Learning Goes Digital
St Albans Secondary College faces the challenge of ensuring equitable and meaningful access to digital technologies that drive deep learning, given the risk of the digital divide. Supported by Social Ventures Australia, the school has embarked on an eLearning initiative to integrate technology with teaching and learning, and has achieved significant student outcomes in the first year of the partnership, with 60% bringing their own devices to school to engage in learning, and more students benefitting from increased opportunities for engagement with digital technologies.
St Albans Secondary College is a 7-12 Secondary School in Western Melbourne, Victoria. The school has the equivalent of 128 staff, and a student enrolment of 1116 students, including:
- 54% of students in the bottom quartile of socio-educational advantage
- 85% of students from English as Second Language backgrounds
In 2014, 160 students completed secondary school, of which 92% transitioned to further education or employment, including 61% to university and 25% to TAFE.
St Albans Secondary College, like many schools in disadvantaged communities, faces the challenge of accessing and harnessing digital technologies to drive learning. The school experiences a significant digital divide, exacerbated by the cessation of Federal Government funding for digital devices, which has an adverse impact on education and employment outcomes for students in the Information Age. Equitable and meaningful access to digital technologies is critical to drive deep learning that enriches and extends students; however, achieving this requires a coherent vision for eLearning and adequate infrastructure to support eLearning. It especially necessitates advancing the capabilities of teachers to integrate technologies with the teaching and learning framework.
St Albans Secondary College is using the resources and support from Social Ventures Australia to ensure equitable access to digital technologies for students, and to integrate them into teaching and learning across all subject areas with the support of teachers. This involves creating a clear and comprehensive vision for eLearning, investing in the infrastructure to support a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model and building teacher knowledge and skills in contemporary pedagogies that integrate technology with teaching and learning. It also entails increasing family support by encouraging parents to use an online platform that enables them to track student progress.
Combined with the right pedagogy and used responsibly, digital technologies are critical in driving deep learning. eLearning offers:
- The opportunity for learners to collaborate with teachers and peers and to express themselves and their ideas most effectively
- A vehicle for personalizing learning in ways that ensure each student is fully engaged in learning and is successful in attaining established learning standards
- Opportunities for student choice in the use of multimedia to explore, research, think, synthesize, analyse, evaluate, communicate and express ideas in high quality products
- Opportunities for students to construct ideas, opinions, arguments and evidence-based reasoning collaboratively
- Connections locally and globally that add authenticity to school work, and enable students to learn while pursuing real-world issues and topics of deep interest to them, both individually and collectively, within their communities of interest and beyond
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
Bring your own device (BYOD) refers to a model where students bring any of their own technological devices to school for learning purposes. Recent research shows that this offers numerous benefits compared to school owned devices, including:
- Familiarity, transparency and facility with the device by students
- A seamless bridge between formal and informal learning
- Currency and immediate traction
- Social creation of knowledge
- Cost and sustainability
Accordingly, the school has invested in constructing technological infrastructure to support eLearning, and has used expert consulting services from Marc Blanks, Department of Education and Training Victoria, and pedagogy specialist Jane Pollock from the United States to mentor and coach teachers to integrate technology with the existing instructional approach. This consulting is enabling the school to develop expert coaches in all faculty areas, and to build deep expertise, capacity and sustainability of eLearning approaches at the school.
The school has also established an online platform and that allows parents to access critical information about their child’s learning and progress, and is supporting parents to use this tool effectively to assist their child. Students are therefore gaining access to additional tools for deeper learning, enjoying the benefits of enhanced instruction through digital technologies, and are accessing targeted support at home from parents who are informed of their learning.