Old Dog New Tricks

Staying relevant in the digital age!

You can teach a Labradoodle new tricks! So, if you’ve been reading my articles you will have seen my recommendations for more outside time (“getting hands dirty time”!), imaginative play and daydreaming away from technology for students. So, I thought it was time to address the elephant in the room – technology and its use in the classroom.

When I completed my Uni degree (BA with majors in Geography & Psychology and Dip Ed), I was required to submit an assignment which had been typed on a computer. Everything else was hand written. In my first years of teaching there wasn’t a computer in sight. When I was 30, and my children 4 and 7, I received an inheritance and bought our first home computer. A Pentium! I loved playing Solitaire on that old beast and writing the occasional poem or children’s stories. I wanted my children to get used to computers and they played numerous, very basic, games on them. 

The classrooms were still mainly devoid of them, but slowly a few crept into the backs of the classrooms and were attacked with glee by students on wet weather lunchtime days. There was a computer lab in the High School that we could book for an hour and get everyone on at the same time! We started teaching keyboarding skills and word processing and printing our good copies of stories and other work on them. We had simple maths and spelling games.

Everything else was hand written. In my first years of teaching there wasn’t a computer in sight.

All my school planning was still done by hand. I had my teacher’s journal and planning folder. All my curriculum documents were on my shelf behind my desk. My assessment book was in my journal. Reports were a printed template that was filled in by hand. Both my children’s Grade 6 reports were done this way. It was considered very cutting edge at the time. There was only a general comment for each student. I remember Dirk Petrusma telling me to write it as if it was going to be read to a grandparent. I have an interesting memory of a parent coming into my son Jake’s Grade 5 class and teaching the students how to make a Powerpoint!

Fast forward to today. Each student from Grade 3 up at Emmanuel has their own individual laptop. My entire mathematics program is now computer based through Maths Pathway. It assesses students and guides them individually through, with me as the co-ordinator and facilitator. As a school we completed NAPLAN online this year. Our Standardised testing is done online. I use a Reading Program and our reward system linked to it. My students have email accounts and complete assignments in a variety of online ways. They often email me their work. Our students can access and research information online. In the last three years our school has adopted SEQTA as a program for everything from completing the role, to writing reports (10 comments required) and behaviour management notes. My curriculum is no longer printed, but online. All great innovations, but continual upskilling of teachers required. Our First Aid training and Compliance training all have modules to be completed online.

As a teacher I am working in a time when I have to be willing to jump in and learn things with my students. I need to be willing to make mistakes and not get it right (Growth Mindset challenges) and have some of my students teach me! Just recently I decided we would create Stop Motion videos of the ‘Patriarch Era’ in the Bible. Drew Roberts told me which app to download on my iphone, I borrowed his camera stand, and lots of LEGO from the Library. We broke into groups and I asked them to create sets and record a small scene from a Patriarch’s life. I suggested they could show moving an arm or a head. One of my students, Poppy, got very excited as she has made these movies at home before. Another student, Charlotte, brought heaps of LEGO from home and now we have four amazing movies we are going to edit ready for the end of Term 2 assembly. They are excited about their learning and really engaged.

We have also been creating Kahoot quizzes. The students have been reading short stories and articles in pairs and creating quizzes using this app with them. We, as a class, then read the articles and play the quiz. We then have a positive and negative feedback session on each quiz. English skills galore, but don’t tell the students, they’re just having fun. And maybe, so am I!

So, I will still argue for outside time, hands on learning, daydreaming and lots of person to person engagement, but, I will keep learning, growing, failing at times, and experimenting with my students.

Annie Joy - Primary Coordinatior