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Digital Divas

CHAPTER 4

BACKGROUND

Our Schools and the Digital Divas Portal

Overview

In this chapter we provide an overview of the schools involved in the Digital Divas program and the portal designed to hold the materials and support classroom activities. The chapter highlights the diversity of schools that participated in the program; diversity from the perspective of socio-economic make-up of the students; single-sex and co-educational schools; attitudes to technology generally; and IT offerings within the school. In the course of our research we gathered a range of data from sources such as the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development ‘My School’ website, demographic data directly from the schools and our own knowledge and observations regarding the schools. Also, during the process of interviews other background information was obtained. The chapter also provides a brief overview of the portal designed to support the project: our rationale for establishing the portal, how it was managed and run and how it was used by the schools to support classroom activities.

Introduction

The Digital Divas program was officially conducted in a total of 10 schools over three years from 2009–2012. Our aim was to gather data from each school on the first iteration of the program in that school, and some schools on subsequent iterations depending on whether there had been a change in delivery mode, or teacher. Schools were recruited into the program through a variety of measures. We sent an invitation to all government school principals through the mailing lists of the project partner Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD). We mailed information to independent schools in metropolitan and regional areas. We followed up with telephone calls to principals. We also promoted the program through our various universities’ faculty marketing sites. Our grant was awarded in mid-2009 and the program ran at Bartik in Semester 2 of that year and Semester 1 of 2012; however, it took two semesters to gain Ethics approvals from our universities and the DEECD to run it in other schools and to finalise the survey tools, so data-gathering began in earnest in Semester 2, 2010.

In this chapter we provide a summary overview for each of the schools that participated in our program. Most of the data were gathered from the My Schools website or directly from the school. It should be noted that the majority of these schools continued to run the Digital Divas program as an elective in their curriculum after the first iteration and that the name of the school is an alias, as mandated from the Ethics approval process, to prevent any individual student or teacher being adversely affected by our research. The sustained impact of the program will be discussed later in this chapter and in more detail in the final chapter of this book.

School Summaries

The school profile information presented here is a summary gleaned from the profile provided on the My School webpage (www.myschool.edu.au) in June 2014. Each school has been given an alias drawn from the surnames of significant women in computing (Appendix A), so the individual school URLs are not provided deliberately to prevent identification. The statistics provided on the current socio-economic status of each school (ICSEA) as well as the percentage of students continuing in higher education are as published on this site.

Bartik Secondary College is an exciting learning community where the students are encouraged to strive for excellence in all that they do. The school provides an innovative junior school curriculum that integrates English, Humanities and IT. The Year 8 and 9 curriculum includes a wide range of electives that enable individualised learning pathways including opportunities for student support and acceleration. The school curriculum at Years 10, 11 and 12 provides opportunities for extended learning through advanced placement and university enhancement studies. The school is proud of the many student leadership opportunities it provides. The school has a large population of over 1500 students with the gender composition almost equal. The post-school outcomes of the student cohort in 2013 were:

67% of Bartik students continued their education at university,

20% at TAFE facilities,

7% went on to employment.

The ICSEA was 1070 (noting that the average is 1000).

Bartik was the first school to trial the Digital Divas program in 2009. Data was gathered for this research in Semester 2 2010 and Semester 2 2011. In response to an email query it was confirmed that the program ran in both semesters in 2012.

Clarke Girls’ Secondary College has a reputation for excellence in the provision of education. The My School profile reports that the school provides a strong focus on all students working to achieve their individual best, on challenging themselves, and on taking advantage of any opportunities that come their way. The school provides a diverse curriculum that enables all students to develop their practical, creative, academic and sporting skills. The school had an enrolment of 1000+ students in 2013. The post-school outcomes of the student cohort in 2013 were:

74% university

10% TAFE

3% employment

The ICSEA was 1137 (noting that the average is 1000).

Clarke only ran the program once, in Semester 2 2010. However, in 2013 the new head of IT at the school made contact to obtain the curricula from the website, indicating an interest to trial the program one more time.

Forsythe Secondary College is a relatively small school that had just over 240 students enrolled in 2013. The school has a proud history that dates back to the late 1920s. It caters for a diverse cultural community. The school aims to provide all students with the necessary skills and experiences they will need to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future. There is a strong emphasis on building student skills in the areas of literacy and numeracy. At Years 7 and 8 all students study a language other than English as well as music. Students in Years 9 and 10 choose from a range of elective subjects in the Arts, LOTE, Technology and Humanities in addition to their core studies. The post-school outcomes of the student cohort in 2013 were:

56% university

35% TAFE

3% employment

The ICSEA was 930 (noting that the average is 1000).

