Teacher librarian and technology teacher Michael Doherty is just one of the Cairns Catholic Education digital technologies specialists combining the latest digital technologies with curriculum outcomes for 21st century learners in our schools.
What’s your background and what led you to where you are today?
I have been teaching for 12 years, but have been passionate about computers since high school. In 1994 I completed an associate diploma of computing at FNQ TAFE. In 2012 I was given the role of ICT coordinator at St Gerard Majella (SGM). This was a position where I oversaw the implementation of ICT equipment into the classrooms. The insight this gave me into how the equipment is “supposed” to operate is actually the key to my success as a technology teacher.
What is the purpose of your role at St Gerard Majella School, Woree and Mother of Good Counsel School, Cairns North?
At SGM and Mother of Good Counsel (MOGC) I work in class, from Year 2 up. It is really about hitting the digital technology outcomes with activities that encourage students to extend their ICT capabilities and make sure the considerable investment in equipment and 1:1 devices at both schools are being used to their potential.
This looks different at both schools, with MOGC preferring I work with teachers in the room, helping to develop their ICT skills and SGM making sure the students are receiving the technology outcomes by creating the position of ‘technology teacher’.
How does your role fit in with the school curriculum?
Both positions are informed by curriculum. At SGM I have created a stand-alone digital technologies program for Years 2-6 using the equipment (robotics and devices) available at the school.
At MOGC I bring elements of my programs from SGM and cherry pick the parts that fit within the existing classroom programming. This means that mechanics and ICT capabilities of tasks can be fairly similar across schools, but the opportunities for assessment for teachers at MOGC are very different as the programming is integrated.
What’s the future for digital technology positions in schools?
I think it is probably inevitable that more digital technology positions will be offered in the future as it is an ever-growing space that includes online subscriptions, resource management and addressing the digital technology outcomes as well as the ICT capabilities across all subjects. Schools are investing heavily in the equipment, including 1:1 devices and it is a huge and ever-growing space.
What are you currently teaching in your classes?
I spend a lot of time working on iPads. Both the schools I am at run 1:1 iPad classes. The iPads are brilliant for hitting the digital technologies outcomes. I actually have a list of favourite activities for each grade; and any that don’t make the list, I need to redevelop because technology is FUN!
In Year 2: We create coding stories using scratch around the “where are we” theme. In Minecraft we design and create a whole city together.
In Year 3: We introduce the Dash Robots and get students to record their efforts moving through a number of small premade maps. They design shovels for their robots, using Lego to move and carry specific materials. At MOGC I am involved with a term long “Deadly 60” project where students create their own version of a documentary using clips, iMovie and Keynote. They add in clips, documents, pic collages, they green screen themselves into footage and images and in the end have a semi-professional Keynote documentary.
In Year 4: We create Crossy roads games using hopscotch to teach coding. Students love this activity as they are asked to add to a simple game that is taught to them and then design the rest of it around a theme. We also create websites from Year 4 onwards to display our technology work. In Year 4 another very popular unit is the interactive “choose your own adventure” story that I get the kids to design in inspiration maps and then create in Book Creator to churn out their own iBook that has interactive buttons to allow readers to “choose their story path”.
In Year 5: We return to the Dash Robots where students are asked to use their digital measurement and protractor app to label a large pre-made maze. It is here we introduce variables into the coding language giving students the ability to code to the nearest mm. They then program the Dash Robot to get from one end of the maze to the other. We also do the interactive “buddy” quiz in Year 5 (which is possibly my personal favourite activity as it shows a particular side of the Year 5s). In this activity they have to profile their buddy and create an interactive quiz around a topic that the buddy would find interesting. The goal is to have the buddy complete the quiz without any help from the creator; so if they can’t read. It has to read for them; it has to motivate them and reward them every time they get a question right. When assessing this I find the quizzes are full of buttons, sounds, images and video and a whole heap of things I didn’t teach the students as they are so motivated by the task.
In Year 6: We make really professional “escape the room games” using Scratch. This is just an awesome task where student creativity is really on show. I give the students a simple escape room code using just rectangles as triggers. The students then change the rectangles into items and add their own items, rooms and triggers. This year in Year 6 I am going to attempt to run the “world league robotics” championship with the Year 6 group using the Dash Robots.
What do you do differently and how is it proving successful in relation to outcomes for students?
I think for me it’s about really getting onto those devices and using the apps that we have (and we have lots). I think the past five years have been a whirlwind for teachers and 1:1 classes have popped up everywhere. I really try to bring the students back to what’s on those iPads and get them to create assessment pieces using them.
I run a coding club also in the afternoons. At this club we make games for the national STEM games competition. For this I get quite a few emails or comments in the breezeway from parents saying it’s their child’s favourite activity.
I also have these particular students who are really interested in the creation side of technology. I am continually asked by them to review games, books and videos they have made. This is because they know how enthusiastic I am about digital creation and how much I love seeing what they have done.