Developing 21st century students

Our 21st Century Minds collaborators share their views on the top three things that need to change in our schools to prepare our students for the 21st century. Hear from Dr Roslyn Prinsley from the Office of the Chief Scientist and a wide variety of education experts from around Australia as they discuss their tips on what it takes to develop 21st century students equipped for the jobs of the future.

It’s really important that when we are preparing students for the future, that we actually make it real and tangible. That we talk about the jobs, we showcase people who are working in creative and innovative industries. We need to provide inspiration and aspiration for how they can find a pathway forward.

Sally-Ann Williams, Google Australia

The mentoring journey of Code Like a Girl

A critical element of the 21st Century Minds (21CM) Accelerator Program is our mentor teams. Led by a PwC partner, each team consists of mentors with either a corporate or educational background, from the 21CM community of collaborators. Over the course of the program, these mentor teams have provided strategic advice and support to their initiatives, enabling them to grow and develop their ventures. We saw the significant impact these teams were having and decided to sit down with the team behind Code Like a Girl to find out more about their inspiring mentoring relationship.

Led by PwC partner Cameron Lynch, the Code Like a Girl mentor team meet regularly to give founder Ally Watson advice and ensure she is making progress against her goals and objectives. A key factor in the success of their relationship has been the diversity of the group and the collaboration across sectors. Additionally, as part of his role as lead mentor, Cameron was able to strengthen his relationship with two of his clients, bringing them on board to be additional mentors in the team.

Watch the video below to see how this relationship has been pivotal to Code Like a Girl’s development.

Kirstyn Chan works in PwC Australia’s Corporate Responsibility team and is here to provide you with the latest news from the 21st Century Minds program.  Follow her on Twitter @kirstyn_c.

21st Century Minds hits the midway mark

Highlights from workshop 2 – business skills & the education market.

The 21st Century Minds (21CM) Accelerator program has hit the halfway mark! Our second workshop was a great success, providing yet another opportunity for collaboration and learning across the network.

On August 4 and 5, the 21CM community consisting of our 20 initiatives, industry and education collaborators, accelerator providers and mentors, came together in Melbourne, providing everyone with another opportunity to reconnect.

Listening to feedback received from the initiatives at the completion of the first workshop, we dedicated each day of the workshop to a separate topic – business skills and education – to ensure we had the right skills and expertise in the room to answer all the initiatives’ burning questions.

Day one was facilitated by PwC’s The Difference and aimed at continuing to build on the business foundations of the 21CM initiatives, by leveraging the wealth of knowledge and expertise from across the 21CM network. We were lucky enough to be joined by a number of subject matter experts from PwC, our industry collaborators, including Dr Roslyn Prinsley from the Office of the Chief Scientist, who delivered a keynote speech sharing her insights, learnings and advice on tackling a range of challenges and opportunities within Australia’s STEM education landscape.

“Our students are not just unprepared, they’re uninspired…”

Dr Roslyn Prinsley, Office of the Chief Scientist

During the day we also held dedicated ‘build, share and learn‘ sessions on topics such as: accessing various funding sources, impact investment and measurement, design thinking for problem solving, strategic planning processes, organisational growth and culture. Collectively, the network built a range of valuable solutions to address these areas.

On day two, the team from one of our accelerator partners, Education Changemakers (EC), provided expert advice on how a STEM venture can succeed in the Australian education market. With diverse backgrounds, experience and skills across the education space, the EC team shared a range of practical tools and insights to help our initiatives better navigate the education sector. The sessions covered how to sell your products and services more effectively, understanding how different states and education systems function, and how to build a movement of teachers who trust and love your product.

As we move into the final stage of the 21CM program, we’re looking forward to bringing the community together again on November 10 and 11 for the third and final workshop, before concluding with program with two Showcase events in Sydney and Melbourne on November 18 and 21, respectively. Please contact Chelsea Cobb if you would like further information on these events.

Don’t forget to check out the highlight videos from each day below!

Day 1 highlights

Day 2 highlights

Kirstyn Chan works in PwC Australia’s Corporate Responsibility team and is here to provide you with the latest news from the 21st Century Minds program.  Follow her on Twitter @kirstyn_c.

