The Upside of Lockdown Schooling

Home schooling is understandably placing a lot of strain on parents and families. One of the parent WhatsApp groups that I am on for my son’s school regularly has comments about frustration with home schooling, often involving feelings of being overwhelmed, not coping, and wanting to give up (from parents and children). This will naturally vary from family to family, but any household where parents are simultaneously juggling full-time work and teaching their children, will inevitably result in increased stress levels of everyone involved. The stress is exacerbated when children have high support needs, for instance, when they are young or have learning difficulties.

However, as we work through the difficulties of home-schooling, it may be helpful to reflect on the silver-linings that may be present, even if we might only be able to appreciate them in retrospect. For many, home-schooling is a chance to develop a much better understanding of the learning level and needs of our children. Pre-covid, when we sent our children off to school each day, it was much more difficult to ascertain what they understood or where they might need a little bit of extra help. In fact, it was much more difficult to find out what they were learning at school, and whether that work was too easy or hard or boring. Home-schooling provides a tremendous opportunity for parents to get to know our children better, how they learn, and the curriculum.

Home-schooling has meant that many children and young adults have needed to become more independent learners. While schools are making concerted efforts to provide a remote or online curriculum for students, the teacher is no longer there with students in the classroom, and the onus is more on our children to self-regulate their learning. While this can be frustrating when it doesn’t work or when children are struggling, the anecdotal impression from many parents is that children are developing the abilities to be more autonomous and to self-manage their learning. Correspondingly, teachers are necessarily shifting their teaching approaches to enable students to be more independent learners. It is possible that these shifts – where students take more responsibility for their learning and teachers setup learning environments where students can more easily assume that responsibility – may have long term benefits.

Additionally, home-schooling has meant that children (and parents!) are developing their digital learning capabilities. Scanning, uploading, editing, searching, and creating using technology may have been overwhelming weeks or even days ago, but is now becoming commonplace and second nature for many. Teachers too are learning how to better design tasks for online learning, so that tasks are clearer, resources easier to work with, and technology is used to facilitate interaction. Many teachers are learning how to teach effectively via web-conferencing (e.g. Zoom), providing the real-time instruction, feedback and sense of connection that is so important in schooling. The evolution of teacher capabilities from preparing printed worksheets at the beginning of lockdown 1.0, to utilising asynchronous online learning platforms to disseminate resources (e.g. Google Classroom), to now venturing into realtime collaboration using synchronous technologies, largely mirrors the evolution of the educational technology field, though in a remarkably compressed timeframe. It sets up our children and teachers for increased innovation in learning and teaching, once the pandemic abates.

So there’s no doubt that this has been a tough time for many, and nobody is claiming that is about to get easy any time soon. However, in retrospect, it is possible that we may really value and benefit from this lockdown time, where we got to know our children better, where they became more self-empowered learners, and where we all developed our digital learning capabilities. Many thanks to the efforts of teachers right across Australia. And hang in there parents – we can do this, together.

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Australian Award for University Teaching – A reflection on the journey

Recently I was fortunate to be one of four recipients of an Australian Award for University Teaching Excellence (2020). This was a great honour, and testimony to the support and encouragement I have received from innumerable colleagues over the years. As a means of giving back, I’d like to share some reflections about learning and teaching award applications, in case they are useful to others.

Firstly (and primarily to keep my own ego in check), it important to recognise that teaching awards are not necessarily awarded to the best teachers. I have been teaching for over 25 years, in schools and universities, in Australia and overseas, and during that time I have been fortunate to meet so many outstanding teachers with indisputably better teaching characteristics and qualities than I. No questions asked. Many of these were the sort of teachers who wouldn’t be driven by, or give second thought to, applying for awards. They were getting the job done, and intrinsically valued the satisfaction derived from inspiring their students and helping them to learn.

