Taking Tournament of the Minds to a new level of connection


– By Aaron Partridge, ACT Director at Tournament of Minds

The Tournament of the Minds is an Australian educational institution that has been promoting the innovative and creative engagement of young Australians for over 25 years.  Students work in teams to solve problems in one of four essential academic disciplines; Social Sciences, Science Technology, Language Literature and Engineering Mathematics.  Students from the same school form teams of 4 to seven, and work together to solve challenges that are both spontaneous and long term.  TOM is offered to students from across the Australasian Pacific region and can involve more than 50, 000 students in any given year.

At the Tournament of Minds (TOM) Australasian Pacific Finals, the use of the Microsoft Surface Pro device has helped to raise the profile of our newly developed STEM-based challenge.  With the Connect application, in-built within Windows 10, students were given a voice to broadcast along with being provided opportunities to develop a range of technology skills to present their final challenge solution using Microsoft OneNote.

What is the Science Technology challenge?

This year the use of the Surface devices started with an immediate need to solve a challenge aptly titled: Safety First! Participants were provided with a Surface device to utilise OneNote to collaboratively solve a series of challenges that awaited them in the assigned challenge.

 To avert this impending danger, students had only three-hours to create a portable, automated warning device that would activate when a catastrophic event would occur. Throughout the design and construction process, students readily accessed presentation tools made available in OneNote, to demonstrate their use of thinking processes derived from the ICT General Capabilities, Science and Digital Technologies Curriculum. 

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What impact did the Surface Pro have on student learning?

Through simply connecting each Surface to a wireless connection, students took charge of the learning process to successfully present their understanding of electric circuitry to an awaiting auditorium. Instead of trying hold up their circuitry designs for all to see, students instinctively used the camera function to project the moment that the current passed through the warning device.

The high engagement in this process, along with audience participation, has also made a big difference to how students interacted with one another to solve this design challenge. Teacher facilitators, from across Australia and New Zealand, also noted the pride shown in the Digital Technologies content produced. The ability for students to instantaneously project their work, and make amendments to their challenge with the OneNote pen as they presented, provided another dimension to this learning task.

Why OneNote is the One and Only!

OneNote is such an amazing, flexible and rich tool that it fits naturally in the TOM Science Technology challenge, from brainstorming in the problem definition phase all the way through to the presentation phase.  The participants were easily able to use the unique inking functionality of OneNote and the pen to take notes, draw diagrams and construct understanding.  The front and rear cameras of the Surface Pro devices were also put to good use for recording videos and creating images used in the final presentation process.

So what’s next?

From this generous support offered by Microsoft to this project, TOM will continue to develop this challenge to incorporate the use of learning applications made available on the Surface Pro in 2017. Together we will continue to refine the use technology to deliver curriculum activities suited to students to participate within this program.

We very much look forward to seeing what will students devise next year and warmly welcome you to also participate within our programme (tom.edu.au).

Aaron Partridge is ACT Director at Tournament of Minds and a member of the Science Technology challenge writing team. He has previously taught classes Kindergarten to Year 6. Aaron now specialises in ICT education at Hughes Primary School and is passionate about integrating STEM-based learning for students using technologies.