Collaborating for a brighter future at Quakers Hill Public School

By Bert Lo Campo, Principal, Quakers Hill Public School

Here at Quakers Hill Public School, the mantra, ‘Imagine, Believe and Create,’ is our guiding principle for learning, our aspiration for teaching, and I’d like to think something that permeates the corridors, classrooms and keen young minds of all our students.

Today, more than ever, this philosophy has technology at its core.

Based in Blacktown in Sydney’s West, Quakers Hill is a truly multicultural school with students from a range of ethnic and economic backgrounds. While we recognise the importance of celebrating this diversity, we do face the challenge in that for more than half of our students, English is their second language.

I’ve been with the school for five years now, but for over 100, Quakers Hill Public School has strived to ensure each student is on a level playing-field. For us, this begins with good literacy.

In a world where communication is key, we’ve recognised that the combination of improved literacy rates and technology skills will ensure that our students are prepared for the future. To achieve our goals around improved literacy across the board, we introduced Office 365 into the curriculum a few years ago, and since then, we haven’t looked back.

To date, we’ve seen a significant improvement in student literacy, and looking at data from last year’s NAPLAN assessment, our Year 3 and 5 students delivered our best ever results for reading and writing. Compared to the NSW state average, there was a dramatic increase in those scoring in the top bands for reading and writing – something we’re extremely proud of.

“In a world where communication is key, we’ve recognised that the combination of improved literacy rates and technology skills will ensure that our students are prepared for the future.”

Whether it’s fostering our long-term vision to guide students towards STEM-centric careers, or our commitment to integrating technology and e-learning in everything we do, our staff share a common enthusiasm for the capacity of technology to help drive real academic results. And we’re seeing the fruits of this every day.

Today, as I move from room to room, I’m astounded at how collaborative our students have become simply by using Office 365. They’re working together in real-time on documents hosted in OneDrive, using OneNote Class Notebook creator for lessons, and providing feedback on work directly through Word. The power of collaboration means our students are no longer just learning from teachers but also from each other.

In a school of 35 classes, it’s hard for everybody to come together and meet face-to-face to develop skills, share experiences and discuss issues. By using Office 365, our staff can effectively and efficiently collaborate with all year groups.

Since Office 365 is device-agnostic, we can cater for a range of student and staff devices and still ensure everyone has a consistent experience. This was key to the success of our BYOD implementation as it allows our students to choose from a huge range of devices across various budget brackets.

“I’m astounded at how collaborative our students have become simply by using Office 365. They’re working together in real-time on documents hosted in OneDrive, using OneNote Class Notebook creator for lessons, and providing feedback on work directly through Word.”

We believe that each and every one of our students is unique in his or her strengths and challenges, and it’s our job to tailor learning to their needs. A really innovative example of this was when one of our teachers recognised kindergarten students were too young to sort through emails and find documents, so she introduced QR codes to help.

By printing barcodes and placing them on the classroom walls, students can scan using their devices and be directed straight into an application – whether it’s Word, PowerPoint, Sway or OneNote.

Giving students the ability to immediately access these apps, means we maximise the time spent on learning. This inspiration from one teacher has now meant that QR codes are used across the school, and we’re placing these throughout the corridors so that students can access the appropriate Office tools instantaneously and retrieve the information they need on demand. It’s a great feeling also to know that our kids know more about QR codes than the average adult!

“By printing barcodes and placing them on the classroom walls, students can scan using their devices and be directed straight into an application – whether it’s Word, PowerPoint, Sway or OneNote.”

At Quakers Hill we’re continuing to innovate when it comes to collaboration by connecting our teachers and students through Skype. Using Office 365 as the glue, students can now share their stories, celebrate birthdays, and most importantly develop critical language skills through video conferencing and then collate their feedback on OneDrive.

Looking to the future, we’re also considering how we can introduce other apps, like SharePoint and Yammer to take collaboration one step further.

Like most other schools, we’re committed to continuous self-improvement and evaluation so our students remain at the cutting edge of education and learning. There will no doubt be challenges along the way, especially with the budget constraints of a public school, but all of us at Quakers Hill have our eyes set firmly on the horizon to ensure that our students are getting the most out of their learning environment.

We’re excited by what’s next in e-learning, but even more so excited by the spontaneity and innovation our students are already demonstrating.

A future master inventor from Quakers Hill Public School? I’ll bet on that.

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