The Digital Divas program was first delivered in Semester 2 2011.

Forsythe indicated via email in 2012 that it was continuing to deliver the program.

Goldstine College is relatively new, having seceded from a larger school in the last decade to become a standalone secondary school (Years 7–12). The school provides a broad curriculum to support all students’ academic and career aspirations. It conducts a selective-entry accelerated learning program for academically gifted or talented students. The school has clear expectations around student behaviour, the wearing of the school uniform, as well as striving for strong academic performance. The school population in 2013 was nearly 1300 students with male students slightly outnumbering female students. The post-school outcomes of the student cohort in 2013 were:

59% university

27% TAFE

8% employment

The ICSEA was 978 (noting that the average is 1000).

Data was gathered from Goldstine in two semesters at the request of the school, Semester 2 2010 and Semester 1 2011. We are not aware of the continued offering of the program to students due to a lack of response to our inquiries.

Holberton Senior College offers comprehensive programs for students in Years 10–12 through a broad range of VCE studies, VET certificates and VCAL. The school is a young school but it has grown quickly with just under 1000 students in 2013. The gender composition of students was skewed, with male students making up approximately 60% of the student population. The school reports that its students come from varied social, economic and cultural backgrounds. It recognises and values the diversity of its community in an outer-eastern area of Melbourne. The post-school outcomes of the student cohort in 2013 were:

15% university

43% TAFE

20% employment

The ICSEA was 958 in 2010 (noting the average is 1000) and not reported in 2013.

Data was gathered from Holberton in two separate semesters due to a change of staff teaching the program, Semester 2 2010and Semester 1 2011. In response to an email in 2012, Holberton indicated that aspects of the Digital Divas program were being utilised in a new elective to engage girls in IT through image manipulation. They had called the unit ‘Supermodels’.

Koss College is located in a rural town in eastern Victoria. It is a non-traditional school that supports students who have had difficulty engaging in regular school programs. It offers a personalised curriculum focused on employment outcomes or technical education pathways rather than higher education. In 2013 there were less than 50 students at the college. Koss College is outside the formal education system and the post-school outcomes of students are not reported. The ICSEA for the student cohort was 990 in 2010 (noting the average is 1000) and not reported in 2013. Koss College delivered the Digital Divas program in Semester 1 2011. This was the only rural school where data was collected. It was an opportunistic placement because of contacts through the Digital Divas research team. The program was delivered to students with no Expert Diva support.

Mayer College is located in outer-eastern Melbourne. It draws students from the local region and has large grounds, however the buildings are standard Education Department stock. The college has just under 1000 enrolments, and the gender balance is almost equal. The school curriculum supports academic and vocational programs and has a strong sporting program. The post-school outcomes of the student cohort in 2013 were:

43% university

33% TAFE

18% employment

The ICSEA was 983 in 2013 (noting the average is 1000).

Mayer College delivered the Digital Divas program in Semester 2 2011.

McAllister Girls’ High School is a government selective-entry school for girls in Years 9 to 12. It draws students from all over Melbourne metropolitan area, although it does not have a boarding component. It prides itself on the high achievements of its students in state-wide exams. The school educates just under 1000 students who come from a wide variety of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. The post-school outcomes of the student cohort in 2013 were:

94% university

0% TAFE

0% Employment

The ICSEA was 1165 in 2013 (noting the average is 1000).

McAllister has continued to keep the Digital Divas program in the school curriculum in 2012. It was offered to Year 9 and Year 10 girls in two separate classes and the data for this research was collected in 2010 and 2011.

Moffat College is a school in Melbourne’s western suburbs that promotes its TAFE media program on its website, as well as a formalised science focus in partnership with a local university. The school had almost 900 students in 2013 with almost a 2:1 male to female ratio. The post-school outcomes of the student cohort in 2013 were:

38% university

38% TAFE

15% employment

The ICSEA was 995 in 2013 (noting the average is 1000).

Moffat delivered the program in Semester 2 2010 and we have no information on whether the program was continued.

