Robots and Education Today magazine

Education Today: the school principals’ magazine

You may have seen this interesting magazine in staffrooms. It comes out each term and is also available online and searchable back to 2007. The articles cover a broad range of current educational topics, are written in an engaging style and PDFs of articles are available for downloading and sharing. Education Today is owned and published by Minnis Journals (publisher: Bill Minnis) and is not aligned with any group.


Interesting articles from Education Today (term 2 2016):


Digital technologies: beyond the panic – Damian Perry

The new AC Digital Technologies Curriculum will be in place in 2017, but will probably take 10 years to implement. It promotes the creation of solutions using technology, with students experimenting with algorithms and programming, exploring hardware, software, data and networks. Computational thinking is an essential component. It differs from the ICT General Capability, where students use software, access and evaluate information, consider issues of copyright and privacy, and collaborate and share. Money and time will be needed to train teachers in the new Digital Technologies Curriculum and students will be at vastly different skill levels.

There are some f=good links at the end of the article.–1195



NAO robots enhance learning in South Australia

These humanoid robots have been used in 7 independent schools since early 2015, in the first major Australian study of how humanoid robots affect  learning and teaching in schools. They have been used with preschoolers to Yr 10 for Maths, Digital technologies, English and German. Using the robots has enhanced collaboration between students and teachers, unlocked innovative approaches to education, led to a rapid uptake of high level cognitive processes and quick adoption of coding language Python. The robots have proved to be a powerful way for teachers to embrace the new Digital Technologies Curriculum. Teachers and students love the robots because of the endearing way they behave. Deepest learning occurs when students play with the robots and discover things themselves. ANO robots have been used to diagnose autism and treat brin-injured patients – subjects often respond better to the robots than humans. NAOs are expensive though – $8000.

Aust. distributor of NAO robots:


Pretty sure you want a robot?

Here are 13 advanced humanoid robots for sale: Darwin Mini ($499), Hovis Eco Lite ($700), Robotis Op 2 ($9600)…..or maybe you’d prefer the Robothespian ($78 000) or perhaps the Asimo ($2.5 million)?

Fearful of robots? Don’t worry…they have to follow the Three Laws:


I’d love to be using my robotic vacuum cleaner this weekend (if I had one)…..


Libraries, bookshops and makerspaces

The bookshop that bans mobile phones and tablets

London bookshop Libreria has declared itself a “digital detox zone”, banning customers from using mobile phones and tablets within the store. It is attempting to “immerse the visitor in the visceral joys of reading and the pleasure of physical books, as well as to reawaken the art of real-life conversation, debates and talks, a sense of conviviality and a taste of the unexpected”. Visitors can take photos, but if they are caught texting, phoning, using the internet or social media, they are politely requested to stop. Most people are happy to oblige. Libreria’s founders believe “we have reached a ‘cultural tipping point’ with book lovers rebelling against the ‘digital deluge’.” Other London bookshops are following suit. Libreria groups books according to loose themes rather than genre eg. the sea and the sky. Guest curators have also made selections eg. Jeanette Winterson.


Why the internet hasn’t killed the library (yet) – Donald Barclay, Deputy University Librarian, Uni of California, Merced.

Most reference questions in US academic libraries are now via email or web chat. Over 400 academic libraries provide 24/7 reference services as members of OCLC’s 24/7 Reference Cooperative. Circulation and in-person reference transaction numbers have decreased markedly, but there has been a steady increase in the number of people setting foot in academic libraries. These libraries have been reinventing themselves and converting printed book space to space for students to study, collaborate, learn and even socialise! Libraries offer consultation services and spaces for research, writing, analysing data, graphic design, presentation practice, digital media preparation, makerspaces, music practice, funding opportunities etc Some spaces are open 24/7 and many have relaxed food and drink rules (!)


Create knowledge and other stuff at your library!

The availability of makerspaces in many US public libraries has had many benefits. Libraries are now “places where people can not only consume knowledge, but create new knowledge” (Miguel Figueroa, ALA). 3D printers have allowed many people to create prototypes, models and parts far more cheaply at their library than through commercial manufacturing.

The Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago set up their Maker Lab to support 21st century learning, as a trial in 2013. It was very popular and current sessions are usually fully booked in advance. 68% of participants are women; 55% are 26-45 year olds; 70% visited the lab to try something new. Pop-up labs visit some neighbourhoods. 3D printing, the Laser Cutter and the Vinyl Cutter are all popular. Non-digital craft programs are also offered.

