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!
(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.
Team Blue Screen’s App Demo Video:
You want a fun, hands-on and engaging lesson idea that includes learning about circuits? Try paper circuits! It’s relatively cheap (paper or cardboard, sticky-tape, conductive tape, LEDs and batteries) and it’s been a hit with all age levels in the classroom, at parties and at home. This is one of my old posts that I often refer to friends and educators (Primary & Secondary). I have helped friends design units of work that linked to the study of Urbanisation using this building with circuits idea. Here is a copy of my old post:
It’s school holidays and my 8 year old wanted to build a Gingerbread-style house. She carried all of her arts & crafts supplies to the kitchen and asked me to help her make it. We made the house out of cardboard. I helped her measure & cut-out the walls and then she added colour.
Structure of house was stabilised with support beams across the walls & roof
Since it was quite large the walls fell-in a bit and the roof line was not stable. We sat there talking about how we might stabilise the house and then with the help of Dad we added beams across the walls and the roof line. We also decided to not stick the roof on because we wanted easy access to the inside of the house. When you look through the door you can see my daughter’s drawing of Santa.
Santa is in the house; Xmas tree in the back right & girl sleeping on left
My daughter was very happy with her house but I encouraged her to add lights! 🙂 First we had to learn about simple circuits, parallel circuits and how to connect LEDs.
8 year old daughter created her first simple circuit using conductive tape, battery & LED
Once she understood how the circuits worked we added 2 parallel circuits to her house. The parallel circuit on the left-side seemed really weak after a few lights were added. But the parallel circuit we added on the right-side went up along the house and across the front of the house (on the inside). This allowed us to add some lights on the front of the house. My daughter loved testing the LEDs first and she found that the white & blue ones were the weakest, so we avoided using them.
Parallel circuit running over the wall & on the inside
Ta da! Looks great in the evening
Ah but that’s not all! My daughter also loves using LittleBits and so we decided to add a touch sensor on the side of the house. When you touch the touch sensor Santa vibrates and lights turn on around him. She LOVES her house! But after we were done she said it would be better if we made Santa’s legs vibrate out of the chimney on the roof; sounds like a job for her & Daddy!
(this post is based on an article I wrote to be published in an upcoming digital Somerset Times edition – some variations have been made here, including some personal reflections on this event)
Congratulations to the Somerset College students involved in the recent Startup Weekend Gold Coast event, hosted by Bond University. The Overall Favourite and the Crowd Favourite winning team was Waterways, a team of seven members which included four Year 10 and Year 12 Somerset students. The High School Favourite winning team was Yetti Wear, a team of six members which included one Year 11 Somerset student.
I was so thrilled for these young inspiring people. LOVE that four of my students participated! 🙂
This exciting event brought 70+ diverse participants together. Teams were formed on the Friday night and then they spent the whole weekend working on their innovative ideas. Each team had to consider the needs of their potential target audience, conduct comparative business analysis, research and forecast potential earnings, develop marketing strategies, and design digital app solutions. All 9 teams’ innovative startup ideas focused on digital technologies, including app solutions within digital marketplace environments catering for business-to-business and business-to-customer models.
Startup weekends, Hack events, and Entrepreneurial Pitch competitions are now a common feature in our society and it is no surprise that our young people are excelling at these events. Working on a startup idea and pushing through to a viable product solution is an invaluable experience for people interested in starting a business. It is especially important for our youth to experience this to help prepare them for their future lives in a digital, competitive and global economy.
It was lovely to see my students pitching their ideas and the enthusiastic responses from the judges was great. I especially enjoyed watching some of the parents proudly sitting in the audience. As a parent myself, I can imagine their feelings of pride, excitement and hope for their child’s future. It was really great to see the people that are involved in these types of events, including parents, academics, startup and tech enthusiasts, and supportive businesses and organisations. It is a type of event where you can visibly see the positive impact these events have on people and society resulting from grass-roots movements, teacher and parent support, and business and institutional sponsorship.
