The window in Dean Pearman’s office looks out over the bay of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. It’s a glorious vista – but it’s not the water views that inspire him each day, instead it’s the opportunity to transform teaching and learning, harnessing technology to help students achieve their full potential. Pearman is the Director of Learning Technologies and Innovation at Peninsula Grammar and a member of the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert group. He has 19 years’ experience across primary and secondary schools in Victoria’s Catholic and Independent systems. In his current role he is steering Peninsula Grammar’s digital implementation strategy, leadership initiatives, staff professional learning and development, as well as pedagogy and curriculum innovation.
The 57-year old school has more than 1,400 students spread across years K-12 who it wants to learn, grow and flourish. United by the common core values of integrity, personal excellence, stewardship, community spirit, coeducational learning and Christian faith, teachers and students of Peninsula Grammar are active members of our community, embracing and engaging in 21st century education. With 20 years of laptop use behind it the school has solid technology foundations and a one-to-one device to student ratio across years 4-12 – mostly Microsoft Surface and other Windows devices. Pearman’s focus is to build a bridge at the intersection between good pedagogy and technology and to prove how technology is the amplifier of good pedagogy. This, he believes is what will help inspire students to develop an autonomous approach to learning that will sustain them throughout their lives. “Technology is inclusive. It promotes things like collaboration, communication, ideation and creativity. For us the whole point is that use of technology to inform teaching,” he says.
Tell me about the role of pedagogy in the modern classroom.
Good practice trumps everything else – the science and art of teaching is the starting point. The impact of me as a teacher is greater than the impact of technology – that was my lightbulb moment. I saw student growth and development in their learning from the way I was teaching them not the way I was using technology. But mix evidence-based pedagogy with technology then, wow – then it’s amplified.
Talk me through that – how does technology amplify learning?
Let me give you an example. We have used Minecraft Education Edition connected to the curriculum, making it real. Year 5 students have in the past gone to Sovereign Hill to learn about the Gold Rush. Now we can give them a problem to try and solve – their own interpretations of improving the city around Ballarat, building that in Minecraft to ideate ideas and show problems.
What other technologies are you leveraging?
Teachers use digital ink, and the senior maths department teaches out of OneNote. They use that as their springboard for learning, showing worked examples, giving feedback, pushing ideas out and students can connect to the notes in OneNote. A lot of our staff have Surface Book 2s and can provide quality, timely feedback. They use digital ink to give feedback to students on all their work, mark up examples and provide feedback with audio – that moves learning into the next level. We also use Microsoft Teams for staff to collaborate and work on big projects. That has been a beautiful seamless integration to share resources, share thinking, develop concepts. And because a lot of the operational things are handled in Teams it gives us time in meetings to be strategic. To discuss ideas on Teams and have everyone on the same page has been a fabulous innovation for us.
Have you been able to measure the impact of technology on learning?
That is the next thing for us. Our philosophy here at Peninsula is learn, grow and flourish. So when we are introducing something we want to know it’s making a difference to learning. Technology is a great leveler – it doesn’t discriminate, it empowers all learners to do things they couldn’t beforehand. It is really important to see the impact and personal growth. For us as teachers we need to know the impact, if we are using good pedagogy or technology we need to know it’s actually making a difference for that learner at that time. if we don’t know that how can we shift it to the next stage?
What about evidence based professional development?
I collect data about the usage of Office 365 and how staff are interacting with it and what they are doing with it. That informs the professional learning opportunities for staff. I use Power BI to collect and collate that data, and can see how a department is using 0365 ecosystems and can then come up with new ways to extend their learning.
My role is to talk to staff about proven, research-based pedagogy and how technology can amplify that. So for example I started a series of opt in professional development workshops called jam sessions – these are once a week, 30-minute snapshots of one great research-proven method of pedagogy coupled with a really excellent technology technique such as using OneNote for feedback. We talk about the research around what good feedback is – then use that understanding to apply it in OneNote. It’s had a huge influence on teachers’ ability to give quality feedback in OneNote and is a marked improvement over giving feedback to student on a piece of paper that they lose.
In your current role do you miss being in the classroom?
Absolutely, but I get into the classroom as much as I can. I’ve been working with staff and students on a STEM project in Year 6 creating 3D printed prosthetics for refugees. We’re a school that is about maker centred learning – we have two maker spaces in school and a philosophy of bringing STEM into the curriculum for interdisciplinary learning is really exciting.
We knew Year 6 was learning about refugees, we had a guest presenter come in from Interplast to talk about the work they do in Sri Lanka with people without limbs. The students learned about splinting and bracing and that was the catalyst for the project.
They worked through the design process, taking the idea about a bionic prosthetic hand, using paper, cardboard, modelling it, then 3D printing a working prototype of a prosthetic hand.
How important is being part of the MIE:Expert community to you and your work?
I am always a learner – so it’s important to be part of a program of like-minded people. And that also brought me to share the great things our staff are doing with technology. It’s for me to develop skills as a leader and professionally learn – but also to see how other schools are doing it – and for our staff to be recognised.
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For more information, visit https://www.peninsulagrammar.vic.edu.au/