How does MLC support students to flourish in the digital era? We find out from Heads of School and from the students themselves.
Whether it is learning, playing, experimenting or all of the above, Junior School students love the possibilities of digital learning. We speak to Jacqueline (Year 2), Isabella (Year 4), Alice (Year 6) and Head of Junior School, Heather Littlejohn about working and playing with technology in the primary years.
Jacqueline: We use our iPad a lot in class for mathletics, which is fun. We have also learnt how to code with BBOT and to app smash (use three different apps at once). One of our class projects was to make an iMovie about insects. We could choose any insect we wanted. I chose earthworms.
When we have iPad time in class we also talk about cyberbullying. We watched a video where a girl behind a computer realised that people were talking about her online and she was very hurt.
Isabella: In class, we use our computers once or twice a week. I like using my laptop to type up my stories, answer quizzes, make graphs or play mathletics.
We also watch videos about student safety online. The videos show students doing the wrong thing online and what happens. Then they go back and look at how things could have been if different choices had been made.
Alice: In Year 6 we use our laptop each day in class. We do a lot of research on the MLC Library website for humanities and typing on Word. Sometimes we use Purple Mash, a program where you can create your own games. We also do our homework on the computer most of the time.
Some students use social media, like Instagram. I think it sounds like a good way to connect with your friends but I know it can be addictive.
In class we use websites that demonstrate how to be safe online. I have learnt not to give away personal details like an address or the school I go to.
Jacqueline: At home I am allowed to play on my iPad in the living room for one hour. I like to play different games and mathletics, then I go outside and play.
Isabella: Year 4 is pretty busy so most days I don’t have much time for screen time at home. Sometimes I can fit in a little. My favourite thing to do on the computer is play games, especially Subway Surfer.
Alice: Since moving into Grade 6 you need your computer a lot for homework. Sometimes I don’t have much time playing games.
Heather Littlejohn, Head of Junior School: We are very passionate about learning with technology in Junior School, and have developed a sequential, timetabled program that allows students to build on their digital skills as they move through their primary years.
When I move around Junior School and see how much fun students are having learning to code, or doing robotics, making a stop motion video or using apps to improve their literacy and numeracy, I feel incredible delight. The learning activities made possible through technology are boundless and it’s evident that technology adds significantly to the learning experience for Junior School students.
We ask students to sign an agreement with the school where they commit to using technology responsibly – this is just one way we encourage students to start thinking about the safety aspect of the digital world. We have developed a vast array of resources to help teach students about staying safe online. Our approach is very much to partner with parents in giving students the skills they need. The more we work together, the better the outcome.
We encourage parents to set boundaries for their children around screen time, not keeping iPads and smartphones in bedrooms etc. We recognise that balance is crucial for growing minds and bodies.
Junior School students all have their own device. Students in Prep to Year 2 have an iPad while students in Years 3 – 6 have a laptop. The devices are kept at school until students are in Year 5 and can begin to take them home to do research and homework tasks.
Our staff work hard to stay abreast of the ever-shifting technological landscape – and we are not afraid to ask our students to help us learn! Technology has made learning more collaborative and fluid, and that’s just the way we like it in Junior School!
Junior Secondary School
In Junior Senior School, students agree rapidly evolving technology and the advent of social media has created infinite opportunities and perhaps just as many challenges. We spoke to Year 8 students, Rachael Beckwith, Charli Kennedy, Michelle Grigorian and Kristobel Vidovich, as well as Head of Junior Secondary School, Melissa Lange, about what being part of the digital age looks like when you’re in Years 7 and 8.
Michelle: We bring our laptops to school to use in class every day. MLC’s focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) gives us the chance to develop creative skills that we know will help us in our futures. In Year 7 we completed a STEAM project that involved coding, robotics, laser cutting and 3D printing.
Rachael: I’ve enjoyed learning about digital design through my elective subjects. I also really like working with MLC’s learning management system, Canvas. It allows you to see your assignments and their due dates and check how much weighting each task has towards your final grade.
Kristobel: Canvas allows you to see everything at a glance. Sometimes, I feel too reliant on technology, but at that’s the way the future is heading.
Charli: Everyone is into technology these days. I know two grandmas who use Snapchat! As a member of the JSS Future Technologies Group I have the chance to contribute my views on how technology is used here at MLC, which is pretty cool.
Rachael: What we learn in the classroom makes it easier for us to adapt to the way society is changing. Especially with the way social media is targeted to our generation, it is good to know how to be cyber safe and the boundaries around what behavior is acceptable online.
Kristobel: Some kids define themselves by how many likes they get on social media or how popular they appear online. It is important to remember the moment you are in is what’s real, not the online world. It can feel very liberating to do things without a camera or phone in your hand.
Michelle: Even though there may be many negatives, social media can also be a really good thing. It has the power to make positive change like promoting LGBT rights, anti-racism and anti-discrimination.
