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Microsoft Pty Ltd ICT Scholarship by Knb7h4

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									Microsoft Pty Ltd ICT Scholarship

2006




           STUDY TOUR REPORT


       It is not the strongest of the species that survive,
                      nor the most intelligent
             but the one most responsive to change.

                                     attributed to Charles Darwin




John Willing
Principal, Forbes Public School




Sponsored by
Contents


Preamble                                                  Page 3


Focus of the Study                                        Page 3


The Study Tour
             Overview                                     Page 3


Observations                                              Page 4

             Engagement - Interactive White Boards        Page 4
             Engagement - Lap tops                        Page 5
             Engagement - Innovation                      Page 7
             Engagement – Alternative Classrooms          Page 8
             Engagement – Teacher Professional Learning   Page 10
             Additional                                   Page 11
Reflection                                                Page 12

Conclusion and Recommendations                            Page 13

Acknowledgements                                          Page 15
Preamble

In 2006 I was selected as the recipient of the Microsoft Pty Ltd Information and
Communication Technologies Scholarship. This was in recognition of work done at
Forbes Public School in integrating Information and Communication Technologies.
Specifically, interactive whiteboard technology was integrated into classrooms in the
Forbes Learning Community – a group of schools which includes Forbes Public
School, Forbes North Public School, Forbes High School, Eugowra Public School,
Corinella Public School and Bedgerabong Public School.



Focus of the Study

In developing the focus of my study program I was particularly interested in the
strengthening of learning outcomes for students in isolated schools through
technology, specifically interactive technology. The proposal was:

          to visit a range of educational institutions to view and interact with initiatives in
           interactive technology
          to visit and interact with Missouri University’s ‘eMINTS’1 initiative
          to visit and interact with schools using interactive technology
          to report to schools in Western NSW on initiatives observed and
          to implement where appropriate the initiatives I observed.

In addition, I was also interested in investigating how the educational systems of
other countries were responding to students who were actively disengaging from
their learning.

In developing the proposed study tour I was influenced by discussions with Ms
Carole McDiarmid, Regional Director, Western NSW, about her recent tour of
Canada and the USA. I was conscious that the study tour and its ramifications may
reinforce the work being done in Western NSW through ‘iTeach21’ and through
initiatives in the Forbes Learning Community of schools in interactive technology
(Smart Boards) and Quality Teaching.


The Study Tour – Overview

The study tour covered Canada and the USA, visiting the province of Alberta and the
states of Missouri and Washington. During the tour I visited a large number of both
Catholic and Public schools: elementary, junior and senior high schools, including
alternative high schools, innovative learning centres, School Board and School
District offices, universities and an Adolescent Recovery Centre. In addition I visited


1
    eMINTS: enhancing Missouri's Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies
the Microsoft Research Centre in Redmond and SMART Technologies Inc offices in
Calgary.

I met a wide range of teachers, principals, consultants, specialists, directors,
university academics, superintendents, curriculum coordinators and business
managers.


Observations

The concept of connectedness implies lesson activities that rely on the application of
school knowledge to real-life contexts or problems. This is no more obvious than the
implementation of interactive white board technology in classrooms. At Forbes Public
School in NSW, as in many schools in Western NSW, interactive whiteboards are
now a common teaching tool.

In both Catholic and Public Schools in Alberta, Canada and in Missouri, USA,
Smartboards were the dominant technology. In every classroom visited, Smartboards
were not only evident but were an integral component of the pedagogy. Interestingly
their introduction into schools was done in response to teacher requests. Usually
interactive whiteboards were trialed and introduced with an expected commitment by
staff. In some District schools this was usually understood to be a commitment by
staff to add a minimum of 5 interactive lessons using SMART technology onto the
school’s intranet. One teacher observed had put 25 lessons on the intranet over 6
months.

Engagement - Interactive White Boards

                                                       In St.Patrick’s Catholic School,
                                                       Red Deer, Alberta, teachers are
                                                       encouraged, usually in the school
                                                       holidays, to upgrade their SMART
                                                       qualifications. Courses are run by
                                                       SMART staff with built in levels of
                                                       attainment. This is a whole school
                                                       partnership with concurrent
                                                       release days for teachers who
                                                       develop action-research type
                                                       initiatives linked to both whole
                                                       school and Board generated
                                                       focuses. For example, several
                                                       schools have gone to the next step
SENTEO units and interactive whiteboard in Red Deer,   and have provided laptop
Alberta                                                computers for students. This is an
                                                       action-research model resourced
and is supported by the District.

