“Come to the edge, he said. They said: We are afraid.
Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them and they flew.”
“Come to the edge, he said. They said: We are afraid.
Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them and they flew.”
The Microsoft Partners in Learning schools program brings 20 of Australia’s best government K-12 institutions together into a virtual and real-time innovation hub with opportunities for sharing best practice and formal professional learning. The program, in its current format, has been in place since 2010 – and has been working in collaboration with the Australian public sector state and territory government jurisdictions since its inception.
Participating schools and colleges are selected because they are already showing leadership in the application of learning technologies and are undergoing whole school change and reform.
The goal of the program is to take these school leadership teams and work with them over the year to build their capacity as educational leaders.
In 2011, the Microsoft Partners in Learning schools program encouraged 20 leadership teams to engage in deep discussions around the creative integration of technology into the learning space, in order to personalise and contemporise pedagogy for an evolving educational and social milieu.
It also challenged them to address change management; that is, facilitating the move to productive and effective teaching through the artful application of ICT tools and resources. This meant the outcome of each school’s work was twofold: It aimed both to strengthen the quality of learning for students and strengthen the teaching efficacy of the educators who deliver it.
The participants were then asked to document and demonstrate the efficacy of their pioneering work and that of their staff. They were asked to verify better ways of teaching and, in doing so, deliver more successful, more engaging learning.
Malcolm Gladwell (2000) calls that new orthodoxy ‘the tipping point’, and those who have not adopted or embraced the new way of living or working become identified as laggards, resisters or not in keeping with contemporary standards. For the majority of practitioners, the new behaviour, idea, product or process has ‘stuck’.
In this case, Microsoft invited teams of influential leaders who could encourage that tipping point. They were people who could have maximum impact over the whole school community; people who understood the systems, the culture and the people that formed the school. These leaders were the key to leading a school over the edge of the known and traditional craft of teaching, into a new world supported by deepened understanding of learning, assessment, cognition and technology.
The 2011 Microsoft Partners in Learning schools program had a number of elements. The core program was delivered over three two-day workshops in Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Sydney respectively. The theme of the 2011 workshops was student engagement and self-direction. The teams looked at ways to help students exercise their voices, discover personal entry points into learning, co-construct learning pathways, and use technology to present and showcase that learning in new ways.
Participants were encouraged to network formally and informally in and between the sessions. Guest presenters from previous programs, international speakers, Microsoft staff and other presenters all worked together to help them become inspirational leaders driving 21st century reform and innovation.
There were also opportunities to visit schools that had undertaken significant work on pedagogy and integrating technology into their teaching and assessment processes.
Most importantly, the program gave the school leadership teams some focus. With quality time to think about their work, the teams could take in the wider educational context and start to see what was important and what was possible in 21st century pedagogy.
The following drivers are the elements of a multi-level push that will assist in achieving a school-wide pedagogical approach that enables each student to work at their personal best with a range of new resources that facilitate richer access to learning, as well as a more creative execution of that learning.
These drivers are as follows:
Reform does not mean a simple rearrangement of timetables, a redesigning of the types of learning activities undertaken or a more liberal approach to the way students are able to present their work for assessment. It is a deep shift in school culture, relationships and power, applied with new awareness about authentic learning, cognition and the assessment of that learning in ways that allow students to work towards their own personal achievements and demonstrate their capabilities.
Genuine reform demands intensive specialist knowledge and rigorous professional learning, not only about programs, tools, resources and equipment, but also about the process of teaching in a vastly more sophisticated learning environment with students who are much more skilled and able to use the resources around them than we as educators ever anticipated.
Equally, reform requires a new level of personal and professional understanding on the part of the teacher, the student and the parents. It demands a new level of professionalism in the relationships between those partners in learning. It calls for a new level of sophistication in the way teachers work with each student in order to tailor their learning to maximum potential. All of these things involve intelligence, rigorous routines, discipline and finely nuanced explicit teaching on the part of the teacher at a level that has never been demanded before.
Once the tipping point is reached, teaching and teachers move into a high-performance zone that students will expect and demand from all teachers thereafter. There is no retreat from the new learning frontiers required in the technological age.
Reform is not a choice.
Reform is not a choice.
To read the full report please go to the Partners in Learning Network resource here . Projects submitted at the end of the program will be uploaded shortly so join the network to explore these resources and experiences.