Charlie: Michelle and I are part of a group called Star Techers. We all love technology and believe it should be available to everyone irrespective of their income. Recently, we recently went to a Deakin University workshop where a panel of different companies spoke to us. It was a great opportunity to share our perspectives, as young people, on some of the technologies they were using.
I also attended a future technology direction conference. Everything is going digital and most jobs of today and tomorrow have a digital element. It was great to have the opportunity to give an insight from a student’s point of view about the kind of world we want to live in.
Melissa Lange, Head of Junior Secondary School: The technology landscape is changing rapidly and in Junior Secondary School we value student perspectives around how technology at MLC should evolve. Our Future Technologies Group includes student members who contribute to decisions such as what hardware and software the school should invest in. It’s inspiring to hear students’ knowledge and considered views in this forum.
The JSS curriculum gives students many opportunities to build their digital and technical skill sets. In Year 7 students complete an innovative, group-based STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) project that incorporates coding, programming and robotics. In Year 8, students build on this experience by using digital technology to solve real world problems. Meanwhile our elective program gives students the chance to experiment with 3D printing, digital design and robotics.
Laptops are a big part of everyday classroom learning for students – as they move through JSS they build digital skills across all subject areas and in a variety of applications.
Our sophisticated learning management system helps JSS students stay on top of their learning and progress. Teachers can provide students with direct, personalised feedback based on sophisticated analytics, and students can see at a glance the progress they are making. This platform also enables our staff to engage with other teachers globally, to share ideas and improve their practice.
Junior Secondary School students tend to be more active on social media, so digital literacy and learning to behave safely and respectfully online are skills that we really focus on in Years 7 and 8.
Our approach is to build students’ self worth, strength and resilience – these qualities help students develop perspective and learn that they are not defined by the number of ‘likes’ their posts get on Facebook or Instagram.
In Middle School, Year 10 students consider the impact of technology on their future professional lives, while Year 9 students take a break from the digital world at MLC Marshmead. We speak to Piper Wright (Year 9) and Pia Agaskar (Year 10) and Head of Middle School, Mark Loveday, about growing up social in Middle School.
Piper: I enjoy programming and as one of three foundation members of MLC’s Coding Club I have really been able to build on my programming skills. We are currently working on an intricate project to make a bionic hand. We are printing the pieces of the hand using MLC’s 3D printer.
Pia: I think technology is really important today because it is so prevalent – for communication, for socialising and for networking. Looking ahead I can see the need to create a strong LinkedIn profile and build a solid professional network once I am out in the workforce.
MLC really drives home the importance of staying safe online. We have had lots of talks and presentations about it so we really understand the issues.
In Year 10 we use a laptop every day in class. It is my guide when I study, and all my notes are on my computer – I’d be lost without it! I enjoy using One Note – a program that houses all of our class notes. It is a very useful filing system and in many subjects we download all our important class documents from there. I also like learning with creative apps such as Kahoot, which is a quiz-based game. It is fun because it involves both a competition and comprehension.
Piper: I know it’s a good communication channel but I don’t really like social media. I feel people become obsessed with it. I don’t have Facebook. I value face-to-face interaction – I see people texting each other when they are sitting side by side on the tram and I don’t understand why they don’t just talk to one another.
Pia: I like using Instagram. It can be distracting though, because you can get so involved in other people’s lives that you forget about your own.
Last year at MLC Marshmead I enjoyed the experience of having no access to social media. We had limited connection to the outside world besides ABC News, Taste.com and weather websites. Everyone found it difficult, even me who only has one social media application, but at the same time it was a great learning experience and a unique opportunity to take a break from social media.
Mark Loveday, Head of Middle School: Middle School is an exciting time for MLC students, who are very comfortable using technology to learn and to socialise. Years 9 and 10 provides students with the chance to explore new technologies, especially in elective subjects such as Woodwork Design Technology, Fashion & Textiles and Sports Performance & Coaching. Meanwhile, students are considering careers – most of which will be impacted by the digital revolution.
Middle School teachers use technology in innovative ways, to enrich the curriculum, cater to students’ different learning styles, and to complement traditional classroom practice. One example is Physical Education, where the Virtual Heart and Map My Run apps are used as part of the Middle School learning program.
Middle School students are very active online, with many using social networks to communicate, for entertainment, and to broaden their horizons. We understand that being connected is important to a large number of students, so we allow them to access their smartphones during breaks, if they wish.
During class time, however, the focus remains very much on learning, although technology is obviously a key part of the equation. Every Middle School student has her own laptop, access to MLC’s extensive online resources and to our advanced learning management system, which helps students stay on top of their learning and assessment.
Sometimes students are asked to bring other devices into class – to take photos during a science experiment, for example. But scrolling through an Instagram feed while concentrating on a new maths concept is not a behaviour we encourage.
Year 9 students take a break from technology when they spend eight weeks at MLC Marshmead, located in Croajingolong National Park. Some students find it a wrench to stop using social media in particular during this time, but many find it liberating.