My school purchased 27 Lego Mindstorms EV3 kits and 8 Extension kits this year. I thought it was important that the school offered robotics in IT subjects and for use in a Robotics club. Lots of schools already do this! Plus, the use of robotics and automation are increasingly more common in both our work and home lives.
You want to see some simple EV3 examples + related code? Check out my previous post here: https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/ev3-robotics/
Here are some videos and photos to digitally document the results of this Year 10 unit: Design & Develop a robot prototype that is based on a real-world robot solution
Cyborg Arm – robotic prosthetic limbs is an interesting field of study/work
Year 10 IT students learned about the importance of continuous testing, tinkering & redesigning of their robotic prototypes. I like how this team is not rushing to build the whole cyborg arm yet, instead they are taking time to test their build & their programming to ensure they are on the right track. I think these two students are doing a fantastic, methodical job here!
Bridge Layer – robotic vehicle that detects depth, lays a bridge, drives over bridge, picks up the bridge
Military Mobile Bridge: a real-world example
The teams initial build
The team’s final build; they worked hard to make it perfect so that the robot was more consistent in completing its function.
Search & Rescue Vehicle – large vehicle using 2 EV3 bricks, 4 large motors & sensors
Search & Rescue vehicle
Remote control forklift/lifter – example of using one EV3 brick to control another EV3 brick
Security robot – moves around, detects enemies & shoot
This is one of my favourite robot fails video! 🙂
Some other robot prototypes – not complete due to teamwork issues & changing/choosing prototype builds
Military search & destroy
Grab & move
Robotic clock – won’t stop ringing until it senses a cold glass of water!
Sugar cube maker!
Sorting machine with conveyor belt
Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies
An EV3 robotics unit also easily links to a range of Year 9-10 Digital Technologies and Production skills associated with the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies. This particular unit links specifically to the following (not including the purple-highlights):
- Define and decompose real-world problems precisely, taking into account functional and non-functional requirements and including interviewing stakeholders to identify needs (ACTDIP038)
- Design the user experience of a digital system by evaluating alternative designs against criteria including functionality, accessibility, usability, and aesthetics (ACTDIP039)
- Design algorithms represented diagrammatically and in structured English and validate algorithms and programs through tracing and test cases (ACTDIP040)
- Implement modular programs, applying selected algorithms and data structures including using an object-oriented programming language (ACTDIP041)
- Evaluate critically how student solutions and existing information systems and policies, take account of future risks and sustainability and provide opportunities for innovation and enterprise (ACTDIP042)
- Plan and manage projects using an iterative and collaborative approach, identifying risks and considering safety and sustainability (ACTDIP044)
***Note: this year for Year 9 and 10 we used Lego Mindstorms drag-drop programming. Next year, the EV3 robots will hopefully be implemented in earlier years, maybe Year 8 and 9. The Year 9 subject should include an appropriate OOP language instead of the drag-drop approach.
Some important notes if you’re thinking about introducing robotics at your school
Start by having students build their robot ideas with play-doh. A very fun class!
No excuses! If my 9 year old can build with Lego so can you.
You will need big shelves to hold the kit and the robot builds.
Lego everywhere = joy!
Decide what Lego parts you WANT to keep track of….TIP: don’t try to keep track of all of it! This photo is all over the walls and pasted on each kit.
The EV3 bricks will need to be charged. Finding a good place to do this is not always easy, especially if not pre-planned for. Ideally, there would be charging terminals inside their storage cupboards!
Let your students have fun!
Why do we game?
Fiero! Gaming is fun, keeps us busy, allows us to feel accomplishment, brings people together, helps us learn how to problem solve, & much more.
A blog post I wrote last year about some of the benefits of gaming: https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/2016/10/25/good-gaming/
Jane McGonigal is one of my heroes! Check out her popular SuperBetter app and website: https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/superbetter/ This is a great video where Jane describes some of the benefits of gaming.
10 Ways to be a Feminist Media Activist
Game Development & Education?
Check out my Game Arcade idea; a School event that helps drive the implementation of digital technologies throughout the whole-school using Game Development as a focus.