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Cloud based learning platform sows seeds of students’ lifelong learning

The need for lifelong learning has never been greater than it is today – but the seeds must be sown early.

Children and young adults are naturally hungry for knowledge – it is the privilege of teachers to quench that thirst without dousing students’ natural curiosity. Rote learning, limited horizons, and dull content can swiftly snuff out student enthusiasm.

An engaging, equitable learning environment harnessing leading edge technology can instead be tailored to meet students’ specific needs, deliver relevant and interesting content and provide a platform that allows them to collaborate with their classmates, creating an optimal learning environment and ensuring an engaged cohort of students.

Smart application of technology also allows learning equity to be achieved; students in remote Gibb River can have access to the same quality teaching as their peers in Perth.

Around 78,000 young students are currently enrolled in the 163 schools. Through its LEADing Lights platform, CEWA is rolling out a cloud based digital ecosystem across the state that will transform student lives and outcomes and ensure more equitable access to best in class learning.

CEWA is also developing a “virtual school” so that students in even the most remote areas can have access to education programs, expertise and experiences.

Aidan McCarthy, CEWA’s head of digital transformation explains, “We always had an aspiration to be a system where all people flourish. Where students and catholicity flourish, teachers – this is all about achieving potential.”

Each student has been equipped with a new email address and password. As their school joins the LEADing Lights platform, this will unlock cloud based access to new learning tools and technologies.

Students can have anytime anywhere access to the platform using nearly any Windows, Mac or iPad device. This gives them instant access to Office 365 and all the productivity tools that delivers along with new capabilities such as Sway – a digital storytelling application.

Optional tools for students include Teams, OneDrive, Class Notebook, OneNote, Outlook, Forms, Stream, Sway, Yammer and Planner. Access to Claned, Minecraft: Education Edition and the Microsoft Imagine Academy is also provided.

Students can access the portal to LEADing Lights from home or in the classroom; check and submit their homework and keep track of assignments, collaborate and communicate with peers, access a rich trove of educational resources and curated content, and create and share their own richly featured reports or blogs.

The Microsoft solution being rolled out is intended as a platform for creativity and learning today, and also establishes a clear path to the future that will allow emerging technologies to be integrated.

Dr Cathy Cavanaugh, head of digital transformation learning at CEWA, said the cognitive services and deep analytics that can be extracted from the system can be harnessed to enhance learning opportunities for students.

At the same time artificial intelligence embedded in Microsoft tools such as Word is already guiding students to achieve their full potential.

“Word is used all the time to create essays. Part of the AI in the back end means that as students are writing reports the text can be analysed and sentiment analysed to inform the teacher. There is AI that reads through the text and identifies – based on data points and markers – the level of literacy for the student.

“As a student you have that data at your hands and you get to choose whether you want to share that data with peers or teachers as part of goal setting process,” he adds.

It is, says Dr Cathy Cavanaugh, an important opportunity for the learning progression that students make as they transition from novice learner to expert learner.

This insight allows students to develop; “Higher level types of thinking as they progress through school. “ The insights from the data meanwhile help CEWA and individual teachers; “Amplify the strategies they are using and rethink how they could work in different ways to make the abstract more concrete for students.”

Dr Cathy Cavanaugh also stressed the importance of the equitable access that the new platform will allow.

“We are able to create fully virtual forms of courses – fully online courses and especially courses for students in remote schools. We are building those right now and are planning to implement them in the new school year.

“The guiding philosophy underlying those courses is not for self-paced learning, isolated learning or independent learning but relationship-centred, teacher-facilitated, collaborative learning so we are designing with that paradigm in mind and technology is allowing that in ways not possible before.”