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CASE STUDY: John Curtin College of the Arts

John Curtin College of the Arts is Western Australia's only selective arts college, offering Gifted and Talented programs in Ballet, Dance, Drama, Media Arts, Music, Music Theatre, and Visual Arts.  

The school has an advanced STEM program and is a Registered Training Organisation providing nationally recognised certificate courses in arts-related industries. The assistant Head of Technologies, Tim Rowberry is a passionate teacher, keen to integrate STEM and real world learning across the school (and as the Teacher Development School STEM Coordinator, across the state too). Tim and IT Strategic Director, Jacqui Butler, were looking to revitalise their year 9 gaming course and they saw Vortals as the perfect way to do it

The First Project

Vortals co-founder Russell Scott worked together with Jacqui Butler to develop the Introduction to Game Design course, building and improving the content as they observed the students undergo the course. 


The developed course content covers a significant portion of the curriculum and offers students a unique perspective on game design. Blending both stand and deliver style content and project based learning content, and drawing on a range of subject areas like math and physics, history and English, the course challenged the students to consider game design from unexpected angles. 

The content proved to be highly engaging and in the midst of the Covid pandemic, students remained connected and interested in the course content. Said one student:

“I really like this because we’re learning how and why things are built like they are. We’re not just following steps.”


Image from the dinosaur tutorial included in the Introduction to Game Design course

The Next Challenge(s)

Technology has the ability to shape and change the world. With the advent of computers, people could design and write and build in ways never before considered. With the advent of the internet people had information on almost any topic at the tip of their fingers. Now, mixed reality technology is about to reshape how we interact with this world. It’s such a new field that it is the students who will be the ones who define its impact on the world.

Fresh off the success of the Game design course, John Curtin looked to push their students digital knowledge further, and connect them with these deep ideas that mixed reality fosters. Again, Russell and Jacqui collaborated to create the Fundamentals of Mixed Reality course. This course challenges the students to consider the  technical, algorithmic, creative, and the social impact these new technologies create. The course aims at developing problem solving skills that extend beyond mixed reality.

Current Projects and Outcomes

With a years' experience of Vortals under their belt, John Curtin are now integrating Vortals in with their whole school STEM projects. Jacqui's year 10 students will build advanced VR experiences that feed into the schools "STEM4Innovation" approach, a program that has garnered national attention. 

Tim Rowberry saw Vortals as the perfect tool to help with a  5 year long virtual reality project. This project is a collaboration between the Leeuwin Ocean Adventure Foundation, Curtin University and John Curtin College of the Arts. Students have started their initial investigations and 360 video capture.

The Game design course is being reimplemented and course has been presented to the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and this presentation is provided as a resource on their digital technology site. Students who undertook the game design course were informally surveyed 4 months after the course and we found that the knowledge was 'sticky' - students had retained much of what had been taught.  

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