Wellbeing

Mental health reflection

Disclaimer: I’m a little nervous about publishing this, but I’m going to because it’s something I’m extremely passionate about.

I have been living as a hypocrite for the last 2 and a bit years, maybe even longer. Since working at Mt A, I can’t even remember the number of students I have told to reach out and seek help for their mental health, from their parents or our school counsellors. It’s taken me that long to take my own advice.

I finally got up the courage to tell my GP about my anxiety. I’d had a whole lot of tests done to try and figure out why I’m always so tired and everything came back perfect. Not a single thing showed any sign of something being wrong. Instantly, I felt relieved and disappointed at the same time. I was relieved that nothing was wrong, but also disappointed that there wasn’t something to blame. It was then that I fessed up. I said: “I had really hoped that there was going to be something that would explain why I’m tired all the time.” My doctors response was something along the lines of: “Yeah, I know. So, how are your stress levels? High stress levels can be quite tiring.” My response was: “Yeah, there’s a fair amount of stress in my life…” She gave me a questionnaire to fill out, which I did, and the results shocked me. Because of that test, my doctor suggested that I have high levels of anxiety and stress, this did not shock me. What did though was that she diagnosed me as moderately depressed (definitely not the technical term, but it’s what I remember). The first question out of her mouth was: “Have you ever had thoughts of self-harm?” My response was along the lines of: “No, that’s not me…”

I hadn’t ever entertained the idea that I was depressed. Fast forward through telling my parents – it took me going to my Gran first before I had the courage to face them… another way I had failed my students – and I’m glad I spoke up. After dealing with the shock, guilt, grief, anger, shame, (you name it, I felt it), I finally realised that this was a good thing. Now that I know what I’m dealing with, I can work towards better mental health.

Why am I sharing this with the world? Well, because I was a hypocrite for telling my students that they needed to get help, when I so clearly needed help myself. I advocate for mental health daily, but I have ignored mine for so long. I’m tired, and grumpy, and stressed out, and not achieving my full potential because I was stubborn and scared. I’m sharing my story so that others might be willing to share theirs, or at least recognise something of themselves in my story and have the courage to seek help too. I am far from being healthy, but I know that I am on the right track. I am ready to seek and accept help. I am ready to commit to the hard days ahead because I am ready to be healthy. From now on, I will do what I can to live my best life, advocate for mental health with all my heart and soul, and continue to support my students but now, I will be doing it without being a hypocrite.

On the plus side, I’ve decided to share any and all things that work for me when it comes to improving my mental health. Stay tuned for information on why singing is great for your mood!

Education

Self-reflection is a powerful tool

All throughout university I found myself having to do reflective writing as part of my assessment. When doing my Bachelor of Music Studies at the Queensland Conservatorium I was expected to reflect on my voice lessons and progress. When doing my Post Graduate Diploma in Education at Griffith University, I had to reflect on group work. It was during my Master of Education at Queensland University of Technology though, that I finally understand the true power of reflection, and how much it can help us grow. I’m not saying that my previous two degrees did something wrong when it came to teaching reflective writing – I’m suggesting that I was incapable of fully understanding its power at that time of my life and that’s what stopped me from doing it properly. Since finishing my Masters in 2015 I have found myself turning to self-reflection almost daily. I don’t always record my thoughts, but even the act of looking back and asking myself “how can I do better next time” has become something of a habit at the end of every day.

In education:

One of the best examples I can think of at the moment is my experience as a year 9 geography teacher. I have now taught the year 9 geography units for four semesters in a row. It’s the first time that I have consistently taught a subject in my career. Some might see having to teach the same thing each year as boring, but for me, I see it as a challenge – I want, no, I NEED to get better at it each time. I have changed one of the two assessment items each time I’ve taught a new group of year 9s. I use the feedback from the previous class to make the delivery and the assessment more authentic, provide extension opportunities, and incorporate technology to teach students skills in GIS and special purpose mapping. I’ve even tweaked the way in which I deliver the content, such as creating a Google Site that has:

  • Information from ACARA and QCAA (no sense in not using some of the terminology now)
  • The resources we’ll be using in class
  • Tips and tricks for some of the technology we’ll be using, as well as some information on effective researching
  • A section devoted to “Lesson Plans” that has my planning for each class – this allows them to see what we’re covering which is particularly useful if they are away
  • And so much more!