Classes are encouraged through an action research model to extend the use of their
interactive whiteboard technology. For example in St Thomas’ School in Red Deer,
teacher Jonas Marchinko, with a junior secondary class was experimenting with hand
held SENTEO2 units in both summative and formative assessments.

Teachers from Red Deer were also using Bridgit conferencing software in literacy
programs connecting junior secondary and elementary classes as an element of their
school transition program.

                                                                                Smartboards had
                                                                                replaced chalkboards
                                                                                in classes. In fact it was
                                                                                recommended teachers
                                                                                did so as the chalk dust
                                                                                not only shortened the
                                                                                life of projector bulbs
                                                                                but allergies related to
                                                                                chalk dust were being
                                                                                minimized. All boards
                                                                                were fixed, with
                                                                                projectors being either
                                                                                ceiling mounted or in
                                                                                one case a short-throw
                                                                                mounted projector was
                                                                                in use.

         ‘Bridgit’ software and IWB in Red Deer, Alberta
Despite the presence of visitors in the classrooms, all students were evidently
engaged in lessons and responding with enthusiasm. Teachers were overwhelming
in their praise of interactive whiteboards in their classroom. One teacher was even
using the board for the administrative task of roll marking. This had the added
advantage of allowing students coming into class a ‘settling down’ period whilst
touching the board.

                   Several schools in both Canada and the United States had gone one
                   step further by providing opportunities for their students to interact
                   beyond the classroom by using laptops for research and presentation.



Student Engagement - Lap tops

At the University Elementary School, in Calgary, Canada, Principal Brant Parker had
brokered the purchase of 90 laptops for use in Stage 3 (Years 5 and 6). The
University Elementary School is a K-6 Public School with a fine arts focus, where
60% of students come from a non-English speaking background and where there are
some issues related to low socio-economic status.



2
    SENTEO units – an interactive response system used to gauge student understanding
                                                                    This project, costing
                                                                    AU$150 000, included
                                                                    the purchase of both
                                                                    individual student and
                                                                    teacher laptops
                                                                    (teacher laptops were
                                                                    slightly upgraded with
                                                                    DVD burners), IT
                                                                    support, storage and
                                                                    charging units and
                                                                    wireless access points
                                                                    in classrooms.

                                                                    The aim of the project
                                                                    was ‘…to improve
                                                                    student engagement in
                                                                    their learning, align
 Laptops in use with students at the University Elementary School   teaching and learning
                                                                    with 21st century living
and to lift teacher skills.’

Initially the plan was to let students take laptop computers home. However this was
not pursued as it was envisaged that students may possibly become a target if they
were carrying the computers. Teachers were issued with the laptops several weeks
prior to students, thus allowing intensive training prior to student issue. Students
were advised how fortunate they were to receive the hardware and in over 12 months
no laptop has been deliberately damaged or stolen. Students were observed actively
engaged in their learning. I observed several classes of individuals using laptops,
working in groups with laptops and presenting assignments for in-class peer and
teacher assessment. I saw a special education class using individual laptops and
spoke to several teachers who enthusiastically maintained that the use of laptops
had not only changed their teaching, but that student results were better than ever
before.

The question that arises of course, is whether educational leaders feel that the
implementation of interactive whiteboards and the laptop project has had a positive
effect on State Test Scores. The answer when the question was put was
overwhelmingly “Yes”!


Engagement - Innovation
I visited the Calgary Board of Education. The Board’s vision regarding desirable
outcomes for students is focused on a broader view, one of improvement for all
schools in its catchment.

The Calgary Board Of Education seems very forward thinking in its desire to ensure
that its exit outcomes are achieved. Under the inspiring leadership of Director Ms
Cathy Faber, the Innovative Learning Services – Manning Centre has been
established. The Centre’s role and responsibilities are only limited by the imagination
of the ‘specialists’ who run it.

