#futureschools Part 1: What I spoke about

This week, I was lucky enough to travel to the beautiful city of Melbourne (where good food and coffee runs rampant) in order to attend the Future Schools conference. In reflecting on the two days, I’m going to break this blog post into two: What I spoke about, and what I learnt.

Last year, in my previous job as Innovation Co-ordinator, I was asked to do a 20 minute speech at future schools on “making drones, robots and makerspaces”. Having set up a few makerspaces now, I still spent a long time trying to figure out what to talk about. I’m not a big fan of talking about myself, and there was so much that we did at Marist, to put it into a 20 minute speech would sound like a list of “here’s what you can do with STEM”. And this list already exists. (Thanks to our Chief Scientist…a much smarter person than me) Em

So, I decided to flip it and talk about all the mistakes we made.  Here’s the crux of my speech, which I retitled: “How to fail at: Making drones, robots and makerspaces”.

  1. Value technology over user experience: It’s more important that people can use the product than it is to have better products.  A CNC mill that is chain driven and takes a tenth of the time to do something than a mill that’s rubber band driven isn’t better if the software is so hard to understand it takes a year to figure it out. You want tech that has great hardware, but software is MORE important.
  2. Employ people that can speak confidently about your vision: This is a controversial one. Yes, it’s important to have poeple that can speak about what you do, but it’s more important to have people that can do the work to make sure that it’s done, and it’s done well. Value hard work and competence over charm. Charm sounds impressive, but generally means that you can talk about stuff that’s not actually happening. What then is more important to student learning?  This becomes more important when we talk about putting dangerous technologies like laser cutters (yes, from experience, they catch on fire) but also even supposedly “safe” technologies like soldering irons and hot glue guns (number one cause of accidents in TAS rooms….yes, they’re hot)
  3. Focus on teachers doing stuff: Students should be the hardest working people in your classroom. The best thing I saw once was when my current principal, stage 3 teacher and I were visiting Emmaus Catholic College. Kid walks in to the room after school, says “Afternoon sir” to the teacher on duty, goes over and starts a 3D print, prints something off on the sticker cutter, cleans up after himself and walks out with a “thanks sir” over the back of his shoulder. This transfers true power of creation to the student, and gives students potential to be independent entrepreneurs.
  4. Focus on Content: Content is important, but people learn from experiences. Flip it and start with the experience first so that then when you are talking about the content, the student can remember and relate. The best example that I saw of this was our bottle rocket project. Students were using terminology like Aerodynamics, thrust and lift in their first lesson of the project.
  5. Don’t follow a process: It doesn’t matter what process it is, but if you look at the image below, processes across KLA’s are so similar it doesn’t matter. Let’s teach kids the process of problem solving, not just to “make stuff” 
  6. Don’t make the project: I remember year 7’s always used to think I was a genius at electronics, but it’s really because I’ve made the project a number of times (either in previous years or before I go into the class) and I can predict what problems that they are going to have because I have already made them myself. Sometimes many times.  If you do face problems that you’ve not co7me across before, then model problem solving with the kids. “I have no idea how to do that”….”lets work it out together”


And finally….

  1. If it doesn’t work, Give up: Because that’s the kind of problem solving process we want to model with students.

Stay tuned for part 2: What I learnt at Future Schools

Introducing coding K-7

In 2018, I am excited to say that I’m going to get to work with the little kids in my school at our after-school activities club.  As part of St Luke’s Catholic College, students have the opportunity to attend structured activities of a morning and afternoon, where on different days, different teachers plan and deliver educational activities to students from Early Stage 1 to Year 7. On Thursdays, we will be doing coding activities. As a first important step, students need to understand that sequence is an important part of coding, leading to a later understanding of control structures and how they work.

The interesting thing about our activities club (and hats off to our brilliant director, Elisa Pettenon) is the level of differentiation required when you are teaching across K to 7 with the same/similar activities. My first thought was that while doing this with year 7 classes in the past, I would use the process of tying a tie to teach sequence. Students would have to team up and write instructions to each other and then each student would have to follow the other student’s instructions. My first realisation was that in Kindergarten they wouldn’t have the knowledge (or fine motor skills) to tie a tie. My second realisation that leapt from the first was that they also wouldn’t be able to read and write instructions at the beginning of the year.