We are very aware of the need for students to behave safely online, and to establish a digital footprint they can be proud of. Our Online Safety and Ethics program recognises that students in Middle School already possess a considerable ‘toolkit’ of digital skills, so we complement these with sessions and presentations that focus on key issues. We have recently had a speaker present to students about online bullying and how to deal with internet trolls, as well as a presentation about the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner and its role in keeping kids safe. Understanding the challenges that our digital, online world presents helps our students make the most of the incredible opportunities that technology offers.
For Senior School students, balance is key to both enjoying technology and making the most of its educational value. We speak to MLC’s Technology Prefect, Georgina Ryan (Year 12) and Mia Carnovale (Year 11) about learning and socialising in the final years of school.
Georgina: I couldn’t imagine learning in an MLC classroom without a computer – in every subject you are constantly on your laptop. We use online textbooks, we research online, complete and submit our work online. It’s immersive.
As Technology Prefect my role involves raising awareness of technology in the school. We are trying to introduce more students to computer coding through an initiative called Hour of Code. I also assist with MLC’s Online Safety and Ethics program. As part of this, I am organising Senior School students to help teach digital safety skills to younger students.
Mia: At MLC technology is a large part of our learning. We have access to the library database, bibliography creator and Canvas (our learning management system). Most of my friends from other schools don’t have access to those kinds of resources. For work experience last year, I went to a publishing house, where I was asked to use a range of programs and applications. Because I go to MLC, I knew how to use them all, already, which was really good!
Georgina: I love the way technology at MLC enables you to get instant feedback on your learning and how it can help you stay organised and on top of your schedule.
Doing the IB I have found MLC’s incredible online resources so handy while doing my Extended Essay and other IB projects. We have a dedicated library staff member who helps us with citation and accessing material – it’s fantastic!
I try not to spend too much recreational time online. I allow myself an hour per day and have been using a Google Chrome plug-in called ‘Stay Focusd’ since Year 9 to prevent me from going over my limit.
Sometimes when I try to go on social media for a break, it can actually become more work because we use Facebook as an organisational tool! We have private groups for everything: Year level, House, Prefect, IB cohort, individual subjects and friendship circles.
Mia: Our class discusses homework using Facebook chats. That can be really helpful because other students will help you with your work and it reminds you when something is due.
The MLC app is also really handy – you can check your class and homework timetables, and even see how you’re tracking in terms of positive classroom behaviour.
Georgina: Facebook is a great networking tool and means of dispersing information. At the same time social media can be very strategic. For example, after the formal everyone posted their new profile pictures around 6.00 pm when everyone was online in order to get more likes. When I went to MLC Marshmead in Year 9 I realised that I was wasting a lot of my time on YouTube and Facebook. As a Senior School student I don’t have a lot of leisure time, so when I do have time to myself, I want to make the most of it.
Mia: Social media did create a lot of pressure for me in Years 7 and 8. There is a so-called ‘peak hour’ to post on Instagram and Facebook to get more likes and most of us often succumb to that pressure. In think it was in Year 9 that I decided to start a new Instagram account and stopped adding people that I didn’t know or like, which was overall really helpful in time management – and there was no pressure. I don’t spend hours on social media anymore. I feel like I’m losing brain cells.
Anne Wallington, Head of Senior School: By the time they reach Senior School, MLC students tend to be very focused on learning and doing the best they can in their final years of secondary school. I find they are very disciplined and have learnt to balance the desire to socialise online with the reality that they need to apply themselves to their schoolwork.
Students recognise that social media in particular can be a time-waster. They are inventive when it comes to removing the distraction – I know some students who ask their parents to change their password for them, so they can’t log in and get sidelined from their study.
We find that Senior School students use social media in practical, positive ways. They set up closed pages for their subjects for example, where they can help one another understand concepts and remember submission deadlines.
As they move through the College, students are drilled in the importance of online safety. By Senior School they are already very aware of the need to establish their privacy settings and so on. We continue to discuss online safety, digital footprints and social media in Tutor Groups, and to encourage a healthy balance in students’ lives via our wellbeing program.
The digital resources available to students in Senior School are extensive. Our teachers work closely with staff in the MLC Libraries to provide students access to extensive research databases as well as useful tools such as bibliography creators.
One of the applications we use in Senior School is Turn It In, which is a program that helps students understand the difference between using sources and acknowledging them and simply cutting and pasting content. As students prepare for tertiary study it’s vital that they not only understand plagiarism, but that they have developed the skills to critically assess information and sources before accepting their validity.
I am amazed at the knowledge and expertise our students have across all things digital. We have entrepreneurial students making a profit on YouTube and Instagram, students chatting online with one another about their learning anytime, anywhere, and students using technology in sophisticated ways to help them balance learning with a vast array of co-curricular activities. It’s inspiring to see our young people making the most of the opportunities of the digital era.