Innovative Learning Services is a service department within the Calgary Board
of Education. It brings support and opportunity to 21st century teaching and learning
through digital, educational technologies. Under the banner of a quest for innovation,
a considerable staff promotes innovative action research projects that connect
educators and staff throughout the Board and around the world to best practices,
resources and collegial support.

I saw and discussed a range of collaborative partnerships between schools and
District staff within the Calgary Board of Education and communities external to the
Board that aimed to:

        increase access to learning opportunities through instruction, support and
         toolsets
        adapt teaching to different learning styles, preferences and paces
        customize and personalize learning materials and services
        provide access to interactive educational resources
        develop new learning communities for the sharing and acquisition of
         knowledge and
        enhance and expand assessment and evaluative measures of student
         learning.

Projects were expansive, but included:

     development of video-conferencing facilities
     wireless technology projects
     teacher and student laptop programs
     Responsible Citizenship Through Safety Education programs
     Inpatient Educational Support
     an extensive array of on - line learning courses called CBe-learn for junior and
      senior high school students
     assistive technology programs for students with special education needs
     sponsoring and brokering initiatives in information technology in schools
     teacher training programs and more.

It was noted that the student and staff email facilities were not nearly as sophisticated
as the NSW Department of Education and Training’s Portal program, nor were the
digital curriculum resources anywhere near the standard of the Teaching and
Learning Exchange. However the focus on innovation, action research and the desire
to promote students as good local as well as national and international citizens was
to be commended.

As the Director of the Innovative Learning Services initiative, Cathy Faber said:

        Education is undergoing a paradigm shift on a scale not seen since the
        Renaissance and the invention of the printing press. We are in the midst
        of seeing education transform from a book-based system to an internet-
      based system with profound implications for every aspect of teaching
      and learning.


Engagement – Alternative Classrooms

Both in Calgary and in nearby Medicine Hat I observed a preparedness by
educational systems to respond flexibly particularly in meeting the educational needs
of students with challenging behaviours. In Calgary I visited the Alternative High
School for senior high school students.

John Fischer is Principal of Alternative High School, established by the Calgary
Board. The school caters for 120 students who for a variety of reasons seek
alternative high school placement.

Enrolment in Alternative High School is seen as a privilege. Students with severe
disabilities requiring special support, students exhibiting violent behaviours and
students involved in taking, passing on or selling drugs may be refused enrolment
(60% of the students enrolled are ‘coded’ as students with special needs and 10%
are diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). Enrolment is through
application, interview and apprenticeship.

Physical or verbal abuse results in automatic suspension. Alternative High School is
very rigorous in the application of appropriate behaviour targets, dress and
attendance. Students are encouraged to be independent, generous and masterful.
Alternative High School with its 1:10 teacher student ratio and its associated campus
– the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre (AARC) focus on supporting young people
at risk.

Students at Alternative High School are allowed to negotiate the mode of delivery of
learning programs. Options include on-line learning, formal classroom learning and/or
attendance at neighbouring schools. However the basic core curriculum is
mandatory.

I was fortunate to visit the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre. The Centre is a long-
term treatment program for adolescents with chemically dependency between the
ages of 12 and 21 years, and for their families. The Centre, under the Principalship of
John Fischer, is a remarkable initiative of the Calgary Board Of Education and as one
of the students I spoke to said:

             “If I had not been at AARC, I would be insane, in jail or dead”


In Medicine Hat I visited an outstanding joint senior high school facility. In terms of its
resources, the facility was fantastic. Notre Dame School with a fine arts/ PE focus
was built and is maintained by a partnership involving the Public School Board,
Catholic School Regional Division, Medicine Hat Town Council and the YMCA.
Resources include extensive gym areas, internal running tracks and state of the art
IT and television facilities.
Although I was not able to investigate the program, The Calgary Board of Education
had initiated some rigorous approaches to student welfare and discipline including
commonly recognized and espoused system-wide visions and student behaviour
expectations. These included a level system of suspension and withdrawal of
students from school classrooms. Initiatives such as tutorial learning centres in shop
fronts and on-line learning were some of the strategies being used.

It was recognised in Alberta that it wasn’t enough to supply resources to schools and
then expect the schools to respond to the challenging behaviours of students. The
School Board, along with educators, were seeking reasons for the behaviours and
responding systemically with alternative schools, different modes of delivery, a
recognition of 21st century learning styles and the need to train teachers.



