5 ways to gain the confidence to teach technology in the primary classroom

Gone are the days of a blackboard at the front of a classroom and a noisy printer connected to a bulky computer up the back. In today’s classrooms, from the age of six, students are using robots to learn about problem-solving, coding and programming

But how do teachers cope with new technologies increasingly being used in the classroom?

Berwick Fields Primary School classroom and technology teacher Anita Green has embraced the use of robots and other new technologies at the school, providing students access to a range of technologies, from iPads and laptops to programmable robots. Younger students, from Foundation to Grade 2, can borrow Bee-Bots for coding, while other technologies used by students include Edison robots, Chromebooks and Lego Mindstorms.

However, Anita admits that one barrier to the introduction and optimal use of technology in the classroom can be a lack of confidence among teachers, who might not be familiar with the newest technologies or feel intimidated by the knowledge of the students.

Drawing on her own experience of ‘upskilling’ – from her role as a classroom teacher and maths specialist to a role teaching technology and robotics – Anita has the following tips for those looking to build their technology knowledge and skills:

  1. Sign up for professional development. I am enrolled in a two-day course later in the year and I’m definitely looking forward to it.
  2. Learn from your colleagues. I know there are various teachers in the school who know a lot about technology and are almost experts in robotics.  They have been amazing and shared their wealth of knowledge with me as well as forwarding on a range of documents and lessons to help me.
  3. Join a Digitech group. I have joined the local ‘Digitech’ group, which is a network of local schools that hosts meetings once or twice a term to talk about technology in their school.  Even if you can’t attend all the meetings, being on the mailing list is helpful.
  4. Do your research. I have purchased a few books on teaching technology that were recommended to me by others. I also use Google (or Pinterest!) to search for good ideas, and when I find a useful site (or I am recommended one). I tend to subscribe so I can get their emails and see any new resources that come up.
  5. Have a play. I definitely believe in hands-on learning.  Over the Christmas holidays, I took home some Edison robots, as well as one of the Lego Mindstorms and a Chrome book, and had a play. It is the best way to learn!  The Edison robots, which have been the focus of my work this term, have several books with series of lesson plans which are so easy to follow.  They have been great!  These are available on their website.

Green said that apart from some teething issues, such as charging devices or connection problems and teacher confidence and knowledge, technology could play a vital role in the classroom, engaging students and preparing them for a digital future.

“The benefits must outweigh the practical issues because we keep persevering! Given the size of our school, we have almost full-time tech support which is really handy. And a lot of teachers are willing to learn, which is great.

“I find the students are really engaged in digital technologies. I think digital technology is important for their future so it should be in the classroom each day in some way shape or form.”

Understanding the role of motivation for for learners with dyslexia in the ELT classroom

Research suggests that learning a foreign language is a demanding task for learners with dyslexia. The difficulties that might emerge are not restricted to reading and spelling in the foreign language; other skills can be affected, such as comprehension, vocabulary and grammar acquisition, speaking, and writing.

Although emotional feelings are not the cause of dyslexia, they can have a great impact on learners’ attitudes towards foreign language learning.

This extract from the award-winning Supporting Learners with Dyslexia in the ELT Classroom focuses a key factor that can cause difficulties for learners with dyslexia in the English language classroom at an emotional level: motivation.


Motivation has been defined as ‘some kind of internal drive which pushes someone to do things in order to achieve something’ (Harmer, 2001) and is thought to be responsible for ‘why people decide to do something, how long they are willing to sustain the activity and how hard they are going to pursue it’ (Dörnyei, 2001, p. 8).

English is obviously a very popular language with an international status, so one might think that students, perceiving its importance for their professional and social future, should be naturally motivated to learn it. However, motivational patterns are very personal and depend on a number of factors, such as the learners’ story of success or failure at school, their personality, their perceptions about the language, their potential, the usefulness of what is being taught, etc. As Balboni (2006) points out, motivation to learn another language can be based on three things: duty, need, and pleasure.


Students learn the language just because they have to, typically because it is a mandatory subject at school. This type of motivation does not lead to actual language acquisition but rather to short-term efforts to pass tests and exams; once the goal has been reached, the motivation to learn rapidly goes away (and so does what has been temporarily memorised just to pass the test or exam).


