Digital Technologies in Junior School

Fri, February 08, 2019

With an ongoing commitment to real-life, experiential learning for the real world the introduction of drone technology into the Junior School made perfect sense.  Watching young people engage with tools of this nature allows the School is a reminder of children’s abilities to quickly learn and adapt to new technologies.  Appropriate use of technology is almost intuitive to them. 

Young people are quick to make connections and easily apply a wide range of transferable skills to maximise the potential of the tools at their disposal.

All schools have mandated expectations of the Australian Curriculum with specific relevance to Digital Technologies. ICT Capabilities are becoming increasingly valued in a rapidly changing world.

Across the Western Australian Curriculum, students develop ICT capability as they learn to use ICT effectively and appropriately to access, create and communicate information and ideas; solve problems; and work collaboratively in all learning areas at school, and in their lives beyond school. The capability involves students in learning to make the most of the technologies available to them, adapting to new ways of doing things as technologies evolve, and limiting the risks to themselves and others in a digital environment. (SCSA, 2018)

At St Mark’s, we have a growing commitment to inquiry as a model of ‘best pedagogical practice’ and creating interdisciplinary scenarios that mimic real life,  providing opportunities that increase the development of a wide range of 21st century skills including problem solving, communicating, collaborating, and higher order thinking skills, such as analysing, interpreting and hypothesizing.

St Mark’s strives to nurture active learners, who are trusted to make sound, informed decisions with an increased responsibility for their own learning. Although drone program in the Junior School is only in its first year, the level of student engagement, their level of responsibility and the rapid growth in their level of inquiry has affirmed the School’s commitment in this regard.

The Junior School Program

In 2018, Year 4 students began their foray into the digital world by learning basic coding, including coding a robot and coding a drone, while students in Year 5 began their program looking at aerodynamics and principles of flight.

As their inquiry developed, the students moved from investigating paper planes to using a Digital Flight Simulator, and reviewed the relevant laws, regulations and safety. After they had successfully navigated the flight simulator and conducted comprehensive safety checklists, they were able to begin working directly with the Parrot Mambo Mini-Drones, including flights, launching, following courses, performing tasks and solving problems during flight. Students completed the program by learning how to code for the drones.

In addition to their work with the drones, Year 5 students also investigated digital economics and completed a future financial literacy unit, with a focus on blockchain technology. Blockchain is considered by many to be the number one emerging technology in the world and could, in future, underpin global business, education and other key areas within world economies.  Students also investigated digital currencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple’s XRP. Students have digital portfolios where they trade between currencies and digital assets, and have learned how the assets that solve problems evolve, and how the values of those assets hold value or fluctuate.


Early Outcomes

The Junior School's Robotics Teams competed successfully at the First Lego League Regional Championships held in 2018 at St Stephen’s School.  

The Year 4 Team performed extremely well, finishing fourth out of 30 teams in the programming/robotics game component. This was a remarkable achievement as they were the youngest team in the competition and competing against students in Year 9 and 10. The development of the Year 4 students’ coding and programming skills in the classroom has certainly influenced their strong performance in their first year of competition.

The Year 5 Team went through to the State Championships, held at Curtin in November last year. The Team won the trophy for Product Innovation, based on their innovative idea of designing a toothbrush that is suitable for use by astronauts in space. Students spent more than three months researching their concept, designing a prototype and putting together a presentation on their idea including using 3D printer to create a prototype of the toothbrush.

The Year 5 Team was also extremely strong in the programming component of the Championships, finishing 11th out of 40 teams, many of which included secondary school students. Their exposure to learning to program and control their mini-drones contributed towards their success.

We look forward to continuing these programs in 2019.