Plugged into Digital Technologies

'The girls need these skills, we need these skills' a Junior School teacher shared with Mrs Helen Kardiasmenos via Zoom. Over the last six weeks, technological and pedagogical support for teachers navigating online teaching has become central to her role as Junior School Digital Technology (DT) Teacher. Each week she has supported staff with regular Zoom sessions where they can ask questions, troubleshoot and plan for their online classrooms. They have focused on integrating Google Suite, Seesaw, Zoom, Padlet, Flipgrid and Powerpoint, and these sessions have involved deep discussions around technological integration and challenges. After each Zoom meeting, Helen signs off thinking, 'I am lucky to work with such dedicated staff, passionate about optimising online learning for their girls'.

The DT curriculum has transitioned really effectively online. In Kindergarten to Year 6, DT explores three big ideas, designing solutions to problems, following and creating instructions (code) and exploring data and systems. Our programs address these ideas using a combination of plugged (technology) and unplugged (not using technology: i.e. hands on) methods.

Evandale students focused on design and creativity, by building physical models of toys and animals, and planning how to make these digital. When we are back in the classroom, they will connect them to Makey Makeys and Micro:bits. Hamilton students explored algorithms, using drawing, and word and barrier games. They designed variables and conditionals, and are moving to coding games and programs. Term 2 plans include designing and sequencing Lego models, dioramas and coding games and systems using Pencilcode, Scratch Jnr., Scratch and Micro:bit classroom.

While online learning has encouraged students and educators to extend transferable digital skills, it is not intended to replace face-to-face classroom instruction, and nor should it. It is not possible to replace what happens in Pre-Kindergarten to Year 6 classrooms with just online pedagogy because learning in these years is kinesthetic and responsive. The PLC Sydney Junior School approach is designed to extend, engage and support not replace.

Our online programs have been designed around the principles of synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous, or live teacher sessions, are delivered through Zoom and Google Meets, while asynchronous learning (independent student learning) is delivered through tools like Google Classroom and Seesaw using scaffolds like screencasts.

Now that the lockdowns have finished, our teachers and students have returned to the classroom with new transferable digital skills in tow. What has became strikingly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, is the importance of digital technologies and digital skills for the future of education.