Ronald, who also supports other teachers in their use of digital tools for learning, has used that canvas to design a stimulating and innovative programme for her students and says it has allowed her the time and space to follow her passion, of sharing her enthusiasm for technology with others.
“After three years I still love my job as much as I did on the day I started,” Ronald says.
The freedom to create a programme that meets the students’ needs and that builds on their skills year-by-year consistently has been thoroughly enjoyable but there have been a few “tricky” moments, she adds.
“However, I’ve been able to design a programme that works with my skills and strengths, making my teaching as effective as possible.”
Ronald tries to work in an environment in which discovery and sharing are valued above everything else.
“I can’t possibly teach the girls everything they need to know about technology – it would be out of date the following day.
“Instead we work on developing skills such as confidence to experiment and problem-solve, enjoying the process of learning and welcoming mistakes or false starts.”
With Ronald’s guidance, the students explore a wide variety of software and web applications and bring their learning into “the real world” as much as possible.
Marist College, a girls’ Catholic secondary school in Mt Albert, endeavours to produce students, who have grounding in a wide range of technologies; who have the confidence to select the areas in which their interests lie; and with the skills required to take their learning further in these areas.
“For example, all Year 9 students are expected to be proficient in searching the internet, using common office productivity applications and editing images,” Ronald says.
“Year 13 students on the other hand will have narrowed their focus down to carry out in-depth learning in fields such as 3D design, web design, video or image editing, or programming.”
The students are introduced to role models in the tech industry, and it is made very clear becoming a programmer or designer are achievable goals.
“By showing the girls these role models are learners just like themselves, and by encouraging students to ‘be the teacher’ and to share their discoveries with others in the school community (including teachers), we allow them to develop a sense of self-efficacy and confidence we hope will stay with them throughout their lives.”
Ronald’s passion and enjoyment for her role is obvious, and it is contagious – her students thrive.
“I have the luxury of seeing young people’s eyes light up when they succeed in solving a problem or when they get it, and I know that what my students are learning will be valuable to them in future, whether it’s practical techniques or the soft skills such as team building or a can-do attitude,” Ronald says.
The excitement of a changing landscape is very rewarding and every day, not only the students, but Ronald as well, have the luxury of being surprised by new possibilities and of learning new things, the teacher shares.
“I enjoy being part of a community of teachers and techie types, who have the ability to share resources and ideas with the click of a button,” she says.
Learning has evolved tremendously at Marist, with new technologies allowing increasing flexibility – students can choose when and where they complete learning tasks and are able to receive feedback or support a lot more easily than was possible in the past.
At the whole-school level, Ronald says the journey is still just beginning.
“Both students and teachers are exploring ways in which we can work smarter and take our learning further.
“Sometimes it’s hard to keep up – this year I designed a unit around making android phone apps and a week into the course I realised the must-have gadget for this year is an iPhone.
“Most of my students are unable to test their creations or show them off to their friends (which is, of course, the main criteria for a fun topic).”
Ronald has no doubt digital technology will continue to evolve, but she is hopeful assessment and paperwork requirements will gradually take a back seat, and problem solving, playing, creating and exploring will move into the forefront of education.