C21 Teaching Mid-Semester Two Review

It has been some time since I posted a review of C21Teaching.com.au, so there are quite a few articles in this list. I hope the last two terms have been productive and successful for you and your students.

Don’t forget to visit C21Teaching to get the most up to date content.

Seizing Opportunities

“In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
– Attributed to Mark Zuckerberg

My regular readers will be aware of my proclivity for conferences. Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be invited to contribute to the Education Nation conference as a blogger and reviewer for the conference, which went well both in my own estimation and based on the feedback I was given from various quarters. On the back that experience, as well as already having submitted a speaker application for FutureSchools 2017 and not having attended EduTech in the past, I decided to send an e-mail to inquire about the possibility of attending EduTech 2017 under a media pass in order to review sessions, interview speakers and generally cover the event.


Lo and behold, the organisers accepted and I am now attending EduTech under a media pass. I am in the process of going over the speaker list to formulate a list of who I plan to either interview or hear speak. As part of growing EduTech, the organisers have launched their Ambassador program and have listed me as their first ambassador on their website. I am excited and looking forward to connecting with a range of educators from across the broader Education sector as well as reconnecting  with old friends.

EduTech 2017 will be held at the new International Convention Centre in Sydney (the old Sydney Entertainment Centre) on June 8 and 9 next year, with Masterclasses being held on June 7. If you are interested in going and would like 10% off the registration price, use code BRM10. Let me know through Twitter or my website contact form if you are going and you use the code. It would be great to meet up face-to-face.

In the meantime, if you have not read any of my conference review articles, please visit here to see the list and peruse to find something that catches your eye.

SpongeBob Squarepants – Uncut

Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.
– Attributed to Louis E. Boone

For Government schools in NSW, this week is the final week of Term Two, a time when many fun things occur. For my school, it is also the week of the Year Six Canberra excursion. As my regular readers would be aware, I am teaching a combined Year Five and Six class this year, however, I am unable to attend the Canberra excursion. During the July school holidays, I am in Canberra for a week to attend Kanga Cup, an international youth football tournament, where I live in at the Kanga Cup Youth Referee Academy as one of the Referee Coaches and Mentors to the thirty-eight referees chosen for intense development and training.

Unfortunately, If I was to attend the Year Six Canberra excursion I would be away from Monday to Thursday of this week, and then be leaving to go back to Canberra on Saturday morning, not returning til the following the Saturday, which is not really fair on my thirty-week pregnant wife. So I was one of two teachers staying behind to teach the seventy Year Five students for the week. Our Assistant Principal asked what we had planned and I pitched an idea that sounded great in my head, but that I was unsure about its practicality.

Regular readers will likely have noticed that I am something of a geek and a nerd, and some years ago I stumbled across an incredible project called Star Wars Uncut. The core idea is that the team behind the project cut Star Wars into fifteen-second clips and crowd-sourced the remake of each clip. Individuals could recreate the clip they had chosen in any way they wanted. StarWarsUncut.com won a 2010 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media – Fiction and has since gone on to recreate The Empire Strikes Back in the same format, though there is no word on when they will open work on The Return of the Jedi. If you enjoy Star Wars, it is fun to watch and demonstrates a variety of creative approaches to various scenes and special effects.

This was the basic premise of the idea. Clearly, we would never be able to achieve a full-length film, and so after chatting with the Year Five students last week, I sourced an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants to use, which was just over eleven minutes long and, after slicing off the opening introduction and closing credits (I wanted to keep those intact), on Monday morning we introduced the concept to Year Five. I explained the concept to them, using a selected portion from Star Wars Uncut (the opening sequence showing the chase between the Devastator and the Tantive IV and the subsequent boarding and routing of the rebel troops on the Tantive IV by the Stormtroopers) to demonstrate what it could look like. I showed them the same sequence from the Star Wars Uncut film. We discussed techniques that had been used, the fact that the uncut version was not exactly the same for a variety of reasons (different non-Star Wars figurines had been used to help recreate the various scenes, the imperfection of the various individual clips, costumes of varying detail and complexity etc).

