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Jessie Robieson 

Learning innovation specialist, Te Papa


Jessie Robieson loves to learn. So much so that she gets paid to equip educators with the skills needed to teach students how to effectively ask – and challenge – the “why?”.

As the Learning Innovation Specialist at New Zealand’s bicultural, multidisciplinary national museum Te Papa, the teacher-turned STEM Ed specialist works with schools to empower educators when delivering the digital technologies curriculum. 

The gig is very much 60/40 split between heading into classrooms to facilitate STEM-focused activities IRL, and dedicated research development days based in the office. 

 “The tech world is moving so fast and teachers are busy,” Jessie stresses. “They don’t have the time to try 10 different programs to work out what’s best, but I do – and can pass this onto our teachers.” 

With a passion for 21st century learning ideologies that challenge the lecture/exam/rule-bound format we’re used to, Jessie’s work in education is hands-on and future-focused. “My jobs is basically to help teachers prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet,” she says. 

Here, Jessie shares her insights on future-proofing our classrooms. 

RELATED: The rise of interactive cybersecurity education

1. Forget trying to compete with Google, and instead teach kids how to use it.

“Kids can find things out online faster than we can answer their questions – they can easily watch a TED talk on physics that could do a much better job! We should be embracing this as a learning tool and becoming facilitators rather than standing in front of a class pretending to be a fountain of all knowledge. 

 “We need to teach students how to learn properly, how to research and where to go if they want to find out things. The content almost comes second.”

 2. It’s time to rethink our emphasis on exams.

“Intense study isn’t the most effective way to retain information long-term. The whole lecture/exam model has been studied and proven to be the worse way to teach! I’ve even had to do exams on that [laughs].” 

3. You don’t have to be particularly techy to teach – or learn – coding.

“A great way of teaching coding is unplugged coding – it’s coding, but with no tech element. At a school the other day we popped coloured envelopes around the playground and kids had to find them, decode the binary code inside and find their way back to where we were – ‘take 10 steps 45 degrees to the left and 20 steps 90 degrees to the right.’

“It showed kids – and teachers – that coding is basically just a set of instructions. It doesn’t have to be taught on a computer in the beginning.”

RELATED: 7 benefits of inspiring STEM education in young girls

4. Teachers need to see the interconnectivity in STEM – or STEAM – subjects.

“So many teachers are unsure how to teach STEAM because they view science, technology, engineering, maths and art as separate subjects and don’t see the interconnectivity.

“We want to show kids that just because you’re good at one subject, doesn’t mean that’s it. There are so many careers out there with a mix! We wouldn’t have something as cool as molecular gastronomy, for example, if no-one had made the link between cooking and science.  

“You don’t have to be great at just one aspect of STEM, but rather be OK at all of them. It’s about being a problem solver and an ideas person!”

5. Learning shouldn’t be exclusive to a classroom between the hours of 9am to 3pm

“Learning doesn’t need to happen in one singular space. You can head home and continue to learn. Learning can mean having a cup of tea and watching a TED talk at home with friends and your dog! 

“As teachers we need to work out what kind of learner our students are, and what they need to surround themselves with to learn.”

Want to check out Te Papa IRL? Catch our FREE Code event at the museum in February. 

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