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TechWeek 21

Interested in exploring innovative tech, like Augment/Virtual/Mixed Reality, Minecraft, Microbits, Internet of Things? What to learn how these technologies can be integrated into your teaching and across subjects?

The recent changes within the DT|MH areas of the curriculum has meant all teacher are required to integrate digital technologies into their teaching which focus on the construction rather than consumption of technology. 

This hands-on event is open to all educators interested in learning how you (and your students) can create their own experiences. The event will introduce a range of tools, which you can then apply in your own classes to support students learn across different learning areas.

This PLD event is targeted at all teachers (and pre-service), from Primary to Secondary, interested in starting their own journey into integrating the DT|HM and better linking this within a range of subjects.

The event doesn’t expect any prior experience, just an interest in learning and giving it a go.

The programme will be stretched over the day and you are invited to attend any session.

Day Session (8.45-3.30pm) a series of hands-on workshops around a range of topics, including VR, AR, Minecraft and Micro:Bit.

Evening Session (5-730pm – PLEASE NOTE THE NEW TIME) for those that can’t make it during the day this compressed session highlights some of the key activities that happened over the day.

Tentative Schedule

8.45-9.30Welcome and overview of the day
9.30-10.15Exploring the DT within the NZ curriculum
10.15-10.30Morning Tea (provided)
10.30-11.30Workshop A – Virtual tours
Workshop B – Basic introduction of Minecraft Education Edition (Digital Circus)
– how it works, teacher tools and the resources and ideas available.  Attendees will need to have Minecraft Edu downloaded onto their device to get the most out of the session. 
11.30-12.00Showcase A – PBL in STEM
Showcase B – Minecraft in Languages
12.00-12.45Lunch | Robotics Lab Launch
12.45-1.45Workshop A – AR with Merge Cube
Workshop B – CS Unplugged (Digital Circus)
1.45-2.00Afternoon Tea (provided)
2.00 – 3.00Workshop A – Micro Bits (The Mind Lab)
Workshop B – Scavenger hunts with AR
3.00-3.30Wrap up and end of the day session
5.00-7.30Approaches in MR (F:F and Streamed Online)

Event proudly supported by:

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Join us for phone free friday

CC O Image by Anja🤗#helpinghands #solidarity#stays healthy🙏 from Pixabay

What’s the first thing you use your cell phone for in the morning? Is it to wake you up? Check the time or the weather? Check your messages? We are living in an increasingly interconnected digital world and our phones are entwined in our daily lives. As researchers, teachers, students, and for some of us parents in the DefLab we know that digital technologies can lead to both positive and negative outcomes.

One of the ways to create balance in our online and offline lives is to become mindful about how we use digital technologies and learn how to manage our behavior. We often worry about young people’s digital habits but do we as adults adequately reflect on our own practices?

That’s why the UCDefLab is taking part in the global phone-free day challenge on Friday – 19th March and we’d like YOU to join us! Sign up to the challenge and/or volunteer to take part in research documenting your experience of “mindful phone usage”.

Here are some of our idea’s about how to manage your phone usage.

Turn off or mute your notifications.
Do a spring clean and get rid of unused apps.
Store your phone out of sight in a draw or bag at work & home.
Don’t take your phone to bed.
CC By Icons from

What do you do? Share your tips on how you manage your digital welbeing.

Getting your kids off screen and on board

An article that originally appeared on the UC Press Release and Scoop (6 January 2021)

 University of Canterbury Associate Professors Kathryn MacCallum & Cheryl Brown, Co-Directors of Te Puna Rangahau i-Ako | Digital Education Futures Lab discuss the pros and cons of our children’s increasing screen time, and how to deal with it this summer.
As parents of boys ranging from 7 to 19 years old, we often discuss and share the strains that technology places on us. Our work as researchers in digital technologies and education means we are often confronted with both the negatives and positives of technology. Research has emphasised the negatives of excessive screen time and has led to issues with eyesight, general wellbeing and often means the absence of more positive activities – like play. However research has also shown there are many positives. So this year as we approach the school holidays and the encroaching battleground around screen time, it is important that we take a step back and consider that screen time isn’t all bad, it’s about that old adage “moderation”. It is also about emphasising the benefits that technology has, which often are wider than just the time spent on the device. 

