Building More Engaged Students through the Magic of STEAM Learning | The Better Mindset Podcast | Episode Fifteen

Engaging our students has become a real challenge in a post-COVID, media-filled world. We talk to Jo Mclntyre-Brown about her passion for Steam learning and sustainable enterprise programs. If you’re looking for a way to enrich your classrooms with authentic real-world problem-solving or want to help your teaching team get started with some simple design thinking challenges, here are some ideas to get you started. 

Show Notes: 

1. Manurewa Intermediate School – Youtube Channel
2. Using Technology Better – upcoming events

We postery week and would love to have you keep up with us. If you know someone who would get value from these episodes, hit the share button and let them know. Lastly, if you have questions or anything to share with us, email us at You can also contact Bex at to find out how you can get free PD in your schools (NZ) or follow us on Instagram at @usingtechnologybetter or on

We’d love to hear from you! See you next week.


5:05 – What’s the point of steam learning?
9:41 – How steam learning is different from other integrated learning approaches
23:35 – How do you integrate steam into your classroom?
29:27  – How to make learning authentic from the start
33:27 – The importance of putting yourself in the role of a teacher learner
37:30 – How to use steam learning in the classroom to help teachers
42:11 – How you can use the design thinking challenge as a curriculum at any level


Podcast Transcript Podcast Below:

Mark Herring: 0:00

You know, the challenge is not just in how you engage students, but also how you engage teachers. Stay engaged. And yeah, you know, not just kind of going through the motions, because I see that, you know, especially online, there’s a lot of a lot of teachers saying, you know, I saw one yesterday, you know, what kind of jobs could I do if I wasn’t in teaching, and then there’s all these people piping in and saying, Well, you could do this roll, or I left last year, and I’m leaving. And it’s funny, in a sense, but it’s a sad indictment of where we’re at as an education movement. You know, we need to be engaging students, but we need to be engaging teachers as well. The better mindset podcast, you’re listening to The Better Mindset Podcast. I’m Mark Herring.

Unknown: 0:38

And I’m Bex Rose.

Mark Herring: 0:39

And today on the podcast, we’ve got an interview with Joe McIntyre Brown, one of the steam learning specialists at manually what intermediate in Auckland backs. But before we get into that interview, which I know you weren’t part of, so you’ll be able to listen to it afterwards. I just wanted to quickly show you remember how on the last episode, in making waves, we were talking about the health benefits of wearing watches. I just just wanted to show what I’ve got. Back in the Apple ecosystem, so I managed to manage the source, a stainless steel one, which is really cool, because it’s got the Steph sapphire screen on it. So yeah, one of the things I was really interested in, one of the things I was kind of like pulled in the Garmin direction was just the robustness of it, you know, you could smash it up against walls. And when I’m at hiking and running and stuff like that, I don’t have to worry about scratching the screens, but I was able to sell it and then get a second hand sapphire version, which is I didn’t

Joe Brown: 1:30

know that was a thing. Yeah, that’s really cool. It’s,

Mark Herring: 1:33

it’s like a couple of $100 more than the standard series seven or seven, eight, series eight. But um, yeah, it’s, it’s one of the values and, and having second hand Apple gear is that it holds its value. But it’s, you know, you’re able to get that premium price. So yeah, super keen to be back into the Apple ecosystem. And now I get all the smart functionalities of navigation and direct messages. And yeah, all of those things. So that’s really cool. Anyway, so I track let’s get into the Dan. Well, very excited to have Joe McIntyre from manually intermediate on the call. And we’ve actually known each other for a number of years, Joe, and I’ll get you to talk a little bit about what you do in the school and what your lead roles is. I’ll let you introduce yourself in a second. But I know that a lot of the connection that we’ve had over the years has been around steam learning. So I’m excited to talk to you about that. One of the things that I am hearing and Bix and I are hearing from a lot of leaders across Southeast Asia and Australia and New Zealand is the engagement factor. So how do we encourage students who have been through the COVID, remote lockdown period, the challenge and the impact that that’s having in the classroom now about getting student engagement, not only just in attendance, especially in the middle school space, you know, the intermediate school space, but how do we actually not just get them there? But how do we get them reengaged enthusiastic about their learning. And as we know, it’s not just about reading, writing and maths. But what we’re excited to talk about is what it looks like from your perspective in terms of integration, because I really think that that’s one of the key things moving forward, innovative practice, integrated learning, combined with digital tech and a lot of the exciting innovations that are happening in that space, excited to get into this with you. So tell us a little bit about your role in the school, and maybe how you got there, and then we’ll go from there. How does it sound?

Joe Brown: 3:12

It sounds great. So yeah, my name is Joe McIntyre, Brown. And I have a couple of different roles in the school. So I’m the lead for education for sustainability effects at school. And I’ve had quite a long, long history in that space. I’m also the across school leader, as you said, for coffee Akal. And so that is in the steam and integration space. And then I’m a module subject teacher, so I teach sustainable enterprise to every class as they as they come through school, so across the school year, so a bit of a range of roles, but they all fit incredibly well together. So I’m really, really lucky to have the position that I do, and the ability to try quite a lot of new things. So new innovations and new ways of seeing things, you know, it’s involved a little bit of a paradigm shift. In fact, it involves them on quite a regular basis. But I love that because I need that to feel engaged and excited, which is pretty much what our students need. Right? So 100%?

