For Matt Smith, the most exciting aspect of technology has always been its potential. “I can remember going into our shed when I was young and finding things to fix,” says the Head of Learning Technologies at Grimwade House. “When I was in primary school, we had one computer per class and we’d get to use it for 20 minutes each week. This was back when learning how to copy and paste was a big deal. I was always the one looking for ways to do something new.”
While Matt found his love of technology early in life, teaching was not necessarily an expected career choice. “I didn’t like getting up in front of people, and it was only by chance that I decided to sign up for work experience in a primary school when I was in Year 10,” he explains. “I remember the lesson when it clicked for me — we were creating an image of a winter’s day using KidPix. In that lesson I suddenly saw how technology could enhance students’ learning and their level of engagement.”
This same desire to use technology to change the classroom experience is just as present in Matt’s teaching today, along with an enthusiasm for problem solving. “To see students at a really young age start to develop those higher-order thinking skills when they’re using technology to solve a problem is so exciting,” he says. “It gives them independence in that they can approach things that might have been ‘adult problems’ in the past. They’re also learning the kind of communication and teamwork skills they’ll need for the rest of their lives, no matter where their education takes them.”
Matt’s enthusiasm has meant that the digital learning program at Grimwade House has had a life well beyond our School. This year, he won the prestigious 2020 ITSE Independent and International Schools Network International Educator Award for Grimwade House’s “Digitech” program. Digitech has not only changed the way digital learning takes place at Grimwade House, but it has become a model for teachers across Australia who have been empowered and inspired to start similar programs at their own schools.
“I’m still in a bit of shock,” Matt says of the ISTE award, which was to be presented in California at a gathering of thousands of educators in the middle of this year until international travel became an impossibility. “Even though it hasn’t quite hit me yet, I think we should be celebrating what we’re doing at Melbourne Grammar. Applying for the award was part of recognising what we’ve achieved.”
Matt’s role as Head of Learning Technology at Grimwade House involves overseeing digital learning in all areas of the campus as well as working with students in the classroom as a digital technologies specialist teacher.
When it comes to digital learning, however, resting on one’s laurels is never an option. “While the whole School was engaged in off-campus learning, I was challenged to keep up with the progress of some of the other teachers,” Matt says. “I’m constantly looking at better ways of doing things to keep teachers engaged, and in turn engage their students. Things move so fast. We have to constantly push ourselves to stay ahead and continue to lead.”