Math story using Scratch – Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Histories & Cultures

A Math unit focusing on addition and subtraction students would traditionally draw on paper math representations (stars, circles, etc.) or use physical items (Lego, coins, etc.) to practice number addition problems. These hands-on activities are still very relevant in young childrens’ learning.

The integration of the Digital Technologies curriculum allows us to also represent number learning through an authentic digitally pleasing way. Using Scratch in the early Primary years gives young children an introduction to becoming Makers and not just simple Users/Consumers of digital technologies. Scratch also gives students an introduction to computational thinking skills and an understanding of the creative skills that relate to digital creation.

In this Scratch activity the students will demonstrate their Math skill learning through a digital animated presentation. Additionally, this activity could include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures through the use of the Maths as storytelling (MAST) approach (Matthews, Cooper & Baturo, 2007).  Teachers first get students to create their own story drawings that include students’ creating their own symbols based on how symbols are used in Indigenous situations. The symbols that students create can be photographed and imported into Scratch.

(Matthews, Cooper & Baturo, 2007, p.3)

Note: This may work especially well with the guidance of a local Indigenous contact that can help build on the cultural understanding related to storytelling and Indigenous symbols. Also a good starting point for teachers to make local connections is through their city council representatives and related websites.

Design & Technologies + Digital Technologies (Years 7-10) Curriculum

If you’ve been following my blog or other social media via @elketeaches, you likely know that I am a Digital Technologies and Business Teacher. I have worked previously as an IT Analyst and also as a tertiary Instructor teaching IT, eCommerce, Systems Analysis & Design, Business Management, and Economics. However, I started at a new school in the public Education Queensland system in March this year and I taught my first Year 10 Design class and Year 7/8 Design & Digital class.  To be honest, I have found the Design and Technologies (Years 7-10) Curriculum to be relatively easy to move into since a lot of what I have been teaching for years includes many design elements.


I designed and successfully taught a new Year 10 Solar unit using the new Design and Technologies Year 9-10 Australian Curriculum. I developed a Design & Tech solar unit that required students to learn about how we use solar power and I focused on design topics such as sustainability and user-centred design principles. I hooked students by showing them videos/images on tiny off-the-grid homes, floating solar farms and solar-powered agricultureI taught them basic circuitry by making LED & conductive tape greeting cards; we first used 3V coin cell batteries inside and then we hooked them up to 2 x 1.5V solar panels in the sun. The unit assessment required that students use an iterative design approach to research, plan, design, and evaluate their own solar-powered product. Students also developed prototypes using a rapid prototyping technique with minimal resources (paper, glue, cardboard, LEDs, mini motors, 3V solar panels, conductive tape, etc.).

Design & Tech (Year 10) Solar unit – paper circuit cards, 2×1.5V solar panels, and student rapid prototypes (solar caravan & floating solar farms)


This unit was designed to combine both Design and Digital curriculum in only 1 term. This unit has been changed dramatically since I have started at this school because the original plan was simply too big for only a 1 term introduction to Design and Digital Technologies. The unit is based on project based design principles where students work in teams of 4 to develop a game and a controller. The game is developed in RPG Maker and students use their prior-knowledge of gaming, plus research, to develop a game storyboard based on game design elements. I would argue that the RPG Maker software is not a great tool to teach programming fundamentals however, it is relatively easy for students to learn to use and develop a satisfactory game. The team also researches and designs for game controllers focusing on making decisions between unique designs and the ergonomic needs of the gamer. Students have the option of using a VR to design their game controller but the ‘hype’ and excitement of using the VR is quickly surpassed by the far superior results of designing a controller using Tinkercad. Students then 3D print their controllers and they may need to chisel-out 3D printed supports and/or drill button holes bigger to fit the controller buttons. Many teams often re-design their controllers after their first 3D print when they realise that their designs lack enough room for buttons or their cut-out designs do not have pleasing results. I then teach teams individually about circuits, how to strip wire, connect wire to buttons and then test their controllers using a MakeyMakey. Last term I had one advanced team that also spent a couple of lessons in the last week of term using an iterative design approach to find the best dimensions/shape for a paper parachute for 3D printed ducks.



An absolute highlight of my teaching career last term was when Dr Gary Stager visited our school and ran a full-day Invent to Learn Masterclass. It was exciting to pick up Gary from his hotel in the morning and ask him questions about his opinion on Education today. It was lovely and very inspiring to meet many other teachers from our local area, as well as a couple of teachers from NSW and the NT. It was a fun day of learning, collaborating and making. As I experienced this day of fun, I realised how important it is to engage students in their learning. I love teaching and I believe I particularly enjoy teaching Digital Tech and Design because they are both naturally very hands-on types of subjects. I highly recommend attending a Gary Stager event; he’s inspiring and you will learn exciting ways to integrate Design & Tech and Digital Tech curriculum into your own teaching practice.