Mark Herring: 4:06

Well, it’s funny you say that, because that’s what we’re talking about, you know, the challenge is not just in how you engage students, but also how you engage teachers. Stay engaged, and yeah, you know, not just kind of going through the motions, because I see that, you know, especially online, there’s a lot of a lot of teachers saying, you know, I saw one yesterday, you know, what kind of jobs could I do if I wasn’t in teaching, and then there’s all these people piping in and saying, Well, you could do this role, or I left last year, and I’m leaving, you know, it’s funny, in a sense, but it’s a sad indictment of where we’re at as an education movement. You know, we need to be engaging students, but we need to be engaging teachers as well. So

Joe Brown: 4:38

absolutely. Sounds like you’ve shaped

Mark Herring: 4:41

your own role in an innovative way. You’ve already shaped that whole role around, you know, innovative learning, but that you get to innovate in that space. Yeah,

Joe Brown: 4:50

yeah. And I mean, I understand, you know, kids that are reluctant to come to school. I know that when I’m not feeling passionate about what I do, or things that just say Let me say me, I’m not very good either. And I need to be engaged and passionate about what I’m teaching. Otherwise, what’s the point, it’s really great to have kids at this age, particularly, you know, slightly older than than primary than our year six is, but not quite into the secondary school space yet, or the high school space yet. And so they are really enthusiastic or can be really enthusiastic about shaping the way that their learning is going. And I love that because it means that my job’s not always the same. And I’m never sure when I plan how it’s going to go. So it’s always interesting and exciting and pretty innovative, I’d say,

Mark Herring: 5:32

Yeah, well, one of the interesting things about your school and we’ll have a link to your YouTube page, because I know that your channel, you know, your your score manually, we’re intermediate, do a lot of work on engaging students in some of the videos that you create, you know, around your assemblies and your sports days and things like that. I know, You’ve had some leaders who have really got together and really banded or an amazing school culture at your school, but one of the one of the things from somebody looking from the outside, and they might think that it’s quite a traditionally run school because it runs off a high school timetable. You know, you have bowels, you have students going between classes, because you’ve made a conscious decision to prepare them for that high school space. But then at the same time, once you actually look under the surface, particularly with programs like yours, you see some real innovation happening there. Right?

Joe Brown: 6:14

Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, it’s always that challenge, isn’t it, you know, you got to get the kids to a certain level. So there has to be a certain amount of skills teaching, but equally, then there’s got to be a space for kids to apply their skills and to apply their learning. So while you could definitely say it’s more, it’s more traditional kind of high school model. And it definitely does prepare the kids to go to high school, there’s still a lot of space for, for that collaboration. So you know, when you look at Steam learning, it’s about bringing the kids bringing all of their skills and all of their knowledge, their prior knowledge, whatever that might be into the space to create something to address a problem or an issue, or answer a design brief. And so yeah, I think that there’s space for for both. What’s really interesting though, is because it is quite or can be seen as being quite traditional is looking at our subjects such as you know, numeracy and humanity. So all of our literacy, geography history is done through humanities are using some of the stuff that we know about steam and hands on learning and integration in those subject areas. So what’s been really interesting is we’ve just had a two week steam fair. So we do each term, we do an off module fortnight, normally at the beginning of the term, or around a range of things. And this has been steam fair. And it’s been really, really cool to hear the kids and the staff talk about how they could potentially do so the interest in bringing some sort of steam staff into more traditional single subject areas. And the kids actually, in the ones that I’ve been interviewing towards the end of the the steam fair fortnight talking about how much they would really like to practice, say, a set of skills, and then do something to apply those skills, but that would also link into other subject areas. So you know, you have that kind of challenge and that balance, but I think you do get a lot of opportunity to do other things that aren’t just your traditional kind of high school, move to one subject, and then the other and, and perhaps they’re not connected necessarily, and I don’t speak for high schools.

Mark Herring: 8:13

Yeah. Can you for anybody listening? And they’re hearing us talking about STEAM learning? Do you want to just define it? What what it means in your eyes, like, what is steam to you?

Joe Brown: 8:22

Yeah, definitely. So I mean, steam sort of comes on the back of STEM as I understand it, which was really looking at getting kids into subjects such as a scientist, so you know, becoming a scientist technology, so is the tea engineering and maths, which had a very, very, I guess, sciency more analytical, yes side to it. And then steam is bringing in the arts. So you’re not just looking at visual art, you’re looking at bringing in a whole range of, of arts. So you’re looking at, you know, dance, drama, music, all of those elements plus also culture. So for me, looking at what, where I am that the place that I am in on the planet, and also where a lot of our kids come from. Linking with culture is really, really important. It’s, you know, kind of how we, how we’re human and how we linked together. And I think those art subjects are incredibly important. So really, when you look at it, the acronym steam looks at bringing all of those subject areas together. So it’s pretty much every subject, I feel every subject that you cover in school,

Mark Herring: 9:27

I was gonna ask, What do you think the differences between integrated learning and steam then because it sounds very much, you know, when I first started teaching, a lot of the teachers that I was around had been involved for a long time, and we started talking about integrated learning, and I was saying, Oh, we were doing that in the 70s and 80s. Yeah, well, firstly, I was like, I don’t even think I was born then. You know, but it’s been around for a while, hasn’t it? You know, I’m gonna show butterflies and we’ll do butterflies through maths. And we’ll get through science and we’ll we know it’ll be a thematic kind of approach. A lot of schools do that. Yeah. It was steamed different to that.