Kathryn’s sons aged 7 and 9 are currently in a Minecraft craze. While this obsession is centred around an online game, Kathryn has seen the obsession trigger a wider set of interests and skills, many spilling into the real world. Her boys are now avid readers of the many books written about the fantasy world of Minecraft, and have a renewed interest in their blocks and Lego. These toys have been hauled out to recreate and create Minecraft worlds offline. This offline/online play has also led to new discussions and new vocabulary. She has had some interesting conversations with her youngest about what exactly is a biome and the components of glass, concrete and fire fuses, as well as how to create an automatic drawbridge and crop irrigators. 

Since accepting the significant role this game now plays in her children’s lives, Kathryn has noticed other subtle positive influences. Her oldest, typically shy about engaging with others in a playground, now, with the simple mention of Minecraft, will spark great friendships with his peers and lead to new games around the swings and slides as they have their shared secret language and common interest. Wider gameplay has also taught her children wider social skills, like collaboration, problem-solving and creative play, but also how to handle losing and build resilience. 

Cheryl’s kids are a bit older and her 13-year-old is currently immersed in Roblox. This involves a myriad of games she can’t keep up with, but she was pleasantly surprised when she discovered he decided to learn Japanese at school and was inspired to play volleyball as a result of playing his anime games. Clearly games connect to passions and can extend beyond the screen. Her oldest (like many teenagers) has friends distributed across the country and world so gaming and devices keep them connected – something that’s been especially valuable in 2020. When Cheryl asked her 13-year-old son what he thought about the value of games for learning he immediately sent a link to a TikTok video on 7 reasons gaming is good. “But how do you achieve balance?” she asked. “That’s what parents are for,” was his response. Turns out he values the boundaries his parents set and even remembered when he had stricter time limits and how it taught him how to manage his time and maximise his gaming enjoyment.  

So while devices can draw on many positives, it is important we set boundaries and don’t let it run the household. Some advice to consider:
* The boundaries you set will depend on your family values and contexts.  
* Transparency is important so being purposeful about screen time and setting limits that everyone agrees and adopts (including we parents) is an important first step. 
* Create routine screen-free family time, for example: making family dinners a tech-free zone.  
* Consider not taking tech to bed – research has shown that screens can impair sleep (some families have a tech-basket in the hallway which everyone puts devices into before bed). 

This year as school holidays begin, Kathryn plans to set aside time to talk to her children about exactly what these tech limits will be. While she is optimistic that these rules will last the holidays she is also realistic that not all days will be equal. However the opportunity to discuss and set expectations mean her children will know what to expect and hopefully minimise the meltdowns but also be purposeful around planning for non-screen time.  

So while having daily timed limits is one way, it is also important to consider screen-free days – that doesn’t mean you need to go away to some remote location with no wifi or electricity. Rather have a day (or even part of a day) when devices are discouraged. Dig out those old family board games, find an old puzzle or play some frisbee. Be aware of what your children are watching or playing. Ask them about their games and get them to show you and talk about it. Encourage play which is less passive or has an element of creativity, collaboration or physical activity (you’d be amazed at how hard it is to play car racing while sitting still).  

The year has been especially fraught for everyone and so a little off-time is required and this might just mean not worrying so much about a little bit of screen time.
Image: “sisters-screen-time” by JeremyOK is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Student experiences of online learning during the pandemic

The DeFLab is involved in the Students Experiences of Online Learning – SOLE – project. This research is focused on what we can learn from Aotearoa |New Zealand university students’ experiences of online learning as a result of the shift to Emergency Remote Learning and Teaching (ERLT) during the pandemic. We are interested in the perspectives and lived experiences of students and have conducted a survey of over 1000 students and focus groups of close to 50 students. 

Cheryl Brown has reflected on students’ experiences in a Conversation article “What do students need in the age of lockdown learning?” and the SOLE team has shared some initial thoughts on the project in ASCILITEs Technology Enhanced Learning Blog. 

There is no doubt that research-informed analysis on emergency remote education is critically important in our current global context. Especially since we know we will be facing these challenges globally for some time.

Watch this space for more updates as the project progresses.