Students were then put into groups, with the regular classroom groupings being deliberately split up in order to provide students an opportunity to work and learn with different members of their cohort.This worked fantastically well for us, with most groups working very well together, and many new friends being made. We introduced the concept of storyboarding and provided some flipped learning content for how to construct and use a storyboard as well as some different techniques for filming (such as stop-motion and re-dubbing dialogue) and things to consider when using iPads to film (such as the quality of audio recording, particularly dialogue).

The result was fantastic. The students were incredibly engaged, focused, and were able to express their thinking as to how they solved the various challenges they came across in recreating various scenes, particularly those which would require special effects if filmed as a live-action clip. I am in the process of writing a formal unit of work for it and making the links to the curriculum explicit, but I will make it freely available once I have done so. The students loved seeing the final product come together and showed a great sense of camaraderie and appreciation for how others had contributed to the final product.

My FlipLearnCon Keynote

Yesterday I published an article containing Heather Davis‘ keynote presentation from FlipLearnCon in Sydney, broken into bite-size sections. This article provides my keynote presentation, also broken into sections. Given that this was my first keynote presentation, I would appreciate any constructive feedback people would like to share, positive or otherwise.

My role at FlipLearnCon generated some useful discussion with my students. In the week prior to the event, students had been presenting speeches of their own, which were required to be between three and five minutes in length, as an end-of-unit assessment task. Many of the students were incredibly nervous but actually spoke quite well. Many of them sat down afterwards, convinced their speech was terrible and struggled to take on board the positive feedback from peers. I had told the students why I would be away for two days, and when they found out it was to deliver a twenty-minute speech they were horrified at the very thoughts.

Interestingly enough, when I returned to class the day after FlipLearnCon, they wanted to know how it went. So I turned it back to them, asking for a show of hands as to who sat down after their speech and thought it was terrible,with a large number of hands going up. I then asked for a show of hands as to who heard a speech they thought was terrible, not difficult to hear because of volume or annunciation (a common issue we found), but actually terrible. Not a single hand went up. I then shared with them that my presentation ended up going longer than twenty minutes, that there were some technical issues and that I stood up feeling incredibly nervous with the adrenaline pumping. I was seeing lots of heads nodding at this point as much of the class, other than technical issues, felt the same when presenting their speeches.

Like them, I continued, I persisted, despite feeling nervous, and gave the speech. I finished it and felt that it was not particularly great (unlike my Graduate Address, which I am still very proud of, and sat down afterwards feeling that I had nailed it) but that I had been given positive feedback which means that despite what I thought, the speech was good. I pointed out to them that with practice, public speaking becomes easier, but that being nervous is ok, as long as we do not allow the nerves to control us and stop us from taking opportunities.

Below, you will find my keynote presentation at FlipLearnCon. If you are interested in having a copy of the slide deck, you will find it here.

Part One

  • My initial exposure to Flipped Learning.
  • My first attempt to flip.
  • Flipping TPL.
  • My current place in the Flipped Class continuum.

Part Two

  • Flip based on your context.
  • Considering workflow.

Part Three

  • Demonstration of developing flipped content using Camtasia.

Part Four

  • Fast food time (takeaways)
  • Question and Answer session.

Again, I would appreciate any feedback on the usefulness, structure, delivery or content of my keynote so that I can make my next presentation stronger and more useful for the audience.

Reflections from #FlipLearnCon Sydney

After having presented my first keynote at FlipLearnCon yesterday (Tuesday 17 May, 2016), I have a profound new respect for speakers who are tasked with presenting in the final session of a conference or professional learning day. It is a very tough gig.

Recently I became involved in a Twitter backchannel that was occurring parallel to the FlipLearnCon event in Melbourne. FlipLearnCon is a two-day conference organised by MyLearning and facilitated by South Australian educator, Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu) to provide a boot-camp style introduction to flipped learning. I have written extensively about Flipped Learning in the past (such as here and here) and there are a number of educators on Twitter who are also heavily involved in flipped learning, whether through implementing flipped learning (such as Jeremy, Heather Davis, Joel Speranza, Alfina Jackson and Matthew Burns), or as researchers of flipped learning (such as Marijne Slager and others).