Albury Public School
Campbelltown Performing Arts High School
Sydney Distance Education High School
Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College (Tumbi Umbi Campus)
Rosebery Middle School
Coomera Springs State School
Kirwan State High School
Stanthorpe State School
Charles Campbell Secondary School
Lockleys North Primary School
Campbell Street Primary School
Princes Street Primary School
Belmont High School
Buckley Park College
Somerville Secondary College
Esperance Primary School
Hamilton Senior High School
Tom Price Primary School
Microsoft has today announced that Campbelltown Performing Arts High School in New South Wales has been globally recognised by Microsoft as one of the world’s most advanced users of technology in the classroom. The school will represent Australia in Microsoft’s 2013 Worldwide Partners in Learning Schools Program, an initiative to help teachers and school leaders use technology in teaching and learning more effectively, and is one of 60 Pathfinder Schools worldwide.
As a Microsoft Pathfinder School, Campbelltown Performing Arts High School (CPAHS) has been recognised as being passionate about technology in the classroom and having a strong vision for transforming their learning environment. This program offers students and teachers the opportunity to further enhance their use of ICT tools with high levels of engagement, communication, collaboration and leadership opportunities. In addition to this, the school will have access to a shared learning community, where they are able to share best practice examples with other schools around the globe.
CPAHS uses technology in all streams of their curriculum and is a school firmly committed to enhancing learning outcomes for students, and more importantly, to equip the students with 21st century skills, enabling them to reflect deeply, think critically, work creatively, and collaborate effectively.
“Australia has always embraced technology in the classroom and it’s great to see schools like this incorporate technology into its vision for learning in such a fun and positive way, giving the pupils the best start for their future in the digital society. It is critical for our leaders of tomorrow to immerse themselves in the smart tools available,” Sean Tierney, Academic Programs Manager, Microsoft Australia, said.
Stacey Quince, CPAHS Principal, adds, “We are absolutely thrilled to have been selected as a Pathfinder School. Our vision over the next 3-5 years is to meet the learning needs of every single student in our school through personalised and differentiated learning, primarily delivered via technology”. Adding that, “Students at our school are engaged in inquiry-based learning that challenges them and rewards them. We want our students to be stimulated into thinking creatively and we encourage them to take supported risks and see the school as providing opportunities for learning to occur outside the boundaries of the traditional classroom”.
To embrace this philosophy, the high school has adapted its resources to ensure the focus on learning is underpinned by technology. Every student (Years 9-12) and teacher has been given laptops, every faculty has an interactive whiteboard (IWB) and the school is fitted with 10 technology labs, with wireless internet access throughout.
At CPAHS, one of the best practice examples includes students (dance, music and circus) using webcams to create video and audio files of their performances or musical compositions, which are then embedded into their OneNote notebooks. Peer assessors and teachers can then provide written feedback or make notes and juxtapose/tag their comments to the key points in the student’s video files. Students then use this feedback (visual, auditory and digital) to inform and develop their performance pieces, in particular, prior to final assessment.
Stacey Quince concludes, “All teachers at the high school are deeply committed and engaged in helping improve the school and this status elevation is a very exciting development for us. It was only last year that we were selected as one of twenty schools nationally to join the Microsoft Innovative Schools Program.”
See the following links for more information about Campbelltown Performing Arts High School.
CPAHS PiL Network Profile
Microsoft has today announced that Kirwan State High School in Northern Queensland, has been recognised as one of the world’s most advanced users of technology in the classroom. The school will represent Australia in Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Schools Program as a Pathfinder School. Kirwan State High School is one of only 60 Pathfinder Schools globally in the initiative, which has been implemented to assist teachers and students to effectively use information communication technologies (ICT).
As a Microsoft Pathfinder School, Kirwan State High School has been recognised as a school which has demonstrated they are passionate about technology and have a strong vision for transforming their learning environment. This program offers students and teachers the opportunity to further enhance their use of ICT tools with high levels of engagement, communication, collaboration and leadership opportunities. In addition to this, the school will have access to a shared learning community, where they are able to share best practice examples with other schools around the globe.
At Kirwan State High School, one of the key best practice examples can be seen by students studying humanities, who are using technology based solutions to investigate real world issues focusing on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Students have created education campaigns to raise awareness of Human Rights issues internationally and domestically. The school’s Vietnamese charity partner, Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, has now implemented these initiatives on a large scale.