Spertus College was the only interstate school that participated in the Digital Divas program. It is an independent Catholic Secondary School in suburban Sydney. The school has several campuses, and while some junior school campuses are co-educational, the senior school is girls only and houses over 1000 students. The school is located in large historical buildings with extensive facilities that are well maintained. The ethos of the school supports broad curriculum offerings for the students complemented by strong pastoral programs. 126 students were awarded Senior Secondary School Certificate in 2013. Post-secondary school destinations are not recorded on the website.

The ICSEA ranking is 1146 (noting the average is 1000). This was the only interstate school where we collected data.

School Recruitment Process

The recruitment materials sent out to encourage schools to participate in the Digital Divas Program provided them with the background and justification for conducting a girls-only elective and stated that each school would be provided with the following:

Training for any teachers involved in Digital Divas.

Modules and materials for two terms of work per year – including assessment options.

Mentors, undergraduate or postgraduate students studying an IT course at one of the involved universities (named Expert Divas). Mentors provided support and help in the classroom weekly. Note: all held a ‘Working with Children’ clearance.

Guest speakers sourced from women employed in the IT industry.

Access to any of the data that we collect as a result of the project that the school might be interested in.

There were also conditions for running the program. We were adamant that participating schools needed to:

have an identified class or time where the program could run for at least one term, not as a lunchtime or after-school club;

have a teacher prepared to participate and embrace the broad aims of the program;

understand that the program is focused on girls, so the classes should be girls only for the purpose of the program and the research outcomes;

use the modules that were provided;

allow research activities to take place including interviews, surveys and observations with the class and teachers. (Note: the university and DEECD required formal ethics approval which included parental permission for any student involvement);

contribute $3000 per year to the project if they were an independent school. This money would be used to cover the costs of student mentors (Expert Divas) travelling to the school and participating on a weekly basis in the class and the production of the ‘bling’ designed and produced by the girls such as lanyards and key rings. This contribution was not required from government schools because the DEECD had contributed cash and in-kind support to partner with us through the grant and part of these funds were used to pay the Expert Divas.

Given the above requirements we had several instances of schools inquiring to run the program and then withdrawing. Several independent schools were not able to commit to the required monetary contribution, others could not commit to the requirement that the class be only female. In other instances we could not support the program due to the geographical location of the school precluding our ability to source an Expert Diva. There was interest in the program expressed by interstate government schools; however, the Education Department of the state would not accept Victorian DEECD ethical clearance and so prevented the implementation of the program there. Only schools that met all the required criteria and had the required ethical clearances were included in the data-collection process.

Observations of Each School

We were able to gather data from ten different schools over a three-year period. While the majority of the schools were government schools, they varied in their socio-economic status, as well as their approach to teaching Information Technology as a future career path for their female students. Next we provide information on the schools in the following order: Bartik, being the first school involved in the program and integral to its curriculum development, followed by the two high ICSEA-ranked Melbourne-based single-sex schools Clarke and McAllister. Next we describe the three outer-eastern suburban schools that participated and which have a reported below average ICSEA: Goldstine, Holberton and Mayer. Two outerwestern schools will be presented together, Forsythe and Moffat, because of locational and demographic similarities. The final two schools are unique in their settings and will be discussed individually, Koss in regional Victoria, and Spertus, an independent high ICSEA-ranked inner-Sydney school, our only independent school in the sample and our only interstate school.

Bartik

Bartik was our first school and one teacher was highly involved in shaping the curriculum development of Digital Divas. The school’s principal embraced the idea of the Digital Divas program from the outset, providing support at school council, with parents and staff, and validating its worth. She allowed the precursor program to be trialled as a lunch-time club in her school (Fisher, Lang, Forgasz and Craig, 2009). IT was taught across the curriculum with significant professional development programs offered to staff and an expectation that it be both a stand-alone subject and embedded in other disciplines. The Bartik school principal nominated an experienced female IT teacher with prior industry experience to take the Digital Divas elective. This teacher became an integral part of the Digital Divas program and contributed significantly to the development of the teaching modules. The school was in a well-established suburb and had such a good reputation that there was a waiting list for Year 7 students to attend.

