Your Stories: Cindy Thornton, Flinders Island District High School, Tasmania

Unique challenges come with teaching Digital Technologies at a remote island school in the middle of Bass Strait. With an unpredictable internet connectivity varying ranging from ‘zilch’ to ‘a carrier pigeon could convey data faster than this’, staff at Flinders Island District High School were not overly confident in their ability to deliver the new Digital Technologies curriculum…

…Enter the Adelaide University CSER MOOC. In 2016 our Department of Education’s Professional Learning Institute (PLI) offered the ‘F-6 Digital Technologies supported MOOC’ PL, led by Ben Wilson and Dr Ken Price.

I flew to Launceston with both excitement – I love learning new things – and a little trepidation – would I really be able to learn how to teach digital technologies?  We began the program by meeting our colleagues, testing out our new headphones, enrolling in the course and introducing ourselves to the online community.

Over the next few months, Ben and Ken patiently cajoled and encouraged our group to complete the MOOC (promises of chocolate were also made). My Grade 3/4 class were willing guinea pigs as I explored resources generated by the MOOC and the Google community. Along the way we met Peter Lelong, Professor Katrina Falkner and Dr Nick Falkner, who provided further assistance and encouragement, and listened to our feedback. Teachers met with Ben and Ken via fortnightly early morning Skype sessions (luckily we had already met face to face, so looking at their frozen pixellated faces wasn’t too disturbing) to monitor progress, share ideas and discuss any problems.

We all proudly completely our course, one of the most interesting, practical and empowering PL courses I have attended in twenty years of teaching. Best of all, I was able to convince the rest of our staff that, even from our remote location and hampered by dodgy internet, we would be able to deliver the curriculum in a way that students and staff would both enjoy and value.

But it doesn’t stop there!

With Peter’s encouragement, we have enrolled in either the F-6, F-6 extended or secondary MOOCs and are at varying stages of completion. We have requested USB versions to make this easier. In term 1 we borrowed a kit of Ozobots from the uni and they arrived, (thankfully, along with Peter and Ken) and were used by all classes in different ways.

We are now confident enough to provide short courses on programming using apps and downloadable programs, and Hour of Code sessions are offered through the council’s school holiday program (via hotspotting to mobile phones). Our Grade 1/2 teacher has been exploring algorithms with our newly acquired BeeBots and this term the Foundation class will be tutored by the Grade 3/4 class.

Students around the school are happily pulling old desktop computers apart, making connections between DT and other learning areas, and expertly throwing around words like ‘algorithm’, ‘sequences’ and ‘loops. Teachers are throwing around slightly different words to express their frustration with our internet ‘service’, but with valuable resources in the form of Peter, Ken and Ben; access to robotics from the lending library; and practical lesson plans and ideas derived from the MOOC, we are all keen to continue our digital journey!

Cindy Thornton,

Primary Teacher

Flinders Island TASMANIA

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