Storify of #FlipLearnCon Sydney – Day One

Storify of #FlipLearnCon Sydney – Day Two

In this article, I am going to focus more on my reflections of being involved as a presenter rather than a participant. I was given the opportunity to keynote from a primary education perspective for the Sydney iteration of FlipLearnCon (Heather Davis was the secondary educator presenting in Sydney) by Jeremy and Justine Isard and asked to speak about my EdVenture, how I am implementing flipped learning in my classroom, and what I have learned through trial and error.  It was, I felt, a huge opportunity. I had been dabbling with flipped learning for some time, as my regular readers will be aware, and in many ways I still did not feel that I knew enough, or was far enough along with flipped learning as a pedagogical practice, to have credibility as a presenter.

However, I trust Jeremy and was excited to take the plunge. I felt that my first presentation at TeachMeet Coast in Term One went well and this was the next opportunity that popped up.

Image retrieved from tinyurl.com/hl9h7df 18 May 2016.


One of the fantastic takeaways from FlipConAus15 was that there was the realisation that I was not the only one wanting or trying to flip, and that there was lots of support out through online professional learning networks. Heather commented in her keynote that one of the most important things you can do to help you flip your class is to connect with others, “find your people” and leverage the support and experience of those around you.

The great benefit of being involved in FlipLearnCon was seeing the excitement and eagerness of the participants, hearing the stories of what the teachers involved have been trying and hearing about their contexts and seeing the growth in the confidence and abilities over such a short period of time.

We had a range of primary and secondary educators from Wollongong up to Newcastle, and the secondary teachers were from a range of disciplines, which afforded us a fantastic spread of perspectives and ideas for sharing with others to try in different learning areas. As part of the presentation team, seeing participants not wanting to go to lunch, so that they could continue working on practicing with the tools we had been showing them as they created their own flipped content was incredibly exciting and rejuvenating.

One of the struggles of being the lone nut leader is that you are always giving. This is not the issue, that is actually part of what we do as educators, is that we give. The issue is that if we are the leader or the person who is driving the practice in our context, or if we are the only person in the school who is interested and trying to implement is that it can be draining and disheartening.  The excitement and energy in the room as teachers tried, failed, persisted, tried again, learned from each other, tried something different, experimented with different tools and came back to us excited for what they had managed to create reinvigorates and rejuvenates the soul.

Image retrieved from tinyurl.com/zrxzerr 18 May 2016


We had a number of educators who went returned home/to their hotel rooms at the end of day one night and worked on creating further content, refining what they had developed that day. One of our participants, Will, is a Japanese language teacher and the content that he finished up with was fantastic and looks very refined and ready to utilise in the classroom, and he was not the only one. One of our participants, Phil, arrived on day one unsure about flipped learning and whether he would gain any real learning from the two-days. He stood up during our Content Showcase at the end of day two and proudly showed off what he had been able to develop , and for his first attempt at creating flipped learning content, it worked.

“Do you want it perfect or Tuesday?”

We were also able to convince a number of educators to join Twitter to enable them to stay in touch and connect with other educators as a way of continuing to be able to share and learn, which was also exciting, and the Principal of one school, who brought along six of his teachers for day one of the conference is now seriously considering taking them to FlipConAus16 later this year, which demonstrates a serious commitment to ensuring flipped learning as a pedagogical practice in his school succeeds.

I have to note that I was amazed at some of the contexts within which some of the participants are working. Some, like myself, are in the public education system and are working with slow, often damaged equipment, with systems and processes in place which hinder the advancement of flipped learning and are simply battling through. Others, however, are in private school contexts, with 1:1 MacBooks, Forwardboards/Lightboards purchased and funded by the school, and Principals willing to send them off to conferences such as this without them having to take leave without pay. I cannot fathom working in that kind of context and the feeling of being supported and encouraged in that way.

