Purpose of education and teacher burnout

There are clear links between the structure of society and how students experience school. The inequities in society are reproduced in schools via a phenomenon that privileges the dominant culture of society; it makes sense that teachers’ social class, beliefs and values will impact a school’s culture and shape students’ experience and expectations of the school, and society. Schools mimic society’s structural class dynamics through the reproduction of social expectations, norms and understanding via teachers’ habitus within the traditional hierarchical structures of a school (Mills, 2008). However, schools have the potential to also define and transform society through an equity-focused social mutual responsibility (Connell, 2012). An education system that encourages teachers to promote social justice through democratic equity practices, allows the possibility of transformation in education, and society. However, the political climate heavily influences society’s purpose for schools, and increasing neoliberalism has infiltrated schools and undermined the democratic ideals of education. The purpose of schooling has changed from a democratic equality social-good focus to an economic individualistic focus (Cranston, Kimber, Mulford, Reid, & Keating, 2010). Aligned to neoliberal marketisation, the introduction of national standardised testing with increased teacher accountability has been justified, and has led to an increase in school privatisation and competition between schools and students (Angus, 2015; Cranston, Kimber, Mulford, Reid, & Keating, 2010).

The erosion of the democratic vision of schooling has caused conflict for teachers because of the tensions between their awareness of the growing inequities in schools and their need to comply to an increasingly data-driven accountable performativity that has become a prioritised requirement of their work (Cranston, Kimber, Mulford, Reid, & Keating, 2010). Teachers are trained to be aware of their habitus, the cultural capital that influences a person’s disposition and habits (Mills, 2008), which commonly sits within the dominant culture and is applied in the social and cultural reproduction of society in schools, thereby maintaining society’s class structures and the related inequities. A teacher’s awareness of the impact of their habitus, influences a teacher’s drive to transform the inequities they see in schools. But this also causes the teacher demoralised frustration against the decreasing autonomy, and the undermining of their profession, that they experience within the neoliberal market-driven system (Mills, 2008), which often causes teacher burnout. These tensions are magnified, and highlighted in articles that warn of teacher burnout, during the sudden need to conduct remote learning due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The unplanned move to remote learning due to the COVID-19 crisis caused many teachers anxiety because they were ill-prepared digitally, but most importantly their underlying care for students were restricted and this exposed the massive inequities in schooling. Arguably, teachers not only see inequities in schools, and thereby society, but they are also acutely aware of their role in either maintaining these inequities or their potential for transforming the status quo through democratic, critical teaching practices (Mills, 2008). Teachers care about their students and tend to feel responsible in ensuring inequities are minimised in the classroom to allow equitable learning for all students. This situates teachers in roles as agents of transformation, not reproducers of social inequities (Mills, 2008), and this works against the current neoliberal educational climate; therefore, this conflicting tension becomes frustrating for teachers and attributes to burnout. The added pressures of sudden remote learning causes further teacher exhaustion because the inequities are magnified and teachers’ concern for students rapidly increases due to their inability to check that their students are safe, and supported with nutritious food and relevant differentiated learning. Teachers were over-worked in their attempts to learn new digital platforms, develop differentiated resources for remote learning, and some teachers personally visited their students’ homes to ensure they were safe and well. Ironically, while teachers are concerned about the well-being of their individual students during this crisis, the education system, the Australian Government, many parents and the media, all mainly focused on and demanded quality of teaching and learning during this time, with continuous voicing of concerns about students falling behind academically. This situation only exacerbates the ongoing dilemma that teachers experience already between the opposing views of the purpose of schools; the democratic equity ideals versus the economic-driven individualistic pursuits related to neoliberalism. These teachers burnout, become demoralised, and eventually either leave the profession or sacrifice social justice and their own integrity in their teaching practice.