Clarke and McAllister

The experience of the teacher and indeed the wider school support for Digital Divas at Clarke Girls’ Secondary College was not as positive as that at Bartik. While the teacher was excited and sought out the program, it did not appear to the research team to be a valued program in the wider school curriculum. The Digital Divas teacher had not studied IT but had taught it for three years and was keen to engage more girls at middle-school level so that they would select the subject in senior school where currently there was not enough interest for an IT class in the curriculum. Clarke had the highest socio-economic ranking of the government schools in the Digital Divas sample and is situated in an established inner-metropolitan suburb. It is a highly valued government single-sex school. The teacher reported that there was limited cross-curriculum teaching of IT and the career path was not strongly promoted in the school. IT was compulsory in Years 7 and 8 but an elective in Year 9, with little to no interest past Year 9. Despite running the class for one semester there was no reported flow-on to create a Year 10 class and indeed little further interaction with the Digital Divas program until 2013 when a new IT teacher in the school contacted the Digital Divas team to gain access to the curricula.

McAllister is a selective girls’ school in inner Melbourne. This means that students must pass an entry exam to be offered a place. It has a rich history of academic excellence and often tops the state in final Year 12 results. The most prominent feature of the reception area of the school is the gilt-edged portraits of past principals, alongside honour rolls, reminding the visitor of the history of this school. The names on boards document the school’s transition from a predominantly Anglo population to its present very multicultural population where 87% of students are from language backgrounds other than English. McAllister is often described as a ‘free private school’ because it maintains similar standards to the best fee-paying independent schools, and until relatively recently was the only government-supported selective-entry school for girls in the state. The teacher reported that the girls wear the uniform with pride. Commencing at Year 9, competition for a place at McAllister is fierce, with approximately 300 places available to the 1300 or so girls who sit the entrance exam (there are a few discretionary places). Unsurprisingly, the school’s VCE results consistently surpass those of most other schools. While it is reported that some other government secondary schools are resentful that McAllister is able to ‘cream’ the best and brightest from their schools, there is a policy that no more than two per cent of each school’s population will be offered a place at McAllister each year. McAllister ran the program for one term only the first time, then in subsequent years in two classes, Year 9 and Year 10, for a semester. The research team supported data collection on more than one occasion and Expert Divas were provided for classroom support on at least three occasions. McAllister continued to offer the Digital Divas curriculum to middle-school students in to 2013 after the conclusion of the Digital Divas program. The teacher reported that graduates from McAllister typically aim for prestigious university courses in medicine and law; however, the school values IT and there is an expectation that it be taught across the curriculum. The teacher nominated to deliver the Digital Divas program had studied IT but had only taught it for one year. She loved teaching the class and was very enthusiastic about the program. She reported that the students were generally very computer literate but often did not choose to study the subject. Similar to students at Clarke, IT was not perceived as a desired career path.

Goldstine, Holberton and Mayer

These three schools are located in similar geographic and socio-economic areas. Melbourne’s eastern suburbs are a growth corridor, with a high level of private home-ownership resulting from new housing estates. Goldstine is a newly purpose-built school with large landscaped gardens. It offers a selective-entry program for academically gifted or talented students. The selective-entry program makes it a popular choice of school, with parents seeking a strong academic focus for their children. The school also offers the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) that provides students with employment-focused pathways, and Victorian Education and Training (VET) that prepares students for trade pathways. The school was recruited to the Digital Divas program through an email campaign. The initiative came from the IT department, not the principal. During the two years when the program was offered we had no contact with the principal despite email communication from us. IT units are part of the Year 12 curriculum; however, in lower year levels IT was not a stand-alone unit until Year 9. The IT teacher reported that it was believed that students had more than adequate IT skills when they started at Goldstine, so no IT was offered before then, yet when she encountered the class in Year 9 she believed the students’ IT skills were weak. The IT teacher was very keen for data to be collected a second time from her school because she believed she could deliver the curriculum better a second time around. The Digital Divas research team agreed and we collected data from this school twice.

Holberton Senior Secondary College provides classes for students in Years 10, 11 and 12 in a similar geographic and socio-economic area to Goldstine. The environment of the school is changing and new buildings were under construction when we visited, consequently many classrooms were portables or relocatable buildings. Over the course of the Digital Divas program there were two different teachers at Holberton. The first teacher in 2010 expressed disturbingly low expectations of these students. Comments were made such as: ‘These students don’t want to learn’; ‘They will only become hairdressers and chefs’, and she told the Expert Diva not to worry too much about preparing for the class ‘because the girls don’t value learning’, clearly indicative of a problematic culture of low expectations for students. The second time the unit was delivered the new teacher had a much more positive outlook and a rapport with her class. The Expert Diva noticed that she presented as very relaxed, often engaging in a manner more like a peer than a teacher. The new teacher reported that the students really enjoyed the curriculum and that by the end of the unit she felt the girls’ attitudes had changed and they were now more aware of IT careers. The teacher hoped that by running this elective unit more students would be open to studying IT in Year 11.