That said, everyone involved across the two days was incredibly hardworking, attentive, and invested in learning as much as they could. I am excited to hear from a number of our participants as to how they go implementing flipped learning in their classroom, hopefully at FlipConAus16, which is occurring in two locations this year; the Gold Coast in October, and in Adelaide during November.

As a presenter, a conference is a very different experience. I still took notes, though using Twitter rather than my normal format of handwritten notes, and I still learned a lot, primarily about some additional tools and strategies that are available to support flipped learning. I enjoyed being able to work with participants to help them develop their flipped content and experiment with the tools we had been showing them.

I want to thank Jeremy LeCornu and Justine Isard for providing me with the opportunity to extend myself beyond my comfort zone and present at FlipLearnCon, it was an experience I am glad to have under my belt. I also want to thank Heather Davis, my secondary education counterpart at the event, for her support over the course of the conference. Finally, I want to thank those who attended for being so willing to go out on a limb and invest the time to gain extend their knowledge and capabilities and for engaging so strongly across the two days. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I know that everyone involved left feeling excited about the possibilities.

I have included the links to the Storify of both days of the conference at the top of the article, and when I get a chance to upload them, will provide links to both Heather and my own keynote presentations.

As always, thank you for reading.

A starting point for Flipped Learning

“Everybody has to start somewhere. You have your whole future ahead of you. Perfection doesn’t happen right away.”
Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

Updated 22 December 2016

Edit: As of 22 December, this page will no longer be updated. Instead, as I transfer blog articles to my new website, C21Teaching.com.au, I have created a single page on that website that will be maintained instead.

Recently, I have had conversations with people wanting to know more about Flipped Learning (and not all of them from within education) and in putting together a package of information for those people to get started, realised it would make more sense to put together a package once, as a blog post, and simply update it as needed.

So here is a non-exhaustive set of videos and articles to help you get started with what Flipped Learning is and what is can look like. If you feel I have missed a key point or have something that you feel would add value to this list, please let me know.

Let me know if I had missed a key educator or their YouTube channel, or if anything in my articles is not clear enough.

List of FutureSchools 2016 Articles

Hello everyone, here is a bonus article for the weekend, a consolidated list of all of my review articles from FutureScchools 2016.

Day One: Masterclass with Jennie Magiera

  1. Day One Session One – Questioning and CBL
  2. Day One Session Two – Badges, Gamification and a Problem Based Activity
  3. Day One Session Three – Teacher IEPs
  4. Day One Session Three Part Two – App Speed Dating

Days Two and Three: The ClassTech Conference Stream.

  1. Day Two Session One Part One – Think U Know and Edventures
  2. Day Two Session One Part Two – Storytelling and Data
  3. Day Two Session Two – Drones and Augmented Reality
  4. Day Two Session Three Part One – PBL and STEM
  5. Day Two Session Three Part Two – Perception, Imagination and Creativity
  6. Day Two Session Four – Film Making and Makerspace.
  7. Day Three Session One Part One – Gamification.
  8. Day Three Session One Part Two – STEM and the Roundtable Sessions.
  9. Day Three Session Three – 3D Design and Printing, Robotics.
  10. Day Three Session Four – Virtual Reality, Creativity.

FutureSchool Review – Day 3 Session 4

Welcome back for this, the final article in my review of FutureSchools 2016. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here.I had looked at the agenda for the afternoon session and was not particularly excited by what I saw and did consider leaving early, but made the decision to stay and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the final session and how engaging both Marissa Peters and Jim Sill were.

Marissa Peters is an ICT Specialist from St John’s Primary School in East Frankston, Victoria. Marissa’s presentation title of The Dreams You Dream! The Use of Virtual Reality in the Classroom did not grab my interest as virtual reality (VR) is not something that is on my radar for use in the classroom. Marissa opened by commenting that the world of reality is limited, whereas our imaginations are boundless and that VR takes our five senses and extends them further.

