The Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre is a place unlike any other in the world.  It is a place whose sole purpose is to fully realise the talents of young people by using technology to augment excellent pedagogy.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work in a collaborative, imaginative workplace that reaches for the stars and beyond.  I have worked with hundreds of teachers, students and experts and together we have seen ourselves transformed.  Together we have made ourselves competent, civically aware and capable of leading change.  The technologies we have explored have empowered us to move forward through challenging times.

For the past three years I have worked on projects within the centre including:

  • Speak My Language
  • Professional Learning VC program
  • Festival of Laptop Learning
  • Learning Design
  • Operation Innovate
  • Students as Creative Producers
  • Visual Numeracy
  • Participative Narratives

Over the years I have also helped implement a number of key systems and processes into the

Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre exemplifies best practice in leading schools in the development of 21st century skills. It does this through empowering teachers and students to becoming actively engaged in the enquiry into how to change curricula and pedagogy to support quality learning and innovation in schools. The centre’s work provides an environment where we can make large leaps forward in understanding how to make school life more efficient, attain better results, engage students and prepare them for work in a contemporary workforce. The 2010 ACER report ‘Building Innovation: Learning with technologies’ describes this as an economic and political imperative for innovation.

Innovation and the curriculum

The project that has had the biggest impact on me has been our Learning Design project which provided an environment for teachers, students and academics to work together to solve real problems associated with them.  Year 11 students on the Learning Design project each designed a learning experience for each other on the future of the Angkor Wat complex.  They each took the perspective of different stakeholder in the preservation of the complex.  They considered the outcomes that their peers should achieve by the end of their learning experience, they designed activities selecting the right tools incorporating video, forums and google maps into their sequences and they asked the learners to reflect on the quality of their sequence and whether their opinion on what should happen to the complex had changed through the completion of the sequence.  Whilst at the same time students who work with us via a distance model using social networking tools engaged in designing learning to help meet the requirements of Naplan areas of weakness including persuasive writing and fractions.

Key outcomes:

  • A clearer understanding of the concepts of ‘outcomes and assessment’.
  • A clearer understanding of content knowledge of the subject.
  • Development of social capacity skills.
  • A clearer understanding of the underlying skills required to participate in standardised testing such as Naplan.
  • An understanding of the requirements for assessing interactive tools.

Students achieved many other outcomes through participation in the project including technology skills, metacognition and project management.  To me this is clearly the model that we should be teaching to for the future.  Models that investigate and understand how networked and empowered learners work together.  Further research and enquiry into these finding is required as we learn how generic skills, technology and pedagogy are linked in new ways.

For me the amazing part has seen who these projects light up students so that they become leaders, communicators and managers.  Unless you have seen it it is hard to image what these students are capable of when you give them the opportunity to show you.

This is just an example of the sorts of outcomes and understandings I have developed through working on projects at MacICT

Professional Dialogue

Talking with teachers about their dreams for making change in their schools has also been an amazing experience.  As a result of participation in the Learning Design project many of the schools have embarked on school funded, teacher led change including redesigning courses for students to teach each other, become more active in their learning and have the opportunity to lead school change.  Working with teachers such as Ruth Winfield from Camden Haven, Kate Farrow from Northern Beaches Secondary College Manly Campus and Alice Leung from Merrylands High School has demonstrated to me that long term engagement with schools accompanied with high expectations can lead to leaps forward in making change.  Each of these schools had used technology in different ways to augment existing projects:

  • Game Portal/Kate Farrow – Year 10 IST students built an online game for Year 7 students to play to help them understand problematic knowledge in making ethical decisions.
  • Immersion Excursion/Ruth Winfield – Year 8 students become fully immersed in understanding food sustainability during an excursion to Sydney and then design a proposal to make change in their school.
  • ARIS Games/Alice Leung – Year 9 student build a mobile learning game for Year 6 orientation.

It is possible for every school to have these projects happen on a regular basis.  It is the conversations that happen through the work I have been involved in at MacICT that make it possible.

A sustainable model of innovation in DEC

Teachers on projects are invited to see other teachers working through pre-project visits to the centre.  They also have the opportunity to video conference and receive face-to-face coaching and mentoring on all facets of the implementing the change in their schools.  This can include anything from technology training, strategic discussions and lesson planning.

Teachers on this project are part of a true community of practice, reading the same articles and helping each other understand how to push innovation in their schools.  They in turn feed a system that needs the information of teachers and students in order to truly change pedagogy and practice in efficient, sustainable and contemporary ways.

Final comment

This has all been accomplished with minimal funding, an amazing amount of trust and passion on the part of the participating teachers and staff at Macquarie University.  My experience is only a small part of what has been achieved at the centre and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to do some of this work within such a passionate community. The thing that I hope for in this transition is that we do not waste the important work already completed and that we continue to drive from this position of strength and not water down the transformational nature of the organization or alienate the truly passionate community of enquirers that are the champions of innovation who will lead us to understanding and embrace 21st century ways of working.

I am extremely grateful to Debbie Evans, Cathie Howe, Katy Lumkin, Pam Kelly, Sue Fennell, Anthony Fennell, Simon Hutchinson, Andrew Kram, Kathy Stewart and Cate Fredrickson for helping me develop as an educator.  I would encourage anyone who has ideas to look them up online or in person and find out more about what they do.

2012 brings with it a new position with Electroboard and I’m looking forward to using my knowledge to promote student learning in this new environment.

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