Mayer College is similar to Holberton and Goldstine in that it is located in an outer-eastern Melbourne suburb. The Mayer community rates slightly less than average in ICSEA but also slightly higher than Holberton and Goldstine. Similar to Holberton, a large part of the school consists of portables or relocatable buildings. The reception area houses a range of displays, suggesting the valuing of diverse activities. This school already had some single-sex classes, so implementing another for Digital Divas was not perceived as an issue. Part of the school’s strategic plan is to continue to develop an e-learning environment that results in improved effectiveness with the aim of becoming a leading school in Melbourne. It offers a broad and diverse range of subjects including music, arts, IT, science and sports programs. Its website features photos of paintings, sporting activities, and food technology. The teacher was enthusiastic about encouraging girls to study IT. She was experienced and came from an IT background. She reported that the school had poor and unreliable IT infrastructure and poor integration of IT across the curriculum. She overestimated the prior knowledge or lack of consistent knowledge that the girls had of IT. Data was collected once from Mayer, and on a visit from the research team it was noticed that the curriculum had been adjusted to be presented in a more static and less creative format. For example, the Healthy Menus module was designed to be an interesting and interactive way to introduce students to spreadsheet applications using formulas, macros and exploration. At Mayer it was delivered as a PowerPoint presentation. When an inquiry was made as to why this change had been made the teacher reported that the maths teacher did not want the IT teacher to introduce spreadsheets in Digital Divas because he had them in his curriculum the following semester. This suggests a silo approach between disciplines and a lack of understanding of one of the core tenets of the Digital Divas curriculum: to create interest through engaging topics, not to teach applications per se. The researcher visiting did point this out to the teacher, but could not influence change, highlighting a factor that we had no control over, how schools delivered or adapted the curriculum we had created.

Forsythe and Moffat

These schools are both located in Melbourne’s western suburbs, an area known for large migrant populations and low socio-economic status. Moffat College is the lowest ICSEA-ranked school in the Digital Divas cohort. Significantly, the first program referred to in the school’s promotional material is the Technical and Further Education (TAFE) media program, giving the impression to the researchers that expectations are high for students to pursue TAFE pathways. The college promotional material also emphasises that there is an ‘extensive range of subject and program choices. Two significant curriculum priorities of the college are the sciences and the arts. There is an outstanding instrumental music program, as well as a comprehensive sports program and many opportunities to be involved in the performing arts, student leadership and community service.’ The school has only 36% female students because another secondary school very close by is an all-girls’ school. This school also has a very low computer to student ratio of 1:6.

The Digital Divas teacher reported that the school promoted and supported IT and it is taught cross-curriculum. Professional development programs are offered to staff to improve their IT skills. IT is offered at Year 12; however, there is no data on whether the class runs each year. Students are positive about IT and the school opens the computer labs at lunchtime. This is not unexpected given that the school population was two-thirds male. The Moffat teacher was new to teaching IT when she undertook to teach Digital Divas. Her background was in outdoor education. She was, however, confident and capable with technology as well as enthusiastic about teaching Digital Divas. She said it was a new experience for the girls with many learning new applications. The classes were not always in a computer room (three out of five), allowing time for discussion of issues and planning of projects. She introduced some of the Digital Divas modules to a single-sex boys’ class and reported that they really enjoyed it. She also reported that her students appreciated the all-girl environment, and that the curricula challenged them sufficiently enough to change their attitudes to computing in general.

Forsythe, also located in the western suburbs, is a relatively small all-girls school with an 85% mix of students from a non-English-speaking background. The history and tradition of the school is evident in the reception area. Through the green corridors on the way to the classroom, walls are mostly devoid of displays of any kind. The IT coordinator’s email prior to starting the program provided some insight to the school IT culture. He stated ‘We need something like the Digital Diva program at the school to lift the profile of IT and make it more relevant to the middle school girls. Our numbers studying VCE IT are steadily falling. We are a netbook trial school and have a very healthy computer to student ratio.’