Marissa spoke about Google Cardboard, which I had previously heard of, but never actually known what it was or how it worked. It seems like it has some potential for use in the classroom, but requires smartphones, which, when schools are pushing towards tables, is mildly annoying. That said, I am not sure that it would be comfortably usable with a tablet.

Marissa also spoke about how they let the students play in order to become comfortable with the concept of VR, with titles including Minecraft, Titans of Space, Photosphere, Alice and Google Expeditions. Marissa identified that as part of their entry into the VR space, her and her students became consumers rather than creators, which is difficult to change at this point in time. There are some tools out there to allow students to become creators of content, such as Unity 3D.

It was acknowledged that VR takes significant time to embed in place, and to train students and staff in obtaining the most benefit from the experiences, rather than it simply being an interesting gimmick. I can certainly see a place for Google Expeditions in the classroom, however, once again, when we are asking our students to bring tablets into class, it is difficult to turn around and ask that they also bring phones in, particularly in a primary school context.

Marissa closed with a quote attributed to Thomas Edison and posited that as Educators, it should be a motto for us to guide as and remind us to push through failures.

The quote attributed to Thomas A. Edison that Marissa Peters used to close out her presentation. Retrieved from tinyurl.com/jg642p5 on 18 March 2016

Jim Sill (@MisterSill), Director of Global Development with EdTech Team and his title of The Wild and Reckless World of Creativity was rather ambiguous, and he opened by showing us a clip from Madonna’s 1984 music video for her single Material Girl, telling us that we now all lived in a Twitter world, with the Twitter culture permeating most facets and most societies in the world.Personally, I am a fan of Twitter as a professional development tool and as a tool for learning, and Jim described getting the best use from Twitter as taking a cup, dipping it in a river and having a drink from the cup. “You don’t try and capture the whole river” Jim reminded us, and the admonishment to not worry about keeping up with all of Twitter, which some try to do, or feel that they should be doing, is a useful one, particularly for those new to Twitter.

View this post on Instagram

Self-branding #futureschools #digitaltattoo

A post shared by Brendan Mitchell (@c21_teaching) on

Jim continued by talking about selfies, selcas (the Korean term for selfie), the toilet selfie (“It does not matter how well dressed you are, you are still taking a photo in the room where you poop!”) and categorised these as a form of self-branding and self-identification which form part of the user’s online footprint. As a side note, I have recently heard digital footprints being referred to instead as digital tattoos, which I think is an interesting and important distinction. The below video by Juan Enriquez speaks to this concept and is well worth watching.

Jim spoke about how YouTube is essentially a hook farm full of ways for teachers to capture students’ interest in a topic, how Instagram has changed our relationships with food, with tourism and with each other and how GoPro makes everything look awesome. Jim commented that many teachers do not try new ideas, new technologies, new pedagogies due to a fear of failure, whether as a result of having been figuratively burnt in the past, or a lack of support from colleagues, they are paralysed by fear, and that fear is the big killer of new ideas and products.

Jim asked us to consider what kind of world we live in and the types of tools that we use to activate and access our students, reminding us that our world, outside the bubble of education and the classroom, does not have a safety net. He invoked Prensky’s notion of the digital native and digital immigrant, not the first time Prensky had been referenced during the conference, and how it is an old concept (the paper linked above was published in 2001) yet it is still used today. Jim told us how because of when he was born, he was a bicycle native. He was born in a time when bicycles were commonplace and everyone had one, yet, they were once considered to be …diabolical devices of the demon of darkness…full of guile and deceit.” 

Jim reminded us that we all started with training wheels on our bicycles, and that the move towards two-wheeled freedom was a gradual one, guided by our elders. In the same way, we should be training our children and our students in how to truly use technology. Jim quoted Mike Welsch as having said that incoming students in his college courses were showing only a superficial familiarity with digital tools. The term digital native should not be used in anything but the general time-frame sense, but that the term digital naives is an accurate descriptor for many students in their ability to meaningfully use digital tools.