Getting to know our initiatives: apptEDUde

Summer learning loss. The phenomenon that strikes school children over summer as they swap schoolbooks for swimming and slurpees. It is the educational gap that leads to a drop in academic skills and knowledge over the school holidays. Marko Njavro and his team have created a program called apptEDUde which aims to keep students learning over summer. We caught up with Marko to find out more about the program.

Tell me a little bit about apptEDUde.

apptEDUde is an initiative bringing to market a K-6 educational game which will help children avoid the “summer learning loss” in a fun and engaging way. Our initial focus is on the STEM subjects, given the importance of these skills going forward to both the students and Australia. Our team consists of Dr Branwen Morgan, Brian Powyer, Joel McInnes and myself. We have combined experience in Neuroscience, STEM journalism, education and entrepreneurship. Our technology partner in the venture is 2and2 games.

Why did you decide to create an offering to target ‘Summer Learning Loss’?

While reading the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, we were surprised to learn that in the US, the “Summer Learning Loss” was understood to account for as much as 80% of the difference in achievement for students between low and high-socioeconomic families. In a world full of complex and daunting problems, it seemed that there was something very specific which we could target and potentially have an impact on a large scale. We subsequently investigated the existence of the problem in an Australian context and found that while the same issue exists here, it manifests itself slightly differently – affecting the level of learning in Terms 4 and 1. Our own survey of teachers showed that 90% thought that students forgot content knowledge over the school holidays.

What impact have you seen as a result of launching apptEDUde?

To validate the existence of the problem and our solution for it, we partnered with Wilkins Public School in Marrickville in Sydney. 97 students took part in the pilot (26 in the test group and 71 in the control group). We administered a pre-test for both groups before school holidays and then gave the test group a tablet pre-loaded with our game. The 26 students played the game over holidays (75% completion was required to be counted as valid).

Upon the return to school, we administered the post-test (identical to pre-test). What we found was a statistically significant improvement in the test group across both Science and Maths, controlling for a range of variables in our control. Children and the parents also completed a survey which showed high levels of engagement and satisfaction. All this combined gave us the confidence to proceed with a vastly improved version of the product, utilising the latest advances in neuroscience and evidence based approaches.

What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities around STEM in Australia?

The government and big business are certainly making all the right noises around STEM and its importance to the future of Australia. The question is whether the required pace of change can be actioned through curriculum changes, or whether the private sector will have to come in with solutions which will supplement the official education system. That presents an opportunity for all the initiatives in 21st Century Minds.

What has been the most beneficial aspect of 21st Century Minds so far?

The whole program has been incredible, but I would like to single out our team of mentors for praise.

They have injected a huge deal of enthusiasm, ideas and professionalism. The combined networks of the mentors in our team will be a game-changer for us once we’re ready for them to make the right introductions.

We also caught up with the lead mentor for apptEDUde, PwC Partner, Aaron Le Poidevin to find out what his experience has been like supporting the apptEDUde team.

As a mentor what experience and insight do you provide to the team at apptEDUde?

Having been involved in a number of early stage ventures, it has been great to be able to share those experiences with Marko and the apptEDUde team. Hopefully it has saved them some of the pain they would have otherwise experienced! Being able to leverage the PwC network to make relevant connections has also been an important part of my lead mentor role.

What has been the highlight of your mentoring relationship so far?

The highlight of the mentoring relationship to date has been to see the progression of their minimum viable product and their ability to attract market leaders in their field to their advisory team. This will make them well placed for rapid growth.

Watch the video below for our two minutes with Marko.


Kirstyn Chan is part of PwC Australia’s Corporate Responsibility team and is here to provide you with the latest news from the 21st Century Minds program. Follow her on Twitter @kirstyn_c for updates.

What’s the role of technology in education?

Hear from some our 21st Century Minds industry collaborators and education experts as they share their views on the role of technology in education and how it should be used to facilitate learning and change the way children interact with it.

The most important thing is changing children from becoming consumers of technology to becoming the creators of it.

Emma Milburn, GE

Getting to know our initiatives: Makers Empire

Makers Empire is an educational software organisation dedicated to helping students thrive by equipping them with skills in design thinking and problem solving. They’ve created the world’s easiest to use 3D printing software, specifically designed for K-8 classrooms, which is supported by a comprehensive 3D Printing Learning Program – the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

Makers Empire also seek to empower educators to effectively incorporate 3D design and printing into their classrooms and help students enhance their understanding and mastery of design thinking and 21st Century learning skills.