Long but interesting: Will makerspaces last? Do they help their members earn a real living or to learn more than a smattering of skills?:


Tablets out, imagination in: the schools that shun technology

In Silicon Valley, California, the Waldorf School of the Peninsula does not use technology in the classroom but employees of the tech giants still send their children there. Innovative thinking skills and creativity are emphasised. At the London Acorn school, the internet is banned for everyone under 16 years – at home and at school. Computers are used only with those over 14 years. “The problem with instant information is that the ease with which you can get from A to B and find the answers doesn’t reflect real life” (Sarah Thorne, principal)


Kansas City Library, Missouri

How awesome…the façade of the parking garage of the Central Library is made of 8 metre tall book spines – the “Community Bookshelf”. The community voted on the 22 titles to be displayed, including Lord of the rings, Fahrenheit 451, Catch-22, A tale of two cities, Charlotte’s web, To kill a mockingbird, The invisible man, Romeo and Juliet….

Robotics and coding

Spare parts – film

This is a very good film and book – great for Lives and Times / Biography units. It is the true story of 4 Mexican high school students (3 of whom were illegal immigrants) who form a robotics club at an underfunded Phoenix, Arizona high school, under the leadership of a teacher (in real life, 2 teachers). With no experience, $800, used car parts and a dream, the team goes up against the country’s reigning underwater robotics champion, MIT. Directed by Sean McNamara. Stars George Lopez, Marisa Tomei. Rated PG.

The original story by Joshua Davis appeared in WIRED magazine in 2005. Following publication, readers contributed more than $90 000 in scholarships for the 4 youths.

Here’s what they are doing now:

Book by Joshua Davis – Spare parts: Four undocumented teenagers, one ugly robot, and the battle for the American Dream:

“This is hands down my favorite kind of story: underdogs plus ingenuity plus pluck and dedication equals a deeply moving and touching narrative. I love these kids!” ―Adam Savage, cohost of MythBusters


Robotics and computer coding in Queensland schools

These will be taught to all students from prep to Year 10 from 2016. The premier announced that the AC Digital Technologies curriculum would be fast-tracked. Every state school in Qld will also have access to specialist STEM teachers and a Qld coding academy will be set up. The AC Digital Technologies revised curriculum (approved in Sept) now has programming beginning in Year 5, rather than Foundation.


5 reasons to teach robotics in schools

It’s fun for kids; it introduces programming; provides skills for future employment; suitable for range of abilities; demystifies a complex technology.


Code Club merges with Raspberry Pi Foundation

Global children’s coding network Code Club has merged with the UK charity Raspberry Pi Foundation, which makes low-cost computers to promote computer skills in schools. They are both part of the movement helping people become digital makers and not just consumers. In Australia, the popular Code Club teaches programming languages like Scratch and Python to more than 8000 students in 300 classes. Now they will also start robotics. Raspberry Pi comes pre-loaded with Scratch and Python. It can also be used for Minecraft  and advanced robotics. The new merger will offer even more free resources online for learning coding and digital making.


National Science Week, makerspaces and coding

Since it’s National Science Week 15-23 August, have a look at the RiAus website – “Australia’s national science channel, promoting public awareness and understanding of science”. Always something interesting and “accessible for all Australians”. Includes videos, articles, links, blog, In Class livestreaming sessions (eg. astronaut Chris Hadfield and Prof. Brian Cox), science/art  exhibitions.  Includes free guides to uni courses and careers – Ultimate science guide and Ultimate engineering guide.

A week in science – short video newsfeed each week. Great stuff eg. The secret life of apples; Science fiction prediction; Waking up before your alarm:



Webby Awards 2015 – Science

Winner: If the moon were only 1 pixel: a tediously accurate scale model of the solar system.

People’s Voice: BBC Earth. Shortlist: Global climate change: vital signs of the planet; WIRED Science; Interactive history on the origins of HIV.


Top 15 most popular science websites (Aug 2015)

Based on Alexa Global Traffic Rank. 1. HowStuffWorks 2. NASA 3. Discovery 4. LiveScience 5. ScienceDaily 6. ScienceDirect 7. Space 8. Scientific American 9. Nature 10. PopSci


Makerspace ideas


Orbotix Ollie – racing, spinning and flipping robot controlled from an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch – $150


Orbotix Sphero – robotic ball controlled from an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch – $200


Parrot MiniDrone Rolling Spider – ultra compact drone controlled from a smartphone – $150


Parrot MiniDrone Jumping Sumo – a responsive bot which jumps, rolls, zig-zags, circles and takes turns at 90° – $240. Parrot have a new range of camera-enabled mini-drones coming soon.


