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Melbourne schools lay out Smart Schools vision

Melbourne schools are working to become “smart”, as a number of institutions innovate with the use of forward-looking subjects.

The Weekly Review reported that daily virtual reality experiences, deep space travel, artificial intelligence are just a few concepts that could become a reality over the next few decades – a future Melbourne’s independent schools are preparing for.

Referred to as “smart schools”, the concept encompasses those that not only educate, but innovate through the use of technology, preparing students for the future workforce.

Helen Carmody, Korowa Anglican Girls’ School principal told The Weekly Review smart schools are responding to rapid changes in science and technology occurring globally.

“Our students are graduating into a world with very different demands compared to the past, as a result of globalisation, technological development and the changing nature of work,” Ms Carmody said.

“Across the school, our programs are focused on developing key 21st-century skill-sets in our students, such as entrepreneurship, problem-solving, collaboration and innovation.

“Our students’ learning experiences build on the principles of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) and the Maker Movement (the creating, tinkering and sharing of ideas).”

Ms Carmody said Korowa introduced new electives in mobile phone app development and computer game design this year.

At Camberwell Girls Grammar School, a similar approach has been implemented, with students participating in the Girls Invent program, which encourages students to be entrepreneurial while studying science, technology, engineering, art and maths.

Debbie Dunwoody, Principal of Camberwell Girls Grammar School, told The Weekly Review Girls Invent connects students to these subjects and allows them to think creatively and innovatively, with coding as a strong focus.

“The program really connects our students to all elements of STEAM and focuses them on design thinking. The girls work collaboratively to bring ideas to life. From concept to design and development, marketing to distribution and sales – Girls Invent is a program so relevant to their futures,” Ms Dunwoody said.

“Our partnerships with Xero and Telstra have seen Code Clubs formed at both the junior and senior school, with experts from each organisation running weekly coding workshops.”

Premium transport for the First XI

Buying a new Renault Master 12-seater Bus is a good way for school administrators and principals to encourage teachers to volunteer to escort pupils to off-site engagements.

The Renault Master Bus is based on the highly successful van of the same name and is very easy and comfortable to drive.

It’s very safe too, with the engine up front, not between the seats, meaning there’s a larger, safer crumple zone in front of the occupants.

And with dual airbags, a driver head and chest airbag, ABS and traction control, ESP and Grip-Xtend as well as a myriad of clever electronic aids, both passive and active safety systems give their all in the protection of those on board.

Renault Australia has specified the Bus with 12 seats so that there is plenty of legroom and shoulder room for growing kids, while behind the back row of four individual buckets seats there is a huge space for school bags or sports kit, or both. The uncompromising luggage space means teachers don’t necessarily need to tow a trailer when taking the bus away on a camping weekend, making life easier for all concerned. Plus a roof rack can carry up to 200 kilograms (including the rack).

An optional cargo barrier will be available complete with two metal shelves to allow the floor-to-ceiling space to be safely, yet fully loaded. Because the barrier sits behind the rear seats, a glazed panel in the roof provides the required third emergency exit and allows in plenty of light. All emergency exits are equipped with a hammer to break the glass in case of the need to evacuate in a rush.

Renault has priced the Master Bus from $59,990 (Manufacturer’s List Price, but less for ABN holders), making it exceptionally affordable. Renault running costs are reduced with up to 30,000 kilometres between scheduled servicing or once per year (unlike some that demand a day at the dealership after just 10,000 kilometres) and the first three scheduled services costs only $349 each. Renault protects its LCVs with a 3-year/200,000-kilometre-factory warranty, and this can be extended to five years, which is very handy for schools that don’t clock up big km on a regular basis.

Of course there are lap/sash seat belts for every seat as well as ISOFIX connections and tether strap hooks on two seats, just in case smaller tots are carried.

The air conditioning system has been designed to cope with Australian conditions, which means it can cool the cabin down very quickly even if the bus has been left in the sun for a while at a cricket or netball game. That means the engine doesn’t need to be left idling to run the A/C all the time, reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

Getting in and out is easy, too, with a powered step emerging from under the side sliding door aperture even for models with the manually activated door. An optional electrically powered side sliding door is controlled by the driver.

Should the driver attempt to drive off with the side door open an alarm sounds and the door automatically begins to close.

Teachers will love driving the Renault Master Bus because it is very quiet, with barely any engine noise reaching the cabin. The smooth automated gearbox makes very slick changes and the elevated driving position gives a commanding view over the road.

