Reflections on STEM Ed Conference

I’ve just returned from the STEM Education Conference held by Deakin University in Geelong (October 5-7).

The conference was an interesting mix of education academics (like me) and teachers from primary and secondary levels around Australia. I think the main emphasis of the conference was how we approach STEM into the future. Is STEM a fad that has been handed to us by the government? Or is it something that will last into the future? A way of incorporating the four disciplines into integrated whole(s)?

I myself put together a workshop on computational thinking, “Computational Thinking: What’s coding got to do with it?” In it I was trying to draw the distinction between computational thinking and coding. I think at the moment a lot of people who are teaching coding believe they are teaching computational thinking, whereas that isn’t necessarily the case. I aim to upload my slides in the next week or so.

The conference itself was a great mixture of case studies and workshops. Many teachers were presenting what they were doing in terms of working towards or within STEM. They talked about their explorations, what worked and what didn’t and the whole thing felt like a big supportive hug where we could all empathise about what we were trying to do and felt free to gently critique what happened. The workshops were a big hit with anything with coding in the title being ‘standing room only’. My workshop was well attended where lots of laughing occurred as I was trying to get my group of teachers to do coding without computers and think about how they could teach coding without computers and think about where computational thinking might be placed in this work.

It was a great 2 days, with a third day (today) of school visits. Unfortunately I had to get back to work so I didn’t stay on.

Well done to the Deakin University team and Linda Hobbs, the conference director. Great job!


Babbage – Short film about Charles Babbage

Babbage is a short 15-minute film, an imaginary dinner with people from his life including Herschel, Ada Lovelace and his wife. Here is the Wikipedia entry for the film.

Perfect for introducing some of the concepts he came up with when discussing coding.

Charles Babbage (26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was an English polymath. A mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, Babbage, along with Ada Lovelace, is best remembered for originating the concept of a programmable computer. Considered by some to be a “father of the computer”, Babbage, along with Lovelace, is credited with inventing the first mechanical computer that eventually led to more complex designs. His varied work in other fields has led him to be described as “pre-eminent” among the many polymaths of his century. Parts of Babbage’s uncompleted mechanisms are on display in the Science Museum in London. In 1991, a perfectly functioning difference engine was constructed from Babbage’s original plans. Built to tolerances achievable in the 19th century, the success of the finished engine indicated that Babbage’s machine would have worked. Wikipedia

Instructables – Electronics Class

I love Instructables. I have been on their mailing list for a few months now and am always astounded by the things that their members create. It’s always a fascinating mixture of art, science, engineering and ingenuity.

I’ve signed up for this beginners class on electronics. If you’re someone who is trying to make their world in the makerspace, or a teacher who wants to start out trying these things, I suggest you have a go. I’ll be blogging about my own progress with this course.

Coding Book – Coding Games in Scratch

As someone who is very keen on coding and trying to share resources with teachers, I am always on the look out for a new practical book. While theory is all well and good, there is nothing better than experience to get yourself started.

Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games by Jon Woodcock is a great start. My aim over the next few months is to complete the 8 large projects that can be coded in scratch. The projects would be suitable for kids between 6-9 years.

Make sure you check out the book soon.

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Swift Playgrounds

Just downloaded a new app for the iPad. It is an introductory course to coding. The first lesson indicates it’s very much a ‘button-press’ app, where you press a button to insert code. I’ll keep working on it and will let you know how I go. Check it out.

Swift Playgrounds is a revolutionary new app for iPad that makes learning Swift interactive and fun. Solve puzzles to master the basics using Swift — a powerful programming language created by Apple and used by the pros to build many of today’s most popular apps. Then take on a series of challenges and step up to more advanced creations. Swift Playgrounds requires no coding knowledge, so it’s perfect for students just starting out. It also provides a unique way for seasoned developers to quickly bring ideas to life. And because it’s built to take full advantage of iPad, it’s a first-of-its-kind learning experience.


A great video that gives you a basic outline of what ‘coding’ is 🙂

Final Days for 2016 Deakin University Ed Students

This year I have been involved with teaching 4th year students completing their Bachelor of Education. Today is their last day and they gave a 15 minute presentation on a topic of research they had done.

SO MANY students presenting, that I spent about 4 hours moving from room to room, watching students give their final presentations. I was so impressed at how composed, professional and knowledgeable they were up in front of their peers.

I know many of the students I worked with this year will be great teachers in time.

A great job guys. Best of luck to you into the future, and please stay in touch and let me know where you end up teaching 🙂