“It’s fantastic to see Kirwan State High School apply digital solutions to global problems. What’s important is using technology to better educate the kids, get them engaged and excited about learning and make a contribution to society. This gives not only the school, but the community a great sense of achievement and something to be really proud of”, Sean Tierney, Academic Programs Manager, Microsoft Australia, said.
Further enhancing the school’s focus on best technological practise, Kirwan State High School has introduced intranet based programs into their curriculum and all initiatives are based on the promotion of student advocacy through ‘Student Voice’, and engaging local students in service learning projects with global partners.
Executive Principal of Kirwan State High School, John Livingston, said, “We are very excited to have been selected as a Pathfinder School. We hope to develop authentic learning networks for students and staff and the opportunity to collaborate and innovate on a large scale. Not only can we encourage other schools to implement and use technology in a meaningful way in the classroom, but to also learn from other Pathfinder and Mentor Schools around the world. We want to promote North Queensland as a leading district in eLearning, to up-skill all educators in purposefully using Microsoft ICT for learning.”
See the following links for more information about Kirwan State High School.
Kirwan State Website
Kirwan State PiL Network Profile
Microsoft has today announced that two primary schools in Western Australia have been recognised as two of the world’s most advanced users of technology in the classroom. The schools will represent Australia in Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Schools Program as Mentor Schools, two of only 32 worldwide at the top tier of the program.
As Mentor Schools, both schools have been acknowledged as demonstrating that they are passionate about technology and not only have a strong vision for transforming their learning environment, but have actually made these changes and are leading technological innovation in education across the global.
“East Butler Primary School and Waggrakine Primary School were invited to join the program as Mentor Schools because they have achieved a level of change within their education systems and are viewed as leaders in their countries and regions. Their innovations have a global interest and are replicable models that other schools can follow. Australia has a history for embracing technology in all streams of the curriculum, and the work that both schools are doing highlights this perfectly,” Sean Tierney, Academic Programs Manager, Microsoft Australia, said.
East Butler Primary School and Waggrakine will both be taking on additional responsibility with the appointment, as Mentor Schools are also responsible for mentoring five Pathfinder Schools over a 12-24 month period. Mentor Schools receive technology expertise from Microsoft, development tools and educational models, and online and in-person training to support their efforts.
Denise Jeffs, deputy principal, East Butler Primary School in Western Australia, said on the appointment, “We pride ourselves on giving students the best opportunities for the future and providing them will those valuable digitals skills needed to succeed. To be recognised by Microsoft as a Mentor School and as a global leader in using technology in education is a fantastic achievement for us. The program gives us the opportunity to encourage other schools to implement and use technology in a meaningful way in the classroom, and learn from other Pathfinder and Mentor Schools around the world.”
East Butler Primary School places huge emphasis on technological innovation in the classroom, and its student leadership committee. One of the best practice examples that the school has implemented is a student-run monthly broadcast news report that sits on the Intranet for students, teachers and parents alike to access. Focus on technology in Drama Studies is also key, with the students having access to green screens and movie-making software to express their ideas in a paperless learning system.
Elisabeth Turner, principal, Waggrakine Primary School in West Australia, said, “Being recognised in this way and taking our status on the Partners in Learning Innovative Schools Program to the next level is a fantastic accomplishment for our school. Technology in the classroom is critical in helping to support opportunities for teaching the children the three R’s through the four C’s of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.”
At Waggrakine Primary School, one of the key best practice examples is the emphasis that the school places on engaged learning beyond the classroom. Through this, students take learning to new places, with new people and new ideas, allowing them to develop skills they need to flourish in the digital world. In addition, students are given a voice at the school in the planning and direction of their learning, highlighting the importance of student engagement throughout the education experience.
See the following links more information about both schools.
Waggrakine PiL Network Profile
East Butler PiL Network Profile
East Butler Website
By Brendan Bush, Craig Amos & Ben Miatke, Horsham West-Haven Primary School
Our school is a dual campus P-6 Primary School located on the western fringe of Horsham and at Haven, which is 5 kilometres south of Horsham. Approximately 580 students attend the Horsham West campus and approximately a further 70 attend our Haven campus.
The school strives to meet the needs of our school community by:
Habits of the Minds
The school has adopted Professor Arthur Costa’s Habits of the Minds as a framework to educate our students to behave intelligently and perform well in school and everyday life.
