Introducing Elke Schneider, this week’s EduTweetOz host

ElkePlease 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 was asked to teach e-Commerce subjects at the tertiary-level at Durham College, Canada, in 2001 and I jumped at the chance. I had been working as an IT Analyst at EDS Canada, a multinational IT organisation, primarily developing & de-bugging the General Motors website. But the idea of teaching at the College where I had received my Diploma in Business & IT sounded exciting; plus, I liked the social and caring culture of the institution.

While teaching at Durham College I learned how to teach and how not to teach! I stumbled through teaching and only really felt like a successful teacher after I had my first child. Going back to work after 16 months paid maternity leave (+ generous holidays) was difficult but I approached teaching differently; I approached it thinking that these students in front of me (mostly 17-18 year olds straight out of High School) were once babies like my baby;  what kind of teachers would I want for my son? I became a more caring teacher, I built relationships with purpose, I got to know my students & I created events where they could get to know each other better.

Fast-forward a decade: after more College teaching, a lovely stint as an expat-wife/stay-at-home-Mum in Michigan, a big move back to Australia, graduated BofEducation(Secondary) from USQ and now I am a High School teacher. I was employed for the past 2 years as a full-time contract teacher at 2 state schools in the Gold Coast. I am now a permanent teacher at Somerset College, Gold Coast.

At Somerset College I am primarily employed as an IT teacher. This past semester I have been busy trying to teach in a fun & passionate way, learning about the International Baccalaureate, getting to know students, getting to know new colleagues, collaborating with a small group to enhance IT at the school, re-developing & re-imagining IT subjects, running teams in the Tech Girls are Superheroes competition, and networking with industry.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

My kids and my experience of High School is what motivate me to be an awesome teacher. I hated High School; I only remember 2 teachers that were fun, inspiring and actually seemed to care about me. I want so much better for my own children (grades 3 & 7) and so far it sounds like they are surrounded by caring, inspiring and FUN teachers.

There are many educators from the past and present that keep me inspired professionally.  Alfie Kohn, Nel Noddings, Gary Stager, Chris Sarra, Joe Bower and John Dewey, are some of the people that have built-up my professional philosophy and view of education. I have also been involved in the development of a paper submission for the ACCE Conference 2016 with Dr David Jones, USQ, Senior Lecturer (Education), and this experience has inspired me to continue learning, researching and to question IT in education agendas.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

There are many potential rewards: watching kids “get it”, when you see their “a ha!” moments, that’s pretty fantastic; when kids yell across a busy school yard between lessons to greet you and sometimes there’s an added “You’re an awesome teacher!” bonus; driving the development of a subject and making sure it’s authentic and fun; when parents tell you they appreciate you!; when you see graduated students who are happy and successful; working with passionate teachers.

There are many challenges too: time poor; societal disrespect of teachers; organisations making decisions about what you should teach that sometimes just doesn’t make sense (#coding for everyone!); digital tools are dictated to use or some are blocked; teacher contracts & not feeling like you belong; lots of talk but no action; confusing array of agendas in education; commercial interests in education; developing a balance of teaching for future skills & the love of learning.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

Get rid of the term “coding” in education and focus on computer science and digital literacy; this would be a good start. Remove all blocks to the Internet for students and teach children about digital citizenship and digital footprints; instead of acting like a communist state we should be ensuring all youth actually understand the good & the bad and have the open environment where they question what they see and read on the Internet. This of course would require MORE teaching time, which we simply don’t have unless we drastically change the way we teach and what we teach.

Get rid of assessments and put a mega Makerspace in every school. Oh wow, that would be awesome, but I know this would likely be impossible to do in our current education system.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

EduTweetOz is a great place for discussion to occur about education in Australia. Twitter allows us to remove hierarchical labels, which can often get in the way at school or education events, and let us have real conversations about issues in education. EduTweetOz is also a great way to connect Australian educators and this may help educators feel like they belong and also build their Professional Learning Networks (PLN). It doesn’t matter if we agree on an issue or not, we all know that the reasons behind our, sometimes passionate, tweets is a love of teaching and learning.

I am especially interested in discussing how teachers are feeling about and preparing for the new Digital Technologies curriculum in Australia. I hope to engage with lots of educators this week and help maintain existing relationships and build new educator relationships for @EduTweetOz, @elketeaches and @qsite I am also a board member of the Queensland Society for IT in Education (QSITE) and I have recently started managing the @qsite Twitter account.

Elke Schneider



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