Digital Technologies

Children are born into a digital world where technology is an integral part of their every day lives. Information today is electronic, instant, easily accessible and constantly transforming. Therefore, digital technologies play a significant role in how children learn, share and access information.

At St Dominic's, technology is used daily by staff and students. Depending on their year level, students have access to iPads, MacBooks or Chromebooks.

Students in Years 3-6 attend digital technologies specialist classes once a week.

In these classes, students:

  • Explore and use a variety of new, emerging and exciting technology (including 3D TVs and 3D cameras, Virtual Reality headsets and VR cameras, and motion controllers for touch-less / Covid safe interactions)

  • Design and create user graphical user interfaces (including touch-screen digital menus for the school's cafe program as well as real-world businesses such as Boost Juice)

  • Learn to program to create computer games, fly drones and command robots, and then control those programmed devices by using a variety of peripherals

  • Use a green screen room to professionally record videos.

St Dominic's also has a B.Y.O.D (Bring Your Own Device) program for students in Year 3-6 students. This has been a great success, with many students in the school participating in the program. Students bringing their own device from home which allows teachers more freedom to incorporate technology into their daily lessons to support learning within their classroom.

Student use of technology is supported via the following annually-revised policies:

Responding To Teaching & Learning In A Covid-19 World

With the massive impact that Covid-19 has had on the world, schools around the world have had to invest their money, time and effort in technological solutions to provide at-home/off-site learning.

At St Dominic's we:

  • Shifted from using Seesaw (our online journal for students to post their work online for parents to access), from our minimum of one post a week at-school policy, to using SeeSaw to post all student activities, school announcements, morning prayers, morning and afternoon greetings, one-to-one feedback to students on their submitted work, and as a portal to show class learning to keep our school community alive

  • Purchased 120 new iPads to cater for both onsite and at-home learning

  • Introduced the use of morning and afternoon class meetings using Google Meet for students in Years 4-6 (as these students have school Google accounts) and later extended this to include Year 3s and 2s so that students could see and communicate with their classmates again.

The Impact of Covid-19 On Digital Technologies Classes Upon School Resumption

In Term 4 2020, students returned to onsite learning after a long government-imposed lockdown due to Covid-19 outbreaks in our state of Victoria. However, our digital technology classes faced an issue as how could one teach if:

  • Most of our technology had been loaned out to families to help them cope with the requirements of online learning and was in a transitional phase of being returned. Therefor, we did not have access to a whole class set (e.g. 24 devices) of MacBooks, Chromebooks or iPads as school-owned devices

  • Any devices used on-site would be considered to be shared technology, which meant that they would have to be constantly sanitised either during and/or between back-to-back classes under Covid-safe protocols.

Therefore, as our aim of the digital technologies program is to expose our students to world-class learning opportunities that reflect and respond to the current and future technologies needs of the world, we transformed our digital technologies area into a fully touch-less and Covid-safe interactive area for students to explore a variety of peripherals (devices) that could be used to interact with both computers and consoles.

Contained below are details on the peripherals, what they are designed to do, how they can be adapted to interact with digital devices to lead to Covid-safe interactions and how we used them.

The Leap Motion Controller

(An Infra-Red Camera)

Microsoft Kinect For Windows & Xbox 360

(A 3D Camera)

The Leap Motion Controller is an infra-red device developed in 2013 to detect hand and finger movements. It was mostly used by early developers and users of virtual reality to detect hands and all ten fingers to interact (touch, pick-up and throw) with virtual objects.

The Leap Motion Controller can also be used with Windows and Mac computer applications to interact with devices in a touch-less manner.

Watch the video below to see our students using Leap Motion Controllers to learn how common everyday tasks like ATM banking and using lifts/elevators can be made Covid-safe by using touch-less solutions, as well as how to use the Leap Motion Controller to explore the conept of tectonic plates during their recent inquiry unit about the Earth's surface.

The Kinect (created by Microsoft) is a 3D camera that can detect skeletal movements of up to four people simultaneously. It was released for the Xbox 360 (and later for the Xbox One and Windows) to enable people to play games simply by using body motions without needing to hold a controller or stand on a board.

As Microsoft created the Kinect, it can also be used with Microsoft Windows to enable users to interact with a wide-variety of devices in a touch-less manner.

Watch the videos below of our students using the Kinect to interact with touchless software, as well as to use it to fly a drone that they have programmed!

A student uses a Leap Motion Controller in conjunction with an Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 and voice commands to play Pokemon VR!

A student uses an Kinect For Xbox 360 but connected to a Windows laptop (as Microsoft makes Xbox and Windows) to fly a drone!