Art Costa is Emeritus Professor of Education at California State University. He studied successful people from many walks of life and recognised and defined 16 qualities as being central to intelligent thought and reasoning.
The Habits of Mind are integrated within the school program, with awards presented to successful students each month.
Through Restorative Practices we seek to enhance relationships between students, teachers, and parents, so as to nurture our sense of community at the school. The Restorative Practices philosophy and behaviour management, provides HWHPS students with the opportunity to develop self-discipline and positive behaviours in a caring, supportive environment.
A positive school climate, in which young people feel connected, is the best environment for learning.
The Aims of restorative practices are:
Information Communication Technology
The school believe it is essential to use information technology to enhance student learning. Competence with information technology will also be an essential skill for all children to be effective citizens in our information rich society.
In 2010 the school implemented a Netbook program where every child from Year 4 to 6 lease a small laptop. The cost for parents will be $150 per year in 2013, which includes warranty, technical support and shared insurance. We therefore have 270 netbooks used daily by our senior students.
Each classroom has an electronic whiteboard, facilitating a broader range of teaching strategies in the classroom. With the help of our Parents’ club this investment is adding a new dimension to our classrooms.
Students participate in a number of specialist classes each week. The specialist program includes Art, Music, Resource Based Learning (Library), Physical Education and German. Students from the Haven Campus travel to West to participate in specialist classes each week.
There are a range of support programs designed to assist students with learning difficulties. Reading Recovery, Multi-Lit, Speech assistance, and our language support program assist students with greater needs in literacy and language. Quicksmart Numeracy is a program that targets students in Year four to help with their understanding of numeracy.
The school has various programs that promote physical activity, participation and representation at State level competitions. The school has an Active After School program three nights a week which enables students to learn about a variety of recreational activities and sports. The school’s teams regularly make the State finals and compete at the highest levels.
Microsoft Partners In Learning Program
In 2011 we were invited to participate in the program by the e-Learning branch of the DEECD. This reflected the role the school had played in integrating ICT within classrooms and supporting regional schools to enhance their ICT capabilities.
The focus on 21st Century Capabilities in the PiL program dovetails with one of our goals in our new Strategic Plan. In our Strategic Plan we outline the goal of increasing the global awareness of our students, which links directly to the one of the 21st Century capabilities. Through professional learning workshops with our teachers we have promoted utilising ICT to increase connectivity and collaboration with people outside the four walls of the classroom.
The development of the Global Schools Blog by one of the staff members participating in the Microsoft PIL program has made the process of connecting our classes around the world far simpler and efficient. With approximately 60 worldwide partner schools already signed on to this blog our global network has certainly expanded. We recommend checking out the blog to see if it suits your school. Go to http://globalschoolsblog.wordpress.com/ for further information.
Work thus far through this program has focussed on up-skilling teachers to use a variety of ICT methods to take learning beyond the four walls of our classrooms. Email, blog posts, video conferencing, Skyping, participation in online collaboration events and sites (example:. DeforestACTION, Global Children’s Challenge, Prime Minister’s Olympic Challenge) have all enabled our students to gain a greater awareness of the world beyond our school and their classrooms.
In 2012 we were successful in gaining a grant through the CASS Foundation to implement an animation project for Years four to six across the school. The project involves the teachers learning about digital animation from Dave Jones a digital artist.
For the first three terms Dave worked at the Horsham West Campus. The students in Year 4 completed stop motion animations in term 1. In term 2 the Year 5 students completed Kahootz 3d animations and the Year 6 students used Pencil to create digital storybooks. In fourth term Dave will work with the Years 3-6 students at our Haven Campus.
The goal of the project is to enhance the digital repertoire of our teachers and students. To enable information, knowledge and understanding to be synthesised and communicated through animation.
Quinns Beach Primary School (QBPS) is a level 5 school situated 15 kilometres north of Joondalup. Students attending the school are characteristically from the suburb of Quinns Rocks. There are currently 680 students enrolled from P-7. The school is a member of the 2012 Partners in Learning Innovative Pilot Schools program and RUMA network and is the 2012-2013 host school within the network. As a school we are committed to pioneer the use of technology to improve student learning. The school’s vision includes the words inspire and engage the digital learners of the 21st century. This is the story of a school’s 21st Century instructional practice. This article is for interested educators who might benefit from the reflective practice thus far.
