“When teachers collaborate together, the best ideas combine together.” – Alice Leung, Australia

For 2012 Global Forum winner in the cutting-edge use of ICT and 2011 Microsoft Innovative Teacher award-winner Alice Leung, innovative teaching comes in many forms.  Whether using games-based learning, project-based learning, sharing her work through her blog, twitter (@aliceleung), or her school’s YouTube channel, Leung believes that learning is made more powerful by working together.

“The best opportunity for innovation in education is when teachers collaborate together,” says Leung. “This can mean teachers in the same school, across different schools in the same state or across different countries. When teachers collaborate together, the best ideas combine together.”

Today, Leung shares her experiences incorporating games- and project-based learning, including using Xbox games like Formula 1 Racing, to help students achieve deep learning. Enjoy!

Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?

At the moment I am working on games-based learning and project-based learning where I use technology to enhance and transform learning for students, staff and parents. I have shown how commercial games for Xbox that are not designed for education can be used in learning activities. For example, I use Sonic Racing to learn about how to design science experiments and use Formula 1 Racing to create videos explaining movement using Newton’s Laws.  I use games like Minecraft for students to create model structure to demonstrate their understanding of mathematics. My students have also used Microsoft Kodu to create games for other students to learn about different topics. I also use social media to enable students to connect with industry experts so they can extend their learning beyond the classroom walls and to allow for anywhere anytime learning.

I make learning as visible as possible so that it can lead and increase the capacity of other teachers.

What has changed as a result of your efforts?

Student engagement and achievements have improved as a result of games-based learning and project-based learning. Combining both of these approaches allow elements of 21st century learning to be easily embedded. I find that combining games and project-based learning allows learning to be much more student-centered and students find the learning authentic and significant to them. It is also much more effective in personalizing learning for each student.

There has been an increase in other teachers trying out new technologies to see what it can do for their students. More and more, teachers are now asking how they can use different types of technologies to enhance their teaching and learning.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

I think games-based learning and project-based learning work on many different levels. Teachers can use parts of each to suit their student and professional needs.  I take a lot of risks when I design learning. I often walk into the classroom thinking, “This will either be really good or blow up in my face.” What I’ve learned is how to accept that you will fail from time to time and learn from those failures. I find that undertaking an action learning process, or buddying up with another colleague who can act as a coach and go through the steps of Microsoft’s peer-coaching process, is a great help in evaluating your practice.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

For student learning I use a lot of free tools to enable them to easily create content to demonstrate their understanding such as Windows Live Movie Maker. To collaborate with colleagues I use Skydrive and Skype, which allow me to work with colleagues from my own school to colleagues from the other side of the globe.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

The biggest obstacle I have had to overcome is to design learning that allows students to be successful 21st century learners. This is not as simple as just designing activities and embedding technology in innovative ways. It also means looking at how to leverage technology in a way that allows students to own their learning.

What is your country doing well currently to support education? 

I work for the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities (NSW DEC), which consists of all government schools in the state of New South Wales in Australia. We have a 1:1 laptop program for students in year nine to year 12 (approximately 15- to 17-year-olds). We also have extensive technology infrastructure including wireless Internet access in all learning spaces in high schools and many primary schools. It is a real shame that this 1:1 laptop program is coming to an end and there has not been any indication that it will continue beyond 2013. It would be great if the 1:1 laptop program continued, as it provides the technology support for our students to engage in 21st century learning.

What conditions must change in your country to better support education?

We are always evaluating how we can best meet the needs of our students in these rapidly-changing times. We also have many platforms to share best practices and collaborate with other teachers within our schools and across different schools.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Learn from failures and connect with as many teachers as possible. It is important to connect with teachers who have different views to you. Take every opportunity to improve student learning and your own learning. When you have a successful moment, share with other teachers.

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

Students are now able to access information, create content and connect with others more easily than ever before. I think there is a trend towards global communities of learners, which is allowing students to learn in many different ways.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

I would like every child to have the ability to learn, un-learn and re-learn. The 21st century will be characterized by rapid changes in technology development and knowledge creation. Students will need to be able to flexible and adaptable and this means learning new things and constantly evaluating their understanding.

About Alice Leung

  • Birthplace: Hong Kong
  • Current residence: Sydney, Australia
  • Education: Bachelor of Education (Secondary Science), Bachelor of Science, Graduate Certificate in ICT in Education
  • Website I check every day: Twitter
  • Person who inspires me most: My colleagues – I work with a fantastic team of teachers and school staff.
  • Favorite childhood memory: Watching back-to-back episodes of The Simpsons with my sister during school holidays. The Simpsons is still our favorite all-time show. We often quote lines from the show to comment on real-life situations.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): I’m planning to go to the New Zealand snowfields for the 2013 ski season.
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? The last time I laughed was at a presentation by my students. The presentation was the end-product of a series of activities for a project-based learning activity. It was great to see my students developing the use of humor to engage an audience. I was really proud of them.
  • Favorite book: The Harry Potter series
  • Favorite music: I listen to pretty much anything and don’t really have a favorite singer or band.
  • Your favorite quote or motto: “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” -Colin Powell

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One Response to “When teachers collaborate together, the best ideas combine together.” – Alice Leung, Australia

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