Lego robotics – object oriented programming – $500 per kit


Raspberry Pi – mini programmable computer board – $60


Makerspaces and coding in schools

3 interesting articles from the current edition of principals’ journal Education Today:


“Lauriston FabLab is transformative” 2015, Education Today, Term 3.

*Established one of the first FabLabs in Australia in 2014

*FabLab@School program from Stanford University – focus on transformative learning

*Many cross-curricular opportunities – house design; model of an eye, art, history

*3D printer, 3D mill, laser cutter, programming and more traditional tools

*Skills of problem-solving, self direction and collaboration – very relevant to workplace skills


“ScopeIT education” 2015, Education Today, Term 3.

*Scope IT Education – provides courses, instructors, lesson plans, assessment, Macbooks, equipment, internet, weekly 40 min. lessons for 10 weeks (NSW Stages 1-3 – primary school)

*Teaches coding (Scratch, WordPress, HTML, Javascript, Python, iOS apps), 3D printing, electronics, robotics, digital citizenship

*Entered into partnership with Aust. Primary Principals Association


“Coding in schools building up a head of steam” 2015, Education Today, Term 3.

  • Importance of coding as a component of STEAM teaching– Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Maths
  • #WeSpeakCode Microsoft conference at UTS in Sydney in May 2015 – 7000 students had to create a flappy bird game
  • Microsoft Asia Pacific study – only 32% of Australian students had an opportunity to learn coding in school (lowest figure for all countries surveyed)
  • Two-thirds of Australian students said they wanted to know more about coding
  • By 2022 a deficit of 12-15 million jobs in STEM fields
  • Kodu – games programming for kids; free download
  • Blockley – by Google; educational games that teach programming
  • Grok Learning – coding courses (and competitions) for high school students
  • – many courses for different ages and levels


What’s new in ICT, education and popular culture?

Here is the link to my Moderation Day presentation on 13 August to Year 11 and 12 teacher librarians in Canberra, ACT.

What’s new in ICT, education and popular culture?

ICT news

Lots of interesting developments….HoloLens, Minecraft, Google & STEM, video games, the internet….


HoloLens by Microsoft

At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in L.A. in June, Microsoft demonstrated its upcoming HoloLens, an Augmented Reality (AR) headset that allows players to visualise and manipulate digital images overlaid on the real world and to explore games in full 3D. Microsoft describes HoloLens as a “see-through holographic computer” that allows holograms to integrate with our world – an experience they call “mixed reality”. They believe it will unlock new ways to create, communicate, work and play.

In the demo, the player enters the world of Minecraft, playing first on a wall and then building a 3D world on a coffee table….awesome! He uses an Xbox controller and then voice commands and hand gestures. He can look around and through his creations by simply moving around in real space. HoloLens will probably be available in 2016, along with other Virtual Reality (VR) headsets – Sony’s Morpheus, Oculus Rift (owned by Facebook) and Valve.

Impressive 3 min. video – playing Minecraft with HoloLens:

The possibilities of HoloLens – 2 min. video:

More info:


Minecraft in education: can we change the way we learn?

The global phenomenon Minecraft, begun in 2009, has been owned by Microsoft since Sept 2014. More than 70 million copies have been sold across all platforms. Microsoft is now creating an online portal for teachers. “Minecraft in education is students visiting an ancient civilization and creating a setting for a story. It is exploring math concepts using Minecraft blocks. It is practicing collaboration, problem solving, digital citizenship and leadership skills while designing experiments and demonstrating mastery. Minecraft in education is teachers inspired by their students to explore and create, and students motivated to learn.”

Short video: (not fully running yet)


Minecon: the biggest Minecraft fan convention

10 000 players attended Minecon in London earlier in July. Whilst there are many younger players, the average age is 29. Guests included Stampy, a famous Minecraft YouTuber who now has Wonder Quest, an online animated Minecraft series, and Mindcrack, a community of online Minecraft players.


Google pledges $1 million to boost STEM in Aust.

Google will work with 3 Australian not-for-profits to inspire under-represented students to careers in science, technology, engineering and maths. Cash grants will deliver hands-on training and career programs. Aust. Indigenous Mentoring Experience will develop STEM content for Year 7 & 8 indigenous students; First Robotics Aust. will take robotics programs into 150 schools; Engineers Without Borders Aust. will give hands-on training to 5000 young people, focusing on young women.

