Seymour College discovers formula for creating ‘Girls of Steel’

There’s a formula for creating ‘Girls of Steel’; it involves mixing together equal parts science, technology, electrical engineering and English literature and allowing students’ natural creativity to take hold.

‘Girls of Steel’ is just one example of the transformation taking place in the education of young women today at Seymour College. It is being championed by Jodi Gordon, the Dean of Digital Learning and Innovation at Seymour College, based in Glen Osmond, South Australia.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) is present throughout the curriculum at Seymour which is nurturing student skills and honing their ability to code, to be constructive and creative. For example, using Azure Machine Learning Studio and working with the Microsoft Innovation Centre in Adelaide, Seymour’s Middle School girls have been able to design a data model, analyse it in Excel and then use intelligent analytics to predict the likelihood of breast cancer.

Gordon is convinced that the full benefits of STEM derive not from being taught in isolation, but from being more integrated in all learning. In Seymour’s ‘Girls of Steel’ initiative, girls combine coding with storytelling, allowing them to create animated stories by coding characters. Gordon is a member of the Microsoft Innovation Educator (MIE) Expert program and a driving force behind learning innovation and pedagogical transformation at Seymour College.

How important is learning innovation at Seymour College?

It’s critical. We are riding the wave of change in the school and are now at the point where College Leadership are very excited about digital innovation. Seymour are setting themselves up as a showcase school for 21st century learning with digital innovation embedded in our approaches to learning.

How has being involved in the MIE- Expert initiative helped shape your thinking?

I’ve been a part of the MIE-Expert program since the beginning. Having an ongoing online collaboration with other educators, sharing contemporary ideas and being updated on how technology is changing is so important. The global networking is probably the biggest part – exposure to other people’s ideas, collaborating on Yammer and using Teams to participate in online sessions – you can’t put a price on this professional learning and networking.

What sorts of learning innovations are you exploring?

We have been accepted as a Microsoft School; it’s now in our sights to become a Microsoft Showcase School.
In our Middle School we have two interdisciplinary subjects – STEM and GEM (Global Studies, English and Media).
Our curriculum is moving to more innovative approaches and we have now changed our pedagogical approach towards project-based learning and phenomena-based learning. We look to incorporate projects each term or semester, often combining GEM and STEM which is promoting critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and creativity.

What technologies are you using in the classroom?

We have had one-to-one device programs for the last six years for Year 6 and upwards. We encourage all girls to have a device with a pen to use digital inking and OneNote and we are beginning to use the powerful 3D tools, Paint 3D and mixed reality. We’re replacing notebooks with OneNote integrated with our learning management system, and looking to get going with Minecraft Education Edition from next term.

What has the community reaction been?

We held various sessions for our Middle School families on our new GEM and STEM subjects. We also brought Year 6 parents in for an engagement workshop to demonstrate the new device and Microsoft tools such as One Note and digital inking – to show them how seamless the interaction is between teacher and student and how they make learning visible. The parents have been absolutely astounded by the technologies available to us in the classroom.

And teachers? Are they on board?

The teaching cohort recently attended the Microsoft training centre and spent a whole day immersed in Office 365. They came back to school extremely excited, and were using most of the tools in their classrooms immediately. We’ve seen a huge uptake of teachers completing training on the Microsoft Educator Community and receiving recognition and badges. They share that training with us and we keep a note of their training for their professional learning records. We now have eleven staff accredited as Microsoft Innovative Educators, or MIE’s! Our Principal, Kevin Tutt, is very excited for the school to continue its digital innovation and transformation journey with Microsoft.