Please 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’ve been lucky enough to spend my teaching career so far in two excellent schools, one co-ed, and now, all boys. Both schools were considered leaders within their systems, headed by great leadership and a hard working staff. I started working firstly at Freeman Catholic College at Bonnyrigg, where I completed my Practicum and was then picked up from here. During the 9 years that I was there, I taught computing, which has always been my first love, junior Design and Technology, and ended up teaching technical drawing, which has been a real basis for a lot of the things that I now do. I learnt so much from doing lots of different technologies within year 7 and 8 design and tech, and am a real advocate for teachers rotating subjects within jnr tech, and pushing themselves to do all of the technologies rather than being comfortable in their own. Really, once you teach year 7 electronics for the third time, you suddenly look like an expert in your class. During my time at Freeman, I heard about this new senior course being offered, Industrial Technology Multimedia, and introduced it at Freeman, where we were the first in the Catholic System to do so. I fell in love with this course, where students could work on practical projects, and with the focus on this being externally assessed, this meant that the outcomes gave a greater focus on practical skills.
After Freeman, I moved to Parramatta Marist, where I heard they were doing brilliant things with technology integration. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was in for, but saw across a lot of schools, technology being used in a way that was really a replacement for the same types of tasks that were done in traditional learning, and I knew that I wanted to see something different. I made the swap over in the first year of Parramatta implementing Project Based Learning, then two years later Problem Based Learning and the flipped classroom. During this time, I have been in the position of Project Based Learning Co-ordinator, then, different positions all with a focus of supporting and introducing innovative technology usage. With the increased recognition of the need for quality STEM education around the world, Parramatta Marist last year had a focus on the introduction of STEM, with the implementation of the Maitland-Newcastle Board Endorsed iSTEM course, and in 2016, the introduction of compulsory STEM through a 100 hour year 7 STEM Course. Currently, I am Innovation and STEM Co-ordinator.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
My motivation and inspiration comes from seeing students, particularly those students who are traditionally not successful in other courses, create and achieve things that they are proud of. My husband, who is also a TAS teacher, inspires me as he always keeps me on my feet and inspires me with new ideas. Our staff, which are so hardworking, offer great professional discussion that means that there are always improvements and new ideas.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
Changing attitudes of students…I think that everyone who deals with young people over a large period of time would agree that there are different attitudes, different challenges and different opportunities from students now than there was 10-15 years ago. The challenge is how can we engage students, and make learning authentic for them, when they could realistically look up YouTube or wikipedia for the answers to questions.
How do we then make sure that we are adding value to student’s being in the classroom that they cannot learn by themselves? How can we make learning REAL for students?
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
The one thing that really makes change though is teacher professional development. I think this is something that Parramatta Marist does an amazing job at, where teachers get 80 hours a year of professional development that is timetabled into their teaching hours. This is a minimum, where the 80 hours are part of school time, school funded, and teachers can choose to do more. There is a lot of great teaching going on in schools, but if nationally, if we can provide structure around how professional development works, then this can significantly improve teacher practice. If you can improve the quality of every teacher at the front of the room, the system improves.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
EduTweetOz, to me, is a form of professional development, and the idea of having guest tweeters means that there is constantly a different perspective of education presented. I am looking forward to showing people some interesting things happening, but also hoping to get some great feedback and discussion.