Keep up with Google with their blog:


Bond University Digital Australia report 2016 (DA16)

This report has been released annually since 2010 for the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association. Gaming is a massively popular activity for people of all ages and a growing industry. 68% of Australians play video games, with an average age of 33 years. 47% of gamers are female. Half of video game players are avid video game watchers as well. The International Defense of the Ancients 2 Championship (DotA2 – an online battle game) takes place next week in Seattle with many professional gamers and $22 million in prize money. Many will pay to watch the top players battle it out.


Gamers on and YouTube

People are more than willing to watch others play video games – and will even pay to do it. (owned by Amazon) has 100 million visitors per month who watch others play video games online and “e-sports” (the big video game competitions). Sarah Pike has a full-time job as a gamer on Viewers pay $6.70 a month to watch her play games like Call of Duty – she keeps half of that. She also gets donations and tips. Fans even order home delivered meals for her when she’s playing. 9 million viewers a month watch Elliott Watkins play Team Fortress on YouTube. He gets between 60c and $1 for every 1000 views…..$108 000p.a.


Global Internet Report 2015

The second report by the Internet Society focuses on mobile networks and devices, because they “will be instrumental in bringing the next billion people online”(Brown). More than 90% of the world’s population is covered by at least one mobile network, with 3 billion internet users. The time spent using apps exceeds the time spent using browsers on mobile devices. 84% of tablets and 72% of mobile phones are Android. Tablet sales will exceed PC sales within a year. There is widespread concern about the mass sharing of personal data arising from location-sharing apps. Neutrality, copyright and low-cost access are also issues. Governments must ensure that enough spectrum is available nationally and internationally to support the growth of mobile usage. By 2019, 71% of the world’s population will be using mobile networks.

Vsauce and Veritasium – science coolness

The inaugural YouTube FanFest is on in Sydney on 31 May. It includes comedic bloggers Jenna Marbles and Ryan Higa, beauty experts Bethany Mota and Chloe Morello and science sensations Vsauce and Veritasium (see below).

Vsauce: our world is amazing

Vsauce comprises a number of YouTube channels created by Michael Stevens. The channels produce videos about scientific topics,  technology, culture, gaming and topics of general interest. The main Vsauce channel is hosted by Michael Stevens and presents philosophical and scientific questions about humans and the universe.

Topics include: Is anything real? Will we ever run out of new music ? What if everyone jumped at once? How big can a human get? Should you eat yourself? What colour is a mirror? Why do we clap? What is the greatest honour? Where do deleted files go? How many photos have been taken? We are all related. And even – A defence of Comic Sans 🙂

Stevens has stated he researches academic papers and Wikipedia to find information for his videos. Vsauce won a 2014 Webby People’s Voice Award for Best News and Information. Stevens loves playlists – he even states that “curation is the future”!


All the Vsauce videos:


Vsauce2: people are amazing

Unusual knowledge and technology, inventions, BiDiPi (Build it, Draw it, Play it – maker culture) creations, riddles….


Vsauce3: fictional worlds are amazing

Includes video games, interesting websites, new apps…


Wesauce: the best videos from the Vsauce community



Educational YouTube science channel created by Derek Muller in 2011. Videos include science experiments & cool demos, dramatisations, interviews with experts, songs and discussions with people to uncover misconceptions about science. Try these:

Will this go faster than light?:

Can silence actually drive you crazy?

World’s roundest object:

All the videos:

Australian Curriculum: technologies; and computer coding

Some interesting news and views….

Australian Curriculum: Technologies

Available for use; awaiting final endorsement. Two distinct subjects – 1. Design and Technologies 2. Digital Technologies. All students will study both from Foundation to Year 8. In Year 9 and 10, access will be determined by school authorities.

Design and Technologies – students use design thinking and technologies to generate and produce designed solutions for authentic needs and opportunities.

Digital Technologies – students use computational thinking and information systems to define, design and implement digital solutions.

Australian Curriculum: General Capabilities: ICT Capability

“In the 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 digital 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.”

Do we really need a Digital Technologies syllabus?

Here’s an interesting article by Deborah Trevallion (lecturer, School of Education, Uni of Newcastle). If ICT capability is integrated into every subject, why do we need a Digital Technologies syllabus? Who is going to teach it? Will we need to find specialist computing teachers? The Australian syllabus is already overcrowded – perhaps the Digital Technologies syllabus should just be a strand of the Design and Technologies syllabus.

