Tips and tricks for cutting edge educators

Each year, Australia’s most Innovative Teachers are recognized through the Microsoft Innovative Teacher Awards.

This is the most prestigious teaching award globally, with teachers from over 112 countries entering.

So, who are the winners?  And what are they doing that is so innovative? 

Here is a brief introduction and outline of Australia’s most innovative teachers:

Athena Hain-Saunders
Newton Moore Senior High School, Western Australia

Athena is giving students the opportunity to work with scientists, collect meaningful data and conduct real, relevant ongoing research that builds useful databases. She
has developed a number of programs that give students the chance to get out of their chairs and gain some hands-on experience with ‘real life’ scientific research, using industry standard technology like digital SLR cameras, ‘nova touch pad’ recorders, digital microscopes and Microsoft software. In Astronomy, for example, Athena’s students are using Microsoft WorldWide Telescope as a vehicle to explore the relationship between Earth and the Universe.

 

Brad Coey-Braddon
Hermit Park State School, Queensland

Based on the recent discovery that educational success is directly linked to the level of differentiation in learning activities, Brad has developed an innovative way to provide differentiation while learning to read. In Brad’s class, his Year 3 students could be doing anything from participating in activities via an interactive whiteboard to lying on the carpet with a netbook loaded with digital text, creating new endings to stories using Microsoft® PhotoStory or improving their spelling using Microsoft Excel® Self-Guided Spelling. Students are even using Web 2.0 technologies like World, PhotoFunia and Tuxpi to create visual stimulus for writing projects. “I have moved from a ‘one size fits all’ model of teaching, to a differentiated, student-centred and data-driven model that creates success for all students,” he says.

Matthew Purcell
Canberra Grammar School, Australian Capital Territory

Matthew is the first to admit, “the core concepts of software design can be a confusing and bland subject.” That’s why he’s transforming this intangible coursework into real-life learning experiences by letting his students take control. By challenging his students to develop their own software engineering project using Microsoft Visual Basic 2008 .NET Express Edition – with room to experiment and a collaborative framework for support – Matthew has found his students will really push the limits of their knowledge, and question how complex tasks can be achieved with smart programming. “We put a lot of onus on the student. We give the freedom to explore ICT and develop higher order thinking skills, which they’ll need if they want to be a software designer,” says Matthew. The results are stunning, with one student topping the state in the Higher School Certificate Software Design and Development Course.

Daniel Seymour
Heathfield High School, South Australia

“I have always been reluctant to use computer games to engage students in fear of it appearing to be a lazy pedagogical approach that relies on the technology to
maintain student interest, but Kodu has utterly changed my view,” says Daniel, who has developed a popular Microsoft Kodu™ course for Year 8 and Year 9 students. The course uses open-ended design briefs with peer- and self-assessment, and promotes a culture of collaboration, creative brainstorming and peer coaching

Mark Smithies
Devonport High School, Tasmania

“ICT is full of pattern recognition,” says Mark, who has developed a Games Toolkit that enables students to create their own games using commonly available
software applications, like Microsoft PowerPoint®. What he means is that a culture of experimentation can activate new ways of thinking in students, giving them the
courage to explore wild ideas and make “failure” so much fun that they enjoy learning by mistakes. “We are teaching the students to recognise these patterns and discover things for themselves. It’s a great learning curve that enables them to learn how to make decisions for themselves,” he says.

Penny Whiley
Centralian Senior College, Northern Territory

When you’re the only Philosophy teacher in the Territory, you need a classroom that can span over 2000 kilometres. To do this, Penny has developed an innovative virtual community for her students, which her colleagues have nicknamed ‘the TARDIS’. The TARDIS is a kind of digital whiteboard, from which Penny can inspire students with creative and humorous uses of Microsoft PowerPoint®, PhotoStory, Excel®, Word™, videos made using MovieMaker, MSN® Messenger chats and much more. “It’s like cooking eggs,” says Penny. “There are so many ways to teach the same thing, yet it should look and taste so different. Sometimes I wake up at night thinking of new recipes!”

Kylie Taig
Carey Baptist Grammar School, Victoria

In a world where techno-literate students challenge educators to accommodate for their learning needs in imaginative ways, Kylie’s eNotebooks are providing an ideal
platform to present attractive, entertaining and informative units of work. Kylie uses Microsoft OneNote® to create the eNotebooks, which can be filled with modern
learning tools like podcasts, videos, animations, screen clippings, text and hyperlinks. “Boring printed worksheets are a thing of the past,” says Kylie, adding that eNotebooks give her students more meaningful resources, authentic experiences and exciting interactive opportunities. “They also provide an alternative to heavy textbooks and save teachers time at the photocopier!”

Cathie Howe
Cromer Public School, New South Wales

Cathie Howe has spent the past three years pioneering the Game Design Project, which aims to equip teachers with the knowledge, tools and courage to let their
students experiment with game design software. Her project has attracted interest and support from Macquarie ICT, the NSWDET and 20 other primary schools and high schools – not to mention lots of enthusiasm from the students themselves. “Game design was fun and exciting,” said Harry, one of Cathie’s students. “The best bit was not being told what to do and how to do it. We got to be ourselves.” Cathie agrees. “Good games engage students. They challenge them and help with developing problem solving skills. This is something that teachers want their students to learn.”

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