Engagement – Teacher Professional Learning

Stating that the paradigm shift is underway is not in itself enough to ensure that
student learning outcomes are maximized. It is essential that teachers examine their
own existing pedagogy and transform this to complement the paradigm shift.

In the United States, I witnessed the eMINTS program in Missouri responding to this
challenge in an exciting manner.

The eMINTS National Centre is a non-profit, independent business unit of the
University of Missouri. The Director of the eMINTS Centre is Dr. Monica Beglau, a
dynamic educator who is committed to changing how teachers teach and students
learn. eMINTS offers professional development programs created by educators for
educators. Leading experts have collaborated to produce programs that:

      inspire educators to use instructional strategies powered by technology
      engage students in the excitement of learning
      enrich teaching to dramatically improve student performance.

eMINTS began in Missouri - its name is an acronym for the project enhancing
Missouri's Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies. eMINTS is present in
more than 250 classrooms with over 8 000 students in Grades 3–12 across the
United States. It is a demanding program for teachers, requiring between 80 and 200
contact hours of professional development training over two years, depending on the
program. The program includes visits by trainers as well as a series of specific
training courses.

In addition, eMINTS classrooms require high levels of technology for students and
teachers including:

      computers (at least one computer for every two students at Grades 3-12)
      teacher laptop computer
      SMART Board (interactive whiteboard) and projector
      peripherals: printer, camera, scanner
      software limited to Microsoft Office and other software that helps students
       organize notes, writing and multimedia projects.

It was noted that the project is only designed for students from Grade 3 upwards.

eMINTS instructional strategies focus on:

      inquiry-based teaching that engages students in real-world projects and
       research
      higher order thinking skills and
      cooperative learning.

Modules of study in the first year of the program include cooperative learning, the
theory of constructivism and how it may look in the classroom, finding and organizing
Internet resources, interactive whiteboards, questioning strategies, effective use of
productivity tools, inquiry based learning, planning and developing websites, web
quests, creating and editing digital images, assessment and other related matters.

Assisting teachers to review their existing pedagogies and change them in the face of
21st century learning requires considerable commitment and resources on the part of
individual teachers and the school administrators who support them.
Additional
One aspect of my study tour was to investigate the concept of isolated small schools
and alternative digital delivery of learning packages.

This was not explored in any depth as discussion in all states and provinces
indicated that the environment was entirely different to that in NSW. Isolated schools
were those usually only two hours away from neighbouring schools and small
schools were those with no less than 100 students enrolled.

My visit to the Microsoft Research Facility at Redmond was of value. A Microsoft
software administration package was presented to me. The package, entitled
Microsoft Learning Gateway certainly has promise for schools and I will be
investigating this further.


Reflection

This study tour was designed to look principally at enhancing student engagement
through the use of Information and Communication Technologies. A side issue was
to look at the ways schools were responding to a range of challenging student
behaviours. Whilst looking at schools and school support structures, I realised that
the two issues were not separate but in essence were about the same thing: the
challenge of engaging students in our classrooms in positive learning experiences.


Over a period of 15 years as a school principal I have been aware of a growing
concern among educators about two issues affecting our schools and the desire to
maximize learning outcomes for students.

The first of these issues is the gradual ‘turning off’ of our students from mainstream
learning. Students who enter school in kindergarten bright eyed and full of
enthusiasm for learning seem, in Year 3, to progressively disconnect from the
teaching/ learning process. In many classrooms, despite much wonderful teaching, it
is possible to see glassy eyed students who sit and wait for their teachers to ‘pour’
learning into them. These disconnected students are often our best students and by
the time they reach high school, they often choose to passively disengage from
school, frustrating themselves, their teachers and their families.

The second issue and the one more seriously impacting on our classrooms, is the
small number of students who disconnect but do so in an ‘active’ rather than a
passive manner. It should be noted that many of these students have a recognised
disability and/or a personal and family background which is not supportive of school
and education.

