Using a laser cutter to create moving models

I wonder if these models could inspire our students to design, engineer and create their own moving models. The only materials needed are rubber bands and wood (and a laser cutter).

The following models were created by Ugears a company formed in 2014 in the Ukraine. The company has an online presence in Australia – to find out more click here. Amazingly I found out about these these models through a local shop in the main street of Moonta just recently.

Developing positive relationships with parents

Schools have many ways of communicating with parents thanks to social media and applications designed to engage parents with their child’s learning, think Facebook, Class Dojo, See Saw and Edmodo. These applications do a great job of keeping parents informed about how their child is going with learning and providing an insight into their child’s classroom.

Communicating positive behaviours

For the most part teachers and schools communicate with individual families for two reasons:

  1. Unacceptable behaviour
  2. Sharing information about learning (positive and negative).

What is communicated less (for some students never) is when students demonstrate positive behaviours. Things like showing initiative, communicating well, being a good friend, helping others and demonstrating leadership etc. While parents enjoy and appreciate being able to see and hear what their child is learning they appreciate even more feedback about their child’s positive behaviours (being a good ‘human being’).

Schools and teachers are required to report about learning and we have to communicate when poor behaviour reaches a certain level. What we don’t have to report to parents is when their child behaves in a positive way or does something out of the ordinary to help others. Yet it is often this feedback that makes a parent most proud and can help mend or build relationships between the school and families whose only connection with the school may be because their child is always in trouble.

Below is a real example of a message home and the resulting message back to the teacher from the parent. The positive conversations generated by this message at home and the resulting perception of the school/teacher noticing their child in a positive light can only result in a strengthened relationship between the school and family.


It is not possible to continually communicate with parents but when we have the chance we should try to take it. Especially with those students who often don’t display the best behaviour. Try to catch them doing something good and let their parents know it could help you and the school in the long run.

Sphero Edu App

Thanks to Jackie and Kelly for introducing us to the Sphero robots last Wednesday. As a follow up here is an overview of what is available on the Sphero Edu app. Currently the filtering at PBAS does not allow content from the Sphero website to appear on the app but I have requested that the filtering be changed to allow the content. So be aware that at this point in time you cannot access the following but very soon will be able to.

Home – Feed

This shows the Twitter feed for Sphero Education.

Home – 3D Models

This section allows you to see an exploded view of the Sphero.


Home – Settings

The settings section gives you a variety of options including links to the Sphero blog and JavaScript Wiki. So if you are keen to learn about JavaScript (written code) this may be useful.

Programs – My Programs

This is where the programs that you or your students make will be saved.

Programs – Sphero

This is where you can access programs created by the employees of Sphero. When you click on a program you get a written explanation of the program and a video to watch. There will be a link to open the code that has been written. The code will open in the Sphero Edu app and can be used by you or your students. This option allows students to invsetigate and analyse detailed coding. I have included a video below of the Animal Origami program.

Programs – Community

These are programs provided by the community of Sphero users who have submitted their programs to the website. Again you get a written explanation, a video and a link to download the code. To access the community programs you need to sign in with an account. It is a simple process to create an account for yourself.

Activities – Sphero

This section provides activities for teachers to do with their students. You need an account to access these in full. A great source of ideas!

Activities – Community

A huge range of STEM based activities created by the Sphero community. An excellent resource for teachers. I recommend signing in and and having a look at these. They provide step by step lesson plans and extra resources like videos and web links to support the lesson. I have added a video below that briefly shows the K’nex Chariot Challenge. While the video is not brilliant it gives you an idea of what you can expect to find when you access this content.

Will Australia get a mandatory phonics test?

The Federal Government is proposing a mandatory 10 minute phonics screening check for Year 1 students. The test is designed to identify students who need support with reading. The test includes real words and pseudo words, to test students understanding of phonics and is based on the test currently used in the UK. Jennifer Buckingham, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies has completed a report titled Focus on Phonics: Why Australia should adopt the Year 1 Phonics Screening CheckThe recommendation for the new test has been made by a panel appointed by Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham and headed by Jennifer Buckingham.

There are some individuals and groups who do not agree with the test including the Australian Education Union, some state education ministers and academics like Misty Adoniou. Misty Adoniou is an Associate Professor at the University of Canberra in education. She is passionate about students understanding word meaning (morphemic analysis) when learning to read and spell and believes this is more important than phonics. She does acknowledge the importance of teaching phonics but is opposed to the test because there are many other factors besides phonics that contribute to being a successful reader and speller.