I have, so far, found that this Site I created has been a useful tool in providing the students with the above, as well as keeping track of where each class is up to, after all, I’m currently teaching 3 year 9 geography classes!

Anyway, the way I currently approach year 9 geography has evolved from reflecting on my previous experiences, finding what’s worked, and ditching what hasn’t. It means that every time I teach it it’s new and exciting. I’m getting better and better at it and, because of my reflective nature, I don’t think I’ll ever be fully satisfied and will always want to change something.

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A screenshot of the Home page for the Google Site I created for Year 9 Geography at Mt Alvernia

So, if I claim to use self-reflection as a tool to improve my teaching, when I get to the end of a term or semester, what do I do?

  1. I collect feedback from my students via:
    • Emails
    • Google Forms
    • Discussions
  2. I look back at what worked and what didn’t
  3. I compare the skills my students learned to previous groups of year 9 students and see whether there is improvement or an increase in competency
  4. I work out if the assessment truly fit what is required of ACARA (thankfully, it has so far!)
  5. I then reflect on the sequencing of learning activities and reflect on whether it worked or not
  6. I make adjustments for the next time!

It seems simple, but it works. It helps that at the end of lessons I’ll make a quick note somewhere as to whether I felt the lesson was successful or not. That way, when I look back I can remember more easily!

General thoughts:

I use self-reflection in a lot of different things in my life. I use it when making big decisions, improving the way I interact with people at the gym, improving my relationship with my family and friends, and of course, in my teaching life. It can be scary at first; no one likes looking at themselves honestly. When reflecting on your actions, there’s one piece of advice that I can offer: be kind to yourself! No one is perfect and we all make mistakes, but if we can look back at those mistakes with kind eyes then we can learn and move forward. I hope that the way I self-reflect is something that I model for my students. I hope that they can figure it out much earlier than I did, as I really believe that the ability to self-reflect, share our findings, and move forward is a powerful tool.

Ps. I chose the image of the beach as the feature image because when I was getting into the habit of self-reflection and things got a little confronting, I actually found walking on the beach to be quite calming.

Education

The power of language

It’s no secret that words have power. My good friend Lynette Noni has based a whole series on not only the power of words, but the power of our intention behind the words. (First in the series is called Whisper and it is set to be released on May 1st 2018, get excited!) However, as much as I would love to discuss the power of words when we use them to talk to or about people or places, today I am more interested in a slightly more education based discussion. I want to talk about the power of the language we use when teaching, and how we can either promote or demote certain subjects just by saying an off-hand comment!

I am a geography teacher. I love what I do and I love what I teach. I try to make my lessons as authentic, engaging, and filled with opportunities as much as possible. I know I still have a fair way to go but I am getting better every single lesson.

When I started teaching at Mount Alvernia College I was thrown into the world of girl’s education. I never had any aspirations to teach in a girls school and when I stood in front of my first class, I really struggled – despite being a young woman myself! I quickly discovered that I needed to change my language.

Girls are predisposed to thinking “I can’t do that.” There’s no point arguing about it, it’s ingrained in us from the very beginning of our existence. In my first couple of weeks I would often hear myself saying to the girls “I could never do maths, I just didn’t get it.” I’d say the same sort of things about science too, and I quickly realised that not only was I undermining the girls’ confidence, but also the subjects that my colleagues had been working so hard to encourage girls to engage with. It hit me then, I NEEDED to change my language. Not only to make sure I wasn’t undermining my colleagues or my girls, but also to change my own ideas about what I thought I was capable of achieving. In short, since I changed the way I talked to myself about the possibility of me learning some scientific facts, or relearning some maths skills, I have become more open to these subjects AND I have found that I have a much better capacity to understand them – JUST FROM CHANGING THE LANGUAGE I USED!

My next realisation came when I was teaching a year 9 geography class just yesterday. We were looking at a choropleth map of Australia that showed the average rainfall in January across the country. We ended up having a discussion about North Queensland and why it would have more rainfall than South Australia. One of the girls ended up asking if it had something to do with the humidity and I was a little shocked to realised that they were struggling to make the connections between humidity and precipitation – the water cycle that they spent so much time learning in year 7 and then touched on again in year 8 – and it got me thinking. Do they truly not remember this important piece of information OR is it because we weren’t in a science classroom that they weren’t able to make the connection?

