“The biggest challenge facing education is teaching for a future that is unknown.” – Ben Eilenberg, Australia
Teacher/STEM Coordinator/Media Coordinator
Silverton Primary School
Ben Eilenberg may have come from a teaching family (his father was a lecturer, his mother a speech pathologist, and his sisters are secondary teachers), but he wasn’t prepared for what he experienced at one of his first teaching jobs.
“I walked in to a school that had only one computer per classroom and that was it, no other technological resources available,” Eilenberg recalls. “It made me think about what the students were missing out on, and how this is preparing them for the future. I went to the management team and asked for more resources, so that we could teach students ICT and develop their skills and knowledge, only to be told that if I could find the funds then we could get more.”
Some teachers may have been discouraged, but Eilenberg was ready to step up. After making lots of phone calls and sending countless letters, he eventually found someone to donate old computers to the school. He also acquired some Lego RX robotics kits to engage several male students who didn’t want to be at school.
“As I introduced technology into the school, it was a slow and hard process, because many of the teachers either didn’t understand it themselves or didn’t see a reason for it,” he tells us. “However, this was offset by the excitement of the students, how quickly they understood the technology (in fact, they were able to teach me a thing or two), and with the robotics, how engaged the students became.”
Robotics has since become Eilenberg’s favorite classroom activity, in part because the students are in control.
“The whole process is led by the students,” Eilenberg explains. “I have found that once they start, then they think about what else could we get the robot to do, such as stop at a red light or have a reverse beeper. It empowers the students to take it as far as they want, and to surpass the design brief.”
All of this hard work has culminated in a student-run robotics competition, completely conceived and implemented by Eilenberg’s students. For nine months, students met with stakeholders, invited other schools, sought sponsors, created rules, guidelines and budgets – and more.
“Now in its second year, the competition’s original organizing students have approached a number of new students to come on board to help organize and run the day, and sought wider sponsorship and more schools,” says Eilenberg. “The students could have said that running it once was too hard, but instead, they sought feedback from all the people involved, looked at what they could improve, and wanted to make it bigger and better than before.”
About Ben Eilenberg
- Educational background: Completed Year 12 at Wesley College Prahran in 1996; RMIT – Building Construction; Deakin University – Bachelor of Education/Bachelor of Arts (Psychology); Certificate IV in Training and Assessment; CFA – Volunteer – Low Structure Firefighter
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: OneNote/TouchDevelop
- What is the best advice you have ever received? If it doesn’t work the first time, don’t give up, just try it a different way.
- Website I check every day: Theage.com.au
- Favorite childhood memory: Going surfing at the beach and searching rock pools.
- Favorite book: Ice Station by Matthew Reilly