To listen to an interview with Misty Adoniou from the Teacher Education Review (TER) podcast click on the first link to download the audio file to your computer or click the second link to be taken to the TER Podcast website. The second link includes Misty Adoniou’s interview as well as a second interview with Stuart Riddle talking about literacy in the classroom.

  1. Click here to download TER Podcast interview with Misty Adoniou
  2. Click here to go to the TER Podcast on literacy & phonics
  3. ABC News – Year 1 students could soon have to do a new reading and maths test

To read more about Misty Adoniou’s views about teaching spelling and reading click on the following links.

The point is to learn, not to penalise

The purpose of this post is for teachers to reflect on how they manage deadlines, apply grades and give (or not) students the opportunity to resubmit work.

The Australian Curriculum is a standards based curriculum requiring us to assess against an Achievement Standard for each curriculum area/year level. Our learning tasks should link directly to aspects of these standards and by the end of the year (or two years for banded subjects) have given students the opportunity to show mastery of the standard. To achieve a satisfactory grade students must demonstrate “on balance” that they have achieved enough of the standard to pass, that is, achieve a C grade or higher. Through evidence supplied by the student the teacher uses their professional judgement to determine if the student passes the standard or not.

Now consider the following questions:

1. If a student does not submit a learning task (at all) do you give an E grade/0%?

2. If a student hands a task up late do you reduce the grade the student can get, for example lose 10% for everyday the task is late? 

This is not an uncommon practice particularly at a secondary level. Teachers are busy people so we set deadlines and apply penalties to encourage students to meet those deadlines so that we can assess the learning – it helps us manage our workload and day to day programming. It could also be argued that we use deadlines to teach students discipline and that in the real world they also have to meet deadlines. But consider the following:

  • If you apply and E grade (0%) for the student who does not hand up their work why do you do this? Do you apply any other grades for work unseen? For example would you give a B grade to a piece of work you had never seen? If not why would you give an E? According to the DECD A-E guide for reporting an E means:
    • Your child is demonstrating minimal achievement of what is expected at this year level – beginning capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in a familiar context, beginning understanding of concepts and key ideas, initial development of skills, limited knowledge of content.

If this is what an E means then how can this grade be applied without seeing the students learning? An E or 0% will affect a students grade average which is unfair if the E is based on no actual evidence. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to record an NA against the part of the standard being assessed and wait until the student provides some evidence before assigning an A-E grade?

  • If you apply a penalty of 10% for every day a task is late is this an accurate assessment of the students knowledge and understanding? In this scenario the student may have achieved a B grade against the standard but ends up with a C grade due to late submission. Does this grade reflect the students ability or their behaviour?

Should a students assessment and reporting include late penalties or penalties for not handing in work at all? Are we accurately assessing and reporting against the standard if we also assess student behaviours alongside their knowledge and understanding? If students have issues with behaviours including organisation, meeting deadlines, work habits, attitudes and participation can’t these be covered in the section of the report that caters for these?

If a student submits no learning and continually gets NAs instead of an A-E grade then shouldn’t their final report also reflect an NA rather than an E grade?

3. Do you allow students to submit tasks that missed the deadline?

4. Do you allow students to resubmit tasks to improve their grade after the deadline has passed?

By not allowing students the chance to resubmit tasks are we discouraging learning? Does it matter how many attempts a student has to be successful in their learning? If the student wants to continue to learn and improve does the deadline stop this from happening?

We could argue that students will ‘game’ this system of re-takes and resubmissions. Knowing they have second chances allows some students to apply minimal effort during the first attempt and penalises those students who do apply effort the first time around. I would argue the penalty is applied to the student who is resubmitting. Trying to re-do a task in the their own time and keep up with the next topic/task is not easy and would require considerable motivation. The student who put in the effort initially will find managing their work load much easier.

How do I address deadlines and re-takes/resubmissions in my classroom?

Over the past year I have actively encouraged my students to resubmit work if they are unhappy with their grade or if they miss a deadline to persist and still submit the task. The following outlines what I do:

  • I have deadlines. I have consequences for not meeting those deadlines. The consequence for missing a deadline is that I require students to come in at lunch time to complete tasks. This means that when the task is finally submitted it is assessed against the standard without further penalty.
  • I tell students that if they want to resubmit a task to improve their grade they can do so at anytime before their final end of year report. If students wish to use their own time to demonstrate improvement in their learning it is my job to encourage and support this behaviour.

