Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Growing Techno Kids- Selwyn House Takes a Risk.....

Yesterday I blogged about the way schools can share and collaborate to support one another. Today I'd like to share something we tried at Selwyn House.

I asked you to think about something your school is doing well; something other schools would enjoy hearing about. At Selwyn House, we are deeply committed to the growth of computer science and makered programmes. This is a legacy left by the incredible Jill Pears and her work is now being continued by Liz Fairhall, our awesome eLearning Director and my co-teacher.

As programmes like robotics and computational thinking become more and more widespread, we've had many schools contact us wanting to visit which is fantastic and we love visiting their schools in return. As interest levels have gotten higher and higher, our principal, Lyn Bird called us together to pose the question, "How might we share our Makered programmes to benefit other schools in Christchurch?"

We decided to gather together the awesome people who have inspired us and continue to support us on our Makered journey by holding a professional learning day for interested educators. This was a big undertaking- we'd be responsible for 7 hours of learning! How would we ensure the day was worthwhile? How would a school offering PD be perceived by others? Would it be seen as thinking we knew it all? After all, we don't by any means believe we have all the answers; we just really wanted to share what we've learned and showcase the people that have inspired us.

We were so thrilled when our our inspirations/speakers jumped on board. We eventually settled on a format which involved three keynotes spread throughout the day interspersed with four workshops; attendees selected two of these.

Our keynote speakers were:

Professor Tim Bell of University of Canterbury

Tim was really excited to be involved and started the day with an interactive keynote using resources from the incredible CS Unplugged which has had a great deal of influence over the way Computer Science is taught at our school.

Tim is deeply passionate about the teaching of computer science principles from a young age. He shared how the technology industry is thriving in post-quake Christchurch and talked about the opportunities programming skills give our learners to really follow their passions and make a difference in their world. He shared activities from CS Unplugged which is used worldwide and showed us how to use this resource to teach CS principles without even laying hands on a device.

The ever-inspiring Bridget McKendry

You may know her as @pixelbrid on Twitter. Bridget and Carl Pavletich are the founders of Fabriko and together they started the Christchurch Makercrate soon after the earthquakes, bringing making to the Christchurch community in a container! They also run the incredible Christchurch FabLab in Cathedral Junction.

Bridget epitomises a maker. She is deeply committed to creating a community of makers through open access to the necessary tools and ideas. Bridget's spirit of generosity and her "girl power" attitude has made her a real favourite of Selwyn House learners. She is adored and respected and is a fantastic mentor to our learners. We are so grateful to have Bridget's support.

Bridget talked about the role making has played in life and how important makered is for developing problem solving skills, perseverence, creativity and a sense of fun!

Michael Trengrove and Caitlin Duncan of Code Club Aotearoa

Man, what a team these guys make. Michael is such a genuinely nice guy whose heart's desire is to ensure that all New Zealand intermediate-aged kids have equity when it comes to learning coding. He has always whole heartedly supported Liz and I and the direction we wanted our Code Club to take. He didn't flinch when we insisted it was for girls' only and was fully on board when we insisted that our club be opened to all girls in the Christchurch community; not just those within our school. He has listened to our numerous irate rants about the lack of women being encouraged into Computer Science and has taken our thoughts on board. We feel very grateful to have his enthusiasm and support for what we do.

Caitlin is the cool computer chick our girls all want to be. She is passionate and inspiring and so, so knowledgeable about teaching coding in schools.

These two showed us exactly WHY it is so important that we teach our learners to code. Here's why....

There are over 600 thriving tech firms here in Christchurch and we're a small city of around 400,000 people! We can all imagine the opportunities that creates. Caitlin informed us that for each University of Canterbury Computer Science graduate there were TEN attractive jobs. Most UC comp sci students had good jobs by the end of their first year of their undergraduate degrees! It is our duty to ensure that our learners aren't excluded from these opportunities.

Michael and Bridget offered coding and 3d printing workshops while Liz Fairhall offered a robotics workshop and I offered a workshop on 5 Tools for Connecting Your Class (not exactly computer science but the theme for the day was Growing Techno Kids so it kind of worked!) I have never run any sort of teacher learning before so I was petrified. I needn't be- the attendees were so lovely and so appreciative. I loved meeting them and starting a conversation with them around connecting our classes.

Here's my google pres. As you can see, I packed far too much in for a 55 minute workshop but somehow it worked! I could have explored any ONE of these tools for the full 55 minutes but never mind.  That's the beauty of giving a link to a google pres.....participants can explore at their own pace in their own time. (Some of you may see tweets from your own classes! Thanks so much for connecting with us!)

We had more than 40 teachers join us for the day and the evaluations suggest it was a great success. There is so much passion around this topic and the teachers were fired up, ready to learn and share their experiences and this made for a really great atmosphere where we were all learning together alongside one another. Another thing that helped enormously was having our Y8 students on hand to support teachers in the workshops. Our students really are pretty phenomenal and this came up again and again in the evaluation sheets.

Creating Lego Balloon Car Racers in Liz's Robotics Workshop
Our primary goal for this day was to SHARE the Makered love. We had no desire to make any money from the day, hence the small fee of $60pp to cover the speakers' time/ donations to their causes and lunch/ morning tea. The rewards were definitely not financial but the benefits for us at Selwyn House were huge. It was so wonderful to meet so many passionate Christchurch educators. It was a great day to be part of.

Thanks to everyone who came with open-minds to learn with us. Keep in touch!

By the way, if you are interested in Makered, here's another opportunity in Christchurch. 
The Chched Maker Event- Register by Thursday 23 July- I hope to see to you there! 


  1. It was such a fantastic day and a great opportunity to meet and share ideas with other teachers. Hopefully there'll be lots more like it!

    Thank you SHS for such a wonderful feat of organisation and community learning!

    1. Thanks so much Briony! It was great to catch up. See you at the Chched night?