Trying to think of alternatives, and brainstorming with my guru thought partner, Oriana Miano, we came up with the idea of fairy bread. So, my day today has been spent making fairy bread and taking photos of each part of the process to make into sorting-sequence cards.

Deconstructing the above activity:

For younger students, they need to know that programming involves following a sequence of steps and that the computer doesn’t know and can’t make assumptions like a human can. By modelling the actions of a computer being “dumb” the aim is for students to understand that they need to be explicit and correct in their sequence for the computer to understand.

For older students, all programs are made up of 3 different control structures, sequence, selection and repetition, where all programs can be made around these three structures.

Sequencing Fairy Bread

  1. Teacher introduces activity
  2. Students use the photo cards (in groups of 2)  to sequence how fairy bread is to be made.
  3. As a whole class, or in small groups, students make suggestions as to the sequence of activities.
  4. Teacher models suggestions for students, including things like “Put butter on bread”…place the container of butter on the bread.
  5. Students go back to their activity cards and check order. When they have gotten the order correctly, the teacher distributes the fairy bread kits and students make and eat their fairy bread.

After this activity, we will be breaking out the Ozobots and using these to model, and then experience what happens if you don’t give the ozobots instructions in the right sequence. For example if you look at the colour codes below, Red-Green-Blue is a snails pace, but Blue-Green-Red is a “nitro” pace. This allows students an easy introduction to coding, an understanding of sequence, and a hook to engage them into the idea that coding can be fun.


Assessment….best practice or common practice?

Last day of term. Is it more scary or less than the first?

For the past term, I have been working with a team of people to redesign learning for year 7 from scratch. Baking a cake from scratch is supposed to be harder than the packet mix, and although in real life, I am not much of a baker, and would prefer to stay with the packet mix, in my job, I am the person that goes back and deletes everything every year and starts again. As the Stage 4 team at St Luke’s Catholic College, we are starting pretty much from scratch in terms of the learning that exists in the secondary school. Although the call of a school without history was strong, I don’t think I realised initially how much we actually needed to discuss….to pull apart what was common practice in schools and to question why we do the things that we do. It is amazing how much of what we do is rooted in common practice and not fact, best practice,  research or policy, but become evolutions of one person’s interpretation of the last person’s ideas.

We do have existing constraints at St Luke’s: the syllabus, ideas that the school has already engaged with such as the 6 pillars, ideas around reporting, assessment and marks. My biggest challenge for my data-loving brain in the past term was when our principal suggested that our assessment policy would be no marks, no grades until we had to. 

I’ve been lucky enough for most of my teaching career to be in environments that have been very innovative. Each school more so than the last. And so much of what we hear about in schools now (post-Hattie) is the power of feedback to improve learning, and the concern of teachers that we spend so much time on feedback, and students see the mark or grade and forget the feedback. I saw the immense potential effect on student learning if it was done right. It still scared me.

But, as we teach our students, I tried to approach the idea with an innovator’s mindset. We can’t possibly do this became…how can we do this? So, I turned to NESA (and about 6 books on assessment)  to look at what they say about assessment. What I found was that their assessment procedures point more towards portfolio-based assessment than they do towards marks and grades, particularly in the junior years of year 7 and 8.

In New South Wales, standards referenced assessment links the achievement of students to specified standards, through evidence collected from a number and variety of activities and from observations over time, and involves teachers gathering evidence of student achievement formally and informally, to make judgements and to facilitate and monitor students’ progress.

The purpose of assessment is to gather valid, reliable and useful information about student learning in order to monitor student achievement in relation to outcomes, guide future teaching and learning opportunities and provide ongoing feedback to students to improve learning.

NSW syllabuses and support materials promote an integrated approach to teaching, learning and assessment. Students’ content knowledge will be assessed using individual samples of work completed during the course of a unit of work, measured against NESA’s Common Grade Scale.   My biggest learning this term has been to go back to the common grade scale, and to look at how it actually reflected what schools are trying to do across our diocese….go from surface to deep, to transfer knowledge and skills (based on the work of Malcom McDowell


The focus on an understanding of curriculum content is for students to be able to readily and independently apply, not just recount, the extensive knowledge and understanding that they have learnt within the course of study. Students who are achieving to a high level will be using a high level of competence in processes and skills and can apply these skills to new situations.

