It interrupts Maths time”. I had reflected on their concerns and addressed these by re-positioning the program as part of core learning – students’ projects were cross-curricula, incorporating Maths, and all of their work would be assessed in line with the AC – and this enabled me to overcome initial resistance.

I had already pitched by idea to students in Term 2; however, there was little interest in the changes that I wanted to make. I gave up and continued with the previous Digital Leaders program.I re-promoted the concept at the beginning of Term 3 and re-invited students to participate. This time, there were clear expectations about how the program would be run and students’ responsibilities if they chose to participate. They all continued to attend our Digital Leader sessions.

Digital Leader sessions changed from two large groups to four smaller groups. This enabled me to provide more support and feedback to students. The sessions were comprised of 45 minutes to focus on their own project and 45 minutes to complete the leadership component. Their projects were linked to the AC and the GenYES program was modified to the reflect the AC.

One way in which student voice was incorporated was through the development of a staff survey. Students posed questions in order to capture baseline data (which helped me to collect data from teachers in a non-threatening way). This survey collected process data and provided a needs analysis. The results enabled us to target professional learning to meet the individual needs of staff.

Students have now started completed TAPs (Teacher Assistance Projects), which provides them with real life applications of their technologies skills. These TAPs have included simple tasks, like closing all of the open apps on iPads and deleting old photos (which has addressed some technical needs of staff), to more advanced tasks, such as creating a video tutorial for how to use and program MaKey MaKeys with Scratch. Knowing that they are teaching teachers has empowered students.

What’s the Impact?

My aim was to:

  • increase teachers’ digital technologies skills and confidence in planning units of work incorporating digital technologies
  • increase student achievement in the ICT General Capability and Digital Technologies curriculum areas
  • increase students’ leadership skills in digital technologies

Looking back now, I feel that these are big aims for a short period of time. However, the impact that this program has had does begin to address my original aims:

  • teachers have expressed interest in learning from Digital Leaders and using them in their classes to support them and their students
  • teachers identified individual professional learning needs
  • a revitalised Digital Leaders program, which has more rigour and is aligned to the AC, has been introduced and students have started completing modules of learning
  • increased number of students enjoying the leadership component
  • our first video tutorial for teachers – How to Use and Program MaKey MaKeys and Scratch
  • three completed TAPs and more in progress

The Challenges

My biggest challenge was, and still is, changing the perception of what Digital Leaders is to students. For the majority, Digital Leaders has been a time for them to play Minecraft. Even last week, one ex-Digital Leader reminded me that we used to have Minecraft lessons and asked when they would be back. I feel as though I could have made more progress had there not been the expectation that students were able to ‘play’ when they came to Digital Leaders. When I first set the projects this term, mapped with curriculum links, and shared them with students, they looked at me like I was crazy. One group in particular, whose project was to recreate the school in Minecraft by measuring buildings (length, area, angles), were not interested at all in stepping away from the computer to go outside and measure the perimeter. I’m unsure whether this is due to me starting this part way through the year when student perceptions were already set or whether it’s because I haven’t communicated to students clearly enough.

My other main challenge is the size of the group. We have approximately 40 Digital Leaders altogether, who meet with me on different days – one group is small, the others are still too large. In order to ‘get stuff done’, I would look to make the team smaller. Working with a core team of 10 students would enable us to make more progress in the long run as I would be able to provide more intensive support and feedback. Students require significant scaffolding in the initial phase; once this first group are confident, I would re-promote to students.

The Next Steps

I believe there is significant value in this program, and as such, it is something that I’ll continue working on. There are still a lot of refinements that need to be made, so there will be ongoing reviews and tweaks to get it to a point where it’s making the most impact. Next year, I will be starting at a new site in a Coordinator role, and I’ll start the program there with modifications to address the challenges that I have faced this year.

Student Digital Leaders Rebooted


Today was the first day of trialling a new approach to Student Digital Leaders (SDLs). During Term 2, I spoke with our SDLs about developing resources for teachers to use in their classrooms, but no one really seemed interested. All they wanted to do was ‘play’ with the technology. Those that did have a go needed a lot more scaffolding than I originally thought. So, I gave up on the idea and let them focus on developing their building and programming skills in order to get ready for FIRST LEGO League later in the year.