To be accurate, teaching awards are awarded to people who have been perceived by a judging panel to have written the best application. Don’t get me wrong, those applications need to represent the activities of the applicant, but winners of teaching awards need to a) choose to apply for an award, and b) write a persuasive application. In fact, on my more cynical days, I have ruminated that my teaching awards are actually recognition that I am conceited enough to spend voluminous time self-indulgently writing about my own teaching. But perhaps that’s going too far, because I think it is wonderful and important to have schemes that attempt to recognise great teaching. More on that point at the end of this post…

Understanding that teaching awards are awarded to people who have submitted the best applications is important, because it focuses attention beyond teaching activities to also consider how to best showcase teaching performance – a necessity to be successful in teaching awards. In the same way that researchers become better at writing journal articles over time (or people become better writers in any genre through practice), people should expect that their teaching applications improve through successive iterations and attempts. In my experience, the application needs to be easy to read and provide concrete examples, in order to have the greatest impact. It should provide a compelling narrative, written in the same careful way a that an author might write a story, but of course, based upon truth and extensive evidence. And it should provide illuminating insights into what great teaching is all about within the discipline in question.

The application needs to showcase evidence of teaching performance, arranged according to the criteria. Understanding the criteria of the award scheme is absolutely essential, because each application will be evaluated by each judge according to those criteria. If applicants make it difficult for judges to distill performance against the criteria, then they shouldn’t expect to be successful (even if the underlying performance against the criteria or other standards is exemplary). So always organise the application according to the criteria being used to assess your accomplishments.

Think broadly about what might constitute evidence throughout the application. For me, it was solid student evaluations of teaching (always useful), teaching scholarship, leading University and cross-institutional projects and communities of practice, and creation of teaching resources that are used nationally and internationally. For other people it might be different (e.g. creating a popular podcast series, or leading a university teaching innovation centre). Some people advise not to use too many student quotes as evidence in their applications, as these can easily be cherry-picked from student teaching returns. Actually, I used quite a lot of quotes, but made sure they were selected purposefully to demonstrate the cause-and-effect relationships that I was claiming in my application (so they weren’t just “oh yeah great teaching” quotes). As well, the quotes were only used to provide descriptive quality to the application, amongst other more objective evidence of impact such as student ratings of my teaching, citations, feedback from project stakeholders, and use of my teaching resources.

For my 10 pages of appendices, I used:

  • A statement from two senior leaders of external bodies with whom I have worked
  • A statement from a local principal who was familiar with the impact of my work
  • A statement from two academics outside the university who use my work in their teacher education courses
  • Excerpts from several unsolicited student emails over two pages
  • A statement from my Head of School
  • A past teaching return (compressed onto one page!)
  • A page of publications and references cited in my application

For my 3 minute video, I used footage from a Blended Synchronous Learning innovation that I had used in my pre-service teacher courses, and that related to a national project that I had led: . I’m not sure the video was the best choice, but it was the best I could do under the time constraints. The video and appendices were then all referenced from the application body.

Draw upon expertise and feedback from advisors and mentors. Macquarie provided me with great assistance for my application, setting me up with past recipients and judges, who offered excellent advice. They helped me to identify places where my application was unclear, bland, or could be seen as over-claiming. They constantly returned me to a focus on “evidencing how what was done impacted on student learning”.

And finally, I think timing is important. After having won an ALTC Citation Award (predecessor to the AAUT awards) in 2010, a Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence in 2011, and a Vice Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2012, I decided to go for a Teaching Excellence Award in 2013. I really put lots of time into it, had great support, received lots of positive feedback, and despite my best efforts to not get my hopes up, felt confident I was going to win. With excitement I opened the notification email, only to find no cigar enclosed. So, discouraged, I put the aspiration aside, and got on with work.

It was only several years later, after having operated extensively beyond the bounds of my institution, that I realised that I had a lot more to offer and write about in a teaching award application. So, with immense support from within the University, and beyond in terms of the people who were willing to vouch for my contributions, I applied again in 2020. And then, on 15th of February 2021:

Dear Associate Professor Bower,

I would like to congratulate you on receiving a 2020 Award for Teaching Excellence as part of the Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT) program….

Tremendously gratifying and a great honour! It is something I will value in perpetuity, and use to remind myself how generously people have supported me over the years.