Students learn the language because they need it for some reason—for example, because they are immigrants, they need it for their job, or they are planning to move to a country where the language is spoken. This type of motivation typically applies to young adults and adults learning English for social or professional purposes. It can lead to the development of good language skills, but it does not appear to be long-lasting; once the need has been satisfied (or, at least, so thinks the learner) this type of motivation disappears.


Students learn the language because they associate it with a positive experience. Learning another language can stimulate different kinds of pleasure, such as having new experiences, socialising, discovering something new, undertaking a challenge, systematizing knowledge, etc. This type of motivation is the only ‘internally driven’ one, so it is likely to be long-lasting and lead to the best results in terms of skills and competence. Since English is a mandatory subject in school programs all over the world, it comes as no surprise that many learners—with and without dyslexia—study it because they have to. A key factor here is the quality of their school experience; the more English is presented in an engaging way, the more motivation based on pleasure can arise. In the case of learners with dyslexia, research shows that some can have a positive attitude towards foreign languages, which they see as a way of ‘getting their own back’ by learning a new language from scratch (Daloiso, 2012).

Others may display negative attitudes; they ‘get caught in a vicious circle because, due to their problems in language learning, they lose their motivation, which then might lead to experiencing further failures’ (Kormos & Csizér, 2010). Studies in the neurobiology of learning suggest that motivation is not just ‘rational willingness’. It is, rather, connected to—and influenced by—the emotional feelings that learners experience during classroom learning; thus, the environmental context plays a pivotal role in sustaining motivation. An influential approach in the field is the stimulus appraisal theory, which has also been applied to foreign language learning (Schumann, 1997; Schumann et al., 2004) and motivational patterns shown by learners with dyslexia (Daloiso, 2012). This theory argues that all learners make evaluations of learning situations along the following five main parameters.


Learners evaluate whether the stimulus is new or whether it has been experienced previously. Novelty can be evaluated positively or negatively, depending on its connection to the other parameters; for instance, surprise tests are, of course, novel, as they are unexpected, but they can be perceived as threatening and unpleasant by learners. In the teaching of foreign languages, novelty (for example, new activities/materials/videos) is generally considered a good strategy to attract learners’ attention. However, novelty without structure might lead some learners to become confused and demotivated. This is particularly true for learners with dyslexia, who benefit from clear presentations and direct instruction (Schneider & Crombie, 2003).


Learners evaluate whether the stimulus itself is pleasant. Pleasantness is a subjective criterion, since it depends on one’s learning preferences, aptitude, and beliefs about foreign language learning. Some learners with dyslexia typically associate English language learning with duty rather than pleasure, and this contributes to higher levels of anxiety resulting from an awareness of their learning difference. It is important not only to employ strategies to reduce such anxiety but also to know the students’ learning strengths and help them associate English with their personal interests. This is true for all learners, but it becomes essential for those who experience fragile motivation, as do some learners with dyslexia.

Goal/Need significance

Learners evaluate whether the stimulus will help or hinder them in achieving their goals or needs. Learners with dyslexia might have unrealistic expectations about language learning, either in a positive or in a negative way. Some might overestimate their capabilities and ask to do all the activities with no accommodation. For instance, they might ask to read aloud in class, which could be painful for them and also boring for their classmates. It is very important to build rapport with students and explain the reasons why some activities need to be done in a certain way in order to be useful to them. This does not imply that learners should be denied the opportunity of showing that they are making an effort—and maybe progress. In the case of reading aloud, you could ask them to record themselves as they are reading aloud at home and to bring you the file so you can listen to it and give appropriate personalized feedback. Other learners might underestimate their own capabilities, especially if they have had negative experiences in foreign language learning in the past. Teachers should get across to them that there is no such thing as a ‘foreign language learning disability’ (Sparks, 2006); that dyslexia can cause some difficulties, but with appropriate accommodations students can experience success in language learning.

Coping ability

‘Coping’ refers to learners’ assessment of whether or not they are capable of dealing with a situation, for example doing an activity, assignment, or a test. As mentioned above, learners tend to overestimate or underestimate their potential, but with learners with dyslexia, sometimes there are objective reasons for them to feel they cannot cope with tasks such as spelling tests or dictations. Teachers should identify activities that might cause frustration and come up with alternatives (for example, by adapting or replacing them). However, accommodations should be accompanied by ‘empowerment’ activities, for example the explicit teaching of learning strategies to help learners improve their coping abilities and learning autonomy.