The PS2 Eye & PS3 Eye Cameras and The Leap Frog Leap TV Camera

(2D Cameras)

After using the 3D Kinect camera and the Leap Motion Controller to interact with various software in a touchless/Covid-safe way, students then explored the use of 2D cameras such as the PS2 and PS3 Eye cameras, as well as the Leap Frog Leap TV camera.

Touchless playing on the Leap Frog Leap TV

Using the PlayStation2 & EyeToy 2D camera

Get Fit with Mel B on the PS3 with Eye Cam

During this experience, students realised that the 2D cameras can not determine who is standing closest to the camera, so if anyone in the background slightly moved, the game then thought that that person was controlling the game! Therefore, the students were able to figure out that 3D cameras are the better solution for touchless interactions.


Senior Students Create An App For Boost Juice!

As part of their digital technologies classes, senior students learn how to design graphical user interfaces. Whilst most schools would limit this experience to designing websites or presentations in Google Slides or Microsoft Powerpoint, to ensure that this learning links to real-life business scenarios, students have the opportunity to create:

  • Digital advertisements

  • Fully-functional touch/interactive in-store apps and smartphone apps designed to meet the needs of global businesses.

As part of this exclusive program, some of our senior students created an app for Boost Juice (a sample of this app can be download from here), that in-store customers could potentially use to help them order both drinks and snacks in a fun, interactive and informative way! The app was designed to work on Windows, iOS and Android devices.


As part of our pitch to Boost Juice, we filmed the following promotional video:

Here are some of the students giving an overview of each section of the app that they were responsible for creating:

Prior to creating this app, all senior students created a digital marketing advertisement for Boost Juice too:

CEO and founder of Boost Juice, Janine Allis, kindly responded with a personal video:

To reflect the current and future technological needs of a post Covid-19 world, we are currently exploring and testing various motion controlled peripherals to add non-contact functionality to make our phone-app for Subway also work as a touch-less experience for in-store customers!

Senior Students Create An App For Our School Cafe!

Cafe Eyrie is a student-lead cooking initiative at St Dominic's. Every Friday, Year 5 students prepare, cook and serve a variety of savoury and sweet meals for the school community. Each week parents and one grade are invited to dine at the Café. Our students are exposed to preparing the menu, preparing the food, cooking, serving and handing money.

Whilst students normally take student, staff and parent orders by hand, some of our senior students were selected to create a digital interactive cafe menu for our school cafe that works on Windows, Android and iOS devices. They needed to make the menu in two formats, portrait and landscape. Here are two students explaining the features of their app designs:

Each time that a student, parent or staff member lodges an order using our app, an email is generated. We found a website that provides an online trigger/action service for free that then detects when an email is received. If the email is received and then the printer prints a professional-looking receipt with our school cafe logo (that we designed with our receipt printer's software), as well as the order and price details.


We look forward to the next group of senior students learning how to recreate and modify the cafe app to adjust it to match each week's new menu items!

Programming Drones & Using Peripherals

As part of their Digital Technologies classes, senior students utilise their knowledge of programming developed throughout our four-year program to program drones.

1. Students start by learning the basics of how to program drones to match keyboard strokes:

2. They then explore real-life and business scenarios as to where drones are used to enhance safety or productivity:

Drones used in real-life scenarios: Farming

3. Students then apply their programming skills to match various real-life business scenarios:

Emulating real-life scenarios: Farming

4. Students then learn how to control various drones (including the DJi Tello) by using keymapping programs and a variety of peripherals, including joysticks, motion sensors, drum kits and dance mats!

Drones used in real-life scenarios: Piloting remotely via joysticks

Drones & Peripherals: Controlling Using An Xbox 360 Kinect & Body Motions: Part 1

Drones & Peripherals: Controlling Using An Xbox 360 Kinect & Body Motions: Part 2

Drones & Peripherals: Controlling Using An Xbox 360 Dance Mat

Drones & Peripherals: Controlling Using An Xbox 360 Drum Kit

Teaching and Learning Via Video Games

In a discussion piece titled, 'Game designers are beating teachers at their own game', university lecturer and former primary school teacher Misty Adoniou noted that:

'When playing games, kids show all the attributes their teachers wish were visible in the classroom. They stay on task, they are determined to achieve their objectives and persist despite failures along the way. They work cooperatively to solve problems, and praise the good efforts of others. Kids play games, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. They persist because they feel the reward of having achieved something that was a challenge. The ultimate reward is the “epic win”'.'

Given Misty's thoughts and the popularity of gaming, particularly with the "iPad generation" of students, during digital technologies classes, students are also given the opportunity to create and play video games.

Artithmemouse

Arithemouse is a basic video game that enables students to explore any chosen multiplication table at their own pace, without any time constraints or level bosses.


