Like many teachers Kristine Kopelke wears a number of hats. One of them is a very big hat indeed.
Beside teaching digital technologies at Queensland’s Meridan State College, Kopelke is the manager of the Contemporary Learning Hub based at the college. The Hub provides professional development (PD) through online and face to face workshops for educators across Australia.
Most of the 4,800 people who have used the Hub’s services to date have been from Queensland, but teachers from other states and territories also have access to its PD services.
Established in 2013 with a small grant, the Hub is now self-funding, and working with around 850 different schools around the country. Most of the PD modules feature a modest fee, though some events are offered for free.
Kopelke, who is also a Microsoft Innovation Educator (MIE) Expert, explains; “We are looking at contemporary, research-based or innovative pedagogies. We run a really diverse range of programs; an Augmented Library Summit annually which looks at different layers of engagement in a library or resource centre by using emerging digital technologies; a Play, Wonder and Learn conference that focusses on interactive dynamic pedagogy, and technologies for the early school years; to a large program called Numerate Futures that explores how to use technology to give creative and challenging content to improve students’ understanding of maths.”
She explains that as a larger school Meridan has a broad range of expertise on campus. The College wanted to invest in the professional development of its own teachers and recognised that if it broadened its horizons it could deliver PD to many more teachers by establishing the Contemporary Learning Hub.
“The goal was never to be a money-making business; the goal was to be able to provide our staff high quality PD and build up the region as well, to support others,” she adds.
The school runs a BYO device program for students and leverages technology to support learning in all areas.
What’s working well in your experience?
OneNote Class Notebooks have been a game changer in getting our teachers to buy in to working digitally with their students. They are saving so much time in terms of the productivity gains, and the students in most contexts are completing assessments in their class notebooks.
In Years 4, 5 and 6 all the teachers are now giving feedback digitally through the class notebooks with video or audio feedback. All our teachers have devices enabling them to do digital inking and provide feedback to students. That’s opening up to parents what is happening in the classroom, how the students are succeeding – because that feedback is visible to the parents as well.
My girls are at Meridan. My oldest daughter was in Year 6 when we started rolling this out and by the end of that year I had a 12-year-old who was completely fluent in the Microsoft suite and running rings around most adults. There was that fluency and she was set up for success in secondary.
What about PD around particular technology solutions?
Our Hub runs a suite of PDs – one’s called Leading 365, Collaborating 365, Supporting 365 and Learning 365. These are really practical programs where we look how we can leverage the Microsoft suite, OneDrive, Office 365, OneNote Class Notebooks and Staff Notebooks as part of learning or leadership in the school context.
Teachers have really embraced those technologies and learning tools and are achieving productivity gains, efficiency and getting parents on board buying into the BYO program.
Every teacher you ask would say they are having productivity and time savings. They aren’t collecting homework books at the end of the week and lugging them home and marking them – the homework is done in real time they can mark in real time.
Do you use Minecraft Education Edition?
We were part of the Minecraft Education Edition pilot. Over the past 12 months our heads of curriculum have really started to embrace it. We have had teachers exploring natural disasters with students, they create worlds, communities and then simulate earthquakes in that environment. Teachers are using it for small maths activities with challenges and concepts, and we did a unit about people settling a colony on Mars – what would it look like and what would we need. Minecraft was the canvas to come up with their design.
How do you personally benefit from being a member of the MIE program?
For me it’s the networking opportunity and staying abreast of what is coming out with Microsoft. The awareness of what other schools are doing and understanding the products. Also to be part of a dynamic community of educators.
And how has technology supported your work?
I run a thing called The Coders Club. That involves 39 schools from Queensland and it’s to support teachers wanting to do coding with students. I take their classes online on a Friday afternoon and provide lessons in coding – we use the OneNote Class Notebook tool to access follow up resources and provide all the content – and students can upload the code they are working on or their files.
We use Micro:bits MakeCode. These are 39 classes or coders clubs that might otherwise not have had an opportunity because the teachers weren’t sure where to start.
We also made video recordings of the lesson and the activities for a lesson and saved that to OneDrive. I share the folder with all the teachers so that in worst case scenario – they can’t connect or there’s a sports event that clashes – they can access OneDrive and watch the video file. They were pretty large –in the past without OneDrive I would have had no way of giving teachers access to that.