Data + Makey Makey + Scratch

The Australian Digital Technologies curriculum includes content descriptions that relate to learning about data, and collecting, manipulating, analysing and representing data.  Data is an important element within digital technologies.

I often ask students (and adults!) whether they had used or were linked to a database on any given day. Overwhelmingly many people have no idea and yet we use or are linked to a database almost everyday. Our students are marked as present/absent on a school database, a shop’s inventory database is updated when we purchase something, we use databases when we search the Internet and use apps, etc.

I have in the past mentored some teachers (junior & secondary) on ways to implement the DATA content of the digital technologies curriculum authentically in their classrooms.  The key to effective teacher mentoring is to FIRST find out the teacher’s prior tech knowledge and what units of work they are about to start in class. Then I make suggestions on how to integrate digital tech in a fun and engaging way but also making sure it is a realistic integration.  It is IMPORTANT that teachers don’t just “add on” digital technologies, like a quick tick on a checklist.  The content and skills within the unit need to be priority and the digital technology enhances the learning potential.

Favourite Food Data Logger – using Scratch & Makey Makey

This is a classroom activity that I have had Junior teachers use successfully that integrate curriculum areas of Digital Tech, Science, Math and Health & PE.

Data Logger set up with playdoh for testing. With students I would use an actual orange, apple, banana and capsicum instead of the playdoh. The student would then survey the class (and more) to collect data about people’s favourite food. The student could also make predictions about the data, analyse the data to make generalised statements about the content and people’s preferences. Students can then represent the data in different ways by drawing graphs (Math) or drawing/painting Art that reflects their findings.

A simple Data Logger made in Scratch by me:

Some teachers may want to get students to develop their own version of this Data Logger, which would involve further elements of the Digital Technologies curriculum.

Very simple code for a data logger.


Game Development using UNITY

I started teaching game development with the Unity engine last year with Year 10 and Year 11 students.  Unity is a great tool that includes excellent resources, tutorials and informative user forums.  One of the best parts about starting out with Unity is the massive range of free asset import downloads available.

Before lessons began I developed some fundamental 3D World creation tutorials and created lesson plans that linked to online resources freely available on the Unity website.  I taught the basics of turning flat terrains into great looking 3D worlds, including water features, trees and animals.  I also taught an introduction to Object-oriented programming (OOP) with C#.

TIPS for teaching Game Dev with Unity:

  • Consider limiting students to only develop 2D or 3D.  This will help you focus your teaching energies to only one type of game development.
  • Only use one type of programming.  Unity allows you to develop games using C# or JavaScript. I would suggest that an introduction to OOP in Years 10 and 11 might be better suited to help prepare for senior ICT study.
  • Explicitly teach how to only import parts of an asset download. This will help reduce file size and game play lag.
  • If a game does not open easily due to different Unity versions, delete the Libraries folder and then open in Unity.  This will force the new version of Unity to create the Libraries folder and will likely result in no errors; however, it will take longer to open.
  • ALWAYS insist that students submit a video demo of their game play, video explanation of what/how they created their game and a compiled executable of their game.  This helps to grade their work appropriately on the occasions when you simply can’t open their projects.

Psychometric-demographic predictions from Social Media profiles

Big Data, Data Analytics, Digital Data, Data Mining, Data Science, Machine Learning, and the list goes on! We hear a lot about data today. I think analysing data, finding statistical trends and making predictions from data is useful (and fun!). Of course, we also need to educate ourselves about how data is used and the ethical issues around data use. We need to question who, how & why is the data being collected and how is it being analysed. I actually am fascinated about the IPO (input-process-output) of algorithms, APIs and machine learning that develop predictions about people based on their data.


If you use Facebook and Twitter, you might want to check out Apply Magic Sauce. You give the site access to your Facebook Likes & Posts, and Twitter tweets.  The program is developed “…by researchers at the University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre and builds upon a 30-year legacy of leadership in advanced psychological measurement and computational behavioural science”. The main purpose is to help businesses and consumers personalise their experiences; this should result in a better experience than by the traditional click-view that are commonly tracked on websites (Cookies, yum!).


