Global recognition for five Gold Coast students’ app-building talents has turned into a movement at one school where 30 girls have joined a technology club.
The Pacific Pines Primary School (PPPS) Tech Girl Club is led by an inspirational teacher who has just been named as a finalist in state teaching awards.
PPPS teacher Natalie Harris is a finalist in the Queensland College of Teachers Excellence in Teaching Awards – the only State Government awards which recognise teachers from all schooling sectors state-wide. Winners will be announced on October 25, on the eve of World Teachers’ Day celebrations in Australia.
The Year 4 teacher, and leader of PPPS robotics and dance clubs, has set up school partnerships with Google, IBM, Cancer Council Queensland, BOP Industries, Suncayr and Technology One. This year she was awarded a RMIT scholarship to study Apple Swift Programming.
A member of the Gold Coast Dance Alliance Committee, Mrs Harris said she started off her journey in teaching wanting partly to share her passion for dance and the Arts, but found herself also becoming passionate about teaching Science and Digital Technology after she put up her hand to become one of the school’s first iPad teachers. She was also inspired during her student practical placement by a teacher who was passionate about Science.
“For kids to contribute as digital citizens in the workforce they are going into, they need to be digitally literate and fluent if they are going to succeed,” Mrs Harris said. “It doesn’t matter what field or what role they are going to end up in, the way that our society is heading they need to be 21st century learners; they need to be able to learn and engage with technology in a way that is going to enhance their lives and the lives around them.”
Mrs Harris’s encouragement of five girls to enter the Tech Girls Movement Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero (SNTGS) competition, which they won on a state and national level before being named as one of 20 global semi-finalists for Global Technovation, has fuelled the interest of other girls and started “a generation of tech girls” at PPPS.
“Little girls come up to me and say, ‘Oh Mrs Harris, when can I be a Tech Girl?’ … so we just started a Tech Girls Club,” Mrs Harris said.
PPSS was the first Queensland state school to win the SNTGS and Mrs Harris acted as the girls’ coach. She is now a regular speaker on digital technology for the school and sector.
Mrs Harris, who also likes to inspire her students by her achievements outside the classroom – including winning a recent dance medal and dancing at the opening of this year’s Commonwealth Games – said she hoped her school’s story encouraged other teachers to think of ways to turn their passions into new paths and opportunities for their students.