Joe Brown: 9:56

Yeah. So and actually, I’m going to show my age because that’s how I learned to teach To start with, and actually when I was exploring this, I was like, I don’t even understand why this is the thing. Why does this have to be a thing? Isn’t this just integration? And so I think there’s probably a few different answers to this question. And I’m not even sure whether these bits of answers are going to answer the question. So please redirect me. But I think when you do a project involving steam, a steam project, it’s never going to equally address all of the elements of the curriculum. So I’m just thinking about some of the projects and the the things that the kids have been doing here for our steam fair. And you often find that they’re weighted in more more of maybe two or three subjects rather than the others or elements of steam. And so I think we’ve integrated learning, you take what applies, but you’re trying to integrate every curriculum area into it, and some of them don’t naturally particularly fit, you know, it’s a bit of a false connection. So I think it releases you from from perhaps that too, there’s also different ways that you can integrate programs. So looking at whether it’s teacher led, or student directed, or a blend of both of those. And so I think probably through Steam, it seems to me through Steam, it’s easier to look at something an issue or problem or something that you want to create from a variety of different angles. Whereas for me when I was looking at integrated learning, and when I learned how to teach, it always seemed to come from one particular paradigm. And I’m probably sure that you’ve got loads of listeners that would go hang on a minute and, and argue the point. But yeah, that’s sort of my thoughts.

Mark Herring: 11:31

Yeah, with your program being around sustainability. And I know that that’s a real passion of yours. That’s where that element of the problem solving approach comes in as well, isn’t it it’s not just coming at the curriculum from lots of different angles it’s doing through, it’s doing it through the paradigm of a problem and a solution. But you’ve got that tell us about the sustainable element, because a lot of people I talked to, who are developing steam learning in the school don’t often have that as a major focus in this school. And I’ve, I’ve loved you explaining this, you know, and why that’s a passion of yours particularly.

Joe Brown: 12:02

Yeah, I’ll try and do it justice, I guess it’s a passion of mine. Because I feel as though that if we’re not understanding that we are all connected, and that everything we do as a species has an impact, whether it’s positive, negative, neutral, or a mixture. And if we’re not understanding that, yeah, that we are a part of our environment, then I think that we’re possibly potentially doomed. And I feel that everything we’re teaching needs to have come through that sort of a lens. So we’re looking at systems thinking, we’re looking at bringing people together rather than fragmenting. Um, there’s a lot of stuff going on, that’s out there, that’s quite worrying. And a lot of it’s quite fracturing, you know, community society. And I just think that we need to look how to work together more to solve some of these issues that we’re facing. And so I mean, there’s another layer, and that then isn’t there, you’re looking at character, character development, being secure in who you are, you know, that the issues with anxiety, and all of that sort of stuff, all of this bears apart, and plays a part. So I think that’s probably some of my rationale, there’s a lot more that I could talk about, around why sustainability is important. And I mean, it should really be something that flows through everything we do. But I found that a lot of the kids don’t really seem to have that understanding of connection, that we are all connected, and we are very deeply firmly connected to our environment, and whatever happens in our environment is going to affect us and vice versa. And we can’t do anything about that

Mark Herring: 13:38

on a lighter, human, relatable Connell level for all of the even just for the students in your classrooms, to know that they’re connected with the other people in their rooms, just through social media or, you know, things that they do, you know, posting on Instagram you to hear from teachers all the time on a Monday saying that most of Monday is spent unwrapping all of the damage that was done on social media through the weekend. Yeah, just on that particular level, not even looking at the environmental impact. Just looking at the social impact. We are all connected now. Everybody in our communities are connected, you know, locally and globally. So that kind of understanding is so multifaceted. What does that look like in your program? So walk us through, you know, from the beginning of when your students arrive to your class and your program. And I know that you don’t have the same students throughout the whole year. So it might be quite good to give people an understanding of that. What is the sustainable program look like from beginning to end? And how do you roll that out with him?