The reach of Makers Empire is continuing to grow, so we caught up with CEO Jon Soong to find out how they’re improving the STEM education landscape in Australia and what it’s like being the face of the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda campaign!

Why did you and your co-founders start Makers Empire?

Makers Empire was started to enable teachers and children from kindergarten to Year 8 to be part of the future in technology and advanced manufacturing. We wanted to get in on the earlier years because if you wait until Year 8 to teach in this area, a lot of kids are self-selecting themselves out of it.

The concept started when my co-founder Roland Peddie decided to develop a game on his iPad for his daughter to create and customise characters and objects. He realised that a lot of gamers spend more time customising their characters and that a child’s curiosity and learning is regularly sparked by building things. We knew 3D printing was on the rise and saw the perfect opportunity to create a program that allows children to design an object and turn it into reality by creating a 3D model.

Roland shared this concept with me at a BBQ and we began discussing ideas on where it could be used. My wife, who was a teacher, suggested taking it to a school. We organised with my old school to try it out with some students and we were blown away by the reaction from both the kids and the teachers. At this point we knew we were on to something. We were accepted into the ANZ Innovyz START accelerator program and I quit my job to concentrate on it full time.

What inspires you in your role as CEO?

Creating a positive impact on the world by developing a worthwhile, valuable offering that can have global impact. We currently serve schools and organisations in Australia, the United States and Hong Kong, with expansion into new international markets to follow.

How is Makers Empire improving the STEM education landscape in Australia?

One key thing we found by spending countless hours in schools was the significant training and professional learning required by teachers to get maximum value and impact when rolling out 3D design and printing lessons. Our 3D Printing Learning Program is designed to address this. We have developed software, a Teacher’s Dashboard and, in partnership with Datacom Education, professional learning tools that will help both teachers and students improve their STEM learning outcomes. As a result, our offerings allow teachers to effectively implement 3D software lessons in their classroom, giving every student the opportunity to find success with 3D design and printing.

Our offerings allow teachers to effectively implement 3D software lessons in their classroom, giving every student the opportunity to find success with 3D design and printing.

3D printing has been named as one of the key technologies to dominate STEM learning in K-12 schools over the next few years with the NMC Horizon Report 2015 mentioning the “compelling progress” Scots College in Sydney has made with the Makers Empire 3D Printing Learning Program.

How has having a 21CM mentor team been of benefit to Makers Empire?

It has been very beneficial having some really smart people helping out and giving their thoughts. They’ve been able to give me ideas on how to access the market and where gaps in our program may be.

If you weren’t working in the job you have now, what would you be doing instead?

I’d be trying to build something again (probably nagging friends to quit their jobs and join me!)

For more on Makers Empire check out their website and the videos below:

Kirstyn Chan is part of PwC Australia’s Corporate Responsibility team and is here to provide you with the latest news from the 21st Century Minds program. Follow her on Twitter @kirstyn_c for updates.

What is the role of business in education?

For most people, say “education” and the instant image conjured is “school” – centres of learning that are usually insulated from commercial interests.

With a little investigation, however, it becomes obvious that education and business are, and have always been, intertwined. Universities provide experimentation and research which has immeasurable commercial value (the discovery of DNA, RNA, CRISPR, etc.) as well as graduating the next generation of business professionals.

Likewise, business has long provided funding and research that has made a significant contribution to academia (Lockheed’s Skunk Works, DuPont’s Experimental Station are good examples) as well as feeding back professionals to help shape the learning agenda.

As we look to the future, the more pertinent question becomes: “how can business’ role in education help create a sustainable and equitable future?

At CPA Australia, we are passionate about creating a culture of lifelong learning. Our CPA Program is unique in that we consult extensively with our education partners (which include both business and academia) in order to create technical content that prepares professionals to excel in modern financial roles.

What’s more, we provide our members with the skills necessary to succeed in business strategy and leadership. We teach integrated reporting and contemporary business issues to promote more than just accounting in business, but accountability.

Business has important insights into the challenges of the future and can position itself as a source of solutions. As the biggest accounting membership body in Australia, CPA Australia is committed to being part of those solutions.

