Gungahlin College is a government senior secondary college in the ACT catering to students in years 10, 11 and 12. In the ACT, students earn their Year 12 certificate by undertaking ongoing assessment across their final years of schooling, completing semester-length units across a wide variety of possible subjects and courses. This approach has great potential to provide students with extensive opportunities for personalization, but what schools offer is highly dependent on the staffing and structure of each school.
To provide the greatest flexibility for students studying Information Technology, this year the IT staff have changed the way course material is prepared, delivered and assessed, taking advantage of the technology available. Rather than restricting student subject choice based on timetable lines, teacher availability and class numbers, students find a space on the timetable where they can fit IT in and they attend class during those times.
The teaching space is set up with 4 large screen HDTVs on movable trolleys, a portable whiteboard and desks set up in pods that seat 5-6 students. All of the TVs are capable of wireless projection via Android, Windows, OS X and iOS using the Mircast, WiDi and AirPlay protocols, installed through Play2TV and AppleTV. Access to wireless projection is open to all students, so at any time they can project their displays on to one of the screens, or use it as an extended desktop for activities where the additional screen real estate is beneficial. The cost of this setup is less than the installation of a single Interactive Whiteboard, and provides infinitely more possibilities for sharing and collaboration.
To access content, students log in to Schoology (our chosen LMS) where all IT units are presented within a single course view. Students can access the material from any of the five units available, and can communicate, collaborate and assist any other student studying IT, regardless of the unit they are enrolled in. Content is delivered through videos, teacher-developed quizzes and resource pages, links to Internet resources and start code and template files. Assessment items are pushed to students with clear due dates and assessment rubrics, and all work is submitted through the system and aligned with Vocational Certification criteria allowing students to demonstrate competence against Certificate II and III, as well as the ACT curriculum.
We have also engaged experts and industry tutors that interact with our students online through video conferencing and forums, providing real-time access to practicing professionals in a range of IT disciplines and contexts.
The teacher’s role is one of facilitation, inquiry and motivation – students use class time to seek out assistance from all three teachers, each with expertise in different areas. They have the opportunity to build relationships with each one of us, and take advantage of our natural teaching styles and strengths. It also allows for a lot of team teaching and teacher collaboration – it is often the case that more than one teacher is present during class, and this means students get ample access to teacher assistance.
The flexibility and choice offered to students has meant our enrolments in IT classes are larger than they have ever been – every student who wanted to study IT has been able to fit it into their timetable, and our total enrolment for Years 11 and 12 is 154 students. Students have adjusted to the change very well, and the approach instills in them greater independence and encourages more peer collaboration and shared learning. The teacher is no longer the first place they go for help, and most students will now attempt class work alongside others, working together to build a shared understanding of the required material.
To gather ongoing data that will assist us in evolving our teaching methods to meet the needs of a changing student body, we are engaged in a student voice project that consults with students to gather information about their perceptions and ideals regarding the learning environment. The results of this project will be used to further refine our curriculum delivery.
We are excited about the many opportunities this approach provides for students to learn and access and exciting and rigorous curriculum, and the rich, collegial professional learning opportunities this provides for staff. This approach would not be possible without the technology-rich environment we have created within our teaching spaces, and as new technology offers even greater flexibility and student empowerment in education, staff at Gungahlin College continue to seek out new ways of leveraging it to enhance the learning experiences of our students.
Director of Learning Technologies
Bruce has over 10 years experience in ACT Government Schools and is a leading ICT educator. He is an Apple Distinguished Educator, Google Certified Teacher and President of Information Technology Educators ACT. He was an adviser and writer of the Australian Curriculum: Technologies and is active online through most social networks. You can connect with Bruce by visiting his website – http://fuda.me/