Teaching the new Digital Technologies syllabus

Indeed, feedback was given during the Draft stage, commenting on the level of difficulty and advanced nature of the Digital Technologies curriculum, especially for years F-6. Will teachers have the expertise to deliver the curriculum? Interesting to see the Computer Science Education Research Group at the University of Adelaide (supported by Google) offering a free course for F-6 teachers (starting 24 March) in digital technology and computational thinking and how to implement the curriculum (thanks Stephen Loosley for your update). More courses like this will need to be offered so that teachers can become familiar with this new learning area – many teachers will have had little experience with concepts such as algorithms, programming and information systems. Interesting though!

Implementing the Digital Technologies syllabus will be an exciting time – maybe it’s an area in which teacher librarians can develop expertise? Computer science and coding are becoming more prominent worldwide…. and the Hour of Code launched in January 2013 – a non-profit organisation that promotes computer coding & computer science, especially in schools. Supporters include Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and President Obama. During 9 – 15 Dec 2013 they launched the Hour of Code Challenge – 20 million people in 168 countries participated and 600 million lines of code were written.

Teacher coding & user friendly professional resources (useful for Aust. Curriculum) – looks like fun!:

Chicago public schools are establishing computer science as a core subject in high schools, in partnership with,. who will provide free curriculum and PD for teachers. Sounds good!

The National Curriculum for primary schools in England will adopt lessons in basic programming from Sept 2014, from kindergarten on. This is already happening in Estonia. The Hour of Code will also run in the UK in March this year.

Short video:

National Curriculum in England: computing programmes of study:

Lots of exciting developments!

The Maker movement

The Maker movement – a global cultural shift aimed at empowering more people to create things – the new industrial revolution?

Very interesting presentation by Gary Stager at the ISTE tech conference in San Antonio in June:
Gary Stager: the creative revolution you can’t afford to miss
Personal fabrication, tinkering, engineering and a maker culture are transforming and re-energising learning. He notes 3 game changers – fabrication (eg. 3D printing), physical computing and programming. If they start early, what could they achieve by year 12?
TMI – think, make, improve. Make projects simple at first, then more complex. You need a good prompt, challenge or problem, appropriate materials and a supportive culture. Invent to learn! Do we always need to assess?
Maker Faires – huge festivals of creativity – are very popular and inclusive of both children and adults.
Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show – 11 year old Sylvia makes all kinds of things and gives video instructions. Stager has hired her in his program.
Look what Joey’s making – “don’t be bored…make something!” 15 year old Joey makes electronics kits and other inventions and even went to the White House with his marshmallow cannon. “Going to Maker Faires has changed my life”.
Stager’s book: Invent to learn: making, tinkering and engineering in the classroom, by Gary Stager and Sylvia Libow Martinez.

Maker movement inspires shift in school curriculum
There is now a shift in education from passive to active learning with inquiry and project-based learning in some curricula – particularly science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) Core Curriculum in the US eg. students develop real apps to market in app stores.
“All innovations and innovation economies rely on this ability to solve a currently unsolved problem, but so much in education revolves around solving questions that already have known answers”. – Andrew Coy.–Shift-in-STEM-Curriculum.html

What is the Maker movement and why should you care?
Maker movement — “an evolution of millions of people who are taking big risks to start their own small businesses dedicated to creating and selling self-made products”. Technology has made it easy for individuals to create unique items without manufacturers. The DIY movement has boomed – cooking, sewing, craft, robots, 3D printers, mechanics…Libraries and museums are being turned into “Makerspaces,” physical locations where people can come together to make.
Short film (16 min.): We are makers

Maker Faire
These festivals are happening around the world (since 2006) – “a friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these ‘makers’ come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.” The 2013 Maker Faire in San Mateo, California had 150 000 attendees.
Associated magazine – MAKE and website with projects, videos, blog, forum. Intriguing!

The Maker movement is also catching on in Australia:
Torque: revolving ideas
Canberra’s Maker culture delivers fortnightly seminars for students and others at Questacon Technology Learning Centre. Local artists, engineers, designers, scientists and other creative people discuss their hobbies, work and construction processes.
Adelaide has a Fab Lab, the first in Australia, where anyone can use the 3D printers, laser cutters etc. In April, they hosted the second Mini Maker Faire In Australia.

At Dickson College, teacher Andrew Moss runs the award-winning Unmanned Aerial Vehicle course, robotics and 3D printing for Years 11 and 12. The students (and Andrew) are creative and amazing! A new Engineering course starts in 2014.

And we are all good at making something…even if it’s just cupcakes!