Image taken from my 2017 presentation at the Re-imagining Education for Democracy Summit: https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/re4d/

TPACK strategy #2: Learning Activity Types

BENEFITS OF ENCOURAGING CURRICULUM DESIGN AS BRICOLAGE USING THE TPACK FRAMEWORK – part 4: Learning Activity Types: develop department lists of best practice

It is important to reiterate the issues related to technocentric professional development for teachers seeking to integrate technology. When applying technology in a teacher’s teaching and learning practice, it does not effectively fit-in without implications related to the subject content and pedagogical approaches (Harris et al., 2009), this is why the TPACK framework is so powerful at a conceptual level for teacher’s understanding of how all of their complex knowledge interrelates. It is therefore recommended that teachers, within a department or specific subject, work together to create lists of activity types that occur regularly, are similar and are common across all their classroom practice (Harris et al., 2009). These lists might also align, or highlight, the related cognitive verb/s linked to each activity to ensure the school’s curriculum goals are also met. Teachers then collaboratively develop examples of technology integration tasks or experiences that relate to each of the listed activity types. Ideally, this team task would include sustained inquiry utilising academic research results, web searches, networking and sharing best practice with other schools, and brainstorming ideas that have worked already. The team then expertly makes decisions about what examples of technology integration work specifically well within their context and align it to the activity type list. This list then becomes a helpful resource for planning units and lesson plans to ensure that relevant technology integration is included.

Considering that the many attempts to implement technology integration in schools over multiple decades have not seen the sweeping digital educational transformational changes expected (Albion et al., 2015; Selwyn, Nemorin, Bulfin, & Johnson, 2017), it is imperative that education systems reconsider and redesign their implementation efforts. Technology integration requires investments in robust, long-term teacher training and changes to curriculum (Albion et al., 2015; Uluyol & Şahin, 2016). The TPACK framework is a researched tool that successfully highlights the complexity of the nature of teaching and the nuanced ways that teachers make decisions about technology integration in their context. Combined with implementing a learning teaching by design approach as professional development and developing department lists of best practice, TPACK is recommended as a suitable framework to use in Qld Secondary schools.

Albion, P. R., Tondeur, J., Forkosh-Baruch, A., & Peeraer, J. (2015). Teachers’ professional development for ICT integration: Towards a reciprocal relationship between research and practice. Education and Information Technologies, 20(4), 655-673. doi:10.1007/s10639-015-9401-9

Harris, J., Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2009). Teachers’ Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge and Learning Activity Types: Curriculum-based Technology Integration Reframed. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(4), 393-416.

TPACK & Wicked Problems part 1: https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/2020/07/08/tpack-wicked-problems/

TPACK vs SAMR: Wicked Problems part 2:  https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/samr-vs-tpack-wicked-problems-part-2/ 

TPACK strategy #1: learning technology by design part 3: https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/2020/07/10/tpack-strategy-1-learning-technology-by-design/


TPACK strategy #1: learning technology by design

BENEFITS OF ENCOURAGING CURRICULUM DESIGN AS BRICOLAGE USING THE TPACK FRAMEWORK – part 3: Learning Technology by Design: develop teams of curriculum designers

The learning technology by design approach is based on design-thinking that closely relate to the project-based learning (PBL) approach, which assists in participants’ feelings of ownership and learning control, while developing efficient, authentic and relevant product solutions (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Learning technology by design focuses on a constructivist learning by doing approach (Mishra & Koehler, 2006), which allows for iterative design and reflection to create the best technology integration product solution (e.g. developing an interactive learning game or classroom websites that allow for student participation and reflections on their learning). Curriculum designer teams collaborate and flexibly utilise their knowledge to socially construct a dynamic product, while further enhancing their TPACK understanding and authentically integrating technology in their practice. This obviously requires commitment by teachers, encouragement by administration, a school culture that allows learning through mistakes and extra time to tinker purposefully within a design cycle.

