Supporting digital education and creativity in the classroom with eLearning

Currently Year 5 are working hard on their Scientific unit ‘Mechanica’ which is based on a series of remarkable books by Lance Balchin. Mechanica is a perfect example of trans-disciplinary learning which is where many subjects can tie into one central idea. The Mechanica collaboration brings together subjects like Science, English and Art and also utilises the specialties of the eLearning unit. In this unit students become creators not just consumers, a key future skill which ties into Lance’s introductory talk about robots and what future jobs will be like.

The concept of Mechanica, like the books from the author, is to develop fantastical creatures from machinery and other real world objects. The Science comes in where students understand what animals and organisms need in a particular environment. Teacher Librarian in Upper Primary, Christina Wheeler, organised Lance to come to the College for the creative workshops. As part of the creature development students and teachers workshopped with Lance using Photoshop. Due to the technical nature of the workshops Christina reached out to eLearning to help support the classes. 

Prep to Year 6 eLearning Facilitator, Rachael Yates, says she was able to help Christina by organising laptops with Photoshop and maintain a supportive presence, along with other eLearning and IT team specialists such as Jonathan Nalder and Chris Parfoot, in the technical workshops. “The collaboration here is really powerful and effective,” says Rachael. 

“We work closely with Christina and Simone Mitchell (Head of Prep–Year 6 Curriculum), and my role is to support innovation and technology wherever it’s needed.”

Rachael says the Photoshop workshops for Mechanica “were impressive”. Students loved the workshops and “they really embraced them.” What’s interesting about projects like Mechanica is that it’s “all about the class being learners together,” says Rachael. “The teacher could be learning and the student might be teaching so these sorts of projects can enable collaborative learning in a student centred environment.”

The support of technology

As well as supporting teachers with technology, the eLearning team has many functions including:

  • the management of the BYO Device Program;
  • running professional learning for staff;
  • managing the College Learning Management System (Firefly);
  • supporting parents, e.g. device set up and more;
  • introducing successful initiatives such as the Tech and Wellbeing workshops for parents. Technology is positive and “we also care about the wellbeing of our students,” Rachael explains. “We don’t want to say; ‘Tech is bad, lock everything down, don’t let your children use it’. Tech can be positive as long as you’ve got rules and relationships in place.” 

Looking ahead with digital museums

Next term Year 6 will be working on the Unit, Museum of Migration, where they will create digital museums and enlist the help of the eLearning team. Students will be creating digital museums for the St Peters Learning Management System, Firefly, as well as using Applications. Well-known children’s author and teacher, Deborah Abela, will be involved by helping students in a series of writing workshops.

Having an eLearning team is “not common in all schools so we are lucky”. Helping integrate eLearning into the curriculum Rachael explains, “I look at how we can enrich Units using various digital aspects—whether that’s Apps, software or devices.”

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