Students learn how to use a combination of keyboard buttons to navigate each level, and equations are answered by navigating to or through the correct answer, instead of typing or clicking on an answer.


As the game does not require the use of a computer mouse or trackpad, it is the perfect introduction to computer/laptop video gaming as most students have only ever played games on an iPad.


Timez Attack

Timez Attack by Big Brainz is another video game that students have used to enable them to practice and learn their multiplication tables. The response when students play this game for the first time is amazing, as not only do they find it fun and engaging, they also show development of their mathematical knowledge as they progress throughout the game, as it requires them to apply learned knowledge along the way to defeat a series of level bosses.


This game is particularly useful in taking the next step in introducing students to computer/laptop gaming as the game requires students to simultaneously use a combination of a keyboard and trackpad, or a keyboard and mouse to navigate throughout the game.


The Dig

The Dig is a point-and-click adventure game designed by Lucas Arts, George Lucas' production company who have been responsible for many box-office blockbusters that include Star Wars and Indiana Jones.


Point and click games were hugely popular in the 1980s and 1990s and require players to think and problem solve their way through a game.


Although The Dig was released in 1995, the game was recently re-released (with a minor update to the graphics) for download on Steam for less than $10.

The video game starts with an entertaining movie (see the upgrade 1080p HD version of the video below) that introduce the characters, the settings, the problem and a potential solution for saving the world! Upon watching the introduction, students are wowed by the story, hooking them into wanting to play the game before they have even started.


The video introduction is also worth re-watching once students have played the game for three to four sessions to recap the mission objective for greater task comprehension and to also provide details that they may find useful to help them solve some of the problems in the game.

The Dig is a perfect opportunity for students to learn and practice how to:

  • Use a trackpad or mouse to navigate and interact with objects and people within the game

  • Problem solve

  • Discuss and explain the six different problem solving strategies needed to play most point-and-click games.


As most students have not played a point-and-click game, and find it difficult to explain and record problem solving solutions, a teacher-made template (displayed below) is given to the students to assist them.

To demonstrate that they can problem solve and also explain their problem solving solutions, students must fill in the gaps in the given problem solving template.


To ensure that students are not just playing during the lessons, they must record/write a minimum of two problem solving steps per session (for a 3 or 4 lesson duration).


Spark of Light VR: An Immersive Virtual Reality Problem Solving Experience

Spark of Light is a point-and-click virtual reality game (using a VR hand-held controller) and is the perfect follow-on after playing The Dig (see the above game analysis) and a great way to introduce students into the world of virtual reality gaming.

Spark of Light is available on the following VR headsets (which we also have):

To progress our students' problem-solving abilities, students are not given a problem solving template (like they were when playing The Dig - as shown above) to assist them. Instead, the students whilst in VR are required to solve problems and then take off their VR headset to record their own problem solving steps (and to take constant breaks from VR).

These student self-created problem-solving steps shows that students have improve their ability to create and then record solutions to problems (which then meets the requirements of the digital technologies curriculum), as well as then acting as a guide for other students to use to assist them if they become stuck in the game.

Below each problem solving step that they have created, students must also create a cloze sentence and fill in their own gaps, proving that they can use a known solution to help them problem solve a new solution (drawing on previously solved problems to identify similarities).


An example (as pictured on the right) of an in-progress student work sample can be accessed here.

Students must also complete a comprehension cloze (as shown on the right) after playing the game for the second time to show that they understand the basic concept of the game.


Students then test out the accuracy of their self-generated problem- solving steps by working with a partner (preferably someone who has not played the game before).

As shown in the video below, they read aloud the relevant steps to their partner (who is in VR) to determine if their wording is accurate enough, or contains all of the information and/or steps that are needed to complete the first two levels of the game.

As shown in the video below, the first level of the is quite easy and is perfect for students in Year 3 and above and can be completed in about 10-15 minutes.

From the second level of the game onward, students may occasionally need to be given hints (e.g. refer back to the problem solving steps they used when playing The Dig) when they get stuck. It also requires a solid one hour session to complete progress within a level is not saved upon exiting the game. Therefore, this game is better suited to students in Year 5 and above.

Watch a walk-through of the first two levels below:


Exploring Immersive Technologies: 3D

To complement our immersive virtual reality experiences and study unit, students also explore the use of 3D technologies and 3D content.

Students learn to identify and use different types of 3D TVs and 3D glasses, as well as identify the different types of 3D data to be able to view 3D content. They also then film and view their own 3D content using a 3D video camera!

To develop an understanding of the different types of 3D data formats that exist, students view a variety of different 3D content in formats such as:

  • 3D native

  • Side-by-side

  • Over-under / top-bottom

  • Anaglyph.

