In 2011, St Peter’s College embarked on a whole-of-school digital transformation that included personalised Apple devices for all educators and the entire student cohort.
A commitment to specifically designed professional learning has ensured success by empowering teachers and engaging students.
St Peter’s College, Adelaide, is uncompromising in its determination to be at the forefront of boys’ education. It is a highly ranked Independent, Anglican day and boarding school for 1,250 students from the Early Learning Centre to Year 12. It is also a member of the global G20 Schools association that fosters pedagogical excellence and innovation.
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Walter Barbieri, Director of eLearning at St Peter’s College, describes the school’s pre-2011 technology as being a “scarce and precious commodity”. When the school subsequently embarked on a digital transformation, its path was detailed in a comprehensive, multi-layered strategic plan – covering teaching and learning as well as administrative processes. It was championed from the top to ensure not only the vision was correct but that it would be implemented. He says there are no short cuts to doing it well.
Within the plan was the introduction of personalised Apple devices, in a phased rollout to teachers and students in all years. Key to its success is that teachers participate in ongoing, targeted Professional Learning. This program improves their digital confidence and trains them in designing technology-rich pedagogies. To help develop the 21st century skills the boys will need, these activities promote higher order critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration.
In addition to the Professional Learning, the strategy was also to manage the continuing procurement and maintenance of the school’s fleet of iPads and Macs. St Peter’s technology partner needed the specific expertise and service offering to contribute positively to this ‘education first’ approach.
CompNow brought its matched pedagogy and technology expertise to the table. Its Learning & Professional Development design, implementation and managed services are now embedded in St Peter’s successful 1:1 Junior School iPad Program. This consulting service reviews the course and assessment proposals, resource creation and delivery of every curriculum unit – always asking the question: “can the iPad improve what we’re doing?”.
The Professional Learning model within the project sees CompNow working with teachers, through individual, learning teams and in-class support, to aid their confident use of technology and the design of authentic learning activities that promote 21st Century pedagogies. And it is further facilitating the optimisation of St Peter’s digital strategy with broader ICT related services such as technical support, on-site repairs of Apple devices, management of devices, device insurance and an iPad buy-back program.
Around 1000 new devices are to be delivered as St Peter’s and CompNow prepare for the start of the 2018 school year. From there, a fully trained, onsite CompNow IT assistant will log any lost devices, assess damage, and undertake the necessary fixes.
CompNow has been “very flexible and accommodating in the way they’ve set up and managed our online procurement store through which parents purchase devices,” Walter says. All repairs are done quickly and well, and importantly, CompNow’s communications with the school and parents are “effective, accurate and courteous”.
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Walter says CompNow has been the source of some novel ideas for incorporating technology into the curriculum: “They were instrumental in our introduction of Minecraft Education Edition – a controlled and safe environment – to create an ancient civilisation in the study of history. Student teams displayed their creations of historically authentic Mesopotamian cities to the class through virtual reality presentations. We also have robotic spheros which students control through code they develop on their iPads. And the design and development of models which are then 3D printed and put to the test in reality.
“These tools are exciting, but it still comes back to being inspired by the teacher – and our ongoing commitment to investing in Professional Learning. The CompNow consultant is involved at every step, working side by side with our teachers in the classroom, observing and debriefing them to help build their proficiency and creativity. This service is meaningful, often challenging and effective,” Walter says.
What Walter has learnt is how difficult it is to achieve consistent, high quality outcomes: “It takes prolonged work to understand where you’re heading and how to get there. You can’t just introduce tech and expect it to work. You need serious professional development to bring out the best in every teacher and their use of technology for learning. It’s been a lot of effort by Saints and CompNow, but across our campus, everyone is now using their device purposefully, and many, very creatively.”