Accordingly, if anyone reading this post should like feedback or advice about teaching or teaching applications, please don’t hesitate to contact me at matt.bower ‘at’


On 11th of May 2021 the Australian Government budget announced that they will no longer fund the Australian Awards for University Teaching. The failure to fund the AAUT in the recent budget is a huge loss for our nation. By recognising excellence nationally, the Australian Awards for University Teaching motivated people to contribute beyond their institution, for instance through sharing of resources, leadership of projects and provision of professional learning. They also encourage educators to strive for excellence, and catalyse important conversations about what constitutes best practice in university teaching. By removing these schemes and providing no mechanisms to promote inter-university teaching excellence, the quality of education in the sector will undoubtedly suffer. I strongly encourage all academics to agitate for the reintroduction of Australian Awards for University Teaching funding.

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Resources for gifted and high potential Primary school students (and their teachers and parents)

I’ve been doing a tiny bit of investigation about good resources for gifted and high potential primary school students, in anticipation of the new NSW Department of Education High Potential and Gifted Education Policy that comes into effect next year. Thanks to Susen Smith from UNSW, and Jodie Torrington from Macquarie University, I’m happy to share the following resources:

There are also a range of associations dedicated to Gifted and Talented education, such as:

  • AAEGT – Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented
  • Gifted NSW – NSW Association for G&T education

The following research has also piqued my interest:

  • Geake, J. (2009). The brain at school: Educational neuroscience in the classroom. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
  • Geake, J. (2011). Position statement on motivations, methodologies, and practical implications of educational neuroscience research: fMRI studies of the neural correlates of creative intelligence. Educational philosophy and theory43(1), 43-47.
  • Gross, M. U. M. (2010). In her own write: A lifetime in gifted education. Sydney, NSW: Gifted Education Research, Resource and Information Centre, UNSW.
  • Gross, M. U. (1999). Inequity in equity: The paradox of gifted education in Australia. Australian Journal of Education43(1), 87-103.
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2020 Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies

In order to support educators and researchers worldwide to use the most up-to-date technologies and best understand the web-based technologies terrain, my colleague Jodie Torrington and I have just released the 2020 Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies. The 2020 Typology includes 236 freely available web-based learning tools, and constitutes a thorough update of the 2015 Typology of Web 2.0 Learning Technologies that I released on on the Educause website. The 2020 Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies includes 76 new tools, removes 62 tools that were no longer valid, and adds three new clusters of technologies. The change in name from “Web 2.0” to “Free Web-based” reflects the diffusion and general acceptance of online tools within the educational technology ecosystem. A schematic diagram of the 2020 Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies is provided below (see Figure 1).

Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies 2020 image

Figure 1. The 2020 Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies

The main article (see below) provides brief descriptions, example tools and pedagogical uses for each category, in order to support ease of conceptualization and application. Comparing the 2020 Typology to its predecessor makes it possible to gauge trends in online learning technologies over the last five years, for instance the unsustainability of many smaller tools, the marketisation of many others, the trend towards more integrated platforms of tools, and greater dominance by larger providers. The paper concludes by inferring future trends in the online learning technology landscape. The 2020 Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies can be downloaded below.

Download: Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies 2020 (PDF, 354KB)

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Google Education Summit – 3rd December 2019

A summary of pertinent information from presentations is provided below.

Marie Efstathiou, Google

  • Approximately 75 attendees at the Google Computing Educator Summit this year – biggest ever.
  • The Google Computing Educator Professional Development Grants are being managed internationally by Marie Efstathiou. The grants next year will be focused on reaching underrepresented groups (e.g. Indigenous) that haven’t received the benefit of funding and PD rather than scaling to all people. Grants Open on the 26th of January 2020.
  • CSER offering free PD in every state (officer in each state)
  • “Grow With Google” program – Google is running workshops in every electorate in Australia – being led by Google Marketing – but also enables Google to run PD for teachers and workshops for students in more remote places in Australia.
  • CS First had over 100,000 participants for Australia and NZ – a huge outcome.
  • “Careers with Code” Magazine is the main career and employment outreach from Google (produced by Refraction Media)
  • Aiming to reach and inform new groups – politicians, parents, etc.