Joe Brown: 14:32

Okay, so it’s so you have to understand that this has gone through a lot of iterations. Yeah, it’s an innovative process, right? It is totally, and pretty much at the end of every term, actually, after every lesson, I reflect on what I’ve done, change it and try new things for the following lessons at the end of every term. I tend to come up with a new way of looking at things and a new way of scaffolding. So a lot of it’s around scaffolding. And so, there are themes that run all of the way through. We’ve been looking a little bit at recall recently and looking At the link that the kids have between the initial sort of theoretical learning and then moving into the practical project. And do they actually at the end, remember why they were doing it in the first place. So there have been some things I’ve learned around that. But basically, they come in, I have them for it’s eight weeks maximum, and I have them for a double period. So I don’t think it’s ever been that I’ve had them for the entire 16 hours. So you’re probably looking at somewhere between 12 and 14 hours that I have them for. So we start off by looking at what sustainability is, what is it? Why does it matter? Why do we care, and I take them through a series of games and puzzles, talk that show them that things are connected, talk about the four pillars of sustainability, and why that matters to us. And then we go out and do some work in our school environment. So for example, we’ll go and look at the animals and how they relate to the four pillars of sustainability, which we look at as being a society, culture, economy and the environment, and the fact that that everything is actually interlinked. So when you’re looking at, you know, if you’re having a conversation about animals, and you’re having a conversation about, say, cultures, have different cultures interact with animals, then often you’ve got a conversation around economy as well, you know, how animals are moved around, which will then you lead you to into the environmental world? Is it all humane? What about pest animals, etc, etc, etc. So you start opening up a conversation, and that’s really all the first couple of lessons are around opening up conversation, making sure that nobody everybody knows that there’s no right answer, there’s no wrong answer. And even your most weird, crazy idea just might work. And that sharing ideas are really good. Because often, we don’t make decisions on our own. If you’re thinking about solving a problem in your life, you’re probably going to include other people in that discussion. And often someone will come up with something that you go, Oh, that’s a brilliant idea. I’m gonna use that or modify that. So it’s all about sharing. And then we go into systems thinking. So we’re all part of a system, what are different systems? How do they work linear systems, cyclical systems, closing the loop. So again, adding into that conversation around sustainability, and then I’ll take them into a design brief. So I’ll usually pose a problem to them. This is if they have an understanding of steam, if they don’t, I’ll go through the design, what the design process looks like, alongside a steam activity, just so that they understand the process that they’re going to follow. And then we introduce the design brief. So for example, this term, it’s all around for my classes, this term, it’s all around looking at animals. So animal husbandry, how we treat animals, how we care for animals, what do we do with animals that are stray or not wanted anymore? Can we come up with some some action that we could do around that? Is there a service that we could provide? Or is it about looking at our animal, the animals in our school and addressing their welfare in some way, so we’re looking at animal husbandry, all of the things around why it’s important to us, so then they are able to go and choose whether or not they’d like to do some sort of an action. So I’m looking at, you know, efficacy, and all of that sort of stuff, and having a voice within the commute community. So we’re looking at society, whether it’s something cultural, some practice that they’d like to change, or that they think everyone should know about, then we’re looking at the environment. So with that, specifically, the environment that our animals that are captive are in. So whether it’s your pet in the back garden, or it’s our school pigs, or goats or chickens, or whatever that might be and then of course, there’s the your economics so angles, so you know, you could perhaps use something making use discarded leather leather that’s going to be thrown away something like that. What are animal products? Or what is the value of enhancing the way that our animals live in captivity? And what what’s the value of enhancing them for us? So you know, obviously, healthier meat, less pollution, all of that sort of stuff, more relaxed animals? Yeah. And so they’re always required to go and make a prototype. So they have to design that they go follow the design process to do that. And it’s linked, I’m trialing this term linking it a lot more closely to culture through stories, and particularly playspace. Project base. So what’s in our local area? What are the stories around our local area, and looking at us being the concept of Kaitiaki, Tonga, and so us, but us having to be kaitiaki for some of the animals that were used to be kaitiaki for the land, and for us,

Mark Herring: 19:26

you will need to explain what that means for for

Joe Brown: 19:28

guardianship. Sorry, yes, xiety and ships. So the idea that, you know, we used to have animals that looked after us looked after our place, but actually, there are examples now of times where we need to look after those animals to be able to look after us. So you know, there’s a story of okay, the dolphin, for example, and I’m sure quite a lot of your listeners would probably be familiar with that.

Mark Herring: 19:48

Yeah. So So in terms of the teaching input that goes into managing that sustained, doesn’t sound like an easy process and for a lot of us who are in the classroom, and we’re running an English reading right? Doing science or we might be a science specific teacher in a high school. We don’t obviously have a steam sustainable program that we’re guiding students through a design thinking process. Why should I as a teacher, why should I care? What what’s the impact on the students? That’s the first question. Well, I’ve got two, two main push backs that I often hear from us. I want to hear from you. What, why? Why would firstly, why would a teacher want to jump into this type of design, thinking steam, sustainable practice kind of program?

Joe Brown: 20:27

There’s a few reasons. One, I’d say probably for all all teachers is the engagement of kids. And generally, I found and actually, it’s been interesting, I’ve been doing, I’ve been interviewing kids as a result of our steam fair. So students and teachers just gathering some data. And their conversation was really, really interesting. So all of them said that they had found this to be one of the most engaging fortnight’s that they’ve had, that they loved the collaboration, they loved that they could collect so much, so many different ideas from a lot of their friends, and that they could distill it problem solve, you know, that the whole critical thinking, the pros and cons, etc, to come up with something that they were going to try. They loved the fact that they didn’t have to be right. And that making mistakes actually gave them a better final product, because that’s where you learn the most. So looking at that the test, you know, the the, the ideate, prototype, test, assess, and then go back gave them a lot of freedom. They also really, really enjoyed the share at that sharing of knowledge and being able to use other people’s ideas, but in the modification process. Now you could say, Yeah, but I run a really good lesson. And my kids are really engaged anyway, and they collaborate. And I’m sure that you’re probably right. And I know that they do in my in my room. But it’s just been interesting that the kind of the jump in, in engagement, and also from teachers that don’t like say, you’ve got a maths teacher, and they’ve been with their foreign class, and they’ve been doing a whole range of other subjects, the kids are gone, oh, they don’t just know about maths. It’s not just that their maths teacher, that’s not just where maths sits. And so I think by by, you know, teaching this kids some skills, say that things you have to cover, and then giving them a project to be able to consolidate that learning because I think when they do and apply, especially if it’s a hands on thing and making thing that that goes in a lot easier, I think also it helps with recall, because they have to then apply their knowledge to produce something. It’s so I mean, those two things have been huge, the conversation has been a lot more varied. So I think that that’s been really cool. And I think that kids, you know, in life, we don’t ever use just one thing, we bring all of our knowledge, our prior understanding and our skills to anything we try and solve, you know, situation and issue, whatever that might be. And so I think it begins to give kids that idea that actually, this is real learning, and the other bonuses, you can bring it into something that actually can make a difference to someone or something. Yeah, I mean, one of the examples I was giving to the kids today was you know, you bring all of your experience. And then when you find that you don’t have a piece of knowledge, that’s when you go and find it. So for example, let’s say you’re making planter boxes, you’ve created your planter box, but you want to know how much soil goes in it. And even then area but you haven’t learned volume, what is it that you’re going to need to go and learn next volume is brilliant. How are you going to do that? We could ask our maths teacher, we could look it up on YouTube, we could ask our friends, you know, so there’s a lot of different stuff that comes into this. Yeah,