Despite being 6.2 metres long and almost 2.5 metres high and over two metres wide, the Master Bus doesn’t feel huge on the road, or even when parking, thanks to a standard reversing camera.

Smooth sides and flush glazing also help to reduce wind noise from reaching the cabin, making the Bus exceptionally pleasant on longer journeys, even on the freeway at cruising speeds.

The 2.3-litre single turbo diesel engine is also very light on fuel with around 10 or 11.0-litres per 100-kilometre consumption easily achievable, depending on load, topography and headwinds. With a 100-litre thank, that means a theoretical range of more than 1,000 kilometres per ll, helping to further drive down the cost of transporting the First XI.

“We have designed the Master Bus to meet the needs and exceed the expectations of school users in Australia,” says Lyndon Healey, Model Line Manager for Renault LCV.

“We have a bus that is easy to drive, efficient to run and affordable to service.

“It is comfortable to drive and to sit in as a passenger, and it is exceptionally spacious down the back, with particularly generous luggage space especially compared with typical rival vehicles.

“For schools looking for a smart, spacious and affordable solution to moving small groups of pupils or teachers around, the Master Bus fulfils their requirements perfectly,” he says.

“And if the 12-seat configuration doesn’t work for you, talk to us to see how we can devise a version to meet your exact needs. After all in Europe there are more than 380 different variants on the Master van theme, so there will be a solution that’s right for you,” Lyndon says.
 Find out more about the new Renault Master 12-seater Bus at

Big digital ideas in the Australian Curriculum

As the new director of education for Edutech and National Futureschools Expo, a fellow of Engineers Australia, and
 a former K-12 digitech and STEM/STEAM consultant, Dr Megan Vazey dives into the new Australian Curriculum (ac): Technologies (digital) to comment on the big ideas in store.

The AC DigiTECH curriculum asks students as young as kinder to dress up as superheroes and otherwise wear their cloaks as designers, engineers and entrepreneurs; imagining where computer science and digital technologies can take us. It invites learners big and small, regardless of background, to become keen observers of the infrastructure, gadgetry and interconnected communication networks that surround them, and to think about the data, algorithms, hardware, protocols, processes and systems required to truly benefit communities and businesses through managed change.

The great opportunity with digital technologies has always been one of communication between people, and with the physical world. Radical engineering innovations and the consequent changes in gadget size, computational speed, wireless access, data representation, batteries and physical sensing has made the milieu fascinatingly dynamic and interesting.

One generation ago and back in the 70s, it was nancially prohibitive to ring Coffs Harbour from Sydney, let alone Perth or New Zealand. We had no mobile phones, no high-resolution touch-screens, no SMSes, no Internet web pages, no MP3 or JPEG or YouTube or blogs, and no email. Augmented, virtual and mixed realities were unheard of, and drones weren’t even imagined, let alone driverless cars, personal robotics, sewable circuits and remote haptic sensing.
Our family got our rst black and white TV when I was about 8 years old, and a very basic colour hand-me-down TV when I was about 10. The family bought one shared VIC20 tape-based computer console that plugged into the TV screen when I was about 11. This was cutting-edge, computer-savvy stuff.

The new and revised Australian Curriculum now invites the mathematical, scientific and engineering imaginations of a diversity of learners from ages four and up of every demographic to grapple with the knowledge, understanding, processes and production skills to design, create, and manage digital projects ranging from embedded software at the physical computing level, all the way to databases and business information systems. At the very upper end, students can tour silicon valley, visit space camps and play with satellite communications, build their own computers, and design their own Internet of Things (IoT): real, virtual or augmented, with corresponding IT infrastructure.

Along this journey, big ideas in the curriculum include: “Systems, Data and Algorithms” introduced from Foundation, Year 1 and Year 2; “Digital Collaboration” introduced from Band/Stage 2 (Years 3 and 4); “Requirements Specification and User Interface/Experience Design” introduced from Band/ Stage 3 (Years 5 and 6); “Project Management” introduced from Band/Stage 4 (Years 7 and 8); and by Stage/Band 5 (Years 9 and 10): “Modularity and Object Orientation”.

Specialty Primary and K-10 English and Creative Arts educators should not be put off at this point, nor should HASS / HSIE and PDHPE teachers.
The great realities are that computing involves exceptionally accessible languages, and that design is a collaborative and physical art. As well, teamwork and entrepreneurial capability are vital to the digital design process, and creativity and innovation comes at the intersection of these diverse skills and subject disciplines.