QBPS opened in 2001 as a lighthouse ICT School with a strong focus on innovation and e-learning. As part of the innovation the admin (PC driven) used Hoblink a unique piece of software from Germany which allowed interaction between the admin and curriculum. Students at this time were typically able to establish a web page within minutes, 45% of the parents were connected to the school through ICT and the learning facilitators’ implemented project based learning programs.
Providing reliable infrastructure
The need to work within the department capabilities has been a consistent intention for the leadership of the school as the ICT journey can be a slow and frustrating one at times. In 2007 the opportunity to access greater expertise, support and services through the department came with the Learning with ICT (LWICT) 100 schools project. The ability to utilise the strengths of the ICT teams within the department is seen as an essential component for ongoing growth and development of both infrastructure and professional learning within the school. The improved learning opportunities for students utilising ICT resulted in a focus on enhanced student engagement in the learning processes as well as raising student competence through online student learning. It was seen as a way for the school leadership to support and harness the capacity of teachers experience in the use of ICT in teaching and learning.
Personalising and extending student learning
By 2008 QBPS teachers were maximising the use of online resources and able to create lesson plans, store and share with one another online. This further enabled a collaborative approach which included other teachers, curriculum leaders and parents. Audio and visual teaching resources were included and the installation of IWBs saw students interacting with technology tools for information and data in all learning areas individually, with instruction and co-operatively. Teachers were able to monitor and provide feedback where needed. Through innovation and use of other online tools students were able to work cooperatively on projects giving relevant peer feedback during online tasks. This was accessed through the Online Teaching and Learning System (OTLS) of which we were a participant.
Connecting learning beyond the school
As successful students QBPS students are able to competently use technology to assist their learning. The need to ensure our students have the ability to ethically use technology is critical in this dynamic, connected world of communication and learning. Cyber safety pamphlets, parent information/quizzes and students completing home studies in which they apply ethical and social practices online are all seen as safe cyber strategies utilized by the school. In 2009 we began to explore the possibility of utilising ICT as a tool to support deep learning. The increased number of laptops in classes for students required the installation of new switches to each block to ensure a more reliable connectivity. As a way to connect learning beyond the school we became part of the Parent Portal trial later Connect. Teachers were encouraged to post objects for parents similar to a class noticeboard. Planning and consultation for the new school website was completed and launched in 2011. We are now available on www.quinnsbeachps.wa.edu.au
Support professional learning
As a further commitment to innovation and ICT, a third associate principal Innovation/ICT was appointed in 2010 which coincided with QBPS being selected by the Department of Education and Microsoft as one of Australia’s most advanced users of technology in the classroom. The initial phase of the project selected the principal and two staff members to commence face to face events across Australia. As an innovative pilot school for Microsoft Partners in Learning we have;
The current capacity to trial new products through the Early Adapter Program includes the Web.2.0 tools, Microsoft OneNote 2010 for teachers’ interactive lesson planning, by students as e-portfolios and recording and self-reflection tools. Training of teams to use software is rolled out through face to face, online and blended learning opportunities during TeKnowledg-e-Tuesday cafés and staff development days. Staff access professional learning through live and recorded seminars with global thought leaders via Virtual University Webinars anywhere, anytime. In addition, our collaborative teams are able to create their own professional communities on Connect and the Partners in Learning Network
The 21st century skills committee (the early adapters) meets regularly to review innovative practices, the school vision and planning using the innovation framework outlined in the Innovative Schools Toolkit. (http://www.is-toolkit.com). As a further enabler an integral commitment from the senior leadership team to build their own capacity to lead innovation has developed a sense of professional practice and connection beyond the school and into other communities. Tools for online PLN include Connect, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Ning and Windows Sky Drive.
We can be followed on Twitter @QuinnsBeachPS, @RumaNetwork and through your request be added to the PLN http://www.rumanetwork.ning.com
The training of an accredited ICT coach this year will further develop shoulder to shoulder support and enable staff to personalise and extend student learning. Leading curriculum change at QBPS involves teachers reviewing and incorporating the ICT General Capabilities in English, Maths, Science and History where possible. Student achievement is mapped on the QBPS ICT continuum with identified student leaders- known as the HOTT team (helping others with technology team) currently utilising their own capabilities to instruct and coach within the extension program of the school.