They then provide an explanation of what they watched as well as discussing of the viewing of the content in 3D enhanced their viewing experience.

After this, students are set a task to find 3D content on the internet and to then use our 3D TVs and 3D glasses to check to see if the content they have found plays in 3D.

Students are then challenged to find 3D content from the internet to match their current, past or future inquiry topics so that they can then enhance future learning experiences for their own and other classes and year levels, as well as help source engaging content for their classroom teachers.

To develop an understanding of how technologies can be used to further engage players and enhance gaming experiences by using more immersive mediums, students also get to play a variety of 3D games, using a variety of consoles, including:

  • PlayStation 3

  • Xbox 360

  • Nintendo 3DS.

In doing so they develop an understanding of how 3D gaming can work with and without the need for 3D glasses.

Teachers and their classes can also book out our 3D cinema to view class-based inquiry topic 3D content and various IMAX experiences to learn in immersive and engaging ways.

Some of these topics include:

  • Space

  • Mini-beasts

  • Conservation efforts

  • Biomes: Sea life and sea creatures.

The 3D cinema can also be booked as a class reward to view popular 3D movies.


Exploring Augmented Reality

Whilst the senior students explore virtual reality (VR), our middle years students explore augmented reality (AR), as well as how it can be used by companies to engage children into reading books or learning about animals, as well as entice children to buying their products such as cereals or Lego, or shopping at certain supermarket chains.


Exploring Emerging Technological Trends Pays Off!

In our digital technologies program we look ahead to where technology is predicted to go and learn about the innovations that are currently being explored out in the real world.

One of these emerging technologies we studied in early 2019 was QR codes (a full year before students would see how the use of QR codes would transform how the world would 'check-in')!

In Term 1 2019, our students embarked on a project to help our younger students access and read picture-fiction books in our library. As part of this unit, students initially had to:

  1. Chose picture books from the library.

  2. Search on YouTube and Google to locate a video of someone reading that book.

Students then learned how to use computer shortcut keys to copy and paste each YouTube’s video link to create a QR code that linked to each YouTube video. Student worked individually learning how to use and format a Google Doc. They then transferred their individual work into a range of shared Google Docs that were been specifically formatted to print out sticky labels from the school’s printer.


The QR code stickers were then printed out and applied to the books in the library. Once this big process was finished, the senior students visited their junior student buddies to teach them how to use a digital device to scan each book’s QR code to the be able to watch the book being read on YouTube!

To be successful, students needed to:

  • Locate a video to match their book

  • Read and interpret a variety of YouTube web addresses.

  • Locate a video's address / web-link / hyperlink and copy it

  • Open a website designed to create a QR code

  • Paste a hyperlink into the correct area to generate / create a QR code

  • Download the QR code

  • Insert the correct QR code into the correct section of the correct shared Google Doc.


Exploring and Using a Variety of Cameras

During digital technologies classes, students at St Dominic's use a variety of cameras to explore the many ways that they can capture different types of data, including:

3D Cameras

Kinect for Xbox One

Kinect for Xbox 360 and Microsoft Kinect for Windows

Playstation 3 Move Cameras

3D video cameras


To capture 3D data for depth scanning (see below) and for detecting motion control.

For capturing motion capture data.

To film 3D video for our 3D TVs.

3D Scanning:

In Digital Technologies classes, students learn how to scan 3D objects (including themselves for a 3D selfie) into a digital 3D file using Microsoft Kinect and Kinect for Xbox 360 3D depth cameras.


These 3D digital files can then be used to print out the work using our 3D printer, or embedded into websites for virtual viewing.


Contained below is our 3D render/scan of the 3D artwork that you can touch/click on to view from multiple angles instead of just looking at it as a 2D photo (wait for the object to load/reach 100%).

The original Steampunk artwork.

A 3D render/scan of the Steampunk artwork.

Programming

Students are St Dominic's undertake one unit of programming for each year that they attend digital technologies classes. Each programming unit builds upon the skills learned previously, ensuring that students finish their work before moving on to learn a new programming language.

Students start their programming by learning a visual programming language via Scratch Jr on an iPad.

They then use Lego WeDo (another visual programming language) to program Lego that they have built.

Students who finish Lego Wedo then explore the next step via Jimu Robot.

Senior students then program Parrot Mambo drones using the Blockly language via SamLabs.

Students who excel can then program DJi Tello drones via Scratch 2.0 (a high-level block-based language) and Node JS.

Scratch 3.0 is then used by some students to create two-player games by applying all previously learned programming knowledge.

Sphero SPRK+, Sphero Mini and Sphero 2.0 are also used to learn new programming skills.