Ballarat and Clarendon College IT manager, Andrew Stewart, said mobile computers gave students opportunities for independent learning anywhere, any time and helped make the curriculum more relevant to their likely future needs and roles. But teachers gain from having their own machines, too.
“Teachers don’t waste valuable class time moving to and from the computer lab. It’s simply a matter of opening the notebook and getting on with it,” Stewart said.
Over the years, the college’s relationship with Computelec has expanded to include dynamic VLAN and professional development for teachers.
Frankston High School in Victoria also works with Computelec. In 1995, it became the first government school to have an in-classroom laptop program. The school has four computer labs, several ‘pods’ containing 8-10 desktops and about 600 notebooks.
Years 8-10 do notebook classes and some 150 Year 7 students have been assigned Toshiba Portégé tablet PCs.
Frankston’s director of computing, Travis Smith, said the tablet PCs help teachers alter their methods in ways that encourage higher engagement, better attention in class and therefore better learning. Heulab virtual software on the tablets is used for creative writing exercises that can now include computer-generated illustrations or animations.
Maths pupils use Microsoft OneNote to organise information and solve problems. Japanese-language students can practise their Kanji script on screen. Smith also believes the students are learning useful life skills.
“Through our tablet PC program, students are effectively and efficiently learning the survival skills required of employees of the future,” he said. “Every notebook student and all teachers have wireless Internet access as well as a dedicated email address.
“We also offer instant messaging during specific classes. Two separate classrooms can communicate with each other on projects without being in the same room.
“We have created more information in the last 20 years than has been generated over the last 2000 years. We prepare our students to deal with change and how to filter information in this dynamic environment.”
Smith said success in school IT is about using technology to engage interactively with the curriculum.