Kim Vernon, ACARA

  • Year 8 compulsory implementation of Digital Technologies Curriculum in 2020.
  • Online Safety curriculum connection forthcoming (13th December, 2019) based on gap analysis in collaboration with the eSafety Commissioner.
  • The Digital Technologies in Focus (DTiF) project had 9 curriculum officers and targeted 160 disadvantaged schools nationally. Uses a teachers as designers approach. Project has shown that school executive support is critical, finding the ‘why’ hooks are critical, helping with assessment and planning, working to understand the language
  • Follow via Twitter at @ACARAeduau

Tim Bell, New Zealand Curriculum Update

  • New Zealand new and revised DT content takes a breadth before depth, not to hard but not too easy, trying to find relevance
  • Due for implementation next year (2020)
  • Note: The New Zealand Higher School Certificate is called the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA)

Life Education Australia

Scrappy Marketing, Google

  • Focuses on how to market with zero budget
  • 71% of GenX turn to Youtube to learn how to gain a new skills
  • Videos with “how to” in title had 4.5 billion hours watch time
  • Always competing with other channels, so focus on stories not messages
  • Put videos online to help student who was sick – democretisation of education
  • Lookup:
  • Influencer marketing – target people and distribute through people who are already reaching your market
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EduTech Asia 2019

Notes (see for interactive conference backchannel #edutechasia):

  • Check out Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) Singapore:
  • Google Education Platform includes: GSuite for Education, Google Classroom, CS First, Chromebook, Google Cloud Platform, Google Programs
  • Google education tools now starting to include AI for assessment and marking
  • Google have used Machine Learning and AI to provide tutoring with emotional engagement and significantly improve learning outcomes (SARA)
  • Google Unizin – uses anonymised data from 25 universities to identify students who are at risk of failure.
  • Abu breast cancer early detection inspiring high school video:
  • Benefits of XR: boosts interest/engagement, provides visualisations for physical environments, may improve knowledge retention

Pasi Sahlberg – The new digital divide

  • Pasi Sahlberg presents that in the last ten years we have seen a reduction in wellbeing due to anxiet,y depression, social challenges, behavioural disorders, addictions, suicidal behaviours inadequate sleep. At the same time increase in screen time.
  • Pasi is doing “Growing up Digital Australia” report to mirror the the Growing up Digital Alberta study.
  • Lower income children spend 8+ hours on screens while children from higher income families spend 6+
  • Is it that higher income families get more human interaction as part of their parenting?
  • Pew research centre shows that lower income households are likely to be impacted by the digital hopework gap (have to do their homework on a cellphone).
  • Three things that we need to do with children:
    • 1. Learn self-control
    • 2. Sleep better (Pasi wears a sleep ring!)
    • 3. Play more outdoors – at least one hour
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Artificial Intelligence symposium 02/08/19

Presentation link:

Introduction by Erica Southgate & Sarah Howard

“Artificial intelligence will shape our future more powerfully than any other innovation this century”

AI definition: The ability of a machine to perform a task that is ‘intelligent’: analytic, humanized intelligence and human.

Being intelligent is (2×2 matrix) thinking humanly, thinking rationally, acting humanly, acting rationally (Russel & Norvig, 2010)

Me: Assumes that humans are intelligent!!!! We actually don’t program computers to think like humans – we take the best parts and leave out the worst parts.

The Education, Ethics and AI (EEAI) framework (Southgate, Blackmore, … et al)


Erica Southgate wants democratic discussion about the ethics of AI.

Me: Question for Erica – how would that happen?

Just a taste of approximately the 50 people attending

  • Mark Greentree Director of Technology for Learning, NSW Department of Education
  • Nicole, Education for a changing world
  • Karl Maton, University Sydney part of the Legitimation Code Theory
  • Erica Southgate, University of Newcastle
  • Sarah Howard, University of Woollongong
  • Belinda Emms, Federal STEM
  • Chris Roberston, Principal Aora College NSW DoE virtual school
  • Simon Buckingham-Shum, UTS

Google presentation Paul Hutchins

Good examples of AI:

  • Computer learning to play Paddleboard (vid)
  • Google Deepmind AI teaching itself how to walk (Tech Insider) (vid)
  • Google voice to text search, Google Translate, Google Photos facial recognition and object recognition.
  • Google Maps is now being launched with AR
  • Socially Aware Robot System (SARA) (vid)
  • Rapport Aware Peer Tutor RAPT (vid)
  • Google Duplex: Google assistant booking a haircut (vid)
  • Google app Teachable Machine -> recognises actions and user can specify consequent actions
  • Google app Quick Draw -> recognise drawn object
  • Google app Draw Along AR -> helps people learn from videos about drawing
  • Auto ML -> Google’s consumer solution for drawing upon and designing with AI

NSW Dept of Education, Jason La Greca, Microsoft

Microsoft Education Learning Tools:

  • Immersive Reader will remove background, and read in the native language, can change speed, text size, background colours, highlight different grammar elements, provide definitions and associated pictures, can translate to other languages etc.
  • Onenote has an integrated mathematics recognition and solver engine.

Case example: Dr David Kellerman UNSW first year mechanical engineering convenor used O365 Question feature AI to train the O365 about the sorts of questions that students ask, and builds a repository. Big increase in in the number of questions that students asked. Zero configuration on the part of the academic. Used QR codes on workbooks to provide hints or complete solutions to specific questions. Was able to pull from video recordings of lectures to pull out lecturer response. All ran within O365 Teams. Was able to learn about where students were struggling and then provide them with personalised study packs.

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Using technology to assist students with autistic conditions

Autism Spectrum Australia defines autism as “a lifelong developmental condition that affects, among other things, the way an individual relates to his or her environment and their interaction with other people” (Autism Spectrum Australia, 2019, para. 1). They define the main areas of difficulty as “social communication, social interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests” (para 3), noting that people on the autism spectrum may also have intellectual impairment or learning difficulties.

Conceptually, there are two related but different ways that technology may be used to assist students with autism. The first is to use technology in a way that helps to compensate for developmental differences in social and cognitive skills and understanding. An example of using technology to compensate for underdeveloped skills is using augmented reality to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to navigate to locations across a city (see the study by McMahon et al, 2015, which showed that AR was more effective than paper or Google maps to assist navigation for people with ASD, n=3). The second is to use technology to help develop social and cognitive skills and understanding. While we should be striving to use technology to compensate for learning deficits, the position taken in this post is that ideally we should be aiming to use technology in a developmental (educational) way as far as possible.

Another important point to remember is that technology is in many cases not the source of the solution, it is the mediator of the solution. Technology is often a great amplifier, and depending on how it is used it may either enhance learning or render it meaningless. So critically, we need a) technology developers to deeply understand the nature of autism and the needs of people with ASD, b) teachers to know how to accurately evaluate apps, c) teachers to know how to appropriately integrate from a pedagogical perspective and  according to the specific context. The most important part of this context is the individual students involved, because there are a wide variety of autistic conditions that educators may attempt to support.

One way that technology can be used to assist students with autistic conditions is through the use of iPads. As Autism Spectrum Australia explains in their iPads fact sheet (which includes an app assessment rubric) there are numerous iPad apps that facilitate augmentative and alternative communication (ACC). For instance, Proloquo2Go enables sentences to be constructed using symbols which can then be spoken aloud by the iPad. The Learning App Guide to Autism and Education provides an overview of various apps to support:

  • behaviour – scheduling and work management, choice making, visual calendars, timers, counters, personal care, speech prompts, reward systems
  • social skills – social comprehension including video-based scenarios, narrative and comic strip creation, attention development
  • literacy – phonics, spelling, sight words, writing, reading comprehension, narrative creation and storytelling
  • language – asking questions, semantic features, categorisations, vocabulary, parts of speech, sequencing, conversation, interpretation
  • senses – understanding cause and effect, visual calming, visual alerting, physically calming, auditory calming, general relaxation
  • emotions – emotional vocabulary, emotional regulation, books about emotion, mood diary, body language and emotions, facial features and emotion
  • creativity – photos with text and voice, story and book makers, storyboards, animation tools, screencasting
  • early language – early language games, verbal imitation, first words, early comprehension.

Autism Spectrum Australia indicates that these apps are particularly beneficial for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) because they often support visually based learning, often can be customised to the individual student in terms of content, promote independent learning while offering immediate feedback, provide a touch interface for those with poor fine-motor skills, and is socially acceptable. However, issues include the fact that students and staff may need technical support, the devices can be broken if misused by children, may not include best practice pedagogically, and educators need time and support to orient and upskill themselves to the use of the technology.