This documentation reflects and enhances the focus on the skills and capabilities of St Luke’s 6 pillars, which focus on social and enterprise skills. These 6 pillars are strongly linked with the outcomes of Stage 3 and 4 syllabus outcomes in being capabilities necessary to build learning skills.  Students will be provided feedback at different points progressively through a unit of work in ways that facilitate improvement in being able to demonstrate skills relevant to learning.

This assessment style involves students and teachers discussing for each student what evidence is provided to demonstrate their achievement of skills and content. Students will be guided through a process of collecting this evidence in a portfolio of learning and reflecting on this evidence of learning which will be utilised in student-led conferences.   Students will also be supported through processes to monitor their own learning, ask questions and use a range of strategies to decide what they know and can do, and how to use assessment information to guide new learning.

Students will be provided with the pillars and outcomes for each unit of work that are directly taught and the focus of the unit as well as criteria for the overall unit of work.  Students will be guided through a process where they are supported through their selection of work to present for assessment.  The focus of the work of assessment must be students moving forward in their learning by providing specific feedback regularly. Students may choose to refine their work after feedback and teachers should encourage this mastery approach, balancing the needs of the student and their other subjects.

Students will select samples of their work that they feel best meets the outcomes provided. They will reflect on their work and explain why they think it meets this standard on a reflection sheet. Students will receive teacher feedback on this draft, and then upload the sample of work, along with the typed up reflection on their portfolio website (Google Sites).  This process will happen throughout the unit of work. Teachers will maintain samples for each student for later reference.  Teachers will allocate grades for each of the outcomes (both school-based and subject outcomes) assessed in this unit, based on where the samples of work fit within the common grade scale.  This portfolio website, individualised for each student, should then host samples of work across the stage and should show improvement in their learning across the stage and will be the focus of student-led conferences at least twice a year.


Moving home…

Surprising my friends six weeks ago, I made a whirlwind decision to leave Parra Marist after 8 and a half years. I’ve been very lucky in my career to have worked with brilliant principals in great schools. When I left my previous school to go to PMHS, I was bored by traditional teaching and concerned about the integration of technology, which was out of my sphere of influence, that was brought about by the Digital Education Revolution. My husband had heard Brother Patrick, then principal of PMH, talk about what they were doing at the school, and the two of us had decided that one of us would work there….whichever job came up first.

So, in the second year of their PBL implementation, I went across to teach in what I explained to my friends was “kind of like a performing arts school for technology”. I have been so lucky in that time to have worked with some brilliant teachers, leaders and mentors, and have participated in  an amazing amount of professional development. I am a big believer in never being the smartest person in the room, and I certainly had this opportunity at PMH, the highlight of my career spending time with Br Patrick, Gavin Hays, Alfred Solis, Sam Seidel, Larry Rosenstock, Glenn O’Grady, Yong Zhao, Lydia Dobbins, Tim Presiado and Ron Berger. #namedrop

When the opportunity came up six weeks ago to work at St Lukes Marsden Park, I jumped at it. Again, attracted by an innovative principal with different ideas about how curriculum could be set up, and the opportunity to engage in K-12 education was a big drawing card. After two days, I am so impressed with the cutting edge ideas that St Luke’s are engaging in, and the level of unpacking of the different learning ideals that has occurred across K-6 within just three terms.  Some of the things that we’ve discussed in the past two days includes their sense of community in the staff spirituality day, the 6 pillars that underpin instruction and the work that teachers have been put in to encourage students to present their successes at their student led conferences. While some schools have implemented some form of “soft skills” and have then made the move to increase their relevance and importance to parents by reporting on these, St Lukes’ has taken this to the next level with their reports that flipped this focus and prioritised those skills that they see as essential to future success of students. They have also done a lot of hard work in educating parents in how to interpret the reports and as a parent of a primary aged student, and having done some work around primary STEM and Technology education, their reports make visible  the “below, at and above stage level” reporting process.

Part of the process of PD within the school is blogging, and I am looking forward to spending some time on my blog, finally finding an excuse to keep this updated more often as a reflection process.  I’ve edited the name of this blog post about three times now though, and have finally settled on its current title.  Speaking to one of the teachers today, about the plan for St Luke’s Pathways program, where each student analyses their strengths to determine where they need to direct their efforts for future success, I reflected on the fact that we are very lucky to be in a position where we love what we do. Not everyone is so lucky, or even consider it a possibility that they might enjoy work.  So, I have officially now mentally packed up my home at Parra Marist and moved house today. Thanks to the St Luke’s staff for the warm welcome.



