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Mid- New Year’s Resolutions

Some might say that putting together a list of resolutions at the middle of the year might be counter-productive. I prepared this article at the start of the year but it made more sense to hold it for the first issue of The STEAM Report; I will use this list to write future articles.  

Figure out where to put the apostrophe in New Years’
A quick Google search tells me it’s New Year’s. The resolutions belong to the New Year, therefore the ' belongs after after the r. With that done, I can focus on what I want to accomplish in the STEAM arena in 2017. I have spent years researching the best way to use technology in class. Now I want to make sure that I can link Technology to the S_EAM around it.

Ensure that at least one of my DigiTech units is linked to an equivalent Science Unit
The first hurdle to STEAM in any attempt to formalise assessment across learning areas is working between departments. We all know the schools with the Tech teachers hidden in offices up the back of the school (keep me in the dark, I’m a fungi).

The Science departments with working Tesla cannons to repel intruders. The Maths area where the teachers ignore you because you can’t logically exist. Not only do we need to get learning areas talking to each other and working together, we have to coordinate timetables for planning sessions and calendars for assessment due dates.

To make matters trickier, Tech, Engineering and Arts subjects are usually semester based, so a work task that might fit in with Science in Term One won’t work again for the next group of students in Term Three. But it can work. I’ve consistently worked with Humanities and Arts in the creation of 3D models and animations for History lessons and with English and Media to coordinate the creation of a magazine spread based on an English response to an issue. I mark them on their accuracy in modelling and their animation processes. The History teacher decides whether the pyramid could actually hold a decent curse or repel Indiana Jones.

The head of Science at our school has been working in my Tech department for a few years. He’s seen what our Lego robots can do and he’s keen to try to link the learning from my Engineering and Design class with his units on Forces. Fingers crossed, it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Present me: I have teachers visiting tomorrow from another school to see what I’m doing in DigiTech classes, and how they can incorporate elements into their own curriculum. Nothing here yet though.

Build a repository of lessons to share with other teachers I have been working with Stile Education for several years. Last year, Stile asked for teachers to create a series of lessons in different learning areas that will be made available as part of an online library for schools using the platform.

I created a series of Digital Technologies lessons including a Choose Your Own Adventure lesson and an exploration of how computers compress and transfer images across the internet which involved students flashing lights to each other to transmit sprites across the room.

I intend to make any of my lessons publicly available as the year progresses. The best lessons are stolen lessons. Someone else has done all the work. You just have to teach. I am fully in support of a Creative Commons model for sharing units of work. We have enough stress in our lives without trying to hide our best work from our colleagues because parents might send their kids to that school instead. If you’re worried, just share with people more than 20km away.

Present me: I have completed a set of lessons built around web design and database creation online. They are incredibly specific to my own school at the moment, but over the semester break I will try to make them more generic.

Push the A in STEAM
I’m pretty sure I’m all over this. St James College is doing the first ever Australian stage production of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds musical. I have CGI animators, film students and set builders all trying to create a realistic alien invasion using Maya, Adobe Premiere and AfterEffects, the woodwork room and a green screen. If we were marking them, they would be demonstrating competencies across a range of Digital Technologies and Design Technologies areas.

A school production is an excellent focus for the demonstration of STEM skills in an Arts environment.

Present me: needless to say, this is an article in its own right. Look forward to the second STEAM Report. It will be an incredible success and I would definitely recommend it.

Learn to stop worrying and forget the Victorian Curriculum
I know we need to assess against the Victorian (or Australian) Curriculum. I spent the summer holidays reworking all my rubrics to reflect that fact. But my main goal in life is to educate students in the most powerful and valuable ways possible. STEAM fulfils this goal.

In the end, if my students create a working Martian tripod for the production but they’re only assessed on the Engineering side of that, I don’t think they will complain. And if they do want to complain, they have a Martian Heat Ray at their disposal to make their displeasure plain.

Present me: I have talked to a number of teachers who are very stressed about achieving the standards in their classes. And then I had a conversation with my Curriculum Coordinator, Bernie Bell, who showed me the Australian Standards and pieces of work that were at, below and above the standard. And believe me, the bar isn’t set that high.

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