Another advantage of many of these apps is that they can be used on mobile devices to support daily living and independence for people with autism spectrum disorders (see Bereznak et al, 2012). A meta-analysis has shown that the anywhere-anytime access afforded by mobile devices makes them particularly suited and effective in assisting with self-management capabilities of people with ASD (Chia et al, 2018).

There have been many other ways that technology has been used to assist students with ASD. A review of technology-mediated interventions including the use of desktop computers, robotics, virtual reality, and so on, by Grynszpan et al (2014), found an average effect size of d = 0.47 (which was a significant, though moderate effect, n=14 studies with pre-post and randomised control). Interestingly, there was a negative correlation found between the intervention durations and the studies’ effect sizes. For a wide variety of technologies to assist learners with special needs (including Autism) categorised by need area, try the Tech Finder.

Immersive Virtual Reality is another technology showing benefits for people with ASD. By offering simulations of real-world situation in a safe and controlled environment students can practice their skills without real-world distractions (Parsons, 2011). For instance, VR has been used to help young adults with high-functioning autism to develop their social skills, social cognition and social functioning (Kandalaft, 2013). The cost of VR technology is reducing considerably. For instance an Oculus Go can be purchased for around $AU300, or people can use Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) or even Google Cardboard with their mobile phones to engage with VR learning experiences. This makes integrating VR into educational settings more feasible from a technical perspective. A recent systematic review involving 31 studies concluded moderate effectiveness when using VR to treat children with ASD (Mesa-Gresa et al, 2018).

The significant challenge is to integrate VR in a way that makes a difference to real world classroom outcomes for students with autistic conditions (Parsons, 2011). As well, research in the area of VR, as well as other technologies, is characterised by a limited number of high quality studies that differ quite substantially in terms of the technology used, the type of application, and the participant characteristics (Bradley & Newbutt, 2018).

In terms of further research, it will be useful to know whether immersive VR technologies across different applications and participants may be able to enhance student focus, remove distraction, develop social skills such as gesture processing, and so on for people with ASD. Anecdotally, technology addiction is an important issue for people with ASD, who are often fixated on repetitive behaviours and avoid social interaction. There is little research relating to the nature and impact of technology addiction, so this is a potential area for future research investigation. Based on this (admittedly expedient) review,  there was also very little research that explored the effect of creative rather than receptive tasks on learners with ASD. As well, there seems to be a paucity of research examining how educators can be effectively supported to use technology when teaching people with ASD. Considering the continually accelerating advancement of technology, these will be interesting and important areas for future investigation.


Autism Spectrum Australia (2019). What is Autism? Available at:

Bereznak, S., Ayres, K. M., Mechling, L. C., & Alexander, J. L. (2012). Video self-prompting and mobile technology to increase daily living and vocational independence for students with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 24(3), 269-285.

Bradley, R., & Newbutt, N. (2018). Autism and virtual reality head-mounted displays: a state of the art systematic review. Journal of Enabling Technologies, 12(3), 101-113.

Chia, G. L. C., Anderson, A., & McLean, L. A. (2018). Use of Technology to Support Self-Management in Individuals with Autism: Systematic Review. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 5(2), 142-155.

Grynszpan, O., Weiss, P. L., Perez-Diaz, F., & Gal, E. (2014). Innovative technology-based interventions for autism spectrum disorders: a meta-analysis. Autism, 18(4), 346-361.

Kandalaft, M. R., Didehbani, N., Krawczyk, D. C., Allen, T. T., & Chapman, S. B. (2013). Virtual reality social cognition training for young adults with high-functioning autism. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 43(1), 34-44.

Mesa-Gresa, P., Gil-Gómez, H., Lozano-Quilis, J. A., & Gil-Gómez, J. A. (2018). Effectiveness of virtual reality for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: an evidence-based systematic review. Sensors, 18(8), 2486.

Parsons, S., & Cobb, S. (2011). State-of-the-art of virtual reality technologies for children on the autism spectrum. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 26(3), 355-366.

