Leading Education in the 21st Century

Tamara Sullivan, Head of Academics and Innovation, Ormiston College

Preamble – Technologies and Teaching the Teachers: Tamara’s Story

by Emeritus Professor Glenn Finger, Griffith University

Emeritus Professor Glenn Finger

Throughout my teaching career, I have developed and shared my deepening belief that teaching our nation’s young people is the most important profession on the planet. As well as being the profession upon which all other professions are built, teachers impact on all areas of human endeavour. They help shape the future performers, writers, parents/carers, journalists, architects, engineers, scientists, health professionals – such as the doctors, surgeons, pharmacists, nurses, and midwives – and the researchers creating new knowledge. In essence, through being educators, their calling helps to improve the life prospects of their students and build better communities and a better world.

So, teaching the teachers in ways which capitalise upon new and emerging technologies to shape educational futures is a rich space within which to teach and research.  And, the greatest joy is seeing our initial teacher education and postgraduate students progress through their complex process of becoming a teacher and consequently, lead and teach using technologies to design and create wonderful student learning experiences which excite and inspire our young people. I remember Tamara very well – intelligent, engaged, willing to learn and explore new ideas, and visionary – in my class at Griffith University some years ago. Tamara’s story is an inspirational journey which is making those positive differences in the lives of her students and influencing educational and technological change and innovation to improve the lives of other students.

Here is Tamara’s wonderful story…

My Journey to Leading Education in the 21st Century

by Tamara Sullivan, Head of Academics and Innovation, Ormiston College

I remember from a young age of always wanting to be a teacher. I loved working and caring for children, so it was my calling in life. Griffith University has a wonderful reputation for their outstanding education degrees, so it was my first choice when selecting a university to begin my studies in 1995. I undertook a Bachelor of Education and then went on to complete my Master of Education degree at the School of Education and Professional Studies.

Fast forward 20 years, I am now the Head of Academics and Innovation at Ormiston, responsible for leading the school’s direction in teaching and learning. I am fortunate in my position to work with educators globally, facilitating programs and approaches to support teachers in designing and developing deep learning experiences that advance student learning, creativity and innovation in 21st century environments.

My passion, drive and dedication for leading student-centred approaches, where technology is used to support deep learning, began during my university studies. It was during this time that I was inspired to think about how technological advances would be used in future focused pedagogies. What I did not predict then, is how technology would completely revolutionise the way that we live and work.

My first placement was in a very challenging school in Tasmania. As a beginning educator, I had to draw on my knowledge and skills learnt during my degree to empower disadvantaged students to reach their full potential. During this time, I was also able continue my studies in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education, completing my Master of Education degree via distance education.

Three years later, I moved back to Queensland with my family, and I commenced as a Middle School Teacher at a large independent school. During this time, one to one laptop programs began rolling out across Australia. While I embraced this change, others questioned their justification in the classroom. Traditional practice and the attitude `that’s not the way we have always done it’ was held by many.

My mindset began shift as to how I could assist educators to see the benefit of using technology to provide authentic learning experiences to better prepare students for the changing nature of life and work.

In the beginning, I wasn’t overly successful. I had assumed that, by simply sharing what I was doing, colleagues would naturally embrace new and emerging technologies and implement these initiatives in their own classrooms. However, I quickly realised that teachers need to be motivated to change through seeing the benefit in what they are doing, not because they are forced to.

I started looking for programs that would help build my capability to lead and upskill teachers in the meaningful use of technology in classroom programs. This included seeking grant funding to deliver and develop innovative professional development programs. One of my first initiatives focused on how to create effective professional learning communities to streamline the introduction of The Australian Curriculum using online collaboration tools. In the following year, I continued to strengthen this project by implementing a peer coaching program to building teachers’ capacity to effectively use ICT pedagogies across the curriculum. As automation, globalisation and technological advances started rapidly changing the we live and work, I then went on to develop a whole school pedagogical framework to explicitly support the development of students’ 21st century skills.

My work across the education sector, leading and engaging with ICT literacies and curriculum development, led to my nomination by Independent Schools Queensland to ACARA to become a member of the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority’s General Capabilities Advisory Group. It was here that I reconnected with Emeritus Professor Glenn Finger, my previous lecturer in my ICT in Education studies. Together, we worked on providing advice for the development and implementation of the ICT General Capability for the Australian Curriculum, which is now being developed across all learning areas by all Australian students from Prep to Year 10. How wonderful it was for Glenn and myself to have met again and provided that input and potential impact!

I also started leveraging the power of social media to build a professional network with like-minded educators. Little did I know that by sharing programs, initiatives and professional development strategies with the global community, that this would lead to many opportunities to present at local, national and international conferences.

In the beginning, these presentations focused on ICT tools for engaging students in the learning process. Over time, this changed to focus on developing educators’ understanding about student learning in 21st century environments and practical strategies for school leaders on how to build a culture of innovation in a school. This has taken me all over the world, presenting in Bangkok, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, America, Malaysia and New Zealand.

I have a passion for innovative professional learning strategies, and I feel very honoured to present and work with education thought leaders in Australia and around the globe. My teaching highlights include being awarded the Excellence in Educational Leadership Award by the Australian Council for Educational Leaders, the Australian College of Educators Fellowship Award and the Australian Council for Educational Leaders New Voice Scholarship. I know that had it not been for the inspiration that Griffith University provided me during studies, I would not be the educational leader I am today.

In 2019, Griffith University’s School of Education and Professional Studies celebrates 50 years of shaping inspiring teachers. To celebrate this, we'll be doing a series of blog articles throughout the year centred around 50 years of teaching.

If you are interested in participating please contact Alison McIntyre on [email protected]au.