Adventures in Programming

Melrose High School

Canberra’s Melrose High School has always encouraged achievement within a safe and friendly learning environment. Technology teacher Stephannie Dormer’s quest is to provide this for her students every day.

Read about how a unique project using the Essential Fluencies allowed her to reach her technology students like never before.

Melrose School opened its doors in Pearce, Canberra in 1970. From the start they have always encouraged achievement within a safe and friendly learning environment. They offer their students a balanced curriculum, and put focus on a school spirit that promotes well-being and an ideal of service and respect for others.

For me, the process was very fluid when I started the implementation … I looked at my students and tried to work out what would be best for them as well as me. In the end I found honesty to be the best path, and shared this with the students.

Stephannie Dormer

Melrose HS

I enjoy watching students decide what they are going to learn and how I am going to assess them … I can see new areas for learning
and can watch the students’ skills develop.

Stephannie Dormer

Melrose HS

The benefits for me all center around student learning. The students develop a much deeper understanding of concepts, a greater responsibility for their learning, and more pride in their work and themselves. They reflect on their learning and are generally honest with themselves.

Stephannie Dormer

Melrose HS

What does it take to inspire

meaningful change?

Every enterprising educator strives to offer their students exceptional educational experiences. Stephannie Dormer, Executive Teacher of Technology at Melrose High School in Canberra, knew exactly where she wanted to be and what she wanted her students to learn. Considering the best way to go about this led her to the work of The Global Digital Citizen Foundation, and the Essential Fluencies.

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“Although I already understood the Fluencies, I felt as though I was in the dark with what I was doing,” Stephannie claims. “I think the biggest challenge I faced was the uncertainty of the students and whether they would learn or not, and then the impact this would have on the rest of the course.”

Where do we

begin to transform?

The content being studied was programming control structures. This refers to detailing the direction that a program will take in computing. It determines how a program will respond given specific parameters. “When I implemented Solution Fluency I knew what I wanted the kids to learn as the end product, but I hadn’t planned out each step along the way,” Stephannie recalls. “I had a couple of milestones that I knew we had to cross, but apart from that the process developed one lesson at a time.”

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Stephannie encouraged all her students to demonstrate their knowledge in ways that they believed would be most suitable. Providing them with that level of autonomy went a long way toward ensuring her learners not only took control of their projects, but that they also gained a higher awareness and understanding of the content.

“Previously when I taught this topic it was dry, boring, and hard work for both me and my students to get through. While the learning still took the same time, the depth of understanding was considerably deeper.”

How do we measure

growth and progress?

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  • Students are thinking more for themselves and assuming responsibility.
  • Lessons are engaging and related to real life learning.
  • Students are developing a sense of ownership for learning.
  • They are working on projects that solve challenging problems that are relevant to their interest
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  • Letting students take the lead has shown that it is possible to learn when they are doing entirely different things.
  • Teachers have assumed the roles of facilitators and “guides on the side” as students take the lead in learning.
  • The Fluencies processes allow teachers to connect content topics to their students’ personal interests and increase student engagement.
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  • Embracing the Fluencies is gradually fostering a more creative and dynamic school culture.
  • There is a deeper sense of collaboration between students and teachers as well as between the teachers themselves.
  • Integrity and curiosity are developing for everyone in unexpected ways.
  • Educators are being inspired to both learn and instruct in many different ways to connect to learners.

How do we continue to

improve and excel?

By the end of the unit Stephannie had received many creative submissions including PowerPoints, essays, and flash animations. “In previous years I had not been able to teach a programming language to the students; we just did drag-and-drop programming,” Stephannie says. “This semester we seemed to progress further with better understanding. The students became a more cohesive group.”

And how did the students do with their projects using Solution Fluency? “The results were outstanding and beyond my wildest expectations. It was an absolute pleasure to mark!”

Using Solution Fluency in Stephannie’s technology classroom has transformed things in positive ways—including Stephannie herself. “As a teacher, some of my previous beliefs have been challenged and are still being challenged,” she says.