The Forsythe website describes a ‘diversity of social, ethnic and language backgrounds’. The school outdoor environment is pleasant, with a large courtyard and lots of green space. The researchers observed that it was very obvious that the school attracts a high number of girls of the Islamic faith and that a number of these girls were not allowed to participate in the class. On one visit one girl said very loudly ‘my father would kill me if I was to go into IT’ and she was Muslim. The IT coordinator commented: ‘students at the school perform lower than state averages.’

On the same visit it was observed that there appeared to be a perpetuation of low expectations. In the classroom it was observed that the girls lacked interest in the class, few were working and the teacher was happy for them to sit and chat, play with their mobile phones or look up other websites. The teacher had no prior IT teaching experience and Digital Divas was his first class. His background was as an art teacher. Despite having teacher instructions provided in the Digital Divas curriculum, the teacher decided not to follow this and taught his own ideas. He reported that he struggled particularly with the programming modules but was happy with what he did do and would have liked to have covered more modules had there been time. Despite this he commented that the girls were working on computers during lunchtime and he believed they were gaining confidence. He indicated that he planned to run Digital Divas again because there was enough interest from the students in the next year for a class. He thought that this was because the current students had positively promoted it to the next year level through word of mouth. He was keen to enthuse girls and give them confidence in IT.

Spertus

Spertus was the only interstate school included in the Digital Divas project. The connection was made through a research colleague at a Sydney university. As part of that university’s program students are encouraged to participate in outreach activities. The Expert Diva role was an opportunity for one of this research colleague’s students to connect with a local secondary college. On visiting the college the researchers were impressed by the large grounds, immaculate gardens and the historic Spertus buildings. It was obvious that Spertus was a highly regarded, exclusive independent girls’ school and has the highest ICSEA rating of all the schools in the Digital Divas program. The teacher of the Digital Divas unit was enthusiastic about the program and came from a multi-media background. The classroom walls were decorated with student work from the modules. There was strong evidence of student engagement with the materials. The teacher reported that there was a strong push from parents for their daughters to study IT and one of the students emphasised this point, saying ‘you have no idea what is like to come from an Asian family’. The school has an open policy to student use of smartphones and smart devices. Year 7s have iPads and Year 9s have laptops which are available on trolleys in class sets to facilitate use in various classes. The teacher reported that professional development was limited and while all teachers have access to iPads, they don’t all have their own. IT was often integrated in the wider curriculum offerings and not always as a separate course.

Koss

Koss is an independent college with a lower than average socioeconomic status, situated in regional Victoria. It has a vocational focus and was considered an important inclusion in the Digital Divas program to determine if the curricula could be beneficial to re-engage disengaged students. The school has limited ethnic diversity and VCE is not offered, so no students go on to university from this institution. The teacher reported that many students are from backgrounds where families have been unemployed for generations, and there was often a lack of stability at home. Home computer access is not the norm. She reported that the employment expectation of most students is an apprenticeship or in retail. The students were generally aged between 15 and 21 and have had less than successful experiences in the traditional school environment. Students are eligible for Youth Allowance if they attend the school and the perception was that this was their primary motivation for attendance, rather than for education or skill-building. The Digital Divas teacher reported that there was low staff expectation that students would complete their studies, with one senior teacher saying to the students: ‘We don’t care if you don’t get your VCAL certificate, if you end up in an apprenticeship or doing Certificate III in hairdressing’, perpetuating the low expectation of success.

Limited use was made of IT in the school and the infrastructure was poor; for example, no printer was connected to a computer so students had no opportunity to print their work. They also had no facility to save work on a central server because there was no network; this is the only school in the sample where this was the case. The Digital Divas program provided the teacher with extra resources such as USBs for the students to save their work, as well as a small budget for printing student posters externally. The Digital Divas teacher was experienced, confident and enthusiastic with a background in teaching IT to adults as well as school students. She reported that she had used parts of the curriculum in a boys-only class and that it engaged them too.

The Development of the Digital Divas Portal

The original Digital Divas portal was designed by our first Expert Diva, who was at that time in her final year of university. It was created in open-source software (Joomla) and the design and colour schemes were a combination of her initiative using the winning logo derived from a design from the student in our first class who won the branding module. On graduation this first Expert Diva continued in a part-time capacity with the project as our web developer. In this role she developed a user manual with teacher instructions, Expert Diva instructions and student instructions. Modifications to the portal were made as the program progressed.

