INNOVATION IN TEACHING
Artificial Intelligence (AI), bionic limbs, drones and virtual reality (VR) are just some of the technologies students are working with at a Brisbane school, thanks to a finalist in state teaching awards.
St John’s Anglican College teacher Sharon Singh, who last month won a Peter Doherty Outstanding Teacher of STEM Award for her inspirational work, is also a finalist for this year’s Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Innovation in Teaching Award.
Having taught in Fiji, Hong Kong, and Korea, Mrs Singh said her vision is for students to design and create using cutting-edge technology at any time of the day.
“When I joined St John’s we didn’t have a dedicated space where students could work on a project, leave to other classes, come back at lunchtime, work on it again, without the need for it to be packed away,” Mrs Singh said.
After a visit to High Tech High in San Diego, Mrs Singh redesigned the College’s technology classrooms into what is now an award-winning STEM Design Centre. The centre is filled with AI and VR technology, 3D printers, a media studio for filming and photography, robotics equipment, and a makerspace, in an environment conducive to learning, where students feel comfortable to make mistakes and create. The centre is also home to the Digi Club, an extra-curricular group, where students are encouraged to pursue their interests and experience emerging and ubiquitous technologies.
“If you want to 3D print something, let's print it. If you want to make a film then create it. If you want to program a drone or a robot – then let's do that … no assessment, just play,” the 2019 ACS ICT Educator of the Year Gold Disruptor awardee said.
The STEM Design Centre won the silver award for best learning space at EduTECH Asia awards in Singapore in 2019. It was also a finalist for the 2020 Australian Education Innovation in Learning Environment and Design Award.
Mrs Singh, an Australian country representative to the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) Technical Committee 3 (TC3) in Education, has also facilitated an increase in the number of female students studying Digital Technologies subjects.
After delivering the new virtual reality and computer design units for Year 8 students, the total number of students in Year 9 Digital Technologies classes grew by 46 per cent the following year, with the gender balance shifting from 99 per cent male students, to 60 per cent male, 40 per cent female.
Digital Technologies students also participate in the QUT Young Accelerators STEM Workshops, which recently saw the Year 9 students programming a bionic arm. One group had two members from the class attending the workshop remotely from Hong Kong and Japan. One student controlled his group’s bionic arm virtually from his home in Hong Kong.
Mrs Singh’s efforts to establish industry partnerships have seen St John’s as the second school outside of the USA participating in the Dell Student Tech Crew, a program that sees students earn an industry certification that will enable them to assist the College’s IT Technician with IT repairs.
Mrs Singh said her goal is to enable students to apply computational thinking, design thinking, and systems thinking, to address needs and solve problems.
“For students to apply problem-solving skills and innovative thinking in every aspect of their lives – not just in digital technologies – that's my passion,” Mrs Singh said.
Winners of the TEACHX Awards will be announced on October 28, on the eve of World Teachers’ Day celebrations in Queensland. Finalists win $500 and winners $5000 for professional development.