Mark Herring: 23:35

I think one of the one of the other key pushback that we often hear from teachers is that I don’t have enough time for this. And I’ve also got some assessment that I need to be able to do. Yeah, you know, so those are the requirements from a student point of view, like what you’re talking about, as is exactly at, it’s the fact that, you know, I don’t need to be doing something just so that I can get an assessment at the end, essentially about discovering solutions to problems and it’s okay to be wrong. You know, it’s not about me impressing the teacher with a set of knowledge, it’s about me finding a solution. So that becomes the focus too many of our kids have kind of like gamified, the education system, haven’t they? Because it’s all about, you know, what do I need to do to get the credit mess, you know, I’m sitting back on what I’m doing, because I don’t need to because they’ve already passed that credit or that grade or whatever that’s coming up. It’s a completely different approach. They almost forget that they’re learning. And that’s what we want. We want students to become a school, so engaged and so enthusiastic about what they’re doing, because they feel like they’re making a difference. The trick is, though, and I’m keen to understand what what your thoughts on this are? How do we as teachers who are in maybe a siloed classroom, where we’re teaching science, and you’re having these conversations with the teachers at your school, because not all your teachers are in the sustainable Enterprise Program? How do you as a teacher, do that? How do you integrate steam into your classroom in a way that enhances and capturing captures all the good things about that program while delivering the curriculum? and still hitting my assessment points.

Joe Brown: 25:02

So I’ll give you an example of a conversation I’ve just had with a teacher. But I also need to offer a little i. So I’m lucky in that I don’t have quite the same hoops to jump through if I can like that, in terms of assessment, as a lot of other teachers do. But so so that’s one thing from me. But I do still have to assess them. And at the moment, I’m playing with ways to do this. But one of an interesting conversation I just had with someone was I’m looking at New Zealand histories and using steam within the New Zealand histories program. And so we were talking about, in fact, this two conversations I’ve had, but this one we were talking about, Well, how could that look because you need to depending on what your focus is, you need to assess where they’re at or what they’re producing. So we were talking about the fact that they wanted to explore different paths, sites. And so I mean, for me, there’s a huge range of ways that you could explore that and build them I mean, online, if you for example, Minecraft, you can, you know, build a pass site, you can go and do virtual tours and look round pass sites, you can ask to get beat GPT to give you a whole load of information about past sites that you then have to go and cross reference to make sure it’s okay, because sometimes it can be a bit Wikipedia.

Mark Herring: 26:12

I find like my one of my role is interpreting mighty language. So apart for people who might not have heard is mighty as a Maori for fortification, yes, historically used, you know, back in pre European days, but also in clinical times as well. So yeah,

Joe Brown: 26:25

so in order to make let’s say that your steam activity is going to make a to be making a reproduction of a past site, or however you’re going to do that, whether it’s you know, 3d modeling, or hands on physical modeling, or you’re using a program or whatever, you have to know a lot about a past site to be able to build it. So for me, it’s like, well, what are you trying to assess here? What do you want to? Are you trying to assess the kids story writing ability? Or are you trying to assess what knowledge they’ve picked up about how Maori people used to use a past site, for example, this is probably a terrible example. But yeah, if you’re going to then be a kid, and you’re building one, you’re going to present it in some way, you’re going to have to be able to explain what all of these parts are, how they fit together. So I think it’s about knowing what it is that you want to assess. And then just coming up with a creative coming up, not just coming up with a creative way to do it. So yeah, another example could be um, alright, let’s say we’re doing measurements. And actually, I did this with a group of kids, um, a boomerang back to the school. So I did this with a group of kids when I was here the first time. And I was given a group of kids that were really challenged in math. So I think when I got them, they couldn’t tell me how many centimeters were in a meter, kind of that level maths. And so we did some some skills lessons, which I think probably had the same impact as their teacher had done. So not much. And then we went outside, and we I was given a grass area. And the brief was to change this into our garden beds. And so you know, you talked through what a garden bed has to be, how wide it has to be, do you want to pick things you want people walking through the middle? How many can we fit into this space, and then we built them. And by the end of that project, I had those same kids adding and subtracting and decimals. And you wouldn’t have time to do that, as a math teacher, you know, again, times a thing, probably taking your whole class out, or three classes that you have however many to go and do that sort of thing might be a bit of a mission, there are other activities you can do that are smaller, and that take less time or are more contained, that you could use, I mean, steam activities can be an hour long, they can be you know, a day long, a week long, and a term long. So it just depends on the time that you’ve got. And I think it’s just about, it’s just about a different perspective on things. But yes, it’s more work. It’s definitely more work in the planning stage. Definitely. For me, I’ve known I’ve noticed that I’ve put a lot more into my planning and my scaffolding. But then once you’re in there, and once they get it and get the process they have to follow, they actually fly and it creates so much more independence, I think, and more collaboration, that I find that I am definitely much I’m able to be much more of a facilitator that they can use me as a resource rather than I’m the teacher, and I’m telling you what to do. And a lot of the kids that come to me do have that? Well, I don’t know, well, what should I do now? Well, why aren’t you telling me and all I’m doing is asking them questions? Yeah, yeah, there’s a lot more thinking you have to do in here.