Self-esteem and relationships

Learners evaluate how engaging in a situation might affect their self- and social image. As regards their relationship with the teacher, some learners with dyslexia might become very anxious because they feel they are always being tested, so it is essential to let them know when formal testing is taking place and when the activity proposed is just for practice. In terms of their relationship with classmates, they might be reluctant to do cooperative work or activities in front of the class because they feel that their learning difference is not understood or accepted. It is therefore important to take measures to raise class awareness of dyslexia.

Supporting Learners with Dyslexia in the ELT Classroom by Michele Daloiso was announced in February 2018 as the winner of the 2017 Ben Warren Prize, a biennial prize for language teaching titles.

ELT Dyslexia

Celebrating the trailblazing female doctors and scientists of World War I

While relatively few in number, female scientists and doctors made a big impact during World War I. From testing mustard gas on their own skin to running field hospitals in the face of “indescribable filth and vermin, evil smells, no rations, no lights, a hospital full of ill and dying men”, they revealed their skill and competence in the most difficult conditions.

However, these women have largely been ignored in historical accounts, which have tended to focus on the experience of wartime manual workers, who were far more numerous and left behind more readily accessible evidence.

A Lab of One’s Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War explores the lives of some of the extraordinary women who helped pave the way for the female science and medical professionals of today.

Caroline Haslett

Caroline Haslett was just one among many thousands of young women whose lives were transformed by the First World War. Through their struggles, setbacks, and successes, they collectively influenced future generations. Her experiences illustrate how the War permanently altered scientific, medical, and technological prospects for women. A suffragette with a weak school record, she became an eminent international consultant on the domestic uses of electricity, educational reform, and industrial careers for women. She used her influence to alter the scientific careers of countless schoolgirls all over the world.

Haslett was judged a lost cause by her teachers because she never could learn how to sew a buttonhole. As a teenager, she left her Sussex village for London and—to the alarm of her strict Protestant parents—joined Emmeline Pankhurst’s suffragettes. When the War started, she was working as a clerk in a boiler factory, but during the next four years she was repeatedly promoted to replace men who had left to fight. By 1918, she was running the London office, visiting customers such as the War Office to discuss contracts, and astonishing staid civil servants with her expertise in a man’s domain. After being trained as an engineer by her enlightened employers, in 1919—still in her early twenties—Haslett began managing the newly founded Women’s Engineering Society. She was determined to consolidate and expand still further the opportunities for women that had recently opened up. Electric technology—dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, washing machines—would, she believed, free women of drudgery, liberating them to lead a higher form of life. She envisaged “a new world of mechanics, of the application of scientific methods to daily tasks . . . a great opportunity for women to free themselves from the shackles of the past and to enter into a new heritage made possible by the gifts of nature which Science has opened up to us.”

At the end of the War, three million women were working in industry. Like Haslett, some of them had the advantages of good grammar and the right sort of accent, but many were relatively uneducated—domestic servants, barmaids, and shop assistants who had seized the opportunity to escape from their menial occupations.

Martha Whiteley

The chemist Martha Whiteley graduated with a University of London degree when she was twenty-four, but, lacking either rich parents or a husband to support her, she spent the next eleven years teaching. Although no hard evidence survives of her ‘Dear Diary’ feelings about following this route, her frustration is suggested by the fact that for several years she was carrying out scientific research as well as working to earn her living. In 1903, she joined the staff at Imperial College London.

When the male lecturers went away during the War, Whiteley was put in charge of the experimental trenches and the temporary workshop installed just outside the main chemistry laboratory. Putting on one side her research into synthesizing barbiturates and other drugs, she shifted to examining gases. And there was only one way for her group to do that effectively: by testing the gases on themselves. Although they did not share the fate of other wartime chemists, who died through such self-experimentation, they went through some unpleasant experiences. Over thirty years later, in a lecture designed to inspire female students, Whiteley described how she had examined the first sample of mustard gas to be brought back to London. ‘I naturally tested this property by applying a tiny smear to my arm and for nearly three months suffered great discomfort from the widespread open wound it caused in the bend of the elbow, and of which I still carry the scar.’

