School champions laptop learning

The RBSC Champions Paula Morris (Maths) Heidi Metson (HSIE) Ry Clarke (Science) and Nikki McDonald (TAS).

A unique student orientation program for Digital Education Revolution (DER) laptops has proved so popular it has sparked an expansion in teacher professional learning.

Teachers at Rose Bay Secondary College decided their school's Year 9/10 student program was so good they wanted something similar. They got it, the word spread and this year it opened up to teachers from other schools.

So far, teachers from Macintyre and Marsden high schools have participated.

Rose Bay Secondary principal Jim Linton said his school had an "open-door policy for providing collegial support to teachers from other schools".

 "I believe that this sharing and collaboration is one of the best qualities of public education, with benefits for teachers and students," he said.

Rose Bay Secondary was granted lighthouse school status in the first year of the laptop roll-out with the then deputy principal, Denise Lofts, leading the project.

Mr Linton said a number of students were given a laptop ahead of the rollout and asked to research how they would like to learn using this technology.

The students demonstrated their findings at a staff meeting, attended by Sydney region DER and technology consultants, which he described as "an eye opener for teachers".

He said Ms Lofts then identified a core group of teachers who developed their own personal expertise and devised programs for students in their classes. These "champions" were to become mentors for other staff.

They devised the one-day Laptops 4 Learning (L4L) student program that introduced the software and a range of Web 2.0 online tools and included the students completing an authentic assessment task from the Human Society and Its Environment (HSIE) curriculum.

Ms Lofts, principal at Marsden High School since the start of this year and the prime mover in the expansion of the L4L program to teachers, said: "The skills that the students brought back to the classroom encouraged other teachers to want to know and understand the focus that the students had experienced.

"Knowing the skills that were being given to the students, the idea of a professional learning activity which was hands on, practical and authentic was the perfect combination for teacher learning."

She said the visiting teachers learned alongside the students with mentor teachers leading the group through the activities.

"The positive qualities of this program are that it builds density in the skills of the students and the staff. The learning experiences are explicit and authentic which are transferable across the curriculum," she said.

According to Macintyre High principal Lindsay Paul, it was "great to sit in on actual lessons with the students, and the rich task that the students worked on during the day gave the training added meaning and relevance for them".

He said he and his team had "gained many insights and ideas" and they wanted to involve their teachers in trialling a similar program in the coming weeks.

Photo: the RBSC "Champions" from L to R Paula Morris (Maths) Heidi Metson (HSIE) Ry Clarke (Science) and Nikki McDonald (TAS). Photo by Maria Alonzo.

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