Again, I realised that I would need to change my language. I started to wonder if I needed to use terminology from their science classes in my geography classes so that they could connect the dots themselves? I got really excited by the possibilities this would open up – I have never been more excited about broadening my scientific knowledge than I have in the past 24 hours! I’ve spoken to the Learning Area Advisor for Science and a couple of the science teachers to see if there was potential for cross curriculum collaboration (I know, it’s an old concept but for the first time I’ve actually thought it to be possible) and I was even more excited to learn that they were VERY interested in working with me on getting this up and running! I’ve even had an invitation to attend a year 9 science excursion on Monday next week and I’m going to do all I can to be involved.

I’ve gone from someone that thought “science wasn’t my thing” to “science is something that I want to learn so much more about!” I know that I have a long way to go and that I will be limited by time when it comes to just how much I’ll be able to achieve. However, if I can get this excited over the possibility of learning more about science and implementing it in my geography classes, I hope that my passion will inspire the girls too. I hope that they will be able to make the connections between what we’re doing and what they’ve learned in other classes themselves. The ultimate goal in teaching (in my humble opinion) is to create authentic learning experiences, and the research shows that clear connections between subjects helps with that, so that’s what I’m hoping to work towards. Who knows, perhaps I’ll be able to turn maths into something that is “definitely my thing” and feel more confident in including that terminology in my classes too!

One final little mention about the Science Department at my school. THEY ARE AWESOME. In a girls school it’s really important to have strong female role models, and our science department is majority female; we even have a female physics teacher! (I’ve been told that this is an amazing thing as there aren’t many.) Not only are they awesome teachers with a great range of knowledge, but they are passionate about what they teach and are willing to include me in their teaching and learning, me who is someone that quite possibly would have been their idea of a nightmare student – you know the type, lots of potential but just lazy because “science wasn’t their thing.” Not only have they been welcoming, but they have also been enthusiastic and full of great ideas. I can’t wait to see where this goes!

Thoughts

Holiday reflections

It’s no secret that 2017 was a massive year, but what I didn’t realise was how much stress this year has brought into my life. It wasn’t until I had left the country for my honeymoon that I realised just how much stress I had been carrying around with me all year. A very good friend of mine and I were having a chat a couple of weeks before my wedding and we were discussing that elusive “work life balance” thing everyone goes on about, and how neither of us has been very good at it this year. My friend was ordered to go on a holiday from her doctor, and I had truly adopted the mantra of “one day at a time.” At what point did my friend and I need to learn that telling everyone that “I’m fine” will not actually make it so? Well, apparently it was running away to New Zealand for both of us (on separate holidays, maybe next time we’ll explore this beautiful country together) that made it sink in: in 2018, things need to change.

And so, I thought, what better way to start fresh than to share what I have learned about stress and its impact on our lives. Read on only if you are into personal development…

About a week before my wedding day, I decided to visit my hairdresser and have a dramatic change from middle of the back-length hair to shoulder-length (most brides would never dream of making such a change, but it definitely felt like the right thing to do and I do not regret it!) While I was there, my hairdresser told me that I NEEDED to find a way to reduce stress in my life, otherwise I would end up losing all my hair. This was the beginning of operation reduce stress, but first, wedding.

My wedding went so smoothly; I was not stressed at all and the day was absolutely beautiful and everything I could have hoped for. Even the last-minute change in plans because of a storm was not enough to ruin the day. It wasn’t until the following day though, that I learned just how much headspace a wedding takes up.

Side note: It’s amazing how much headspace certain things take up. Perhaps I should explain what I call headspace before I go on though. For me, headspace refers to how many things you are keeping in your head, all those projects, thoughts, worries, and jobs that you are constantly thinking about. Tertiary study is a really good example. After 3 degrees, 7 years of study (with one year off in there for working full time), I finally finished at the end of 2015. 2016 rolled around and I started my current job. I promised myself that 2016 would be the year of doing things for me, like getting my full teaching registration and reading anything I wanted. Although I loved having freedom and not having to worry about what I should be doing rather than what I wanted to be doing, I did find myself starting to think about studying again, to fill that empty space I had in my head. I very nearly signed up to start a second Masters in 2017, and in hindsight, I’m so glad I didn’t, because it turns out that opening a gym and planning a wedding are more than enough to fill that empty space!