THE FUTURE FOR US
The current hardware provision is 160+ devices mostly laptops with 30 more to be purchased in 2012. A lease arrangement for Year 4 students to purchase their own laptops will commence in 2013. The 28 classes have IWBs installed and the school is networked with CAT-5 cables. The wireless reliability is still presenting problems which can deter some teachers from confidently using technology on a daily basis. We are therefore currently looking at an upgrade with extra WAPs and a WLAN controller partly resourced by the department through LWICT program. To support maintenance panel integrator is now engaged on a yearly basis.
The schools’ research project using innovative teaching practice and learning activities is looking to see how younger students engage and improve in oral language. The inquiry is based on the assumption that through story telling student engagement with ICT tools including; flip video cameras, USB microphones, digital cameras, a closed YouTube channel and a global project will result in positive outcomes. The use of ICT, student centred learning and extension beyond the classroom is seen as innovative practice. This research project will be shared within the broader Partners in Learning Network in December, 2012.
Progress for QBPS as a school is viewed from the perspective of building a culture of change, with each of us observing those changes in teaching practices and then engaging through dialogue and deeper reflection to improve learning. The collaboration within the school community will continue to find ways to expand innovative teaching practices. An example is the student digital photographic competition whereby students explore their surroundings and communities looking for an altered perspective. By harnessing the innovative capacity of staff and providing the opportunities to put their ideas into effect, QBPS students will achieve the improvement in student performance we are seeking. In this way QBPS teachers work to support student skills for life and work today by providing the learning experiences in the 21st Century.
Aileen Jones; Principal, Bhavneet Singh; Associate Principal, Bec Bentley; Senior Teacher
Published article in Words, Volume 32, No.2, June 2012, a West Australian Primary Principals’ Association Inc. publication, a journal for school leaders.
Learning, Learning Learning and Learning
Merrylands East Public School (MEPS) is situated on traditional Aboriginal Dharruk land, near the main central business district of Parramatta. The student population is drawn from over 40 socio-cultural backgrounds predominately from Pacific Island, African, Middle Eastern and Asian communities. Eighty-four per cent of students speak a language other than English and around 10% have refugee experiences. The vast majority of students commence learning English for the first time when entering school at varying school years. English as a Second Language programs, a refugee transition program, and a parent English program support students and parents to access the school's curriculum.
MEPS is a leader in sustainability programs. The school received the United Nations Association of Australia World Environment Award 2009 - a first for a NSW school. In the same year, the school received the Director-General's School Achievement Award for Leadership in Sustainability. Set on picturesque grounds, the school has 5 water tanks that harvest 100K litres of water for ablution blocks and landscaped lands, and a photovoltaic system consisting of 64 panels. In the same year, the school received the Director-General's School Achievement Award for Leadership in Sustainability.
The challenge of working in a culturally diverse community and finding solutions to improving our students’ results has been rewarding but at times difficult. It’s very easy to be swept up with the rolled out trending packaged educational program with the notion that it will solve all MEPS’ issues. In fact, the opposite happened with staff easily becoming overwhelmed with the vast choice on the open market and within our public education jurisdiction.
The inclusion of MEPS in Microsoft Partners in Learning (MSPIL) 2012 is unlike any other professional learning session that our school has undertaken. It’s not like, here’s a program for implementation and if you do it, then the results will come your way. Instead, MSPIL forums in Sydney, Canberra and Darwin have been an opportunity for collaboration with Australian educators and a pathway of self-discovery, reflection, challenge and evaluation of our school’s current policies, practices and most importantly, pedagogy.
Merrylands East is undergoing four major areas of change with the knowledge gleaned from schools on the MSPIL and global educators.
1. Learning Staff
Traditional professional learning involves every staff member coming together and hearing the same message. While there’s an acknowledgement that all staff do need to be together for specific purposes, professional learning is about an individual’s improvement as a teacher to increase student learning and outcomes. What is improvement for one teacher is not necessarily so for another because individual teachers are at different stages of learning and work in vastly different contexts with diverse students even within MEPS. For this reason, Merrylands East is revamping professional development with a more micro team approach and utilising social media like Edmodo and Twitter to share readings, resources and strategies. Every Thursday evening, the power of social media is evident through the twitter chat #ozprimschchat. Topics are chosen addressing primary connections with educators making connections and learning from each other.
