Embracing Technology in the Junior School
Our Barbreck girls are digital natives who do not know a world without handheld devices. They are among a generation who will recall an era of education where technology was as much a part of their learning as a grey lead was. To step foot in the classroom today, a new set of skills and understandings are required, a new vocabulary where ‘upload’, ‘app smash’ and ‘hyperlink’ are part of their vernacular. Technology facilitates purposeful learning, it provides a catalyst for facts, skills and understandings to be developed. This major shift in learning and teaching is at the core of learning in the Junior School STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Laboratory.
To demonstrate this, let us examine coding, an area of the curriculum that draws much media attention. There are coding camps, apps and online resources to learn how to code, however they do not always provide a rich context in which students can apply and transfer their skills into other areas of learning. As the Year 3 cohort examined the intricacies of heat transfer, from conduction to radiation and all of the particle movements in between, they developed the fundamental scientific concepts. In small groups, students wrote algorithms to guide a robot around a grid filled with QR (Quick Response) codes and images. When scanned, the QR codes posed a problem, which required the students to perform a set of tasks to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. This activity provided high engagement while reinforcing key scientific understandings and taught the students coding skills. Technology extended the learning into real life application.
The purposeful inclusion of technology in the curriculum starts in Barbreck and progresses as the students move through the School. Our Preps utilised technology to code a Bee-Bot to demonstrate their understanding of the seasons. Year 5 collaboratively coded Sphero Robots to recreate the physical arrangement of molecules in a solid, liquid and gas, while Year 6 explored iterations to program a game about digital interfaces.
Explicit teaching ensures that students develop essential conceptual understandings while the technology provides the avenue for expression. Since the beginning of time, humans have actively sought out and created technology to enhance learning experiences and opportunities. While recalling stories of school days with trips to the computer lab and access to the internet may make
us feel old, the use of technology has always shaped our learning and our Barbreck girls are taking up the challenge.