Building a successful coding culture


Worldwide, there are a large number of governments and independent programs that are pushing coding as the skill set to learn for the future generation.  It is obvious that over the last 15 years, we have gone through a cycle from a core set of students interested in computing, to every student being able to do some form of computing skills through the Digital Education Revolution, which has caused us to cycle back to an even smaller core cohort of students.  One only has to look at the statistics from the Board of Studies senior courses to see this trend, as now all students seem to have the “basic skills” that they need to use technology.  


ChnGkvOXEAA1yASThe question remains that as we app-ify education along with our lives, are students really learning the skills that they need to be able to work effectively in their jobs, or are we creating a generation of Facebookers and Instagramers?  Although there seems to always be “an app for that”, there will always be a point where you need more control over the required output than the app can give you. This leads to the question: How do you build a successful coding culture, where students have a programmer’s, rather than an app-user’s mindset?


At Parramatta Marist, coding is taught in every year group, implemented in different subjects throughout years 7-10 with progressively more difficult concepts developed throughout the years. For example, in Year 7 students program a game to solve the driving question of “How do video games use Maths?”  This program included a focus on iterative problem solving, where students were encouraged to follow a modified Polya’s problem solving process in order to encourage problem solving ability as well as just the ability to code.


Working under the New Tech network method of Project Based Learning, students are first introduced to the project through an entry document to engage students in the project idea. The entry document in this case, was experiential, where students were set the task of going through three different stations, each set up with a different programming device.  


Students rotated through the following activities: Racing an Ozobot through set activities, followed by programming their own ozobot mazes, using Spheros with the Tickle app to get the Sphero through a maze and finally, playing Geometry Dash on Scratch using a Makey Makey.


This experience was designed to get students engaged into the project, and give them enough experience to elect which technology that they wanted to use.


This was scaffolded through a Google form, where students had to rate their experiences, talk about what was difficult within that programming device, and finally, select which device that they wanted to use for the project.  The excitement of students was overwhelming, and it is interesting to note that although the students were not explicitly taught anything on that day, every student came away with a positive and successful experience of programming.


Following this entry document, students were placed into groups based on a mix of their preferences, their previous work in the course, and their mathematics marks to ensure that the project was differentiated for different student abilities. The students were then introduced to each programming language using the same geometrical context: Can you get your device to draw a square?  


This introductory lesson saw students engage with the language, and all students build a simple program using iteration. All students were successful in this, through purely experiential learning. Teacher interaction came down to helping students understand the problem by “stepping it out”on the floor, or for assisting them in problem solving why their projects were not working.


As part of the PBL process, students then work out what they “Know”and what they “Need to Know”, and as a class this list is developed. The teaching process is guided by this list, which is revisited and refined throughout the project.  This allows students to design their game and then determine what objectives the game needs to meet. The “Need to Know” list now includes items such as “How do I create a score” and “How do I make it do something when it gets to a point”, which leads to the concepts of variables and selection statements. This gives the students the impression that they are guiding the teaching within the project, and ensures that they are exposed to knowledge at the point where they need to know it, which allows them to apply their knowledge at the point where they learn it.


The final project ends with students presenting their game in an exhibition to parents and the community in the school hall. In this “Maths in Video Games” exhibition, students explained how their game used geometry in order to create or play the game.


This unit of work begins a structured program, where students from years 7-10 participate in curriculum based coding experiences every year, progressing in difficulty up to year 10.  These are taught through the TAS, Science and PDHPE faculties, where every student studies integrated projects from 7-10.  With the support of these departments, students then study 100 hours of programming based courses from years 7-10, with some students who study the elective iSTEM course studying over 125 hours.  Opportunities also exist with students in extra curricula programs to do additional coding.


In year 11 and 12, students have the options to select from Information Processes and Technology, Software Design and Development, Industrial Technology Multimedia, and Information and Digital Technology. Each year, unlike patterns across the state,  strong numbers exist in all of these subjects, with approximately 25 students per course starting in each preliminary year.   It is rare to see computing courses not run, which is opposite to statewide trends.  