This term, however, I am determined to develop their leaderships skills as well as their technology skills. We have so many resources across our site that aren’t being used and then I hear teachers from other schools wishing for just a fraction of what we have. I believe that the SDLs can contribute to solving this problem over time.

Today was Day 1 with the first group of SDLs – there were six Year 6/7s and one Year 4. I thought it would be fairly easy working with this small group, particularly seeing as another teacher was supporting us. But again, the scaffolding was more than I imagined. We started by discussing all of the technology that we have available in our school and students were able to mention the obvious – laptops, iPads and interactive whiteboards. And then, they were stumped! With a few prompting questions, they were on their way and listed a lot of what we have available: Minecraft, Spheros, LEGO Mindstorms, Pivot, Scratch, Littlebits, Hyperpad, Ozobots, Beebots, Drones, MaKey MaKey and 3D Printers. From there, we talked about how we could find out about what’s being used and how we could get more being used to support learning. The first idea was to installing cameras and surveil staff! After some more prompting questions, they decided that they wanted to survey staff and students. We agreed that five questions would be plenty whilst not asking too much time from staff. After splitting into two groups, the SDLs developed their questions and included possible responses.


Originally, I had planned that even weeks would be when students focused on the leadership aspect and odd weeks would be when they completed their own projects to develop their tech skills. However, we were 45 minutes into the session today when we had finished developing the survey questions and I could see their interest was waning. As a result, the structure will change to each session having a 45 minute leadership component and a 45 minute project session.

Leading Change: It Doesn’t Have To Be From The Top


At the beginning of the year, my Principal asked me if I wanted to join the ‘Future Leaders’ Program in our partnership. In the previous year, I had backfilled a leadership position for a couple of weeks and then applied for a Coordinator position that had been advertised at another site. I wasn’t quite sure how I ended up in this direction, but it felt like this was the next step. I was pretty excited that I had been considered, plus it gave me the chance to work with Education Changemakers, so I was in.

On the first day of the program back in April, I looked around the room at the ‘collective genius’ and I felt like a fraud. The people around me looked confident and sounded so sure of what they were saying. What was I doing here? I didn’t belong. I wasn’t in a leadership position, so how could I possibly lead?

We were asked what we wanted to get out of this program. I wanted to know how to strategically lead and implement change / programs, how to get staff ‘on board’ with changes and how to effectively use my leadership style. A lot of this was due to previous years where I had been trialling some new practices in personalised learning and digital technologies, but despite sharing this with others, no one was really keen to take it on themselves. Upon reflection now, I think what I lacked was the proof that it was working (at least it was with my class) and the means to be able to provide support to others. I kind of just said, “This is what I have been doing.” I didn’t encourage them to trial it, I didn’t provide them with support and I didn’t explain the rationale behind it. These were the skills that I wanted to develop throughout this program.

After spending four days with Louka and Mike from Education Changemakers, my view of leadership has changed and I am developing my skills so that I can lead more effectively, even if I’m not in a leadership position:

  1. Leading change has to be consultative and collaborative. We can’t do it all by ourselves.
  2. Leaders are like entrepreneurs. They identify problems, develop solutions and implement them.
  3. Leadership shouldn’t just be a top-down approach. Leadership should be at the grassroots level. The best changes come from those who are living and breathing the problem.
  4. Leaders are doers, not just talkers.
  5. Leaders need to convince others that there is an issue to change and that the issue is important to those involved in the change.
  6. Leaders should build capacity within others, so that change can continue without them.

My project for this program is the development of a Student Technology Leaders Network across our partnership. This came about by working through the EC change process, in which we identified our beliefs about education and what our schools should look like and what the reality is at the present time. We considered the problems that we could solve in order to shift our reality towards our beliefs. For me, I believe that children must have access to and an ability to use digital technologies, as well as create digital solutions. Why? In my experience, students tend to engage more with their learning when digital technologies are used and they help to develop a wide range of skills required for students’ futures.

At my current site, we are very fortunate to have access to a wide range of digital technologies, such as laptops, iPads, Beebots, Spheros, Ozobots, LEGO Mindstorms, MakeyMakeys, 3D Printers and so on. However, for the most part, they remain stored in our STEM space (except for the laptops and iPads). I believe that the main root cause of this is due to teacher capacity (and I’m sure that this is common across many sites). How do we get started with technology? How do we incorporate it authentically into cross-curricula units of work? How do we assess student use?