We were shown a portion of a 360 video that Jim had taken while travelling by rickshaw in Mumbai, and he spoke about how the use of videos such as this provided options for viewer choice narratives as the viewer chose what to watch, and while this could be a powerful tool, we need to keep asking the question is this relevant or useful to our teaching and learning?

Jim echoed the point that had been made a number of times earlier int he conference that all teachers need to start somewhere on the SAMR model, and that the innovators and early adopters can create a bridge from substitution and augmentation across to modification and redefinition to assist those teachers who are slower to take up technology and assist the way they integrate technology in their teaching.

“Your first few ideas usually suck” we were told, and that the zoom-in metacognitive strategy can help us move beyond the first ideas. Jim said that we should launch early and iterate regularly, with an interesting quote attributed to Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn:

Retrieved from tinyurl.com/h3c8qhq on 18 March 2016

I look back at the very first flipped learning videos I created and I cringe. They are horrible. Dry, slow, stilted, and most definitely uninteresting. Yet they were a starting point, and they have helped me to create better videos. Teachers need to maintain the beginner’s mindset, Jim continued, and that for some reason, education is always expected to be polished, which is unrealistic as it is not. As teachers, we regularly make mistakes, get our words mixed up, do not quite finish our explanations, forget to hand out enough materials for science and any number of other commonplace errors that are easy to make when you are managing a room of thirty very different students. He encouraged us to embrace our mistakes, which is advice that Joel Speranza gave us in relation to flipped learning video creation and, quoting Goethe, that doubt grows with knowledge.

Jim closed with a few thoughts. As teachers, we live in a world of creative minds and we need to be careful with those minds, lest we stamp out the creativity, whilst encouraging our students to remain young and not become a statistic that we hear about in the news. Embrace creativity and put a saddle on it and have a go; be open with stories of success and of failure to guide our students so they can learn from our mistakes and our good choices and that providing opportunities for our students to share their ideas globally can create powerful connections and turn students into teachers.

Jim’s presentation was energetic and engaging, an excellent speaker to close out the conference with on a Friday afternoon and I am glad that I stayed for both his and Marissa’s sessions. The conference overall was definitely worthwhile attending in my opinion. I had some valuable conversations with a number of people, was able to finally meet some educators that I had been interacting with via Twitter for a while and strengthen connections with others. I am unsure whether I will attend FutureSchools next year, purely from the perspective of it moving to Melbourne and EduTech moving to Sydney.

I hope that you have found some benefit from reading through these review articles, I know that writing them has been a useful process for consolidating my own learnings. As always, thank you for reading.

FutureSchools Review – Day 3 Session 3

Welcome back for this penultimate article in my FutureSchools 2016 series. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. When I looked at the program for the day, I must admit a certain amount of disinterest in this session, covering as it was, 3D Printing and Robotics and their application and integration within the curriculum. I do believe that both areas hold some application and as teaching tools, however, at this point in time, they are not on my radar. We do have some small groups dabbling with some older Lego-based robotics, but that is the extent of it.

Shireen Winrow (@Shireenwin), the E-Learning facilitator at Redlands School, opened the session speaking under the title Integrating 3D design and printing into the curriculum. Shireen spoke about the continuum of growth when implementing 3D printing from beginning through to integrating and then transforming learning. She spoke about her entry point with students being the designing and printing of small stars.

They utilised an app to design a tree, and then hand-drew a leaf, and used the app to clone, flip and rotate them in order to position them upon the tree, which generated a discussion about spatial awareness and associated mathematical skills, on top of creative arts to actually draw the leaf. Shireen did make one comment at this point which made myself and a number of those around me laugh when talking about the actual printing of the final product; which was that the 3D printer failed and so they had to just switch to using the laser cutter to cut some templates. The financial investment to own either of those tools is not something that is achievable for many schools.