Our members are already part of a highly mobile global workforce. The need for individuals to have the skills and capabilities that will allow them to work in a global setting is only going to grow in importance. Our long standing focus on meeting the challenge of preparing a workforce fit for the future aligns with the goals of the 21st Century Minds Accelerator Program.

The additional burden on future generations is that many of the practices of the past will no longer be feasible. Professionals from the STEM disciplines will play an important part in responding to these complex problems. One of our core strategic imperatives is to protect the public interest and secure a pipeline of capable talent for the future. Partnering with the 21st Century Minds Accelerator Program allows us to demonstrate our commitment to Australia’s competition and innovation landscape.

As capable and technically astute businesses create new products, new supply chains and new production methods, CPA Australia and its members will be there to assist in guiding and accounting for these innovations.

With thanks to our contributing author – Paul Drum, Head of Policy, CPA Australia. Follow him on Twitter.

Watch the video below for more insights from our other 21CM collaborators

What does it take to be a social entrepreneur?

Earlier this month, three of our initiatives were given the opportunity to share their entrepreneurial journey with students from Ducere Global Business School’s Masters of Business Administration (Innovation and Leadership) program.

Amanda Bartley, PwC’s national Corporate Responsibility director moderated the panel consisting of Michele Miller, founder of Robotics WPS, Nicole Brown, global CEO of Robogals and Justin Matthys, co-founder of Maths Pathway.

The panel discussed their biggest challenges and how being a part of the 21st Century Minds (21CM) Accelerator Program has enabled them to expand their networks and access the expert knowledge and diverse skill sets of their mentor teams.

We captured some of their responses for you to learn more about their experiences:

Why did you apply to be a part of 21st Century Minds?

Nicole Brown (NB): I saw this as a great opportunity to gain more professional knowledge. My team and I recognised we had gaps in our knowledge that we needed to fill. The program has provided us with a platform to develop our own skills and our mentor team has been so helpful, especially in the areas of impact assessment and partnership development

Justin Matthys (JM): To grow our network. All of the initiatives who are part of this program are solving a part of the problem in different ways. And when you’re running a start-up, your job description changes weekly! Having advice from people who are experts is incredibly beneficial. There are so many challenges that others have solved that we can learn from.

Michele Miller (MM): To access a supportive STEM community and gain invaluable advice. As a young business this program has helped me grow my knowledge and has given me the confidence that what I am doing is on the right track.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a social entrepreneur?

MM: Decision making. This is a huge daily challenge – who handles what, what gets prioritised? Each decision has a flow on effect.

JM: Everything is challenging! You’re always moving from one challenge to the next because once you’ve solved it, the next thing you work on becomes your new challenge. A big challenge however is the tension we face between impact and scale. Do we innovate to make things more consistent or do we focus on growing our organisation through marketing? Making decisions that impact our students knowing how how different the reality would be if we weren’t involved is always something we consider.

NB: As a global organisation, working across different time zones is one of our biggest difficulties. Especially when we’re all students! The differing schedules can be challenging. A key part of overcoming this is building an open and honest culture.

“For me, it is so important that my team understand our global goals and feel empowered to make decisions autonomously. This is something we are continuing to build on as we grow as an organisation.” Nicole Brown

How do you capitalise on the national conversation about ideas, science and innovation?

NB: We’ve been invited to parliamentary conversations and roundtables with other professionals within this space. At these events, we are often the only not-for-profit represented, however it is encouraging to be able to influence the national conversation. Being students, I believe we provide a different perspective to many conversations that may not necessarily be considered; therefore the national conversation provides a platform to share our generation’s ideas.

MM: We’re now able to have an impact on a wider audience. My relationship with PwC has helped with this, because now we’re gaining access to collective groups who make decisions, rather than one school at a time.

Our current education system is steeped in tradition. What barriers have you faced in trying to improve it?

JM: It is essential to engage all levels of leadership, all stakeholders – teachers, parents and students when trying to address change. It’s important to show you’re good at what you’re doing and making an impact. We’ve also had to help our stakeholders understand that what we’re offering is something they need instead of want.

“The best approach is to be honest! Let them know the destination is worth getting to.” Justin Matthys

MM: It is crucial to build strong relationships with schools. Simply selling a product is not going to work at all. Don’t underestimate the power of ‘word of mouth’. Be available for your clients – take calls right away and be proactive. Know the market you’re dealing with and the State Departments that manages it, because some departments are more proactive than others. And try to get in front of the right decision makers!