Whiteley received several tributes for her wartime research. She must have felt gratified to have an explosive named after her—DW for Dr Whiteley—and also proud to be awarded an OBE. More unusually, she was celebrated in the press as ‘the woman who makes the Germans weep’ because of her research into tear gas.

Isobel Emslie

Living and dying on the edge of danger, female doctors – including many from Australia – had an enormous impact on the eastern front and its local populations. Most obviously, they rapidly acquired the surgical expertise needed for treating wounded soldiers, and countless affidavits testify to their patients’ appreciation. In addition, they ran maternity units, cared for refugees, researched into infectious diseases, and introduced preventive health programs.

In the summer of 1918, Dr Isobel Emslie successfully applied to become the commanding officer of a hospital funded by American donations and based in Ostrovo, ninety miles west of Salonika. ‘Just fancy me a C.O. at my tender years,’ she wrote proudly to her mother; ‘I should have been 20 years older & worn hob-nailed boots & flannel.’…

During the last four years, all the women had witnessed appalling devastation and misery, but nothing matched what they encountered now. As their wheels spun in axle-deep mud, they were passed by Bulgarian refugees and bewildered Serbian soldiers plodding along between piles of discarded ammunition. Never again could Emslie see a jay without shuddering to remember the birds pecking at the decaying corpses of donkeys and horses. On the fifth day, as the snow swirled around them, they knew from the stench that they had arrived. Priests mumbled the last rites as they wandered among the hundreds of injured soldiers lying on a stone floor, still in their uniforms, swarming with maggots and lice. Patients wailed continuously as surgeons operated without anaesthetics on a deal trestle table; Emslie never forgot ‘the floor swimming in blood . . . the pails crammed with arms and legs and black with flies’.

Sanitation was of paramount importance. It had become a standard joke that whenever the Brits got together in Serbia, their conversation began with lice and ended with latrines. The women immediately installed incinerators, washed the woodwork with paraffin, cleaned up the water system, and began peeling off the men’s ancient, blood-soaked bandages. Even after forcing the slightly less sick to leave, they had 450 patients suffering from wounds, dysentery, and the virulent Spanish flu that killed so many healthy young men. The housekeeper reported that Emslie looks such a young C.O., but she is most capable, and has made wonderful strides to bring order out of a colossal chaos. . . . [W]e had to tackle a Herculean task to battle with indescribable filth and vermin, evil smells, no rations, no lights, a hospital full of ill and dying men, and everyone tired out.

On top of converting an old barracks into a clean hospital, she spent much of her time in bureaucratic nagging to ensure their food supplies. And as well as all that, she found herself responsible for local civilians in villages up to fifty miles away. Most Serbian doctors were either dead from typhus, recuperating in the south of France, or opening lucrative practices in Belgrade. Constantly busy, the women had little time to ruminate on the horror. Three weeks after they arrived, the Armistice was declared, but they hardly noticed it. For them, the day’s exciting news was that Rose West switched on the hospital’s new electricity system.

A Lab of One’s Own Science and Suffrage in the First World War by Patricia Fara is available from OUP Australia.

A Lab of One's Own

Our favourite heroines in classic literature

On International Women’s Day, we pay tribute to some of our favourite, feisty, fearless literary heroines – characters who have shown us what it is to be bold and brave in the face of a society in which these attributes were not always appreciated.

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

It is hard to find a character with more strength, determination, presence of mind and independence than Jane Eyre. Despite her relative poverty and lack of familial support, Jane never doubts her own worth, never relying on the men in her life to save or support her.

Jane Eyre

  1. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

There is nothing quiet and restrained about Pippi Longstocking. Exuberant in personality, outfit and hairstyle, Pippi is one of a kind.

Astrid Lindgren’s enduringly popular character celebrates her individuality and displays an adventurous spirit. What else would you expect from a nine-year-old who lives alone with a monkey, a horse, and no rules whatsoever? When her neighbours encourage her to conform, Pippi Longstocking has other plans and has no hesitation in wrestling a circus strongman, dancing a polka with burglars, or tugging a bull’s tail.