I feel very passionately about teachers learning with and from students. I believe that our students are the people in our school who have, arguably, the most knowledge and passion about technology and that we should harness this in order to incorporate technology more purposefully into lessons. At our site, we have a Digital Leaders program that was established by Graham Wegner, our previous Assistant Principal, ICT, Data and Admin. These students complete digital projects, run lunchtime sessions for students and offer support to some classes. My vision is to expand upon this, so that we have groups of students across our partnership who provide professional development and ICT support to staff and students. This will include teaching teachers and students about new technologies, integrating technologies into lesson plans, creating resources and tutorials for staff and students and helping to maintain technologies. During Term 2, I found that numerous students were interested, but they also valued their time completing their own projects. It now becomes a balancing act between giving students that time to develop their own skills, whilst also finding the time to develop their leadership skills. They have some great ideas about how to use technology in the classroom (e.g. “You can just add a mod to Minecraft to learn about natural disasters”), but they need more scaffolding on how to break this information down to those of us have no idea what a ‘mod’ is!

The concept of Digital Leaders is not a new one (see Digital Leader Network and Generation YES as a start), but as I have learned through the EC process, it’s okay to steal good ideas. During Term 3, I’ll be looking more into what is already established in order to see how we can use and build upon these programs across our site (and hopefully partnership).

Student Planned Timetables


For the last four weeks, my Year 6/7 class have been planning their own timetables. What started as a finishing off week during Week 10 of Term 2 has turned into something that has engaged students more than anything all year.

During Week 10, my students had a number of tasks that they needed to complete prior to school holidays. They were all at different stages, so I told them that they could plan their time in a way that would enable them to finish the tasks. They met up with other students that they were working with and programmed time together. They were on-task for the entire week and completed some great learning. Part way through the week, they asked if we could continue learning this way next term. During the holidays, I considered how this might look.

I started by programming everything that was locked in to set times: NIT subjects, Kitchen Garden, Literacy support, Building Maths, Buddy Class, Growth and Development, team meeetings, assemblies and Friday activities. This left most of Tuesdays and Thursdays free and a couple of lessons on Wednesdays and Fridays. I provided students with this timetable and asked them to program in their current projects, which ranged from designing and creating a teenage retreat to scale in Tinkercad, immersion in the ancient civilisations, reading investigations, personal learning investigations.

We trialled this, and whilst most students were able to plan appropriately, some students decided that they wouldn’t complete particular topics and would focus all their time on to one project. I also found that some projects were taking longer than expected and that students found it difficult to break each project down into smaller parts. I ran goal setting workshops – 10 students at a time – and we looked at how to develop a S.M.A.R.T. goal for each day. Students practised writing their own goal for the day and received feedback from their peers. This has now become a daily practice. I have also started adding timelines to projects, and I’m encouraging students to manage their schedules so that they are able to complete projects on time.

We still have a lot of work to do to ensure that we are making the most of our time, but the feedback I have received from students makes me want to work hard at ensuring this does succeed. I emailed my students with a link to a survey with five questions. Below are some of the responses I received:

  1. Do you prefer to plan your own timetable?
    • 23 out of 24 students replied ‘Yes’.
    • The one student who replied ‘No’ might have done so by accident. His/her response to Question 2 was, “Iike it because it enables you to prioritize your learning the way you want so it is eazy for you.”
  2. Explain your answer to Question 1. What is it that you like or dislike?
    • All of the responses talked about having freedom to choose what they learned at what time of the day, becoming responsible and independent, and being self-managers. A few of their responses are below.
    • “What I like about planning my own timetable is that we are allowed more time to finish work at school rather than have a whole pile of work to do at home. It also helps us to set our own goals which we can achieve, helping us to improve the way we learn.”
    • “I like how we get to be independed and take control of the things we do and learn. I also like the idea of how we can have workshops if we dont know/understand one of the subjects.”
    • “i like the idea of choosing what you want to do because we can become more self managable.”
  3. Does being able to program your own timetable help you to learn better?
    • 23 out of 24 students responded “Yes”.
    • One student responded “No”.
  4. Explain your answer to Question 3. How does it help you to learn better? OR How does it impact your learning negatively?
    • The students that responded “Yes” talked about how they can focus their time on learning what they need to learn (rather than everyone learning the same thing at the same time), they can help each other with tasks as sometimes they learn better from each other, and they are being responsible for their own learning (rather than the teacher being responsible).
    • “It helps me learn better because, let’s just say I’m already good at that task that the teacher has set for us, then I wouldn’t have to learn the same thing over again and instead I would be able to complete something new AND learn new information.”
    • “It helps us to learn better because when we set our own goals we really want to achieve, it changes the way we learn, making it become more personalised, and the way our thinking process works, enabling us to focus and concentrate independently.”
    • The student that responded “No” to Question 3 gave the following reason: “it is still the same learning as before except at different times.”
  5. What do you want me to be doing? How can I best support you?
    • Students were unanimous in wanting me to float around and hold small workshops for those that needed help.
    • “You can help support me by explaining to me and helping me when I’m stuck on something I don’t know. I also think that supporting one person at a time or a group of people that need help is more efficient than explaining to the whole class becuase sometimes a piece of people don’t understand but the other piece understands already.”
    • “I think that you should wonder around the class and if anyone needs extra help then you can ask the class if anyone else is stuck on that thing.”
    • “you can support me when i need a litttle bit of help i and i am stuck on something but its not to tell me the answers just to give me a bit of help.”