As mentioned above students who regularly miss deadlines have to complete their learning at lunchtime. I am still not as consistent as I need to be with this as other things get in the way. Lunchtime sports, yard duties, wanting to have your lunch in peace and quiet etc are all things that get in the way of this process. I apply it as best I can.

I don’t give an E grade to a student who fails to submit a piece of work I write NA in my marks book. If a student does not submit any evidence I cannot accurately gauge their level of knowledge and understanding to apply any grade. If students in my class continue to get NAs for tasks then their final report will also reflect an NA. This means that there was not enough evidence to assess the student and apply an A-E grade against the standard. It also means that the student did not meet the Achievement Standard for that subject/year level.

Resubmission is open to everyone, not just those who get Ds and Es. If a student gets a B+ or an A then they can also resubmit to improve their grade.

Do many students take up the chance to resubmit tasks? No. I don’t see this as a reason to change my practice though. During 2017 I had a few students take up the offer of resubmitting tasks because it would impact on their final grade. They demonstrated a motivation to improve and used their own time to re-do their work. This is a practice I want to encourage.

Teachers might say they have always been willing to accept a resubmitted piece of work but how many actively promote and encourage this idea with students? Do your students know this is an option?

How re-dos, retakes, resubmissions (whatever you want to call them) and deadlines work in one teachers class is not going to be the same as what works in another teachers classroom. The subject specific curriculum, the teachers workload, the teachers personal beliefs and school policies among other things will impact on what a teacher can or wants to do in relation to these issues.


Robotics at PBAS

As our STEM redevelopment gradually reaches completion we have been able to update our robotics kits to more current technology, reinvigorating our robotics program.

To cater for R – 12 and provide at least two different platforms for students we have purchased the following two robotics kits:

The Mindstorm kits will replace the old Lego RCX programmable robotics kits while the Sphero’s will provide a flexible robotics platform that can be used R-12.

Why Robotics?

The company Tactile Theory explains through their website the following reasons why robotics is beneficial for student learning:

  1. It’s a fun and hands on activity.
  2. Robotics can be taught at any level. The Sphero Sprk robots can be programmed using three different methods – 1. Drawing a line in the app that a robot will then follow. 2. Drag and drop blocks that contain code and 3. Use text coding like Javascript.
  3. Using robotics kits can assist with developing fine motor skills. Children are involved in manually manipulating sensors, motors, blocks, remote controls, gears, joints, switches, and axels (Lego Robotics).
  4. Robotics provides a base for teaching programming. A physical robot allows students to test out what works, and what doesn’t and have a better understanding of the importance of precise instructions.  Research also indicates that by starting children early in robotics, the gender bias in STEM subjects is decreased significantly.
  5. The teaching of robotics allows schools to address a variety of Government and education department initiatives including of the The National STEM School Education Strategy, the Australian Curriculum and the DECD STEM Learning Strategy.
  6. Robotics can assist students to learn skills that are applicable to future employment. Involving children in quality robotics programs can provide students with opportunities to be critical thinkers, innovators, collaborators and leaders while applying scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical principals.
  7. Teaching robotics assists with computational thinking. Recognising aspects of computation in the world and being able to think logically, algorithmically and abstractly.  Robotics can help develop computational thinking by teaching children how to “think like a computer” and use concepts of computer science to solve problems.
  8. Allows students to be creative. By allowing students to explore, experiment and investigate with robotics they can create their own programs, load them onto the robots and watch them perform the programmed tasks before their very eyes.

During our first days back in 2018 Jackie and Kelly are going to talk about the STEM training they undertook in 2017 (continuing in 2018) and take us through some activities using the Sphero Sprk robotics kit.

Leading Change: The Technology in School’s Podcast

If you are interested in educational technology, want to be inspired by ideas from other schools and understand better how to lead the implementation of technology in schools then this podcast is one you might be interested in listening to. This podcast while called Leading Change is not just for school leaders. The podcast discusses and shares what students are doing and how it has impacted on their learning and there is a lot to be gained by the classroom teacher who is interested in developing their use of technology with students. Episodes are approximately 20 minutes long.

