Across Australia, there are many Australian schools and teachers demonstrating outstanding leadership and practices who should be celebrated for their expertise. Identifying these practices and effectively sharing that knowledge is a significant strategy to evolve education.
Recently, teachers from across Australia joined the SMART Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) team for a two-day training event hosted by Sheldon College in Queensland, awarded as one of the most innovative schools in Australia in 2017. The college is an outstanding example of careful implementation of technology for learning and innovative practices. It has over 1,400 students, including an Early Learning Centre and the LINQ Precinct where students learn, in industry standard contexts of manufacturing, robotics and 3D printing, the ability to create digital media products at broadcast quality using business entrepreneur practices. Primary students have iPads and the latest SMART Boards in their learning spaces. The college also uses Seesaw to communicate with parents and to share classroom practices and students’ learning outcomes.
As part of the training days, participants were taken on a tour of the college and provided with a demonstration of how virtual reality is used as a way for students to create a range of immersive experiences, such as the virtual museum which features their learning pathway through the college.
The participants were shown all the latest and greatest from SMART, as well as undertaking detailed training for each of the SMART technologies. They were given a global picture of education trends, illustrations of effective use of SMART technologies and technical training to understand all the products and services.
As a part of their training, the teachers and university lecturers were asked to provide a demonstration of using SMART technologies for their assessment. All the participants were outstanding, but two teachers from the college, Anita Fitzpatrick and Rebecca Woolnough, described differentiating learning and using classroom software applications that enabled them to continuously diagnose their students’ learning needs and progress. They provided a detailed presentation of how they had differentiated the curriculum immediately in response to assessing student understanding, and how they had dramatically seen improved learning outcomes using the SMART Learning Suite Online.
Rebecca demonstrated how, as a digital pedagogy coach within the college, she has found the mobility of the SMART Learning Suite Online an enabling tool for working within and across classes. She was able to walk into any classroom and share her units of work with any teacher. A unit of work that she had developed on the subject of time for her students illustrated to her the benefits of the software in linking the learning ecosystem in their classrooms to be able to effectively differentiate the curriculum.
Using SMART Response, Rebecca was able to assess her students’ understanding of digital and analogue time and immediately group them accordingly. Once she had grouped the students, she was able to differentiate the curriculum for them and push different activities to their iPads, which were appropriate for their learning needs. She evaluated the capability of the software and the speed in which she could gather data about her students’ understanding of these concepts as transforming. In terms of the SAMR model, the SMART Learning Suite Online enabled her to transform her practice.
Anita Fitzpatrick described her lesson sequence in the following way. She wanted her students to improve their introductions in their narrative writing. She used the following process with amazing results. Anita found a fun piece of digital content to share on her SMART Board, where story titles could be generated. She organised her students into small groups using the SMART Class Lab software to push content to their iPads. The students worked in three teams, enhancing the quality of their narrative orientations. As they shared these to the SMART Board, the three teams could transparently see how the other teams were using more complex, accurate, descriptive words and quickly applied them or added them to their own sentences, thereby quickly learning from each other.
They had three rotations of this process and Anita said the improvements in their syntax and semantic choices were immediately visible. Using the screenshot function of their iPads, the students then sent their narrative orientations using their Seesaw accounts and shared this work with their parents.
During this group activity, Anita was able to mentor teams, assist with clarification of word meanings and view the rapid development of students’ writing. The speed and efficiency with which this occurred was surprising. In a pen and paper world the same activity would have taken weeks. The students would have laboriously written sentences that she would have had to correct most probably at home and then return for them to rewrite and improve. The time between the assessment and the set task often disconnected the learner from the learning purpose. Anita would also have been the single source for the editing. However, with the digital task, all students were reading the sentences and collaborating to improve the work, thereby understanding how descriptive words were making their introductions richer.
Finally, informing parents of the work the students were doing in a pen and paper world would have also taken far more time.
These examples of highly effective teaching practice illustrate a focus on achievement through learning growth for all students, tailored teaching based on ongoing formative assessment and feedback enabling students to progress to higher levels of achievement whilst engaging parents in their children’s learning.
Sheldon College has created the conditions and culture that give teachers time to collaborate so they better understand how their students are performing and to design together the best way to support student learning. Teachers have time to mentor other teachers and to provide effective feedback to students and parents. With schools like these, Australian students’ futures look bright!
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