And so, after the wedding was all finished with and we returned to our normal lives before heading off on our honeymoon, I had a moment of panic where I couldn’t help but think: what now?

I’m glad to say that I made it through that interim week without doing anything stupid, like signing up for another Masters (although the urge was strong), and I got on the plane with my husband with way too much luggage and that feeling of holiday excitement.

When we arrived in Wellington all I wanted to do was see everything. We were there for 4 whole days and I wanted to see it all. It took a spa visit on my third day in Wellington for me to realise that I was on my honeymoon, I didn’t need to be going flat out to see everything – I mean, we were in New Zealand, basically a part of Australia and not so far away that I wouldn’t be back any time soon – and that I needed to relax. It took some time and effort to stop my brain from going a million miles an hour, but from that point on, I found my holiday to be MUCH more enjoyable.

So, I’m writing this blog post on my 2nd last day here in New Zealand. We have been here for a total of 12 days and we have travelled from Wellington to Auckland, with a one night stop in Rotorua. Here’s what I have learned about myself:

  • I need more sleep than I have been getting. 5-6 hours of sleep a night is not cutting it for me, I’m much more pleasant when I get 8-10 hours.
  • Food is really important! I know it sounds silly but existing on caffeine, sugar, pizza, and the occasional bowl of cereal is not good enough.
  • My job as a teacher is always in the back of my mind, and that’s ok, but I have found that writing my thoughts/ideas down on paper and then walking away from them is enough to give myself a proper break from that particular headspace.
  • Friends that are ok with not hearing from you for weeks/months on end and then are willing to catch up when you’re free are the holy grail, and I am so lucky to have a few of these wonderful people in my life but, I need to try and make a bit more of an effort to reach out to those people more frequently because I always feel better after catching up/checking in.
  • I need to actually schedule in time for myself, so that it becomes a priority and not an afterthought.

Basically, I need to take all those pieces of advice that we give to our students and apply them in my own life.

I also have really taken to heart something that another friend of mine once told me: “There’s no such thing as balance. Stop trying to find it, because it’ll drive you mad.” She was essentially saying that there is no balance between work life and home life, that there are times where a certain part of your life needs more focus than the other and that can make those of us whom are chasing that perfect balance feel like we are failing. We need to be ok with things being slated towards specific priorities from time to time, but we also need to know when to let things go and get ourselves back on track.

Stress is an inevitable part of our lives, everything we do can cause stress. The trick is knowing when your body has taken on too much and knowing how to help reduce it. This year has pushed my body and my brain to accept more stress than it should, and it’s taken time away from my crazy lifestyle for me to realise this. Thankfully, I have an amazing husband, a supportive family, and some wonderful friends that have helped me to see the error of my ways in 2017, and are willing to help me focus on living my best life in 2018 and beyond.

Ps. When stressed, I often find the beach relaxing, and I have thoroughly enjoyed being close to the water for so much of this holiday. Below are some panoramic photos of the places we have been. These places have really helped me to relax and enjoy the now, I hope you find them as beautiful as I do.

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Wellington Waterfront
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Views from Mount Victoria, Wellington
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Random jetty discovered whilst exploring the coastline of Wellington
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Random lake discovered on our drive to Martinborough
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Lake Taupo from the South
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Lake Taupo, Taupo
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Lake Rotoiti
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Henderson Creek, Te Atatu Peninsula
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Muriwai Beach, Gannet Colony
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Oneroa Beach, Waiheke Island
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Waiheke Island
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Onetangi Beach, Waiheke
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View from Mount Eden, Auckland
Thoughts

2017: What a year!

As we come to the end of 2017, I thought I’d look back on all that I’ve done. The following would not have been possible without the support of my amazing husband, family, colleagues, and gym family. I’m listing my achievements so that I have a record of my busiest year yet.