2. Learning Spaces
The 15 rectangular tables and 30 chairs mentality has not changed too much in the last fifty years in NSW public schools. The only real difference has been the number of desks and chairs, and maybe the materials and colours. MEPS is undertaking a dramatic change based on information gleaned from a Microsoft Virtual University Webinar about learning spaces, visiting Microsoft Sydney Offices and through the sharing of ideas from leading academics.
The Merrylands East Reform Innovation Team (MERIT) has been instrumental in identifying space around the school that historically has been wasted as a learning space and assisted in their transformation for students. Learning space is not about aesthetics but pedagogy. The changing of MEPS furniture to include funky furniture, whiteboard tables, round height adjustable and mobile furniture are all about the promotion of student collaboration and engagement.
3. Learning Anytime and Anywhere
Early in March this year, Merrylands East polarised the community with a front page major metropolitan newspaper story that indicated that our school had commenced a process of consultation about the change of school times. Talkback radio went into meltdown with callers ringing to express their views. Some callers made the assumption that if students were not at school, learning would not take place. How wrong!
In the 2nd decade of the 21st century, students are learning from each other via social media and web 2.0 tools. Many of MEPS students are on line in the evening and sharing their work with class teachers using Edmodo. Cloud technologies and web 3.0 technologies will further enhance the mobility of learning as we progress in this decade.
Returning to our school times, Merrylands East is looking at starting classes at 8am and concluding at 1:15pm. The MEPS context of culturally diverse parents and students enables our school to be in a very strong position to implement the change. After all, many of the OECD countries ahead of Australia in PISA currently have an early morning start time. School is no longer a start and finish time but a place for seamless learning.
4. Learning Pedagogies
Collaboration occurs on many levels with teachers, students and schools working together in ‘real time’ from various sites around the globe to deliver exceptional inquiry based learning activities. MEPS has established a ‘country cousin’ relationship with North Star Public School (NSPS).
Thanks to some innovative programs, teachers are able to collaboratively plan rich learning experiences from various sites, whether it be the room next door or a classroom on the other side of the world, and deliver them in unison from their very own classroom, to their very own students at their very own level.
Some MEPS teachers are using OneNote and SkyDrive to collaboratively create, alter, extend and critique classroom programs, with social media sites assisting in the frequent communication that is needed to build upon units of work so as to ensure they are engaging, exciting and relevant to their students. The ‘syncing’ of unit plans and day books has also enabled up to date tracking for teachers, assessments, further encouraging rich communication and the establishment of informal professional learning networks.
Much groundwork has been done on investigating how to create collaborative partnerships, with the ultimate goal of sustained engagement, personal relevance and ongoing student engagement. In order to build rapport with NSPS, a joint blog was constructed and an array of games were created to build a competitive relationship, with Twitter Battleship and Twitter Chess proving to be very successful as icebreakers for both staff and students. This bond was further consolidated when students from both schools aligned to form companies as the basis of all activities. Each company needed to communicate regularly through Edmodo, Video Conferencing and emails to ensure that tasks are completed and decisions made about learning. Communication occurred anytime and anywhere, with many students collaborating on nights and weekends to complete set tasks. This is what is now considered ‘Learning Time’.
b) Global Connections
Using an array of multimedia tools and web 2.0 applications, the classroom walls were no longer seen as a barrier when discovering the world. Global connections have been made with schools at a local, regional and international level, to allow students to communicate with local experts who live and breathe the topic of choice each and every day of their lives. Students can now aspire to become experts in their field, using their acquired knowledge to guide and lead others.
At present, Yr 5 MEPS and Yrs3-6 North Star Public School have commenced a unit of work called ‘farm2fridge.’ Students investigate the journey that a chosen product undertakes from the moment a seed hits the ground to the moment it hits the palate. As both schools sit on either side of the food production and consumption process, the program aims to highlight and promote the different perspectives of the students and schools involved and the very different role they play in the process of food production. Each school has been tasked with investigating their side of the process and becoming experts in their respective fields. As the unit/process reaches the medium point, the expert knowledge has been called upon in order to assist the each other school to finish their learning journey.
Participating students have been tasked with displaying their progressive understandings by re-creating the entire process online using Minecraft, and recording their cognitive journey and thought process in OneNote. Using servers and calling upon all of their acquired knowledge, companies have worked together to investigate and build each step of the process, all the time having to justify and explain each decisions.
c) Inquiry Based Learning
The teacher is no longer the fountain of all knowledge. This was a difficult concept to digest and quite a transformational learning journey to undertake. Students are no longer needed to go through the teacher to access the world. Instead, they are doing it already in their own leisure and in their own context. Therefore, our lesson pedagogy had to adapt to such a change.