The portal was designed with a public front page (www.digitaldivasclub.org) with several subsidiary pages. These were:

1. More Information – this page provided further details for interested schools and included any media or press releases. It provided information for industry speakers. This page was publically available (i.e. not password-protected).

2. Digital Divas Team – this page primarily was for administrative purposes linking to a university portal where the researchers had password access to share operational documents and information between the team.

3. Teachers – this page linked to the teachers’ portal. This is where the modules were uploaded. The teachers from the schools who signed up to the program had password access. We anticipated that they would download modules in zipped files. Instructions were provided in a user manual for this.

4. Students – this page linked to the student portal. Each school in the program had their own ‘school’ page that the teacher managed. For confidentiality reasons it was important that the schools were not listed on the public site, so this second-level link was where the actual schools running the program were listed and linked as required. Teachers had permission to upload work and manage their own sites.

Each school had an area where the teacher could manage student enrolments, discussion boards and blogs. The Digital Diva’s web developer interacted with the teacher and relieved them of the task of enrolling their first class onto the site. She also visited each teacher at their school at least once to guide them through administration tasks such as enrolling a new student, or changing a password when students had forgotten theirs.

The web developer was integral in training the teams of Expert Divas as the program grew. These training sessions were conducted at the university. All of the Expert Divas were currently studying an IT degree so were usually computer literate and able to provide teacher support on a regular basis. The Expert Divas training session also allowed them to connect with each other. When the original web developer gained full-time employment there was a handover to one of the most technically proficient Expert Divas, who continued to manage the back end of the portal. During the life of the program we had several web developers and in one instance this was a male. He quite proudly called himself the first ‘Expert Dude’ in the program.

As the program developed, in 2010 and 2011 we also ran teacher training sessions at the university in the school holidays to introduce new teachers to the portal, and to reinforce the aims of the program. On the first of these occasions we invited our educational developer, who was also the first teacher to run the program at Bartik, to explain how she delivered the program and managed the portal. A user manual was developed and given to each teacher to guide them through basic administration tasks.

The Bartik teacher remained the most engaged with our portal, using it for posting activities and encouraging the Expert Divas to interact with the students through weekly blogs. She also used a variety of free online tools to create short videos for students to review and guide them through tasks such as creating a macro in Excel. Other teachers interacted with the portal in varying degrees; some left it for the Expert Diva to manage and others only accessed it to download the materials, which they would then put on a school intranet for students to access. Over time the Digital Divas team added a page to the portal titled ‘Extra Resources’, to take full advantage of new sites and tools that became available over the life of the project. Updates were emailed to teachers and they were also encouraged to keep us informed if they found anything useful too. School-to-school interaction via the portal did not develop, neither did a teacher discussion group.

A year into the project our ACS Linkage partner’s personnel changed and the new person volunteered to take on the role of web manager to guide the web developer on streamlining the original site and manage interactions with the schoolteachers. The professional experience of the web manager contributed to the professional appearance and accessibility of the portal. She was also integral in advising us on the best way to streamline the site prior to opening it up for public access at the conclusion of the program.

Figure 4.1 The portal with open access http:www.digitaldivasclub.org (at 14 Nov 2013)

The portal as it currently stands has the original graphics, and acts as repository for the project materials. The modules are easily accessible for any teacher who wishes to download them (see Figure 4.1 below).

Google Analytics code was added to the site to enable us to track access statistics. This provided some insight such as major spikes in access when the program was featured in the wider media, or after one of the team presented at a conference. Figure 4.2 clearly shows the increased traffic as reported by our Expert Dude in response to three media events.

Figure 4.2: Google Analytics report

Conclusion

The impact of the Digital Divas program continues to grow. One year after the conclusion of the grant metropolitan, country and interstate schools approached the research team to gain access to the materials and inquire about what support was needed to run the program. Two were government schools from regional Victoria, one a Catholic school and the other an interstate girls’ college. Access to specific modules has been requested by individual schoolteachers, such as one who believed that the Healthy Menus model was a better way to teach student spreadsheets than that traditionally used, as well as by researchers from New Zealand. We also know that it is still running in many of the schools. The portal and the materials have been available since late 2013 to any school that wishes to run the program; the password protection on the modules has been removed.

Digital Divas

   by Julie Fisher, Catherine Lang, Annemieke Craig, Helen