The benefits for students would include participating in engaging well-designed technological activities that support the subject content and enhance their learning. Teachers would benefit from their collegial network of curriculum designers and more students will want to BYOD (some Secondary Qld schools have BYOD policies but students don’t bring their device to school) so they can participate, which would in-turn increase teachers’ motivation to integrate more technology. Teachers’ technological confidence, motivation and TPACK expertise would increase in this type of professional learning environment. Admittedly, the learning technology by design approach is a potentially difficult approach for school administrators to enact due to the time and financial limitations that typical Queensland schools experience; therefore, a short-term goal recommendation is to start with the development of only one team of curriculum designers and then evaluate their PBL process and products, TPACK utilisation, and ultimately track students’ experiences and learning outcomes related to this work.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

TPACK & Wicked Problems part 1: https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/2020/07/08/tpack-wicked-problems/

TPACK vs SAMR: Wicked Problems part 2:  https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/samr-vs-tpack-wicked-problems-part-2/ 

SAMR vs TPACK – Wicked Problems part 2


The SAMR model: a dubious, yet popular, alternative to TPACK
The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) model is a popular four-level tool used to help teachers select, use and evaluate technology (Hamilton, Rosenberg, & Akcaoglu, 2016). An issue with this model is that it lacks a robust body of research and so there is little evidence of the SAMR model’s effectiveness (Hamilton et al., 2016). Compared to TPACK, the SAMR model is simpler to understand, disregards context and only focuses on the technology used (Hilton, 2015). This model is viewed as hierarchical and often aligned with Bloom’s taxonomy in an aim for teachers to strive for technology integration at a Redefinition level, which includes the creation of unique tasks that is only made possible due to the technology’s affordances. The time efficiency and cost value benefits of a simple approach to technology integration are what drives education systems to offer technocentric professional development to teachers. To satisfy “ambitious government agendas” (Thomson, Nixon, & Comber, 2007) it makes sense that schools would seek a simple solution for technology integration resulting in many unprepared teachers hastily creating simple add-on technology tasks in their classrooms and limiting any real digital transformational potential.


The SAMR model aligns with much of the professional development opportunities that have been available to teachers and focuses purely on technology skill attainment. Technocentric professional development is cost effective for schools but requires a “leap of faith” (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) because this approach assumes that teachers will simply implement their new TK skills in their classrooms. However, teachers will likely feel restricted in applying their new isolated TK skills without consideration of all other interrelated knowledge, context and administrative concerns that impact their curriculum design decision-making. Issues related to rapidly changing technology, using software not designed specifically for education, and technocentric professional development that does not direct teachers in how to integrate the technology (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) are reasons to caution the use of the SAMR model over the more complex but conceptually realistic TPACK model.

Teacher characteristics that limit technology integration
Another potential weakness of the TPACK framework is that its complexity overlooks specific teacher characteristics which may work against a teacher’s willingness to integrate technology. It has been argued that teachers’ technology beliefs, self-efficacy, and school culture are disregarded in the TPACK framework (Brantley-Dias & Ertmer, 2013). It is possible to place these variables within the TPACK context conceptually but in the reality of isolated teacher practice it still reduces the likelihood of the teacher to implement effective technology integration. Many teachers require help to collaborate with other teachers (Gil-Flores, Rodríguez-Santero, & Torres-Gordillo, 2017), opportunities to experience successful TPACK curriculum design (Albion, Tondeur, Forkosh-Baruch, & Peeraer, 2015; Mishra & Koehler, 2006), and teachers also need encouraging support to increase their motivation to improve their technology integration (Uluyol & Şahin, 2016). The short-term investment to ensure teachers are supported while they develop their TPACK is arguably the best way to improve teachers’ technology beliefs, self-efficacy and would result in effective, sustainable technology integration.


