2015: A Long and Winding Road

2015 was a memorable year, of highs and lows. It was a year of experimentation, exploring possibilities, and learning how to be a coach and change leader. I learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes, and am starting to feel more positive about my future.

2015-07-03 07.56.04

ISTE – Building connections and relationships to last a lifetime

 2015 was the year:

  • I travelled to the United States of America for the ISTE 2015 conference, where I gave three presentations, and met so many wonderful friends and educators from all over the globe.Among renegades, boundary pushers, innovators … I felt at home. ISTE has to be one of the greatest highlights of my professional career so far.
  • I was recognised as an ISTE Emerging Leader, an award I am forever grateful for. Ironically, being only the fifth or sixth Australian to be recognised by ISTE has a significant disadvantage – in that most Australian teachers and school leaders I meet (who aren’t on social media) have absolutely no idea what ISTE is, and what this award stands for.
  • I graduated from Notre Dame University with my Postgraduate Certificate in Religious Education, bringing to an end 1.5 years of part-time postgraduate study.
  • Later in the year, I completed the requirements for my “Accreditation to Teach Religious Education”, which will enable me to continue teaching in the Catholic Education system.
  • In October, after nearly seven years, I became a fully registered teacher in Western Australia. Those currently going through the registration process in line with the Australian Teacher Standards will know just how much work goes into this!
  • I started to explore new learning opportunities in maker education, robotics, and STEM.
  • I learned a great deal about leading change within a school community. Perhaps the most important lesson being that teachers learn in a variety of different ways.


What’s been happening with #ipsict?

My new role this year was to work as an ICT integrator / coach, to support teachers’ professional learning with ICT and digital technologies. It was at times exhilarating, surprising, tumultuous, and challenging. Looking back, I see a lot to celebrate, and an opportunity to learn from my mistakes.

Introducing Digital Technologies & the Makerspace

We began exploring new avenues for engaging girls in ICT and digital technologies, with a particular emphasis on coding and robotics. The more I throw at my girls, the more they come back and surprise me.

  • This year, we introduced (i.e. took a deep breath and played with) BeeBots and introductory coding apps in Early Childhood; and started to explore the deeper possibilities of Scratch in upper primary. I was blown away by my students’ enthusiasm, problem solving, collaboration, and learning. One of my more memorable moments was sitting down with a Year 5 girl and basically asking “how on Earth did you do that in Scratch?”
  • The librarian and I started building our makerspace in our library, catching the attention of local university education researchers and the Catholic Education Office of WA. We have big plans for next year – watch this space!
  • I established our Digital Captains leadership positions, working with two Year 6 ‘digital leaders’ to test new robots, lesson ideas, and share our makerspace concept with the community at our Open Night – where they performed a robot fashion show! These two amazing students grew so much over the course of the year, and I look forward to following their progress as they enter high school next year. I have big plans for our next group of Digital Captains – next year will be interesting!

Establishing a new LEGO Robotics Program

In the Term 3 school holidays, I met the Engineering Outreach Coordinator at Curtin University, who roped me into judging the WA FIRST LEGO League Tournament, and generously loaned us two LEGO NXT robots.

In Term 4, we established a lunchtime robotics club with a group of Year 5 students, and applied for – and WON a FIRST Australia / Google robotics grant to set up our own robotics program. Next year, we will be taking at least one team of Year 6 students to compete in the FIRST Lego League competition! This has meant that my role will be evolving next year, as I will be leading the development of our new LEGO robotics extension program.

Looking Forward to 2016

2015 was, in many respects, a challenging year. Yet, I believe we have set a strong foundation for what is to come. As a school community, we’re moving forward … even if it is along a long and winding road.


6 responses

  1. Wow! what a professionally fulfilling year, Michael. It is so refreshing to hear you mention your mistakes along the way. Such wisdom in that. No successful leader ever actioned change by following the status quo. Keep your energy, enthusiasm and global projects alive in 2016. Many of us in cyber land look towards your example. You are a leader in many realms. Thank you!

    • Hi Jasmine 🙂 How is life in the top end?

      Leading change is an extremely difficult, and sometimes confronting process. I’m hoping to see more positive changes this coming year!

      • This is what I’ve learned….
        As teachers we all come from different educational backgrounds, theories and assumptions. What you believe in doesn’t matter. What matters is the science. Look for evidence based approaches to support you. Look towards the work of Hattie, Hargraves, Petty, Timperley.

        The best way to improve teaching is to give teachers control over their own development, working in groups over extended periods of time. These groups determine what to experiment with, and the pace of development, and group members help each other as they experiment to improve. They share findings from, what in effect is, their ‘Action Research’. They don’t use control groups, they try strategies repeatedly and reflectively in pursuit their own purposes. These groups are called ‘Communities of Practice’ ‘Teacher Learning Communities’ or ‘Peer Coaching’ groups. In short, the evidence based way to improve teaching is not top down but supported action research groups.

        Enjoy 2016. I look forward to your global contributions, willingness to share and enthusiasm.

        • Hi Jasmine. In many respects, giving teachers control over their own professional development was what we were attempting with our peer ICT coaching program. We based our approach on our strategic goals and evidence on what works, and endeavoured to develop teachers’ skills and confidence. Many staff found this approach very beneficial and empowering; however, I also have a lot to learn to become a better coach.

  2. Hi Michael
    Sounds like a productive year. The bumps and corners are what makes us feel alive. Great to meet you in person in NYC. What plans do you have for 2016?

    • Hi Stephanie 🙂 Meeting you was an unexpected highlight of my time in NYC. At this stage, 2016 looks to be quiet. I am seriously contemplating ISTE 2017 in San Antonio, so am reluctant to take an expensive trip this year. We’ll see what pans out.

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