My next steps are to ensure that students continue to set S.M.A.R.T. goals, that they reflect on these goals at the end of each day, and that deadlines are being met. I will also schedule workshops to support students where needed.

Ian Jukes – Beyond Literacy to Fluency


I attended Ian Jukes’ workshop, “Beyond Literacy to Fluency” on the first Monday of the school holidays. What Ian spoke about reflected the views of many of the keynotes at EduTECH, and as such, they weren’t radical new ideas for me. However, he provided me with a framework for implementing these ideas, which has resulted in many ideas floating around in my head.

In a nutshell, Ian explained that our education system needs to change, as it is still modelled on the schools of the Industrial Age. We cannot continue doing things because that’s they way we’ve always done it (TTWWADI). Disruptive innovation is fundamentally changing how we live. These changes have implications for our students. For example, we live in a world of hyperinformation. We have access to any piece of information instantly and wirelessly. And yet, the major skill that is developed in our schools is memorisation (Ian stated that 80-85% of the work that students complete is focused on factual recall and low level procedural thinking). Furthermore, disruptive innovation is changing employment. Ian proposed that in the next 10-15 years, white collar jobs will disappear due to them being outsourced to third world countries or being displaced by digital tools. However, in five years, creative class jobs will make up 50% of Australian jobs.

How do we address short term goals (e.g. NAPLAN, achieving ‘good’ grades) whilst addressing long term goals (e.g. life skills)? Ian states that:

Engagement (Relevance and Personal Interest)
+ Higher Order Thinking Skills
+ Real World Experiences (or Simulations)
+ the 9Is (Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Independent Problem Solving, Interdependent Collaboration, Information Investigation, Information Communication, Imagination Creativity, Innovation Creativity and Internet Citizenship)
+ Authentic Assessment
= Modern Learning

Whilst planning for Term 3, I continue to consider how I can better incorporate HOTS and authentic learning and how I can use the 9Is Model (and the 6Ds and the 5As) as frameworks to support the development of my students’ long life skills. I’m looking forward to trying to change things up!

EduTECH 2015


I have been attempting to create a blog for some time, but have continued to put it off… until now.

This week, I attended EduTECH in Brisbane. For me, the best part of this conference was connecting with teachers from my school. Because we are a large school, we don’t often cross paths with one another. In fact, I had rarely said more than “Hello” to one of these teachers. The two days in Brisbane gave us a chance to chat about what we’re doing in our classes, to compare our thoughts about the presentations and to share our future plans based on our EduTECH experience. It highlighted that within our school, there are so many great things already happening, but that few of us are aware of them. The other great part was the TeachMeet – real classroom teachers sharing what they do best. There is nothing that beats this.

My Hits of EduTECH 2015

The 90 second introduction

How are we preparing our students for this future?

Assessment: The Silent Killer of Learning (Eric Mazur)

Eric Mazur spoke about how assessment is the silent killer of learning. All the way through his presentation, I found myself nodding in agreement. Yet, if I was honest with myself, I would have to say that many of my assessment practices reflect what he says is wrong with our system. Whilst I have been dabbling with some of the improvements he suggested, I still revert back to “traditional methods of assessment” when it comes time for summative assessments.