A dynamic behind the scenes look at how school leaders across the Asia Pacific region deal with the rapidly developing technological age. Those leading the change take you on a passionate, inspirational and honest journey through the planning, implementation and evaluation of classroom technology. iTunes Description

I believe this Podcast is only available in iTunes. You can access it through the Podcast app by Apple or open iTunes on your computer and select Podcasts and type in Leading Change: The Technology in School’s Podcast into the search bar to download episodes.



iOS 11 What’s new (and useful)?

iOS 11 has just been released and it offers many new features some of which I have commented on at the end of this post. The main aim of this post though is to focus on two of the more significant alterations to the previous iOS. These are the ability to screen record and Apple’s new ARKit (augmented reality).

Apple’s new operating system iOS 11 for iPhone and iPad can be downloaded to the following devices (source – MacRumors):

Screen Recording

Being able to record what is happening on the iPhone/iPad screen is a great addition to the latest operating system. As teachers this function could assist us to make short instructional videos, for example showing students how to use an app or how to effectively search on Safari. These videos could be Airdropped across the class set of iPads ready for students to access during the lesson. It also allows students another way to present their learning, for example completing a presentation using Keynote and then creating a video of that presentation with audio.


“iOS 11 introduces ARKit, a new framework that allows you to easily create unparalleled augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad. By blending digital objects and information with the environment around you, ARKit takes apps beyond the screen, freeing them to interact with the real world in entirely new ways.” Apple, 2017

The ARKit which is part of iOS 11 provides a platform for augmented reality apps to be downloaded from the app store and used with the iPhone or iPad. It is worth noting that to get the full functionality  of ARKit you require a device which uses an A9 or larger processor. This means you have to have one of the following models: iPhone 6s, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone X, all iPad Pro models and iPad Air 2017 (5th Generation). For most of us we will be consumers of the augmented reality apps developed to use with ARKit as opposed to creating and developing apps.

The following videos are examples of applications created to take advantage of Apples ARKit.

IKEA Place app

The new IKEA Place app lets you select items from the company’s vast product catalogue and drag them into your own home. Source

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

My Very Hungry Caterpillar AR by Touch Press, the company behind the award winning iOSAndroid and Windows apps based on the book, will see you nurturing your very own adorable caterpillar, playing with it and helping it grow a garden. Source

Shot Pro

For budding CGI blockbuster moviemakers, 3D film visualisation tool ShotPro is taking advantage of the ARKit platform to make embedding dragons and dinosaurs into real locations a simple drag and drop affair. Source

AR Measurekit

Using Apple’s AR framework and the nothing more than the camera sensor in your iPhone or iPad,  the FREE MeasureKit  App can measure just about anything without hunting down a ruler or tape measure. However, unlike a ruler, MeasureKit provides precise dimensions not just for height and width, but also measurements of distance, angle, trajectory, level, square, and more. Source


Other cool features

Note: The following information is taken directly from

Do not disturb while driving

The Do Not Disturb feature is known for being useful by preventing notification noises while you are sleeping. Apple enhanced the Do Not Disturb feature by providing an option so that you do not get distracted while driving. When you start driving, your iPhone will be able to sense that you are in transit so it can prevent you from being disturbed with phone calls, text messages and notifications. People that try to reach you while Do Not Disturb While Driving is activated will be notified that you are not available right now. Source

Files App

iOS 11 is bringing a new app to the iPad called Files. The Files app allows users to search, browse and organise all of your cloud and locally stored files. This includes files stored in cloud services such as Apple iCloud Drive, Box and Dropbox. You can also bookmark your favourite files in a folder on the sidebar called “Favourites.” The Files app on the iPad now feels more like a computer desktop. Source

New Control Centre

The Control Centre has been completely redesigned in iOS 11. And now you can customise it with different shortcuts and preferences. For example, you can add the ability to dim the lights, control Voice memos and place a shortcut for Low Power Mode. And applying 3D Touch (long hold instead of tap) to the Control Centre presents additional controls. Source

Speaker support for multiple rooms

AirPlay 2 support is integrated in the Home app for iOS 11. And with the AirPlay 2 integration, you can control the volume and playlists for the smart speakers in each individual room from the Home app. This allows different music to be played at different volumes from the one device. Source

Indoor Maps

One of the best new features coming to iOS 11 is Indoor Maps in the Maps app. With this feature, you can view the indoor maps of hundreds of shopping centres and major airports. Now you can see which restaurants are beyond security at airports and the stores that are on each level of the mall. Source

Document scanning in notes

The Notes app now has a Document Scanner function that can automatically detect when a photo of a document is taken. And then the Notes app automatically crops the edges and removes tilts and glares. Plus you can fill in the blanks or sign it with the Apple Pencil. Once you are done editing the document, then you can export it as a PDF or document file. Source