Retrieved from tinyurl.com/h9efxuo on 16 March 2016


Shireen spoke about including thinking skills in the teaching of 3D design and made the comment that “….you can’t think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something.” My understanding of what Shireen was meaning here was that to effectively teach thinking skills, that you need to have students thinking about their thinking, whilst thinking about something, it is something that needs to be done in-situ, whilst completing another activity in order to have some context within which to think about your thinking.

The Year Two unit based on types of Transport required students to select a mode of transport and identify the various shapes that would be required to create that in a 3D model, such as needing a cylinder for the handle of a broom. A Year Five unit required students to design a character, including what they look like, clothing and come up with a written justification for how they look, in the form of a story about that character. Using a program called Thingmaker, students were then required to print them using the 3D printer.

Year Six took this a step further, being required to select a character from a book, and go through the same process, with the justification required to contain textual evidence for choices made about the appearance, and the resultant 3D printed characters were displayed in the school library.

Shireen spoke about some tools that they had utilised, including Thingiverse, BuildWithChrome, Adobe Photoshop, Morphi, Thingmaker, 3D Creationist and Makers Empire. She also commented that when starting out with 3D Printing, that you need to experiment, and take calculated risks.

Following Shireen was John Burfoot (@johnburfoot), the Lead Robotics Facilitator at Mac ICT (@MacICT). John said that robotics in schools is more prevalent now than ever before and that robotics can inform students of various vocational opportunities in addition to helping them learn how to solve problems, persevere, work collaboratively and think logically.

Robotics utilise an inquiry-based learning strategy and is an interactive teaching and learning resource. Technology offers a tool to allow students to explore, learn, create and play at the same time. John mentioned that research published in 2010 found that there were typically three different approaches to planning and implementing inquiry-based learning with a robotics focus. The first was theme-based, where the initial learning stimulus and subsequent learning was focused on something, a zoo, transport, space etc. The second was Project or Problem Based Learning such as the need to feed the pet cat while the family was away on holidays and how that can be achieved; while the third was goal oriented such as RoboCup, Robo Soccer, or the UAV Challenge.

John spoke about the use of themes, STEAM, storytelling and exhibitions as some varied options for integrating robotics within the curriculum, and that new options are emerging on a regular basis, including, just recently the Lego WeDo, Bee-Bots and the Sphero. John closed out by reminding us that Lego Engineering is a great first port of call for robotics but that there are plenty of other easy to learn options available, and that the Parrot drone, which can be programmed through the Tickle App is a great starting point for drones.

As always, thank you for reading, and keep an eye out tomorrow for the final articles in this years FutureSchools review.

Jump straight to the next article in the series.

FutureSchools Review – Day 3 Session 1 Part 2

Welcome back for part two of the view of session two of the FutureSchools conference. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. Following Peggy Sheehy, was Glenn Carmichael, who described the school in which he teaches as “…a smallish high school…” called St Michael’s Collegiate School in Hobart, speaking under the title STEM Projects with real world applications.

Michael spoke about how he heard the question “…when will we use this?” on a regular basis from his students, and that it seemed as thought mathematics was the subject in which this question was asked more in than any other, which I think is true. From my own schooling, I would not have even considered asking that question in English, science or creative arts, yet in mathematics, it seems like it is asked on a regular basis (read this interesting and thought-provoking article on the topic).

Glenn discussed how the school wanted to embed STEM in the school in a manner that it had intrinsic value to students and spoke about two projects that were utilised to put that in place. The first  project required students to develop an iPhone app that had meaning and practical use for them. From a programming perspective, xcode was utilised as it is free and is a real coding language, not a kiddy language with excellent tools for student planning including a storyboarding facility and the ability to simulate the app in its current state to debug and test various iterations. The students, after much discussion, concluded that they would develop an app for use at school to fill in a lot of the gaps in information that students required for getting around.