The basic message of Eric’s presentation was that “we must rethink assessment because if we do not rethink our approaches to assessment, we will continue to educate the followers of yesterday rather than the leaders of tomorrow”. Why do we test students in a way that they will never encounter in their lives? How many jobs these days require us to work in complete isolation? We need students to identify problems and identify ways to solve these problems and to do this in collaboration with others. This requires students to develop higher order thinking skills and this is what employers want; computers can do the rest and they can already do it better than us.


The Maker Movement (Super Awesome Sylvia, Sylvia Libow Martinez, Zeina Chalich and Megan Daley and Jackie Child)

The Maker Movement was quite a big theme (and buzzword) throughout the conference. There was a Maker Lounge in the Exhibition Hall; Super Awesome Sylvia presented her keynote, “Go Out There and Make Something”; Sylvia Libow Martinez presented her keynote, “The Maker Movement: A Global Revolution Goes to School”; Zeina Chalich hosted a seminar called, “‘Pop Up’ Maker Space – How to Create Mobile Maker Experiences through a STEAM Curriculum”; and, Megan Daley and Jackie Child hosted a Breakout Seminar titled, “Library Space Maker Space Tech Space”.

To sum it all up, pedagogy should be first, technology should be second. Simple. Technology should not be used just for the sake of it. It is one tool in the toolbox and should be used as required. Builders don’t have “Hammer Thursdays”. They learn their tools and use them as required (Sylvia Libow Martinez). Just like technology in the classroom. We don’t need to throw out everything else that we do. The ‘top tools’ suggested by Martinez and Zeina Chalich include a lot of tech, from robotics to 3D printers to MaKay MaKeys to Scratch. But, they also include traditional materials, such as cardboard. Daley and Child put together Mystery Bags to show us what they provide to students. These included straws, pipe cleaners, washy tape, balloons, Plasticine, bulldog clips, string and beads. It doesn’t all need to be high tech.

Part of the pedagogy associated with the Maker Movement is to give students time to mess around, as this is the first step toward learning. They need time and space to play with ideas, and to build and make. They will inevitably fail. But, they will learn from their failures and they will succeed so long as they stay with it. Teachers will probably fail as well, but we don’t need to know everything about everything; we can learn with our students.

Everything that the speakers mentioned resonated with me. I can see this type of learning experience suiting many students, particularly those within the context of my school. Now it’s time to consider how I can make this change occur in my classroom.

Some useful Maker Spaces websites:,,,,


Future Schools Now: Bold Moves / Thoughtful Leadership (Heidi Hayes Jacob)

Jacob started her keynote by asking the audience to imagine a student every time we make a decision: everything that we discuss must be in the best interests of that student.

We have 19th century structures and a 20th century curriculum. So, how do we meet the needs of our 21st century learners? We need to consider our pedagogy. There is antiquated pedagogy, which should be cut; classical pedagogy, which should be kept; and, contemporary pedagogy, which should be created. Our students need the best of classical and contemporary teaching. We need to consider our learning spaces and ensure that they have a sense of purpose and belonging. We need to think about time as currency. What could we do with different periods of time? Daily schedules should match learners’ needs rather than us working to set time periods. We need to cultivate “right now” personalised learning experiences. We need to shift from inquiry to quests and from subjects to topics.

Our students need us to step up.

Other things that I want to further explore:

  • Using QR codes and AR triggers to access, curate, engage and share learning (@classtechtips – Monica Burns)
  • Transforming learning spaces and pedagogy (Paul Watson)
  • Reducing cognitive load with infographics, icons and signs (Matthew O’Brien)

My Misses of EduTECH

  • The commercial nature of the event. However, I understand that the speakers aren’t cheap and that the money needs to come from somewhere. You just need to be wary of what is being ‘sold’ and consider everything through a critical lens.
  • Selecting the ‘right’ seminars to attend. With so many different options available, it can be hard to know which seminar is going to be best for you. Next time, I would do a lot more research on who each of the speakers are to see if what they are offering is likely to meet my needs.


So far in my short teaching career, there is nothing that has inspired me more than listening to many of the presenters at EduTECH. At a time when I was starting to feel more comfortable in my role, this has made me feel less comfortable – and that’s a good thing according to Jacob. I am excited about the future of my teaching and my classroom. As Claire Amos stated, “when you stop learning is when you should leave the classroom”.

I think my students are a little nervous!