In 2017, I have:

  • Gotten married
  • Moved house
  • Opened a gym with my husband
  • Read 61 books – only 9 more than my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 52 books
  • Traveled to:
    • Mackay, North Queensland
    • Melbourne, Victoria
    • North Island New Zealand
  • Been nominated for a Queensland College of Teachers Award
  • Started Geek Girls
  • Hosted a 24 hour Geek-A-Thon event at school
  • Been part of the Read Like A Girl team:
    • Organised the Launch of Draekora, Lynette Noni’s 3rd Book in The Medoran Chronicles
    • Assisted with the International Women’s Day Breakfast in the iCentre with Rebecca Sparrow as guest
  • Been on 3 school camps:
    • Year 8
    • Year 9
    • FCIP Music Camp
  • Attended a variety of school functions, including:
    • Year 11 Semiformal
    • Year 12 Hospitality Buffet Dinner
    • Year 8 Dance with Padua
    • Awards Night
  • Been involved in reading programs:
    • Joint Mount Alvernia College and Padua College Junior (9/10) and Senior (11/12) Book Clubs
    • Mount Alvernia Crazy Book Club (MTACBC)
    • Readers Cup
  • Critique read for Lynette Noni (and somehow managed to hold my tongue!)
  • Run 14 Powerlifting and Strongman Competitions at our gym
  • Assisted in 10 Powerlifting and Strongman Competitions run by our associated gyms
  • Returned to Competitive Powerlifting after 2 years off and smashed all my PBs
  • Dressed up 5 times throughout the school year for various events, including:
    • Literacy Week: Theme = Amazing Women (two days, two different costumes!)
    • Cultural Festival: Theme = Back to the Past
    • Geek Girls Launch: Theme = Geek!
    • Halloween

It’s been an insanely busy year, and when I list everything that I have achieved I’m more than a little surprised. Somehow I have survived working two jobs and managed to do amazing things at school. I have not lost my passion for education, and I have put some big plans in place for 2018. I’m proud of my achievements for 2017, and I look forward to many more in 2018.

Education

Geek-A-Thon Wrap-up!

Some Context:

I have wanted to do a sleep over in the iCentre since February 2016, and on the 8th of September this year I finally got to do it! I have been working on celebrating all things Geek with our students this year through the Geek Girl program, the goal being:

To encourage girls to embrace their talents and creativity in a safe environment, as well as exposing them to industry professionals, broadening their views on what they’re capable of, and assisting them to reach their full potential.

geek girl logo

It’s been a fantastic year so far with fashionistas, illustrators, and animators coming in to share their experiences, as well as the process they go through each time they create something new.

For those girls that regularly attending these Geek Girl sessions, we wanted to give them the opportunity to really “Geek Out” so I combined my dream of sleeping over in the iCentre with a 24 hour Geek Out event and Geek-A-Thon was born.

Rationale:

Geek-A-Thon will be the culminating event of the Geek Girls program run by Krystal Gagen, Linda Clark, and Emma Maya, and hosted by the iCentre. The event will be invitational and focus on celebrating the success and experiences of the students that have participated in Geek Girl events throughout the year. The event will be a 24 hour event that will include guest speakers, opportunities for girls to share their “geekiness,” and for them to learn new skills and expand their thinking.

Geek-A-Thon Program:

  • Introduction at 3:30pm Friday – explanation of rules and plan for the 24 hours
  • Geek Out!
    • Computer circuit boards used to create sounds/lights that can change using the buttons or shaking them depending on the programming
    • Piper Raspberry Pi Computer Kit computer built by students during lunch breaks following blue prints – once built, had to finish it off by playing the game and learning how to wire the remaining buttons
  • Escape Room Challenge – Rebel Revolt (ongoing throughout the 24 hours)
  • Drones
    • Played with motion sensor drones + remote controlled drones
    • Design your own drone challenge
  • Dinner and free dancing
  • Sharing of drone designs
  • Geek Out*!
    • Makeup tutorial
    • Drawing tutorial
    • Swing dance tutorial – learning the Shim Sham from Ms Maya
  • Sphero races
  • Movie and hot chocolates
  • Bed time by 2am!
  • Breakfast and free dancing
  • Geek Out!
    • Public speaking tutorial
    • Music showcase
      • Guitar sing-a-long
      • Cello recital
  • 3D Printing with Steph Piper of PIPER3DP
  • Lunch and movie
  • Pickup by 3:30pm Saturday!

