The technology behind online learning
The ability for Shire Christian School to respond quickly to the sudden need for remote, online learning was facilitated by an innovative technology program which has been developed over many years.
At the heart of the program is the school’s one-to-one device policy, whereby each student in secondary school is issued with a school managed device. In addition, the school was able to make a Chomebook available to every student in Years 3-6 and provide the option for students in younger years to take an iPad home during this time of remote learning.
Knowing that each student has a dedicated capable device at home has given teachers the confidence to plan lessons that enrich online learning.
Head of ICT at school, Evan Hughes, said that the aim has always been to provide a stable and reliable platform on which the most appropriate ICT tools and software could be used to help teachers and students.
“Our learning platform is now entirely cloud based. We predominantly use Google G suite for Education, Microsoft Office 365 and the Adobe Creative cloud,” said Mr Hughes.
The school is in its final year of a transition to Chromebooks, a move which has benefited many in recent weeks.
“As we have transitioned to cloud based applications over the past few years, the laptops that we use were able to be more lightweight, browser based devices called Chromebooks,” said Mr Hughes.
“There are many benefits to that change. The Chromebooks are quick to boot up, have touch screens for interaction, they are easy to manage and update remotely, they reduce parent’s fees and it’s easy to keep students online if their device has any issues. To replace a student's Chromebook if there is a problem, we can log them in on a new device and have them ready to go in a matter of minutes. Previously this process could have taken a couple of hours and that would be time where the student didn’t have access to their device. With students highly dependent on their device at the present time, this has been a great advantage for Shire Christian School.”
The recent transition to Family Zone for internet filtering was also a timely improvement which gave parents granular control of their children’s internet usage, after school hours.
“We have empowered parents to better manage their children’s use of technology at home through the Family Zone Mobile Zone solution. Parent’s can work with their children individually if they choose, to best manage their internet use in a safe way,” said Mr Hughes.
While Shire Christian has been acknowledged as being at the forefront of the transition to online learning, one of the recognised limitations of the program has been the speed of home internet for some families. Although teachers have developed strategies to provide different solutions, when students return to the classroom in the coming weeks they will appreciate the school’s connection to the Australian Academic Research Network (AARNet), which provides internet speeds of up to 1000Mbps, more than 40 times that of an average NBN connection (25Mbps).
Remote online learning has been necessary recently, however the school continues to strive to use technology only where it usefully supports face-to-face learning, recognising that relationships are at the heart of the Shire Christian School learning community.