Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education?
I graduated from Temora High School in the Riverina, New South Wales in 1996. I spent 1997 beginning an Information Technology degree at Charles Sturt University – Wagga Wagga campus. I was unwell for the duration of 1998 and this gave me a lot of time to reflect on my disengagement in learning and the perception I had of its lack of usefulness in the real world. The evaluation of this circumstance lead me to transfer into a Secondary Technology Education degree, with student engagement in the forefront of my thoughts. As I began to head into the STEM learning space from the technology area, I completed a Graduate Certificate in Engineering Education at the University of Newcastle.
What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?
I’ve been an Industrial Arts teacher at both Griffith and Deniliquin High Schools in south western New South Wales teaching a range of subjects, including Industrial Technology, Design and Technology and VET Metal and Engineering. I moved to The Canobolas Rural Technology High School to take the role of Head Teacher Industrial Arts and Computing. Since 2016 I have held the school funded role of Head Teacher STEM, managing our award winning STEM program, a program for all students in Years 7 and 8 in addition to their usual Science, Technology and Mathematics courses. Professionally developing other teachers to deliver our STEM course is very rewarding, and as a New South Wales Department of Education STEM Action Schools, we mentor schools at a strategic level to assist in developing their own STEM programs. Achieving the Public Education Foundation’s Secretary’s Commendation for the 2016 Secretary’s Award for an Outstanding School Initiative validated the work we’ve been doing in STEM for us.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
Working to give our students opportunities to develop the skills they need to succeed in life after school, and experience things they may not get to in their everyday lives. Our students are faced with many challenges as a result of technology impacting their lives. 65% of jobs for current primary school students will apply for don’t exist yet (Intel, 2015) and 70% of young people enter the workforce in job that will be radically affected by automation (Foundation for Young Australians 2015). Working with the large number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and students from families who have had a negative educational experiences is also challenging but comes with great reward.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
One huge challenge for all secondary teachers is that students now have an Internet enabled computer in their pockets, giving instant access to knowledge that once schools were the custodians of. Pedagogy needs to shift from acquiring knowledge to the application of knowledge. Trying to teach a traditional knowledge-gaining lesson or activity can have a negative impact on student engagement. As a Technology teacher, easily the most rewarding part of my job is guiding students through the design process to construct something that they had planned in their heads in Design and Technology. Seeing what a young person can produce while designing, making and evaluating with the resources now available like laser cutting, Arduino controllers and 3D printing is amazing.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
Despite being heavily invested in STEM in a secondary setting, I don’t believe that we need a STEM syllabus, rather than implementing cross-curriculum projects taking advantage of specialist teachers where possible which is the basis of most STEM models currently. Based on my experiences in primary and secondary STEM, I believe it sits best in a middle school situation in Year 5 -8. I also think that middle schools could be very well placed to support the educational and wellbeing needs of students
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
I found the use of Twitter priceless when developing out STEM curriculum at Canobolas, with the collegial nature of fellow STEM teachers sharing examples of best practice and innovative teaching ideas. Twitter also helped me source many contacts that have made a large part of my Premiers Scholarship study tour I am currently in the USA. This week I’ll be tweeting about my visit to the South Arkansas University STEM Centre in Magnolia Arkansas and attending 79thconference of The International Technology and Engineering Educators Association in Dallas, Texas this week.
TweetOz helps brings teachers together for informal, fast, professional learning and networking despite their geographic location. Many of us teachers can be time poor, and being able to follow a week in the life of other interesting Australian educators while having a cuppa on the couch is very informative.