Some of my current results are posted below. I find the ‘Psychological Gender’ differences between Facebook data and Twitter data particularly interestingI believe the difference in my predicted gender highlights social stereotypes (this makes sense if you understand that their dataset comes from a large survey of people that live in our society and the majority obviously ‘live’ and perpetuate these stereotypes). On Facebook I post mainly about my family but I use Twitter as my professional learning network (PLN) so I tweet a lot about gaming, robots, IT, coding (all viewed as belonging to the male domain!).  Is it ethically OK to use these predictions to then directly market things that align to my digital footprint?  How much better might my online experience be if it was built with this data?  Might this further perpetuate social stereotypes? How can we ensure it doesn’t and still use this data in a beneficial way? Fascinating stuff!


Based on FB Likes, the program finds it difficult to determine my psychological gender. I liked Minecraft (more masculine) and The Cure (more feminine).


Based on FB Posts, my age prediction and psychological gender is closer to my real age and gender. Likely because on FB I post mainly about my kids; I wonder if men who post mainly about their kids on FB get a high female ‘Psychological Gender’…oooh, I hope not but I can’t help but wonder…


Based on my tweets I am predicted to be much younger and also male! Must be because of all those tweets about gaming and robots.


LinkedIn has an interesting Social Selling Index (SSI) which I discovered today via a LinkedIn connection. Below is some data retrieved from my SSI today. I’d love to know more about how the Industry SSI Rank works.  I’m in the top 2% of the Sales professionals in the Education Management industry and yet I am actually interested in making connections on LinkedIn with people from Education, the IT industry and social enterprises.

Without understanding fully how this works yet, it appears that I am doing a pretty good job at connecting on LinkedIn. I do have questions about the Industry SSI Rank and I wonder if the industry that I’ve been put into could be tweaked/changed.


Data like this leaves me with so many questions. Many of the people I connect with are teachers. From my experience with presenting about the benefits of a PLN and Twitter to teachers, I have noted that many are not comfortable (privacy &/or limited digital confidence issues) to network, collaborate and share online. It would be interesting to find out if this is why the numbers are low or is it more about the common view/myth that LinkedIn is only for job seekers.


There is likely an algorithm that does similar on Instagram profiles, I haven’t stumbled on this yet so if it exists let me know.  I did find this interesting paper though:  Imagine what it might mean if we are determining personality traits from reviewing the posted Instagram images and their filter settings. How might this impact employment hiring?


Next thing I’ll be trying: Data Selfie  Anyone used this yet? What did you think of it?


Tech Girls are Superheroes. It’s not just an app!

I am passionate about teaching digital technologies to my students, children, family and friends.  Sometimes I also mentor colleagues or teachers I connect with online; these teachers tend to seek me out and ask for help with how to implement the Digital Technologies curriculum in their own teaching.  I enjoy helping/mentoring teachers in this because I learn a lot about their different subjects (Art, French, Business, home schooling, etc.) and it’s fun to think of engaging ways to integrate Digital Technologies within their context.

I also enjoy teaching Business. I am particularly fond of learning about current digital marketing practices and the ethical considerations around using big data to market to prescribed (often stereotyped) audiences. Unfortunately, I do not currently have the opportunity to teach Business at school; however, the Tech Girls are Superheroes competition allows me to share my Business knowledge with the teams that I coach.

I love entrepreneurial + digital technology competitions. I am a Tech Girl & proud of it!

(The following sections have been written for an upcoming Somerset Times article)

This competition is NOT just about creating an app! 

It always amazes me how often colleagues and students assume that the teams are only “coding”.  NEWS FLASH: there is so much MORE to this competition than coding!  I love computer programming (a much better term than the media-hyped term “coding”) but it is a small part of what my teams actually do in this competition. Each team is coached as if they are a startup business.  Below is a list of some of the things each team does and much of this is also documented in their comprehensive Business Plan.

  • identify & understand their target audience through surveys and interviews
  • analyse target market surveys, interviews and research, and then consider the startup’s product viability in the current/future market. Conduct basic statistical analysis, identify data trends and develop effective graphs/charts to represent the data.
  • consider whether the startup should be defined as For Profit or Social Enterprise. I teach students about social enterprises and how they are an increasing business model.
  • identify, contact, negotiate and formalise potential partnerships with existing organisations
  • conduct comparative market analysis. It is important to ensure that their app idea has a useful or interesting difference to similar apps on the market. Analysing the market may also help the teams think of more innovative ways to improve their app.
  • wireframe the app. This is where the team designs the skeleton or blueprint of how their app will look like. This allows developers to organise elements on app screens, consider app element placement and the ease of functionality. The wireframe process is iterative; teams initially sketch out wireframes on a whiteboard, they don’t like how the screen looks or they realise that a certain design is difficult to setup in the development stage, then they tweak/edit the wireframe.
  • learn to program. Most students use MIT App Inventor but the Blue Screen team learned to use xCode (Apple Mac). It’s pretty magical when 14-16 year old students decide on their own to learn a text-based programming language for the competition.
  • prototype the app. Repeatedly test the functionality of the app, tweak the code, test the functionality of the app again, test for the effectiveness of the User Interface (UI) and the User Experience (UX), tweak/add code, change app screen layout etc., and repeat!
  • prepare a pitch video. Take video of skits, presentations and ensure each team member is included. Mash-up the video, images, text and music, to create a professional pitch video that will highlight the purpose and function of the app.