*Geek Out sessions designed for students to share the geeky thing that they are particularly passionate about.

Thoughts:

This event was everything I wanted it to be and more. It was so nice to see students from different year levels working together to explore the possibilities of technology, have in depth discussions about the process of creating or using something new, and have lots of fun along the way. Every student that attended Geek-A-Thon walked away with new ideas, thoughts, and questions, and all said they had lots of fun and were begging to do it again next year. The most beautiful thing about the event, in my opinion, was watching the relationships between our Geek Girls grow stronger and the sense of community  that was established was really special.

A big thank you to my colleagues Linda Clark and Emma Maya for you support throughout Geek Girls, and to Helen Stower for enabling me to try these sorts of events.

Photo Gallery on iCentre Website

 

Thoughts

World of Drones Congress 2017 Reflection

On Thursday 30th August and Friday 1st September I had the pleasure of attending the World of Drones Congress and I found it extremely valuable. Despite it being targeted mostly at those wanting to break into the drone industry, as an educator I found it highly relevant to what we are trying to navigate our way around in schools. I learned so much; it was an eyeopening experience and I am so thankful to my school for supporting my application to attend.

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So, for those that couldn’t be there I thought I’d write down just some of my learnings and thoughts, particularly now that I’ve had a chance to process them!

My thoughts on Drones in general:

I walked out of the Congress absolutely blown away by the possibilities of drones. Basically, DRONES ARE COOL! The number of applications that the various speakers and presenters spoke about during the congress that they are already using drones for blew my mind. Here’s just a few:

  • Film and TV – there are film companies that solely work in filming with the use of drones and movie companies are slowly embracing the technology. Stephen Oh of XM2 Drones in Cinematography spoke about the boundaries between films using drones and how if the technology can be proved to work for TV, then they are more likely to take that technology on board in films. He told us about his work with the film crew on the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie and how it took a while for them to trust the technology. By the end of the shoot they were using the drones in ways they had originally never imagined because of the trust they had formed with the team of flyers.
  • Facebook – that’s right, Facebook is getting into the world of drones! They want to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” but this isn’t possible if people cannot get connected through the internet. Therefore, their plan to fly a drone called Aquila above the height of commercial aeroplanes and have it beam mobile phone networks down to countries that currently do not have access to them is thought to be able to solve this conundrum. Issues that spokesperson Kathryn Cook spoke about included the fact that there are no global laws for drones, that each country has their own laws and regulations and if Facebook is to fly a drone around the world, they will need countries to work together to create laws that are able to be upheld and enforced on a global scale.
  • Flying Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) – James Dean from SenSat spoke about how his company is investigating the uses of drones in terms of digitally mapping locations. He spoke about the complications when it comes to needing to keep drones in sight and how this is often time consuming. He used the example of mapping London digitally – because they need to keep the drone in sight at all times, the process took a significantly long time. However, if they were able to fly BVLOS, then the project would have take half the time, if not even less. The advantage of having digital models of cities, construction sites, and other locations is slowly being realised and will allow different industries to use the data collected for a variety of applications.
  • Biosecurity – Felipe Gonzales of QUT spoke about how they are investigating the use of drones to monitor crop growth and health. He highlighted the importance of the industry working with potential buyers to ensure that the drone is easily useable and meets the needs of the buyer.

There was a lot of talk about Autonomous Vehicles and how they will change the way we think about car ownership. There was discussion around the complications involved in delivery drones, particularly with regards to how will the drone recognise the person/location and how will it drop off its delivery? It was clear to see that all of the applications they want to use drones for certainly came with limitations and big questions that would need answering first.

My thoughts on Laws and Regulations for Drones:

It was clear that the currents laws and regulations surrounding the use of drones are not up to the task of ensuring that people are using them safely. For example, I had no idea that there was an app called “Can I fly there?” designed by CASA to help people work out if they are legally allowed to fly a drone in a particular area. I downloaded the app and did a search on my house. I discovered that as long as I flew in one direction I would be fine, but if I flew in the opposite direction I would be breaking all sorts of laws and regulations because I am too close to an approach for an airport.