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ICTENSW 2019 Conference

Tech Girls Are SuperherosDr Jenine Beekhuyzen

  • Founder of the Tech Girls are Superheros movement #TGM
  • Series of books that have been distributed
  • Jenine says research indicates girls opt out of STEM at 6 years old (Jenine thinks that it is often younger than this)
  • Therefore, we need to address the issue of girls in STEM early
  • Doesn’t really care about the acronym (STEM, STEAM etc)
  • Nearly 40% of Y6 and Y10 students did not reach proficient standard in ICT literacy (ACS Digital Pulse 2015 report)
  • “Equality is the goal, equity is the process”
  • Research findings:
    • Boys are more influenced by teachers, and girls are more influenced by parents.
    • Stereotype threat – being at risk of confirming, as a self-characteristic, a negative streotype about one’s social group (Steele & Aronson, 1995)
    • “Gender biases distort the meritocratic evaluation and advancement of students, interventions targeting instructors’ biases and are particularly needed” (Moss-Racusin et al, 2016)
    • Traditional teaching methods will not support STEM instruction, [recommend] an integrated curriculum…. (missed)
    • Out of school STEM experiences can influence career development and STEM persistence
    • Counterspaces – importance of contexts in facilitating processes that results in wellness among marginalised individuals (Case & Hunter 2012)
    • The single sex environment is not as important as the pedagogy in influencing girls attitude (Hughes, 2013)
  • Nearly half (48%) of the computer programming jobs will be made redundant in the next 5 years (could not read source).
  • Search for the next tech girl hero competition:

Cybersecurity in the curriculum – Nicky Ringland from Australian Computing Academy

Green screening: Skill enabled creativity – Rolf Kolbe

  • Resources for presentation available at:,
  • Greenscreen Tools: Touchcast Greenscreen, Greenscreen by DoInk ($4), Veescope
  • In iMovie whenever you drop one video over another it automatically inserts the greenscreen effect (can choose bluescreen)
  • Place an image or a video as the background, and then as you record or import a video, any green will show the background image or video. Can have more than one video overlayed (so different greenscreen foreground videos) and can also resize and rotate the foreground videos. Only need a bit of background to be green because has tools to crop out non-green or unwanted video.
  • Powerpoint:
    • you can storyboard as a PPT, record narration as you move through the slides, then save as video. Then any green in the Powerpoint can be used for greenscreen video.
    • Powerpoint has picture format tool – remove background with tool to select and customise – quite efficient and simple.
    • Can animate image using PPT animation features, eg path animation, with green background, and then have an animation that can be overlayed over another background.
    • Powerpoint can save as MP4, MOV, PNG, etc
    • Note need to update PPT to most recent version.
  • Could also do an ExplainEverything using a green screen background for an explanation and then overlay on video
  • Also check to make personalised emojis.

Smart Garden using Micro:Bit – Martin Levens (ACARA)

  • Micro:Bit has a USB-C, Reset, Bluetooth Low Energy transmitter, accelerometer, etc See
  • Several different ways to code the Micro:bit, but primary way is using the interface.
  • The web-based emulator can do pretty much everything that the physical device can, meaning children can code at home.
  • Can search code elements.
  • There are Excel plugins for the Microbit.
  • Can also measure voltage, which is a way to measure the water content of the soil, and therefore can write a program to water the plant when the reading is below a certain level.

What a great conference!!

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Reviews of “Design of Technology-Enhanced Learning – Integrating Research and Practice”

SinceDoTEL the release of my book “Design of Technology-Enhanced Learning – Integrating Research and Practice” in August 2017, several reviews are starting to emerge. Fortunately, most of them are highly favourable. Some reviews to date include:

The book also received the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) 2018 Design and Development Outstanding Book Award. In their awarding statement, when compared to the several other entries, the five reviewers concluded:

This volume does the best job of pulling together knowledge in the field toward textured but practical guidance. Bower does not overstate what is known or veer into theoretical determinism. The content is excellently grounded in theory and provides excellent examples from practice. It is very well-structured and well-written. Impactful! Faulty could use this as a foundational text in a course for technology for teachers and even for college faculty.

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