Students at Ormiston College are on the cutting edge of 21st century learning with holographic computers and virtual reality. Donning headsets, they are able to merge digital assets with their real-world environment and manipulate them. The result is like a scene out of a Marvel Avengers movie where, like their hero Tony Stark, they can study the human body (for example) and then zoom in on an organ like the heart to study how it controls blood flow.
This is thanks to their Head of Academics and Innovation, Tamara Sullivan, who has recently been named a finalist in the QCT TEACHX Award for Excellent Leadership in Teaching and Learning. Mrs Sullivan has played an important role in the revitalisation of STEM at Ormiston College and worked hard to support colleagues in the implementation of technology programs at the school.
Her work has seen her nominated by Independent Schools Queensland to become a member of the National General Capabilities Advisory Group, which was responsible for providing guidance to ACARA.
Mrs Sullivan doesn’t want students to just be consumers of technology but to understand and harness it.
“We’re doing our students an injustice if we’re only solely focussing in on NAPLAN results or those graduate scores without considering what life is going to look like outside of school. So, I think it’s about getting the balance right,” she said.
Becoming a finalist in the Leadership category has seen her reflect that courage is important. “Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in and that might not be the norm but that is part of leading in a very rapidly changing world.” Mrs Sullivan said. She recalled that when laptops started being used in schools, she saw the bigger picture of how it would affect education and was surprised to find not everybody did.
“I could have easily walked away and said, ‘They don’t understand that so I’m just going to focus on this in my classroom.’ However, what I realised was that I needed to spend more time being able to develop myself as a person and being then able to empower others and my colleagues to be able to develop that skillset and to see that bigger picture,” she said.
She set about doing this by building trust and recognised that in order to upskill teachers, one approach would not suit all, so she employed various strategies. These strategies made her critical in the successful implementation of Ormiston’s laptop program. Having worked in a variety of schools, including Ormiston College for the past six years, she said she always wanted to be a teacher and there is “never a dull moment” in this profession.
For Mrs Sullivan teaching has to be about taking a holistic approach in the education of students. She also believes strongly teachers have to be lifelong learners with a “growth mindset rather than the fixed mindset.” The possibilities afforded by online global collaboration also mean that, rather than working in isolated pockets of innovation, like-minded educators can now network and solve major challenges together.
This sense of global collaboration and innovation extends to an annual trip to Cambodia she has taken for the past eight years to deliver technology resources and to teach digital literacy to Cambodian teachers so they can then educate their students.
On her many achievements, she is quick to point out again the bigger picture “This journey is not a one person journey, it’s actually about the collective group working together,” she said.
As a finalist, Mrs Sullivan received $500 for professional development.