Tech Girls are Superheroes 2018 Ambassadors and Tech Girls are Superheroes 2017 UN Education Award

This year I coached four teams in the Tech Girls are Superheroes 2017 competition.  I am proud of all the girls in each team; this is not an easy competition and yet each team submitted an entry.  The Blue Screen team were one of three QLD Finalists; woohoo!  The team members were so excited to attend the QLD/National Showcase event recently at The Cube, QUT.  The Blue Screen team didn’t win but they are already thinking about how they can do better in this competition next year.  The team have now been named as Tech Girls are Superheroes 2018 Ambassadors, which is wonderful because I already see how younger girls at school view Tech Girls are Superheroes students as role models. My hope is that younger girls will see the positive impact an entrepreneurial competition and digital technologies can have on women.

Our team C Sharp, with their Go Fish app idea, have recently received the Tech Girls are Superheroes 2017 UN Education Award. The Go Fish app is a fun, interactive game-based idea; I want to play it!  Team C Sharp focused their startup app on the UN Sustainable Development: Environment theme.  Their app’s purpose was to build awareness about the deterioration of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and this was done through an augmented reality game where the player catches fish while also learning about the GBR. Their app development did not progress well and they did not attempt the augmented reality functionality, but the idea was brilliant!

Coaching Tech Girl Superheroes 2017

(This post is based on an article written for the Somerset Times: 4 August, 2017)

This year I have been coaching 4 teams of girls (18 females in Years 7 to 11) in the Tech Girls are Superheroes 2017 competition. I submitted their work yesterday.  The hard part is over!  Now we can look forward to attending the Brisbane Showcase later this term. I attended the 2016 Showcase with my 8 year old daughter and I remember the overwhelmingly positive feeling of ‘Girl Power’ at this event. It was wonderful to see a variety of school entries from around Queensland.  There were so many young innovative women in the audience and it was awesome to witness the excitement in the room when the winners were announced. The best part of this event was the acknowledgement that females CAN be entrepreneurial, they CAN DO tech!  This is such an important message for our girls and young women to hear.  Too often girls learn how they ‘should’ act from socially prescribed stereotypes and norms that simply are not true and not OK anymore.


Me at the Brisbane Tech Girl Superheroes Showcase 2016

There are many reasons why we need to increase female participation in digital technologies and startups.  Governments, businesses, educational institutions and the media around the world are pushing to increase female participation in computer science. Some reasons for this is to improve gender equality, to increase diversity in the IT industry, to alleviate increasing IT skill shortages  and to ensure that ALL citizens are prepared for an increasingly digital workplace. It makes sense that a diverse workforce will be better able to cater to the needs/wants of a diverse society!  What might be the social potential if there were more women computer science graduates working in data science, software/app development, artificial intelligence, IT security and game design?

The advantages for females to participate in the Tech Girl Superhero competition

  • Females learn that they CAN DO technology and they CAN think of & create solutions that can help their community.
  • Teams meet every week and they ‘hang out’ in a positive group setting. They know that everyone is ‘new’ to this experience and it’s OK if they don’t know it all yet.
  • Students learn to collaborate online using OneDrive, Slack, etc.
  • Students learn how to research whether a solution might be feasible and they learn about the importance of competitive analysis.
  • They learn about startups; they identify a need in their community, brainstorm app solutions, research competition, identify a target audience, consider costs and potential impact and revenue.
  • They learn basic computer programming skills and apply them to develop an app solution. Some students may surprise you and start to learn to code in a different computer language all on their own! Team Blue Screen did this; one team member was very keen to create an iOS app using Swift code.
  • Role-model coaches and mentors from industry tell these girls that they are awesome and eventually they believe it!  This year the teams had lovely mentors; Ayla Soutar from TechnologyOne and Amy Byrne from Vodafone.
  • Teams have fun!
  • They make mistakes; they learn that it hurts when a team member lets them down but they also learn to forgive and to work harder as a team.
  • Each team creates a Pitch Video and they learn best ways to pitch their product. They use previous team pitch videos as a guide.

Blue Screen

Team Blue Screen’s App Demo Video:

Team C Sharp

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The Techtastic 4