PART 1 blog post

TPACK & Wicked Problems


The Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework offers teachers a language to understand and develop how they make flexible decisions about technology integration within the complex nature of education (Koehler, Mishra, & Cain, 2013). TPACK requires that teachers develop an understanding of the seven knowledge domains that are formed by the interrelated relationships of content knowledge (CK), pedagogical knowledge (PK), and technological knowledge (TK) (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). The TPACK framework values teacher knowledge and promotes technological integration by considering all factors within a teacher’s context. Technocentric approaches for teacher technology integration, which are commonly used in teacher professional development, are not appropriate or effective because gaining TK in isolation disregards the complexities of teacher negotiated decision-making related to their authentic contexts (Harris, Mishra, & Koehler, 2009).




Classroom technology integration is a “wicked problem” (Rittel & Webber, 1973) due to the continuous iterative “problem-seeking and problem-solving” (Mishra & Koehler, 2007) cycle that results from the interrelated knowledge domains and the diversity of stakeholders within different contexts. Simple solutions for technology integration are unlikely to work for teachers in different contexts (Mishra & Koehler, 2007) and may need to be redesigned as technology, pedagogy, content or the context changes. Teachers can best determine technology integration solutions through a bricolage approach whereby they iteratively tinker creatively with their ideas, beliefs, knowledges and tools, effectively becoming personalised curriculum designers (Mishra & Koehler, 2007). The advantage of teachers working as curriculum designers guided by TPACK is the resulting effective solutions they create that help to enhance student learning in their classroom. However, this personalised custom-designed solution requires extra time and may not be easily transferable for other teachers in different contexts, and so its scalability and sustainability for implementation across schools is limited. The individualised focus of the TPACK framework has been argued to further complicate teaching (Hilton, 2015), while also offering unclear prescriptions of how to effectively implement and measure technology integration (Brantley-Dias & Ertmer, 2013). This may be of particular concern for school technology leaders that are responsible for increasing teacher technology integration with limited time, resources and training. The complexity of the TPACK model tends to make sense conceptually to teachers but applying the framework in practice is arguably more difficult (Brantley-Dias & Ertmer, 2013).


TPACK vs SAMR: Wicked Problems part 2:  https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/samr-vs-tpack-wicked-problems-part-2/ 

App Development FREE RESOURCE for educators

Student-centred + PBL + Tinkering

I am passionate about promoting the combined use of a student-centred, project-based learning (PBL) and tinkering approach to education. These are not specific to any subject or content; I have used these approaches while teaching Secondary students in Digital Technologies, Business, and History/Geography subjects (out-of-field teaching).

Creating an app is not just for a Digital Technologies subject. Apps can be created in any subject for an engaging way to teach digital skills and to allow students to creatively express their subject learning through app development. TIME is the issue (I know!). The best/easiest way to start integrating app development in your classroom is to give students an app that they can modify to suit their own purpose. The app you will use today, co-created by myself & my daughter (11), is an example of an app that your students could use as a ‘skeleton’ app where, with a bit of tinkering, they could change the content to suit their own needs.

What you need

  1. You MUST have GMAIL (Google account) – this is simply so you can login to the development website and also login to the Thunkable app on your device to test your app projects
  2. Develop your app project here: https://x.thunkable.com/login 
  3. Download the Thunkable app on your smartphone device (iPhone, iPad, Android phones, etc.)

Resources – for everyone! If you find these helpful, please let me know & pay it forward

HOW-TO DOCUMENT v2 (updated) includes an introduction on the benefits of PBL and tinkering, Thunkable basics, and creating a re-usable Quiz screen using a database table (Part A: Design & Part B: Programming).

How-To document NOTES:

  • the How-To document (link above) was designed so that anyone can work through this program development on their own. If you cannot complete this during the iEducate workshop, then you should be able to finish the development at home. Need help? Leave me a message below or email me or ask your Digital Tech teacher.
  • PART A (pages 5-7) are super helpful for basic screen design techniques, I highly recommend you take the time to learn the basics and/or get your students to do this first; from my experience, it is time-consuming to fix design issues so it’s best to learn these basics (rows/columns) right from the start.
  • PART A and B can be completed independent from each other and include the use of the following ‘skeleton’ app projects (links are also embedded in the How-To document)

PART A skeleton project app link

PART B skeleton project app link

FINAL SplendidSnakes app link

SplendidSnakes walk-through – an explanation of the app, variables, etc.

