Taking an interdisciplinary approach and promoting creativity across the curriculum is a clear direction for educator Leighann Ness Wilson.

Leighann lectures pre-service primary education students at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) at Banyo and is a Technologies teacher-in-residence at a primary school. Not only is she a teacher but she is also a qualified interior designer who specialised in corporate interiors locally and internationally, before studying education. Her strong design background influences and informs her approach in education. Many would remember Leighann as the inaugural STEAM Education officer at The Cube, QUT.

We caught up with Leighann to see what she has been working on now and into the future.

What have you been working on this year?

I have been teaching a cohort of pre-service primary school educators the intricacies of the National Technologies Curriculum which was a welcome challenge for the start of 2018. The Technologies Curriculum, taught from Prep to Year 10, contains two distinct but interwoven strands: Design and Technologies and Digital Technologies, and three key ‘ways of thinking’, one of which is Design Thinking.

I felt privileged to be teaching future primary teachers and worked hard to promote creativity and design thinking from this platform, hoping that my passion for encouraging young people to imagine, problem solve and create would rub off on my students.

We explored topics such as creative confidence in ourselves and our students and the importance of ensuring design challenges are authentic and open-ended to allow our primary students to flex their imaginations. Opportunities to connect, learn from and be inspired by the broader Queensland education and design community were also covered with Inspiring Queensland Educator videos sent in from within my own network, some of whom I met through State Library of Queensland’s Asia Pacific Design Library.

Realising that design thinking can be applied ubiquitously across curriculum areas to enable students and teachers to explore content in creative ways was explored, alongside classroom tech-tools such as littleBits, programming software, robotics and green-screen linking well to the Digital Technologies strand.

What’s next?

For the second half of 2018, I’ll continue as a Technologies Teacher in Residence (in a primary setting), supporting teachers implementing the Technologies Curriculum (Design and Digital). The interior designer in me has also recently enjoyed setting up a maker-space and tech-hub at my school: a colourful space which encourages flexible and dynamic learning and has had a positive reception.

I’ll be designing and delivering professional development workshops for ACU and Flying Arts and have recently been commissioned for a short-term project with the State Library. Making the switch from designer to educator, I’ve felt fulfilled by the natural synergies of the two fields and I’m constantly inspired by the possibilities still to come!

What books are you reading or would you recommend?

Lifelong Kindergarten by Mitchel Resnick

Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Ken Robinson

Invent to Learn: Making Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom by Silvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager

The Kickstart Guide to Making Great Makerspaces by Laura Fleming

And books for primary-aged children?

Something Wonderful by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair

What do you do with an idea? by Kobi Yamada

Then of course the Andrea Beaty Series of Rosie Revere Engineer, Iggy Peck Architect, Ada Twist Scientist are all equally brilliant.

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