Glenn related how student timetables were not particularly informative, with a time, room code and a teacher code being the sum total, and that the teacher code did not necessarily mean that you knew who it was before your first class when you first arrived. I remember my first timetable in year seven, and it had a timeslot, room identification and the teachers name (Mrs Smith etc). This particular teacher coding, from what I recall of what Glenn said was a series of letter from their name. Students decided they wanted an app that provided a mapping function so that you could work out where rooms were, and the easiest route from where you were to where you needed to go, teacher’s names and their photo, a to do list, and useful links.

The project had inherent usefulness and significance to the students involved in the project and as such, the natural engagement in the project was high. The decision was made that simply embedding Google Maps would not be sufficient, as it would not provide the specific room locations, or the ability to allow for second level rooms, that a custom map would, which meant that students had to create their own maps with all of the mathematical skills and concepts that go along with that.

View this post on Instagram

Student mapping of a school #futureschools

A post shared by Brendan Mitchell (@c21_teaching) on

The students were also required to create and present a sales pitch to gain experience in considering factors such as cost/profit margins, clients wishes against what the developer wanted (colour schemes to fit with corporate designs etc.), modification of prototype to meet client demands, determining cost of production and then what a fair retail price would be.

Glenn did indicate that the learning curve on xcode was incredibly steep and that the success and failure rates of students in completing particular tasks needed to be balanced. As a result of the challenges from learning xcode, xcode Edu was created, a more manageable version for use with students.

The second project was a 3D Printing project where students utilised Google Sketchup with two add-ons; one called Solid Inspector and the other being Sketchup STL. Once again, students were required to treat the project as a business project and determine the real cost of the final product, including time, plastics, general wear and tear on the 3D printer itself, electricity (which introduced unit conversion), packaging and handling.

Glenn spoke very well and was apologetic at having to rush through his presentation, openly admitting that he had a number of short videos that he could not show due to time constraints at having to start late.

After Glenn’s brief talk, it was the morning break which was followed by the roundtable sessions. Last year, I was not very impressed with how the roundtable sessions had been organised from the perspective of the physical set up. None of the issues have been addressed or remedied in preparation for this year, and if anything, they were worse. My first roundtable was with Glenn and I was excited to be able to hear him speak further and hopefully glean some of what he had been forced to omit in his conference presentation. It was not to be.

Once again, the round tables were tucked at one end of the expo hall, where the concrete floor combined with the cavernous size of the overall space to create an annoyingly loud echo chamber with multiple conversations overlapping creating a cacophony of noise. I was again standing at the back, approximately three metres away from Glenn and could not hear him. At one point, there was someone at the other end of the table speaking, and I could not hear them, and when the person in front of me, who was sitting down, asked a question, I could not hear them very clearly. My total notes from the session consisted of the FutureLearn online professional development side could be useful for coding and STEM-based learning as an educator, and a something which I did manage to hear, as it was very early in the roundtable, when he said “this is bigger than I thought; it was meant to be a small group.”

I gave up after about ten minutes, as I was gaining nothing other than a headache, and spent the remainder of the session speaking with Brian Host, Paul Hamilton and Alfina Jackson, who introduced me to Meredith Ebbs, which from my perspective, was quite productive. I did not attend the second roundtable I had nominated as I strongly suspected it would be the same, and the conversation with Brian and Paul was, for me, valuable. I received a few pieces of advice, including the use of Blendspace as a host for flipped videos as a work around the NSW Department of Education block on YouTube, TeacherTube and Vimeo, and also a contact name regarding the inability of Android devices to connect to the DoE wi-fi.

I can only hope that with FutureSchools moving to Melbourne for 2017, that the issues with the roundtable sessions are properly addressed and those sessions are more beneficial for attendees. When you pay a significant sum for a conference (and I was not the only person that I am aware of who was there having self-funded their attendance) you expect all the sessions to be well managed. At this point, with the advice that FutureSchools is moving to Melbourne, and EduTech is moving to Sydney, I do not know which event I will attend as I have not been to EduTech previously. A decision for next year.

I hope you have gained some benefit from this article, and as always, thank you for reading. The next article will cover the penultimate session, with presentations from Shireen Winrow and John Burfoot.

Jump to the next article in the series.