Student App Creation – Thunkable

APP CREATION: Thunkable is exciting and creative

  • Thunkable is cross-platform and allows easy & quick live-testing on phones & iPads
  • Students create their apps using drag-drop programming on the Thunkable website (can be done on iPad but not efficient)
  • Students test their apps using the Thunkable app downloaded on their phones or iPads
  • A Google (gmail) account is required to log-in to the Thunkable website and start creating apps – it is important to understand that this is what allows the Thunkable app on your phone to effortlessly receive & run the app you created on the website. The Google account is simply for accessing your Thunkable created apps on both the computer and your phone.
  • Students create their own apps from scratch or they can remix already existing apps. This is a powerful ability! You can find a public Thunkable app created by someone else and remix it with your own information and images; therefore, it is possible to create your own app without having to code at all.
  • It is easy for students to share their Thunkable app projects to their friends and you. Once you have a copy of the project, you simply click on “Live Test” and then open the Thunkable app on your phone to view your students app.
  • There are 7 tutorials, complete with video demonstrations, embedded in the Thunkable development environment (left-side of screen below)

Student website creation using Edublogs/WordPress

We can likely agree that many of our students enjoy social media, watching Youtube videos, using smartphones and ‘surfing’ the Internet. Why not leverage their interest in digital media to enhance their authentic learning experience within your subject?  Students can make their own websites and apps for school; it’s fun, free and easier than ever to accomplish.  You don’t need to be an expert computer programmer to create websites and apps!


Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The best way to get this started in your own classroom? 

Simply add website or app creation as an alternative option to traditional Word or PowerPoint assessment tasks. You may be surprised by the students that might want to try these options.  It is also interesting to see which students may resist this option; the top 2 reasons I have encountered are:

  1. they don’t like taking risks (some high performing students may resist a new option if they can’t see easy guaranteed success)
  2. teenage girls are commonly socialised to assume that ‘tech is for boys’ – this is changing slowly!

WEBSITE CREATION: Using Edublogs (or WordPress) requires no programming skills

  • This website is an example of a WordPress blog website – I blog occasionally and create sub-pages of presentations when I want to reflect on my teaching experiences, document examples of my work and to share my resources. I have been using this website for 7 years.
  • My old teaching website is an example of an Edublogs website used as a teaching tool with an underlying social connectedness teaching strategy
  • Check out this page for resources, research and student website examples based on this strategy: https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/qsite/

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: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/232113623/

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: http://www.cp.jku.at/research/papers/Ferwerda_Empire_2015.pdf  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

EduTweetOz Blog Elke Schneider

I’m the host of @EduTweetOz again. Join me this week; I’ll be focusing on Digital Technologies in education.


elkePlease tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

I work at Somerset College (private school) in the Gold Coast. I mainly teach Years 8 to 12 in Digital Technologies and senior IT subjects. Since starting at Somerset in 2016, I have worked hard to develop an exciting mix of topics and activities for the Year 9 and Year 10 elective ICT subjects. I enjoy developing full units of work and I have included topics such as robotics, game development, geospatial data and web/app solutions in the Year 9/10 ICT subjects. I also have a strong interest in increasing female participation in ICT and I am continually focused on improving my teaching strategies to ensure that I meet the needs of individual students. In the…

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Paper Circuits: a re-post of one of my most popular posts

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.

The structure of the house was stabilised with support beams across the walls & roof

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

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

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

Parallel circuit running over the wall & on the inside

Ta da! Looks great in the evening

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!

Santa IMG_0600 IMG_0593 IMG_0592

Entrepreneurial Tech Innovators

(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.

EV3 Robotic Prototypes

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

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

Gaming & Gender

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.