There were too many other issues discussed for me to list here, but I will share my takeaways in terms of what certain speakers presented as possible solutions to the issue:

  • Need to be proactive, not reactive – Dr Lisa Frye from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning suggested that we, as attendees of the World of Drone Congress 2017, have the potential to influence the laws and regulations that are created around drones. The industry needs to work WITH the government and education bodies to create the necessary laws and regulations that will govern the use of drones, and then be able to work with educators to teach these laws and regulations in schools (more on this further down).
  • Drones and planes – Gary Pohlner of Virgin Australia scared us all with some terrifying facts about drone encounters and the Virgin Australia fleet. These encounters clearly happen because the general population is not aware of where they are allowed to fly drones and how high they can fly them. Gary also spoke about how the colour of a drone can be a real problem. He used the example of a blue drone on a day with day with clear blue skies, the flight crew did not see the drone until it passed directly across the windscreen of the plane on approach to the airport. Gary suggested that if it were possible to tag drones with some sort of tracker then they could be displayed on aircraft instruments that would allow them to make adjustments to their flight paths in stead of forcing flight crews to react quickly to keep their passengers safe.
  • Public acceptance of rules and responsibilities – Paddy Goodall from Airservices spoke about the importance of working with the regular consumer to create laws and regulations that are easily understood and enforced, otherwise there is no point to them. He highlighted the fact that there are current laws and regulations in place, but because law enforcement agencies currently do not have the capabilities of enforcing these laws, people are getting away with things because they either don’t know they are breaking the rules, or know but don’t care because no one is currently doing anything about it.

An interesting point was made by an audience member about how best to educate the general public on the use of commercial and recreational drones. He suggested that when someone purchases a drone for personal use, that it becomes the retailers job to give a quick overview of the laws and regulations surrounding that particular drone and how to access the information on where they will be able to fly it. The purchaser would then sign a contract stating that they had received this information. The audience member said that he’s modelled this off what happens when a customer purchases a mobile phone.

My thoughts on Drones and Education:

The whole reason I went to the World of Drones Congress 2017 was to investigate what drones will mean for education and I was not disappointed. Here’s my top 5 learnings in terms of the implication of drones on education:

  1. I am pleased to report that every speaker reinforced the fact that educators are not the only ones responsible for teaching the next generation of drone users. The best recipe for success in terms of educating the next generation will happen if Government + Industry + Education work together to inform best practice.
  2. The drone is just the tool, we still need to teach the skills that allows them to do something with the data the drone has collected.
  3. Drones are a problem based solution, not a solution looking for a problem
  4. Drones and STEAM go hand in hand. Once you’ve found a problem, ask the students to create a solution using their imagination (the Art of STEAM), and then use the other components of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to then refine and make the design.
  5. The younger we challenge our students with problem based learning, the more likely they will be able to take on bigger and bigger challenges as they get older, thus preparing them for a future that we are not 100% sure on what they will need to do, what skills they will need to have, and what problems they will need to solve.

Since attending the World of Drones Congress 2017, I have already issued a quick “design your own drone” challenge and was blown away by the designs that my students created. The students of now and of the future will be the ones that embrace this technology and do amazing things with it.

Final thoughts:

The opening key note for the World of Drones Congress 2017 was presented by Thomas Frey, a man that is well known for the quote:

“2 billion jobs to disappear by 2030.”

When he spoke about this quote he highlighted the fact that it wasn’t supposed to be a doom and gloom statement, but rather a wake up call. If there are 2 billion jobs in the next 13 years that are able to be replaced by robots or drones or some other piece of technology, then we must look at this as there being 2 billion jobs worth of people with free time. Frey said:

“We’re not automating jobs out of existence, only tasks… One way to look at it is that we’re eliminating jobs but freeing up human capital… Just because there are no jobs doesn’t mean there isn’t any work to be done.”

He spoke so passionately about the possibilities of drones and technology and ended his presentation with a quote that had a massive impact on me and how I now look at the way that I teach and challenge my students:

“We are limited only by our imagination.”

 

A selection of photos from the exhibition room at the World of Drones Congress 2017