Teaching Drones and Digital Technology on a Shoestring Budget

Did you catch Clair Allan’s talk at EduDrone this year? She shared with us her top tips for teaching digital technology on a shoestring budget.

Missed it? Don’t stress! Over the next 12 months, we’ll be releasing 12 of our favourite talks from EduDrone 2020!  Tune in each month to get your fix of STEMspiration. We hope this will keep the ideas flowing all the way through until EduDrone 2021!

Children Are the Future (so we need great teachers!)

World Teacher’s Day is coming up on October 30th! This month, we want to celebrate one of our favourite primary school teachers, pedagogy expert, and veteran EduDrone presenter – Clair Allan.

We first met Clair when she was teaching at Peregian Springs State School on the Sunshine Coast as their Head of School, ICT and Pedagogy Coach. Clair trained as an Instructor with She Maps, and successfully developed and expanded a drone education program within her school. She’s recently moved to North Arm State School and is now the Head of Teaching and Learning/STEM, where she continues to be a passionate advocate for drone education.

From Big to Small

Clair has gone from teaching at a school that was custom built around ICT and technology, and had 1100 students (with considerable budget and resources) to a school of just 350 students that hadn’t yet delved into ICT. Starting from scratch may seem like a daunting challenge, but during EduDrone 2020 Clair shared her best advice for teachers looking to take the plunge.

It’s Not About the Drone!

Her biggest tip (and something that we’re strong advocates for at She Maps) is that it’s not about the drone! Technological devices (be they drones, Edisons, Beebots, or Spheros) are great tools for learning, but they’re not going to be valuable unless you’re using them the right way. In Australia, the Digital Technology Curriculum focuses on Computational Thinking, Systems Thinking, and Design Thinking, which means there’s lots of room for creativity and device-free learning! Some schools spend substantial amounts of money on new ‘toys’ but don’t have that connection back to the curriculum. This results in both a waste of money for the school and devices that aren’t being used to their full potential (or are left sitting in the box!)

Three Steps for Working with Digi-tech on a Budget:

Step 1: Targeted use of funds

Before you buy anything! Sit down and have a think about what your students could really benefit from, and whether you could go smaller. Instead of laptops, what about iPads/tablets? They’re cheaper and you can achieve the same results. With apps like Tynker and DroneBlocks, you can code and run the code within a simulator without the need to purchase the devices themselves. What about introducing unplugged computational thinking? Check out Code.org for ideas.

If you are looking to purchase devices for your school, Clair suggest that rather than buying lots of the one thing, buy different things! This will allow students to explore and play with different tools, and keep them engaged for longer over the years.

Step 2: Focus on Pedagogy

Don’t see ICT as a stand-alone! Develop solid ties with design technology and wherever possible try to integrate with other subjects. For example, Clair set a drone challenge for Grade 4 students which was linked to the erosion unit in their science class. Students had to get creative and design a drone that could act as a seed carrier.

Creating real world connections and providing the opportunity to solve real world problems will help students develop skills for the future – regardless of whether they’re using pen and paper, tablets, iPads, or drones. Develop your lessons to focus on skills thinking and problem solving! This will help you get the most out of the devices you’ve invested in.

Step 3: Development of staff confidence and mindset

If you’ve followed Step 2, this step should flow on easily. There’s not much point in thrusting a device in someone’s hand (either a teacher or a student), and telling them to start coding. Through building your lessons around real world connections, and skill-based learning, this will also allow teachers to ease in to using new technologies. Clair recommends planning units around design technology (what is the problem and how can we solve it) and using that as the premise to lead into the devices.

Four Skills for 21st Century

Finally, Clair shared how important it is to base ICT teaching around the Four Skills for the 21st Century; communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. Note that none of them are tech-specific! Ultimately, technology will change, the tools that we use will change, but we need to continue the learning process. By focusing on these four skills, rather than the devices themselves, student will be prepared for the future no matter what that looks like – building careers that may not even exist yet!

Check out Clair’s full talk from EduDrone 2020 below.

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