The question is then, is there time within the regular curriculum to teach coding skills? By selecting the right context, there are many opportunities to implement coding across the curriculum.   Start with how the content that you are trying to teach is used in the real world, then move to how you can program this in order to make it relevant to students. Check out the Board of Studies Coding across the curriculum resources if you get stuck.

Good teaching and learning practices are still required when you use coding though…students will not likely be able to code Angry Birds after they first learn how to code.  Structure coding in small steps from easy to hard, differentiate for students who find it difficult, but most of all, encourage a growth mindset around problem solving. They will use this skill in everything that they do, not just in coding.

More than just Making: STEM in a PBL Model

“STEM in the school classroom context refers to the application of science, technology, engineering,

and mathematics to make real-world connections and solve problems collaboratively. Sound knowledge and skills in interdisciplinary STEM are predicated on student participation and achievement in core STEM disciplines.”

NSW Board of Studies, Technology and Education e-news (http://news.bostes.nsw.edu.au/blog/2015/11/2/technology-and-engineering-education)


Across the globe, there is currently a focus on STEM education, as collectively, different nations discover a lower participation rate in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and technology fields. This will lead to a decrease in fields that are necessary for nations to be globally competitive, and for nations to continue to thrive. In addition, the types of jobs available increasingly require problem solving skills, as opposed to rote learning of concepts. These STEM based courses are seen to mimic the same types of applied problem solving thinking that can be used in many non-stem based careers.

STEM, underpinned by Project Based Learning, encourages enquiry, innovation, and academic rigour within the fields of Mathematics, Science and Technology in order to create a contextual learning environment for students where knowledge is built through the construction of projects and solving of problems.


While construction of projects is important, STEM moves beyond the maker movement by focusing on solving problems real-world problems that make life better for people. “Innovation must turn knowledge into

new and better ways of doing things for the benefits of all Australians” Office of the Chief Scientist, 2013.


The purpose of STEM programs are to increase student engagement with science, technology and

mathematics subjects with the purpose of:

At Parramatta Marist we have implemented a four-prong approach to developing STEM. This includes programs developed for:  
  • Increasing student learning in these subjects
  • Increase student problem solving in general, by exposing students to subjects where problem solving is essential
  • Increase student exposure to, therefore increasing the likelihood of choosing STEM based careers, where there is a global shortage.
  • Curriculm
  • Cross Curriculum
  • Extra-Curricula
  • Community Engagement



In 2015, Parramatta Marist implemented the iSTEM Board-Endorsed Course developed by Maitland-Grossman High School. This syllabus is designed to be an intervention, to re-engage students with STEM based subjects, particularly engineering. This was a huge success, as evidenced by the 2016 round of student selections, where three times the number of students selected iSTEM as their first preference.  In 2016, this was expanded to include a 100 hour, core year 7 course, where students study integrated STEM within a project based learning pedagogy, modelled on the BOSTES curriculum outcomes for Science, Maths and Technology (Mandatory) course. While the 100 hour course does not take any time from the core subjects, it is the opportunity to teach those outcomes in a real world applied methodology.


Year 9 iSTEM


Students at Parramatta Marist High undertook a STEM project focusing on aerodynamics. Students looked to solve the real work problem “How can a drone be used in a natural disaster to save human lives”. Students were exposed to a range of Mathematical, Scientific and Engineering content including Bernoulli’s Principle, Newton’s Laws, ratios and distance while building their own drone. This project forced students to analyse the forces of flight and gain an understanding of how flight works and how this is influenced by STEM disciplines.


Year 7 STEM

It’s just rocket science

Students in 2016 used a bottle rocket launcher, and the scientific process to plan how they can drop a bottle rocket at a specific point on the oval. In order to do this, they must create scale models of the oval, observe differences in results based on different variables, and then experiment with different types of bottle rockets in order to see whether they can drop the package at the correct point. This data is then combined into a video explaining the maths and science behind the bottle rockets. 


Geometry Dash

Students learn to code in java with the use of the iPad app, Tickle, in order to program a choice of physical programming tools around a maze based on Geometry. Students learn the structures of programming with block-style code which can be applied to learn other programming languages. In order to solve the maze, students must measure and calculate different geometrical structures. Ramps will also be involved, so students must also look at speeds and calculate gravity in order to plan and then code where the Sphero will go. This unit of work begins a structured program, where students from years 7-10 participate in curriculum based coding experiences every year, progressing in difficulty up to year 10.  This program included a focus on iterative problem solving, where students were encouraged to follow the modified Polya’s problem solving process illustrated here.

polya problem solving

Extra Curricula

Students have also been given a number of opportunities to engage in extra curricula activities in STEM. This allows more students to engage in STEM based activities of their choice. There has been a huge amount of interest in these activities with hundreds of students across the five activities.  However, we need to remember that Competitions are not curriculum, and although useful for the engagement of students, the priority is implementation and improvement of curriculum in order to create long lasting growth.