Lessons are no longer scripted. There is ALWAYS more than one way to arrive at a destination and what students need is a highly scaffolded environment that is adaptive to change and open to learning tangents. What teachers need is a way in which to allow such learning to grow, yet still have adaptable assessment parameters in place to ensure students are monitored and assessed effectively. This is a journey we are still on.
The MSPIL has been an extraordinary relationship that has provided the connections to reshape pedagogy at MEPS. The school staff have embraced the use of technology as a tool for learning for staff and students. However, MEPS is only part way through their journey as the school looks forward to the challenges ahead with additional school connections and shared learning.
For further information on the blogs go to www.merrylandseast.com or http://northstarmeps.edublogs.org/ and follow the links.
John Goh and Robbie Ernsteins
Merrylands East Public School
To kick off a series of guest blog post to highlight the 2012 Partners in Learning Innovative Pilot Schools here in Australia, today we hear from Manunda Terrace Primary School in the Northern Territory. Having visited this school myself and experienced first hand the fabulous atmosphere Sally and her team have created, I am proud to say Manunda Terrace are a member of the 2012 program. Throughout this series of highlights, I hope to show that innovation and change in schools takes many forms; culture, technology integration, student empowerment, innovative learning spaces etc. are all different ways that a school can transform itself. The key is to understand where you are strong where you can effect change on a short term basis and understand how to enable whole-school change in the medium to long term.
Manunda Terrace Primary School
Manunda Terrace Primary School is a mid-sized, multi‑cultural, urban primary school catering for children from Preschool to Year 6. Twenty-two ethnic groups are represented in the school population. The number of students who come from a Language Background Other than English is 52%, with 45% identified as ESL learners who are monitored and assessed on ESL levels. Altogether 48% of the total school population identify as Indigenous. There are currently 233 students enrolled with 26 in the Preschool.
There is a vision of excellence for our programs and the school motto, ‘Anchoring Our Strengths, Learning for Life' drives the vision of ensuring that all students are given every opportunity to reach their potential. As a school community, we are committed to making a difference and delivering on our overall vision of providing a high quality, relevant and culturally sensitive education.
The School offers a range of programs, but at the core is the delivery of an uninterrupted literacy and numeracy teaching and learning program for three hours daily, with two adult staff in every class room. Additional programs include a comprehensive Community Engagement Program offering a Nutrition Program, Homework Centre, formal and informal family interest and educational forums, and a pre Preschool Playgroup. We have a small farm, an Outside School Hours Care Program, language, music, choir, state of the art library, excellent technology resources, and a commitment to environmental recycling.
Technology plays a central role in the school with all classrooms equipped with a minimum number of laptop and PC devices. While there is this minimum specification, there is still the normal disparate nature of ICT skills across the staff. We continue to take the opportunity to avail of professional development in this area when possible and strive to continue to explore new avenues and possibilities in this area.
The school is fortunate enough to have a new ‘innovative learning space’ for the school and community to enjoy. With library facilities, a computer lab and a flexible assembly/learning space, all staff have the ability to utilise a different learning space than just their home classrooms. Also, by hosting community events it allows the school to become a part of community life. Spaces like this can provide a new focal point in the school and shows that even in a traditional school setting, one can introduce flexible, innovative spaces for the whole school to enjoy.
Our selection to the Microsoft: Partners in Learning Project has provided the impetus and avenue to continue to upskill our staff, promoting the use of technology to focus on reflective and continuous improvement in professional practice. Our year-long project has been on improving pedagogy through a coaching model, using Microsoft OneNote to create each teacher’s professional portfolio. Each teacher has self-rated against the criteria outlined in the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership National Professional Standards for Teachers. Teachers have used OneNote to document evidence supporting their ranking. This has provided the content for coaching conversations, professional dialogue, collaborative practice and enquiry based approaches, where learning and teacher development is central. Whilst the project is midway, our goal is to create a sustainable professional culture where teacher learning and development will have a positive and real effect on student learning outcomes.
Sally Winch, Lisa Hirschausen and Lesley Collins
30th August, 2012