Mark Herring: 29:27

100%. And I think there’s two things that you’ve heard on that one is, you know, as teachers, we’re often tasked with a curriculum, which is usually based around some understandings or some big ideas or some skills. And so that can tend to be our focus. So we will structure the learning that will give you the knowledge or give you the understanding or give you the skill to be able to do something but what we fail to recognize and sometimes it’s time or sometimes that’s you know, just because it’s hard and we have to kind of get into that facilitator mode as opposed to the teacher mode, which sometimes can be about me just giving you the information. Whatever it is I need to do. But often we forget that the best way to understand or to actually make the learning sticky for understandings, knowledge skills, that type of thing is actually the application. Yeah. And so like I remember, you know, you’d be in writing, and you’d sort of, you know, when I was teaching English in primary school, you’d be teaching an essay approach. So you want these kids to be able to understand what it is to construct an essay. And so you teach them how to write an essay, or a letter or formal writing that type of thing. And then you go, right, we need to come up with some kind of a process, what are we going to, you know, we need to have an authentic sort of, so I’ll get them to, you know, write a letter to the principal about, you know, we want to have a Mufti day or something like that. So you’ll kind of do it in a slightly contrived way. And I think I think a lot of us are realizing is there’s a real opportunity here to make learning authentic, right, from the very start, don’t take it on at the end. So if you’re a writing teacher, and you’re focusing on writing, give them a sticky question or a problem to solve at the very start, wrap that meaningful enterprise approach where you’re thinking about the systems and the stuff, you know, and the problem solving approach it actually have that as part of the core core function right from the very start to the very end, and you’ve got the luxury in that sustainable enterprise class to do that. But it sounds like you’re having lots of those conversations with the curriculum based teachers in your school as well. Right? Yeah,

Joe Brown: 31:18

it is a huge shift. You know, it’s a definitely a mindset shift. And easy, it’s easier for some and less easy for others. And it’s exactly like the kids in class, it’s about scaffolding people into it, you know, and through it. And actually, can I give you a real quick, quick aside, if you want to, if you want to be less scared about not quite having control over where things might go, try, try doing an experiment with a couple of your classes, and just see how much control you can take away. So for example, I did it with a cooking a couple of cooking classes, we did, all we did was make, I gave them some ingredients. And I had some recipe cards, one with all the instructions and a title and the picture, one with just the ingredients, and the instructions, but no title and no picture, and then one with just the ingredients. And I asked the kids where they wanted to start. So I try a child this first to see how it will go. And then so the idea is it’s about locus of control. So the more control you give them, and the less help you give them, the more control the kids have. And my idea was to do that and see when it falls apart. So it was really stepping back and going, this is going to fall apart at some point. And Won’t it be interesting to find out where it does. And I was amazed at how much resourcefulness and resilience was that the kids had? How much they talk to each other? Because I’m just like, I don’t know, I don’t know, do you? Do you feel like you want the next card yet? So I gave them all the hardest one. And it was like, if you really can’t do this, I’ll give you the next one. But are you sure you need it, you know, got looking at each other, all of those things that we want them to do, you know, 21st century learning skills, all of those skills that we bring into steam, they were doing that. And for me, it was so liberating, because it was like, Okay, I’m expecting total chaos. And it wasn’t as bad as I thought. So yeah, if you want a bit of a lesson in letting go, try that.

Mark Herring: 33:08

So good. It’s something that I’m sure a lot of teachers, you know, you’re talking about lifting the engagement of teachers, sometimes just being able to, you know, go over the cliff with a with a carabiner attached, but you’ve got the rope, just take your hands off the rope for a second and see what happens, you know, like you want to talk about engaging people, that would be one way to go about it.

Joe Brown: 33:27

Oh, and actually the kids, when you say that you’re doing some experiments to you know, help me be better at teaching you particularly the subject, whatever, they actually give you quite a lot of leeway. And, like good feedback to let RMSE shouldn’t have done that that was one step.