These students are not necessarily those of whom I speak but can form part of that
cohort. Unfortunately for educators, the “80:20 rule” sometimes applies with a
disproportional amount of resources (80%) being used to deal with a small number of
students (20%) who exhibit a range of challenging behaviours. At times, there seems
to be no end in sight to this issue and no apparent solution.
My view is that the apparent disengagement from learning seems not necessarily to
be the result of the capacity of learners or the provision of resources. It relates more
to students’ interaction with teaching methodology and the curriculum. The most
successful models of active learning observed in all my visits on the study tour were
those based on flexible responses in a rapidly changing world.

The idea that teaching styles need to change to match students’ learning styles and
cultural context is not a new one. The NSW Quality Teaching statement stresses
that:

… pedagogy that promotes intellectual quality and produces a quality learning
environment also requires some means by which teachers link the work of their
students to personal, social and cultural contexts outside of their classroom’
                                       Quality Teaching in NSW Public Schools, 2003

In essence, if we want to improve learning outcomes for students we must change
our pedagogy to respond to 21st Century students who are:

   •   open and accepting of inclusion and diversity
   •   curious and willing to experiment
   •   capable of thinking and investigating
   •   often fiercely independent, self-reliant and assertive
   •   prepared for learning anytime, anywhere rather than simply during the school
       day
   •   discovery learners who want fun, customized, hands-on learning
   •   multi-taskers, capable of focusing on several tasks at one time
   •   extensive users of technology
   •   on track to become even more adaptable and responsive than they are today
       through:
           – multiple careers and
           – multiple opportunities to learn and re-learn
   •   from a range of family situations including
           – families in which there are single parents and blended families
           – families where both parents may be working outside the home
   •   from a range of cultures, traditions and languages
   •   experiencing a range of health and social issues including:-
           – poverty which impacts on
                  • success in school and
                  • overall health
           – youth crime
           – smoking
           – alcohol and illegal drug abuse
           – special needs
           – levels of physical activity
                                                SMART Technologies, Sao Paulo, 2006


The response of both the Calgary Board of Education and Columbia University’s
eMINTS program is to meet both of these challenges with a range of flexible and
supportive initiatives embracing best practice through IT and alternative learning
models.


Conclusion and Recommendations

The quotation attributed to Charles Darwin on the title page reflects the theme of this
report.

       It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent
                          but the one most responsive to change

As a result of this study tour I am convinced that the pivotal issue facing our schools
at present is one of declining student engagement. This student disengagement is
manifesting itself both in ‘passive’ and ‘active’ modes and schools will need to
respond to these changes or we will continue to not only lose our students but will
discover that those that remain will continue to reduce the effectiveness of our
classrooms.

From my observations I believe educators in NSW need to respond to this challenge
by:

   1. proactively encouraging the development of alternative modes of teaching,
      specifically digitally based instruction
   2. resourcing both hardware initiatives and extensive training opportunities for
      teachers and schools
   3. actively encouraging action-research models in digital learning at state,
      regional and school levels and
   4. encouraging flexible models of response to challenging student behaviours
      including a recognition of the place of alternative schools, classrooms and
      modes of learning delivery in our system.

As Principal of Forbes Public School I intend to strengthen the school’s use of
Information Technology particularly in the effective use of Interactive Whiteboards
and the initiation of a trial teacher/ student laptop project in 2008. This project will
include the provision of lap top computers for each student in Stage 3 as well as
teacher laptops, wireless access and charging trolleys to be introduced over two
years at a cost of approximately $120 000.

Secondly I will encourage teachers involved in the laptop trial at Forbes Public
School to participate in a training and development package based on the eMINTS
program. Should this not be possible then another model which allows for a similar
depth of training will need to be sourced.

Finally, through alternative avenues, I will work towards recognition of the need to
respond to our most challenging students and their behaviours through alternative
and flexible models.
Acknowledgements

In conclusion I wish to formally express my appreciation to

      Microsoft Pty Ltd and their representative, Mr Greg Butler for their most
       generous support of the scholarship program;

      the NSW Department of Education and Training, especially the Awards and
       Recognition Unit, specifically Mr Graham Shaw; Ms Carole McDiarmid,
       Regional Director, Western NSW, Ms Ann-Marie Furney and Mr Dennis
       Armstrong, School Education Directors, Western NSW Region; Mr Darren
       Hope, IT consultant, TAFE NSW – Western Institute and

      all those officers and colleagues both in Australia and overseas who made this
       wonderful learning opportunity possible.

John Willing

								
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