Pippi is a model of individuality, creativity and adventurousness.


  1. Anne of Green Gables by Maud Montgomery

A complex and lovable character, Anne, is wildly imaginative and exuberant, unable to fit into the narrow confines of Victorian expectations. Indeed, when author Maud Montgomery decided to reject the sermonising formulas of the children’s books of her day, she brought to life a character much closer to Jane Eyre, David Copperfield, and Tom Sawyer–also orphans, like Anne–than to the self-sacrificing, conformist heroines then in demand. In doing so, Montgomery subtly questioned the values of her society–the stifling restraints of its religion and most especially its treatment of women–while giving readers all the pleasures of her considerable story-telling gifts.

Anne of green gables

  1. Moll Flanders by Daniel Dafoe

Born in Newgate prison, and seduced in the home of her adoptive family, Moll Flanders learns to live off her wits, defying the traditional depiction of women as helpless victims. In spite of being female at a time when the patriarchy was all-powerful, Moll Flanders was a force to be reckoned with, demonstrating intelligence, determination and independence. In the face of what some might consider to be a hopeless situation, she shunned traditional roles that were forced upon women at the time and fought for her survival and the life that she chose.

Moll Flanders

  1. Emma by Jane Austen

While commentators might debate whether Emma is or is not a feminist, she is undoubtedly independent and erudite, defying social expectations faced by women in the nineteenth century. As Emma blunders her way through the mysteries of her social world, attempting to find a suitable husband for her friend, Harriet, she is endearingly lively, wilful and fallible.


Oxford Word of the Month: March – magic

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noun: a double ristretto coffee with steamed milk.


Australian coffee drinkers, especially those in urban centres, are blessed with quality, choice, and good baristas when ordering their daily fix. Stories abound of Australian travellers complaining about the poor quality of coffee found in cafes in the UK, US, and Europe, and we are familiar with the ‘flat white revolution’ from down under that’s been exported to cities such as London and Paris.

The Australian love affair with various forms of espresso coffee really took off in the early 1980s. Before this, Italian and Greek cafes in Melbourne and Sydney had been serving espresso coffee for decades following post-war migration, but it took a while for the rest of the country to catch on.

Australian English is the beneficiary of our need for coffee. Amid the cappuccinos and lattes, flat white, long black, and short black are locally grown terms, all dating from the early stirrings of the espresso trend in the 1980s. The continuing popularity of the cappuccino also gave Australia the babyccino in the 1990s, and the mugachino in the 2000s.

The latest Australian coffee term to enter the lexicon is magic, first recorded in the current decade: ‘I’m loving the new style of coffee called a ‘magic’ … double shot ristretto with a splash of milk.’ (Geelong Advertiser, 8 May 2014)

It has been described as a ‘three-quarter flat white’, a ‘three-quarter latte’, ‘more coffee-ish than a latte’, and as ‘Melbourne’s gift to the world’. The trend is strongly associated with Melbourne, where it’s said to have been invented: ‘The story goes that it was dubbed the magic at Ray in Brunswick some time back in the early 2000s.’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 21 January 2014) Naturally, the association with Melbourne has provoked the inevitable rivalry with Sydney. The same article asks: ‘Can Sydney make a magic?’

Perhaps the choice of magic as a name was influenced by its use in the name of two Melbourne institutions: an NBL team and, formerly, a radio station. But the appeal of the magic has now spread further afield. There is web evidence of it in cafes across the country from Perth to Brisbane. An Adelaide cafe acknowledges the origin, offering ‘a Melbourne magic’ on the menu. Tasmanians too know about it: ‘Make mine a ‘magic’. So hot right now… Order one now before it’s so cool it becomes uncool.’ (Hobart Mercury, 26 August 2017) A Sunshine Coast newspaper describes the process of making one:

Served in a small vessel. Start with a double ristretto base, add a small amount of milk. ‘It’s basically 50% coffee and 50% milk, served not too hot, and that’s called a Magic.’ (Caloundra Weekly, 4 June 2015)

Now that the magic is on our radar, we will be watching to see if it becomes more widely used in Australia, and worthy of an entry in our dictionaries.

Magic will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary.


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