Kirstyn Chan is part of PwC Australia’s Corporate Responsibility team and is here to provide you with the latest news from the 21st Century Minds program. Follow her on Twitter @kirstyn_c for updates.

Getting to know our initiatives: Robogals

The 2016 cohort of 21CM initiatives are an exciting and innovative group and we’re certain you’re eager to get to know them. Over the course of the 21CM program we will be running a series of interviews with our initiatives, giving you the chance to get to know some of them in more detail. To kick things off, this month we’re getting to know Robogals.

Robogals is an international, not-for-profit, student-run organisation that aims to increase female participation in Engineering, Science and Technology through fun and educational initiatives aimed at girls in primary and secondary school.

We sat down with its Global CEO Nicole Brown, who has been overseeing the organisation since 2013, to find out how they’re inspiring girls to take on careers in engineering, science and technology.

How do you see Robogals improving the STEM education landscape in Australia?

We recognise that engineering is a key aspect of the development of our nation and that STEM education is a necessary component of this future. Our organisation acts as a catalyst for change, one that encourages students, teachers and parents to recognise the importance of teaching STEM in schools through our workshops, our Robogals Science Challenge and our networking opportunities.

We believe that by inspiring, engaging and empowering our youth, especially our girls, on the powers and opportunities in the STEM fields we can encourage them to make a difference.

What inspires you in your role as CEO for Robogals?

I continue to be inspired by the passion of my team, the members of Robogals and the girls we teach. Knowing that we are working together towards this vision drives you to do the best you can and be the best leader you can be to support this passion. One key thing that keeps me and my team going is the ability to make an impact on a young girl’s experience and perception of engineering.

I’ll give you an example of what we see on the girls’ faces each time we run a workshop:

  • The first thing we see is fear of the unexpected or excitement of something new.
  • Then we see some level of uncertainty on their faces. The majority of the girls who come through our workshops are simply unsure of trying something new because they have not been previously encouraged to explore new things. We work with girls to encourage trial and error as well as the importance of working and learning together.
  • Finally we see them leave with a sense of excitement and empowerment. When they see that there is nothing wrong with trying, they become excited and are willing to push boundaries, to try new things and to think outside of the box.

This change, within the space of an hour, is incredibly powerful. Not only for the students, but for the teachers and the parents. They notice the change and see the potential. This change inspires me; knowing that what we do truly makes a difference.

What has your experience been like as a young female in the STEM industry?

From my own personal experience I have seen a growth in the acceptance of females within the engineering industry. In addition to my role as Robogals CEO, I work at an engineering firm in Melbourne which has allowed me to directly experience what it’s like to work within the STEM industry. I feel quite fortunate to have joined the firm through a program specifically targeted towards encouraging more girls to pursue careers in engineering. A lot has changed since walking through those doors on day one. When I started there weren’t many females within the organisation, yet now there has been further growth and increased importance on diversity and inclusion within the workplace.

I strongly believe that companies need to combine forces and show they value the culture of engineering is changing – not just through marketing but through inclusive strategies and a diverse workplace. This culture change needs to be coming from the companies with the support of not-for-profits such as Robogals, not the other way around.

How has having a 21CM mentor team been of benefit to Robogals?

The support from my mentor team has been invaluable. Tim Williams, our mentor team lead, is an inspiration to me and I truly value his thoughts and strategic mind. Within the first few sessions we have identified weaknesses, selected a focus for the mentorship program, set tasks for us to complete and are beginning to set a plan of action to fulfil these focus areas. The sessions are productive and it is fantastic to have such a great group working with us to advance our organisation and support our mission.

Outside of STEM, what are you passionate about?
I am passionate about sport and travel. I am fascinated by different cultures and exploring new cities and countries; I have so far visited over 20 countries and hope to double that in the next 5 to 10 years! I enjoy the AFL, going to the gym and running. I am aiming for 10km in 1.25 hours by the end of the year!

Watch the video below for our two minutes with Nicole:

We hope you enjoyed the first of our ‘Getting to know you’ interviews. To find out more about Nicole and Robogals, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.

Kirstyn Chan works in PwC Australia’s Corporate Responsibility team and is here to provide you with the latest news from the 21st Century Minds program. Follow her on Twitter @kirstyn_c for updates.