Quberider Students in this program study space, culminating in developing an experiment where students program a Raspberry Pi micro controller that gets sent into space via a NASA Rocket.
F1 in schools Students in this program study forces, motion and aerodynamics in order to create a model F1 car, raced using carbon dioxide cylinders, along a 20 meter track.
Coding Club Students study a badge based differentiated program of study on programming in order to obtain badges as a reward for study. This culminates in entry to the STEM Video Game competition.
Genius Hour Based on Google’s concept of 20% time, students are able to spend an hour a week, working on anything that they are interested in, in the thoughts that giving time and resources to student passion will allow students to perform. This culminates in the YICT Explorers competition.
Aurecon Bridge Building 3 students from the intermediate year 9 maths class will be chosen who are disengaged with maths to determine whether engagement in practical application in maths will increase engagement in mathematics.


Community Engagement


Community engagement is an important component of STEM education, in order to raise awareness and to gather parent support of student interest in STEM. Parramatta Marist has received permission to be the Australian connection for Kids Hack Day, a global program to engage students in STEM based careers. Inspired by the global hackerspace movement and the lack of technology-related play and creativity in the classroom, Kids Hack Day is a means of closing the gap between education and technological creativity. On Kids Hack Day, students will get the opportunity to immerse themselves into emerging STEM technologies, such as robotics, programming and take part in structured, supervised activities which allows students to be creative and innovative.  Kids Hack Day is a 1-day event format where children and adults come together to “hack” and make new uses of everyday items and new technologies.


In year 10, students at Parramatta Marist for the past 4 years have run “Innovation Week”, a program where students spend a week out of their normal curriculum working on a passion project that meets a design need that they select. In the past, students have created projects from new sports to marketing materials, to ipad-watching boxes for their bedrooms to planes, drones and amphibious vehicles. This year, Innovation week will include a greater STEM focus, matched with a two day professional learning conference for teachers and the opportunity for parents to be involved by seeing guest speakers as well as the exhibition of their son’s work.



The final area where Parramatta Marist has chosen to implement STEM technologies is in support in regular subjects. The purpose of this is to raise awareness of the technologies within the context of their regular subjects, providing a purpose and a link to using STEM technologies. This has then caused an increase in the number of students applying to participate in STEM Extra curricula activities.  Examples of this include laser cutting of flip books for Religious education, creation of physical artefacts for History students who were asked to curate a museum exhibition, and creating circuits to test the salinity of water in Geography.  This is the next stage of technology integration, where students use industry level technology to construct physical objects to express their learning.


While there is a decrease overall in STEM based courses in the NSW HSC, particularly in mathematics and computing, Parramatta Marist has always had a strong history of student interest and success in these subjects.  However, problem solving in general is an area that is necessary in all subjects now. A focus on working technologically, thinking mathematically and scientifically is proposed as a method to increase student problem solving. This, along with the opportunity to explicitly teach problem solving strategies within a project based applied STEM model, should see students apply these strategies to other learning areas.  The challenge however, for STEM programs across the world is to ensure that programs do not simply stop at student engagement in STEM, but challenge students to have a higher purpose than just “making”. How can we ensure that STEM programs increase students’ problem solving ability and are not just a gut reaction to the worldwide “STEM-urgency”.

Literacy Continuum

As the first focus of our professional learning teams at Parramatta Marist, we are looking at how we can use the literacy continuum within the classroom. The literacy continuum published by the DET indicates the characteristics of students’ literacy at different levels. This continuum allows us to have a better understanding of where our students’ abilities are, and to therefore target specific skills and set goals for specific students.  The system that Sentral has set up seems to make this an easy process of entering this data, and then performing analysis of the data.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 10.29.22 AMFor this particular PLT focus, we will be focusing on the aspects of writing, with all classes across the school. My allocated class is year 7 STEM, which is a new program that PMH has introduced this year. A challenge for this focus will be creating authentic tasks that fit within the scope of our projects, where students see the value of the tasks and are not just “filler” literacy tasks.