Mark Herring: 33:42

Well, let’s putting yourself in the role of a learner and you’re doing it visibly, you’re modeling what that looks like, I’ve always loved that approach, you know, doing the thing. Callouts? Yeah. So I’ve been doing this when I’ve been working as an instructional coach in schools around digital fluency for a long, long time, encouraging teachers to make the shift from being a teacher expert to a teacher learner. Because when you’re getting into the digital space, particularly or there are some tools that you have to get across and, and you find yourself that in a space where the students actually know more about how to use this tool, or they pick it up quicker than you, you have to make that shift. You know, you can’t be the expert and everything. And I think that’s what’s holding a lot of us back in the teaching space from using a lot of these tools, particularly around the AI. Yeah, there’s a bit of a fear factor about that. So if you can be okay with being not okay, not knowing all the answers, then I think that’s a real key part of it. Tell us about one of the roles that you know, some of the digital tools that you’re using in that in that steam program that you’re running plays, because it’s one of the things that I think makes steam really come alive. You know, if we’re thinking back to the 70s and 80s, you were kind of going through a design thinking process pretty much at the beck and call of the information you had in the library, and the knowledge of the teacher who was in front of you, but now we’ve got this lever that technology gives us to really be able to engage students and real authors took design thinking processes, what are some of the digital tools that that are really important in your class? And how are students using them?

Joe Brown: 35:06

I think it’s really important. And I think that using the word tool is perfect because it is a tool. And so yeah, so that’s how we use it. I also have to say that I’m possibly slightly technologically challenged. I’ve learned a lot in the last few years. But I’m always in that position where the kids know more than me, and I love learning new things. So I’m a lifelong learner. You know, Curiosity is like my motto. And so when a kid does know, something I don’t I’m like, well teach me that. Where did you find that? Can you come and give me a lesson at lunchtime? Or When’s good for you know, or right now. And so we use it for a variety of things. One is obviously research. And one of my things I say to kids all the time is like YouTube’s like your best mate. If you don’t have to do something, I bet you any money that there will be a tutorial on that. And if not, you know, you’ve won yourself $1. But there’s always a tutorial. So we use it for research, we started, I started using chat GPT with my classes. And that was really cool, not only because of the information that it regurgitates in a very, very short space of time, so you can get a very good overview of something that will direct you somewhere else. So for example, we’ve got goats at school, and I had a group of kids that knew nothing. And actually, we all realize we didn’t know a huge amount about this particular types of goats. I’ve had milking goats before, but yeah, not these anyway. And so, yeah, 30 seconds, it gives you a whole screen of information. But then it’s about using, you know, being a bit analytical and a bit critical about it and saying, Well, just because that’s written down, is it true? Is it all true when you know, you look up on stuff online? No, it’s not always true. Do we know examples of that? Okay, so what I want you to do is go and cross check this. And so that was a really good not only great to produce information quickly, but also for those literacy, critical thinking skills, you can’t just what give get what you’re taking on face value. So that was cool. And then we use a variety of different, and I’m still learning heaps about them, but design. So you know, you can go and design not just using Minecraft to design a space or a world or a you know, visual of what you might have something you’ve designed, but also different design platforms. And so there’s a few that I’m trying at the moment. And I’ve got to think about four different ones, and I don’t have them off the top of my head, but I’m gonna get kids to try them. And I’ll let you know what we use. And it’s brilliant, has just started using for Go Formative, which is a really cool, full assessment way of assessing kids. So that’s something I’m probably going to try this term too. And then obviously, whatever they produce, so we don’t all think in the same way. And so you might get a kid wanting to do a video, you might get in them want to, you know, do a speech or record something from around school to add in as examples of so recording, writing, presenting, assessing all of that good stuff. We also, you know, do online. And though we always have paper tools, too. I’m still a paper user. So you know, a lot of brainstorming, things like that will still do on paper, right tool for the right job. Right? Exactly. Yeah. And then sorry, real quickly, there’s also things like, for example, automating something, so maybe you’re using a micro bit or something like that. And so you might add, program that and add that into whatever project you’re making to, to automate it.

Mark Herring: 38:21

So it’s the right tool that comes up for the right solution that they’re designing. It sounds to me like you’re just using it as it comes along in the design process. Rather than thinking, Oh, we’ve got this micro bit tool, what kind of problems could we shape, you know, which, which is one of the approaches, and we help schools do that all the time. But yeah, it’s always good to be able to hear about people who are doing it the other way around where you’re drawing on the tool as needed.

Joe Brown: 38:43

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I have planned in to use some tools for a variety of things, but then it’s also about knowing your classes. So you know, for example, walking around at the beginning, listening to conversations going, Ah, you know, how to code. Brilliant, and I make sure I know about you, because this could be useful. And I might, I might suggest you go down that path. Often they go no actually want to really do this, but that’s all good. And you know, so often they’ll come they’ll come up with things to or, or say to me, Hey, I’ve used this at home. Can we link up with a high school? And can we go in, I’m used their laser printer, and this is the program that I use to design this. This is what I’ve done or what I want to do. Can I do that? Can we got to the high school because we don’t have a laser here.

Mark Herring: 39:23

That’s super cool. So So thinking about all of the different people who might be listening, whether they’re teaching junior students or all the way up to high school, what would be one of the key things you’re you would recommend to them whenever you’re talking to teachers who are you know, you’ve got a mainstream class, you’re you might be teaching everything in the curriculum, or you might be a specific content teacher. So you might be a science teacher, a maths teacher, a physics teacher or whatever. What would be one of the things that you could encourage people to do to start integrating some steam learning into into what they’re doing in the classroom.