Further, the powers of literacy, empathetic comprehension, and rational and reasoned argument are as essential to students of law and medicine, as they are to the background research, investigation and evaluation stages of the digital design process. Also, the ability to specify and draw design concepts with network diagrams, data ow diagrams,logical ow charts, and models requires 2D and even 3D spatial awareness, often calling upon signicant artistic communication talent.

Both the DigiTECH and the DesignTECH components of the Australian Curriculum: Technologies invite learners to think physically and computationally in an unplugged and abstract context; and separately plugged-in with student agency during the design process. At the end of the day, K-12 student capability in logically testing, re ning and showcasing work to persuade an audience of the relevance and impact of their designs will exercise and evidence a great variety of engineering and STEAM skill, even at Foundation (kindy) level.

We mustn’t underestimate the power of learners and learning at any age. While students and educators will nd themselves at various points on the journey, the end game is that learners can confidently use digital systems to ethically, safely and respectfully communicate data as information, and apply systems thinking to analyse, predict and shape system interactions that will positively and sustainably impact the lives of those around them.


Dr Megan Vazey is the Director of Education for Association and Communications Events, and the Lead Conference Producer for EduTECH and National FutureSchools Expo. Megan’s PhD is in Computing in big data, machine learning, data mining, arti cial intelligence, and decision support systems. Megan has worked and presented for a range of organisations and on numerous occasions in Australia and overseas. Megan is a Fellow of Engineers Australia.

From 2014-2016 Megan developed professional learning in computational thinking, making, coding, physical computing and STEM from K-12 for NSW schools; and project managed 49 AISNSW commonwealth funded STEM projects. Megan has been active on a range of STEM committees with ACARA, NSW BOSTES and the Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering, and in Education Research, most recently consulting to Parramatta Marist High in Innovation, PBL based STEM, and Digital Technologies, and also to the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE). Megan was the founding AISNSW STEM consultant.
You can contact Megan on Twitter via @MeganVazey or email her through

How artificial intelligence could benefit education

Artificial intelligence (AI) can play an important role in improving the quality and affordability of education, an artificial intelligence provider believes.

Writing in Venture Beat , Cognii CEO Dee Kanejiya argued several applications of AI would hit the education sector in the US in 2017, including AI for grading students’ written answers, bots that answer their questions, virtual personal assistant tutors and virtual reality and computer vision for hands-on learning.

Mr Kanejiya, who provides AI to the education sector, believes the advancements in technology will be needed to improve the productivity and efficiency of the education system – as budgets shrink and classroom sizes increase.

The Boston-based entrepreneur argued more rigorous academic standards in the United States has seen a shift towards measuring students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills and preparing them for college (university) and career success in the 21st century.

“The education industry has primarily three types of players — content, platform, and assessment providers — and each is going through a transition,” Mr Kanejiya wrote.

“The content publishers are bracing with the challenges of the print-to-digital transition, as well providing content for the open education resources.

“The learning platforms are trying to differentiate in the adaptivity, personalization, and analytics space. And assessment will continue to play a pivotal role in transforming the education industry as it transitions from multiple-choice tests toward more innovative question types.”

Mr Kanejiya wrote that he believes AI would benefit students with instant feedback and guidance, teachers with rich learning analytics and insights to personalise instruction, parents who could see improved career prospects at a reduced cost and schools and governments able to provide more affordable education.

Victorian Government sets new maths and science student targets

One in five Victorian Year 10 students will be expected to have “excellent” critical and creative thinking skills by 2025.

The Herald Sun reported the benchmark is a 25 per cent increase on last year, and is part of a push to teach children hi-tech skills, including robotics, precision manufacturing and biotechnology.

Education Minister James Merlino told the publication students needed to cope in a “changing, global economy”.

“Many of the jobs our kids will have in the future do not even exist right now,” he said.

“Setting these ambitious targets in areas like science, maths, literacy, critical and creative thinking will give our kids the skills they need for the jobs of the future.”

An online test will be launched in all high schools this year to test Year 10 students on reasoning and metacognition through analysing hypothetical situations.

The Herald Sun reported twenty five per cent more Year 9 students will be expected to achieve “the highest level of achievement” in maths.

In science, the number of 15-year-olds reaching top marks will need to move from 10.4 per cent to 14.6 per cent.

Wheelers Hill Secondary College principal Aaron Smith told the Herald Sun schools needed to be “real and relevant” to teach 21st century skills.

The school offers coding classes, which the Victorian Government announced this week would be pushed under its new Digital Technologies curriculum.

“You can never get away from teaching the important skills of literacy and numeracy,” Mr Smith said.

“But we’ve got to get the balance.

“We need to ready out students for the future to get them ready for employment opportunities.”