For our year 7 STEM program, we are going to start the course with a writing prompt: Will we ever have flying cars? (Think about it from a technological, social and legal perspective).Thanks to http://visualprompts.weebly.com/stem.html for the image. The first unit of work for year 7 STEM is bottle rockets, so the concepts of flight are embedded across the program. Regarding the list of continuum items, these can obviously not be assessed in every sample of student writing, so at this time, I would like to focus on the following points:

  • Uses a legible, fluent handwriting style.
  • Uses a range of editing strategies to improve clarity and consistency of style.
  • Uses correct and appropriate punctuation to support meaning.
  • Self regulates spelling and applies spelling knowledge and strategies to spell complex and subject specific vocabulary.

__4696554_origThis activity will not only allow us to assess which markers are evident on the literacy continuum, but should also give us an understanding of how interested and engaged students are in science, and a glimmer into what level of understanding that they have about scientific concepts. Since these students all come from a different backgrounds, it will be interesting to gain a picture at the onset of the STEM program, and then compare this over time with similar activities later on in the year, and then further in coming years.

Methods of sharing Google Docs to students

Following is a summary of the methods that you can use to create a google doc template and then distribute to students:

1. Google Classroom
2. Copy and Share yourself
3. Get students to copy and share back
4. Using scripts

How does this work Ease of Use Availability Student Perspective Teacher Perspective Disadvantages
Google Classroom Sign up for classroom, create your class, add your google doc. Decide whether you want everyone to have their own copy or edit an actual copy. Super easy.

Create a document, share it on Classroom.

Available for teachers with .edu.au email addresses with students on the same domain.  Google has now also set up “Trusted domains” where students can be on the same domain but this has to be set up by your systems admin. Student goes to classroom, and clicks on the link to the document. It automatically copies a personalised document for the student, and puts it in a “Classroom” folder on the students’ side.

Students have a “turn it in” button to indicate they are finished.

This is automatically shared with the teacher, and put into their “classroom” folder on their google drive. It also gives the ability to check who has “turned it in” and finished it. The system is sequential, no way to categorise activities/documents. Is good for sharing, easy to use but not a fully powered LMS. But then, neither are any of the other choices here.

A good solution if you want to do this multiple times.

Can be confusing if you have another existing LMS.

Student owns document.

Copy and share yourself Create the document, manually duplicate it and share it with the people you need to Super easy but time consuming. Everyone can do this. Student receives shared document. This sits in their “shared with me” documents, so if you do it this way, teach the kids to add it to their docs and then into a folder with your subject name. This means that you maintain ownership of the document and don’t have to trust students to share it with you. Fine if you have a small group of students.

Really effective if you are doing group work. Lets say you have 25 kids in your class, and you decide to do a group project with 5 students per group. Create five copies and share each copy with five different students. This is really the only method to do this. (Aside from getting students to share back with you)

Time consuming…definitely a “do in front of the TV job.

Get students to copy and share back Students create doc and share with you. Easiest, and can be done on the fly “Ummm…lets create a google doc to answer this question and share back with me. Everyone can do. Student takes ownership of the work (a good thing), learns more, and is more likely to do this when collaborating in a group with others. Students must share with teachers. They forget. A lot. Teacher gets shared in on the document. If you do this a lot, it can become a filing nightmare in your google drive. But if you teach kids to name things properly, this is less of an issue. If student leaves the system, (eg, unenrolls from the school) you lose access to the document. This may or may not be a big deal, but if like me, you have to (and like to)  keep work samples…
Using Scripts Using add ons to Google Drive such as Doctopus or autocrat, which, based off a list of students and their emails, automatically creates documents and shares it with them. Most create folders for the class, and you can add to the folder all the time with different documents by running the same script again. More difficult than any of the above, but it is wizard based, so not particularly hard. Must install the script. Students receive a folder, with their documents in it, so it self-organises for them. Teachers create a spreadsheet of students, and creates their google doc and runs the wizard. This keeps ownership of the document with the teacher. (See notes on work samples above) The major advantage of this is that some of these add ons allow personalisation. For example, you can mail merge and share at the same time.

Works better on browsers that are not chrome (odd)

STEM Links

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Cool Links

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.