Joe Brown: 39:54

Do you know I reckon, probably, if you’ve never done anything before, I recommend just do Take a one hour one off steam lesson that doesn’t require a huge amount of resources and pose it as a challenge, you know, a problem. So for example, the one that I did as an introduction, last term was, we are all this whole class, we are all we were living many, many, many, many years ago, nobody else is in this country, it’s just us, we have to collect our own food, we haven’t actually eaten anything for a week, we’re on the verge of starvation, we can find things too, we need to kill an animal. So talk about if anyone’s vegetarian or vegan, obviously, don’t cover that. We want to kill an animal, we have to kill a large animal to feed us all, we only want to do it once. But the problem is that this animal, if it spots you, it will kill you. There’s no arguments about whether you might survive, it will kill you. So you need to come up with what and so then we talk about what kind of projectile we’ll need, there’s a few rules around it. And they have to come up with something that will fire a bottle top in between the eyes of one of the other teachers or they have a box. So it’s do you want a four legged or a two legged animal, and that’s anywhere in the box is a kill shot. And we try not to name them. So obviously, it has to be from a particular distance. So you can be hidden, and it has to go relatively quickly and relatively straight. And that took well with all the discussion. And then they wanted to go back and modify that actually was a whole double period. But just something like that, where you’ve got a challenge. And it’s fun. And it’s fun for you to and it doesn’t require heaps and heaps of resources, they had a set, you know, a box of resources, and then just talk about it, get them to try it, allow them to go back and modify. If someone’s got an amazing design, get them to go and show everyone else. It takes spies from each group to go round and spy on the other groups and come back with that information. And just make it as fun as possible. And that will introduce them to the design process and steam. And you can also talk about what the kids have used. So did you use any science? Did you use any math? Do you think you used any. And that will give you an idea as well of how familiar they are with the elements of steam. So it’s fun, it’s exciting. And if kids don’t know anything about steam, and if you don’t know that much about STEAM, it’s a cool way to start. And I probably do it with the design process as well, because they both blow flow really well together. Yeah,

Mark Herring: 42:11

and I remember, you know, I was just thinking, while you’re talking about that, it’s almost like with even just an activity like that, or a design thinking challenge like that you can pull any curriculum. Yeah, you know, concept or big understanding or anything, there’s physics involved in that, you know, if a teaching an English class, then you’d be able to do some writing about procedural writing or, you know, write up a summary of your solution, that type of thing, there’s any way that you could, at any different curriculum level, you can integrate that and I remember we were doing a measurement unit was like you were saying about meters and centimeters, and then down into millimeters, we had just half an hour to do a Darkthrone challenge. And then the students had to go away and record in meters, centimeters, and millimeters, their best throw, you know, so it was something really, really targeted, really into authentic around some kind of a challenge. And then we had a little bit of a prize for the person who got it the furthest, obviously, because you need to have competition right?

Joe Brown: 42:57

into their heads. They’re, you know, they’re all over it, the kids are all over it. So it’s a nice place to start. It’s a fun place to start. Or maybe think, well, I have to teach the kids this, this, this and this, how can I get them to illustrate this to me in a way that’s not sit sitting down and writing a test? Or, you know, doing an online test? How can I get them to build something or show me something physically that gets them to demonstrate their learning that steam? You know, I think we get a lot really caught up in the fact that it’s this whole new thing. And it’s, it’s really difficult. And we have to do all of these different things. But actually, that’s not quite the case.

Mark Herring: 43:31

Yeah. Does that make you kind of make something present something then? And then show your, your understanding or your skill set around that? That’s fantastic. Thanks so much for for sharing that jiving. It’s fantastic. I’m really excited to hear about, you know, how your program and your I think you’re just a whole approach to learning just keeps developing because it sounds like you’re doing a design thinking process on yourself and your own practice, which I think is one of the key takeaways of this conversation. So thanks.

Joe Brown: 43:58

Thanks very much for having me. I really always appreciate the opportunity to talk about this stuff. It’s something I’m passionate about. So thank you, Mark, really appreciate it.

Mark Herring: 44:06

That’s really cool. Well, we have heaps of links in the in the show notes as well, if people want to be able to explore some of the things enough and you know, you’ve got some things online as well that you’ll be able to

Joe Brown: 44:15

do that. And I’m always really happy to have a chat with people if they’re keen to do some steamy stuff,

Unknown: 44:19

so to speak. Very cool. Very cool. Thanks. Bye.

Mark Herring: 44:28

That was a great conversation around lots of different topics today. So like we said, if you’re interested in any of the links from some of the things that we talked about lots of resources, lots of website links, to be able to go there and share with lots of other people. Go into our show notes. You’ll be able to see everything there and share them away. If you haven’t subscribed, definitely do that. We’d love to be able to reach as many people as possible. And that’s one way that you can get notifications of when we publish and Bix I think you were going to share one little thing to think about before we go yeah, I

Bex Rose: 44:57

think this this AI stuff in particular I know is on the hot topic for all of you out there. I was at a board meeting last night that came up at the board meeting. It’s just It’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Now we’ve got trainers who are absolutely across everything that’s coming out, they’re getting updates, they’re getting across it straight away. If you feel like you need a supporting hand through this, even if it is around working out how you’re going to deploy this kind of stuff in your school, hit us up And we can come and have a chat about how we can support you and this, you don’t have to do this on your own. And we’re seeing what’s happening across schools in New Zealand, Australia and across the world. So don’t reinvent the wheel. We’ve got this common hex coming in ask us for some help.

Mark Herring: 45:41

Fantastic. Well, I think anybody who’s got got that website, their email address fix at UTB dot B said differently, give you a call and then we can have conversation around that. Great to have you on the podcast. See on the next one.

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