Killarney Heights Public School is a successful, growing public school situated between a high school and a pre-school, thus creating a community educational precinct in this leafy northern suburb of Sydney. The school has 500 students and almost 40 staff, including eight teachers of French working in the English/French bilingual program. Currently 50% of students come from bilingual backgrounds, representing more than twenty languages.
Killarney Heights Public School’s vision statement emphasizes a relevant and challenging curriculum learnt in an exciting and stimulating environment. The principal, Jessica Wiltshire, is excited by the potential information technology presents for students and staff. She firmly believes that technology must be integrated across the school to support skill development in all forms of learning. Her teachers are committed to quality learning where individual differences are catered for. A student supported this idea by stating that:
“Our school provides a lot of opportunities for everyone to participate in and enjoy learning”.
At Killarney Heights, computer laboratories are not seen as the most effective way to support the young learners’ needs. Apart from one class sized library pod computers are distributed across classrooms so that individuals or small groups can use them in rotation during lessons. Jessica Wiltshire and her school community believe this ensures access and equity for all students from kindergarten to year six and enables them to become confident and capable technology users.
In 2005 the principal saw that whilst interested in using technology many staff had varied skills and some lacked the confidence to try new things. Together with the staff, she felt the Intel® Teach Essentials Course would be a positive whole school professional learning activity to address this need. Fortunately at the same time, Juli Marshall, an experienced classroom teacher, was looking for a professional challenge and she undertook the five day Master Trainer Essentials Course and since then has successfully trained more than half of her school colleagues. So successful has the Intel Teach Essentials Course been at Killarney Heights that an additional Master Trainer has been selected this year and more staff will have access the Essentials Course.
Juli Marshall, the original Master Trainer, readily admits that she was not an advanced technology user before her own Intel training. Back at school however she found that the training equipped her to lead and support her colleagues and gave her the confidence to encourage “growth through collaboration”. Some participants who at first were unsure of how to implement their learning in the classroom found that the focus of the course supported quality teaching, the curriculum and classroom applications.
Participants learned to look for answers amongst their peers and even to ask their own students for suggestions. Exciting work done in classrooms is now shown to other class groups and sharing sessions at staff gatherings continue to help teachers learn from one another.
Juli believes “Intel Teach Essentials Course has been the biggest catalyst in my time as a teacher” and has opened career opportunities for her in education. In 2007 she was selected to support the Essentials Course and training across NSW schools. Whilst away from her school for the year Juli is gaining invaluable experience in adult professional learning methodology.
When the Intel Teach Essentials Course was offered to staff the initial participants elected to do the training in weekly two hour sessions held after school over one term. Repeat courses followed the same plan and as this met the needs of staff future courses will follow this model.
Participants appreciated that the worksheets and course workbook contained all the materials required for training. School professional learning funds covered the cost of individual participant USB drives, software resources and most importantly, afternoon tea to “kick start” each training session.
Teachers felt very comfortable learning from a Master Trainer they knew well and Juli made sure there was time for them to ‘play’ and to ‘experiment’ with the tools and that this was built into all weekly sessions. The Essential Questions underpinned much of the learning and participants found the course relevant to their needs with the outcomes directly applicable in their classrooms.
The principal states with conviction that she now sees “much greater confidence and a preparedness to have a go and to take risks”
in teachers who did the Intel Teach Essential Course and she is fascinated as she watches her teachers’ expectations grow and their skills and competence develop.
Master trainer, Juli Marshall said at the beginning of the course that while some teachers initially looked to her for all technology answers, “I wasn’t a ‘technology genius’ but my training had shown me how to search for technical answers and together we began to work things out. We used the wonderful manual provided to us as our information base. As my (and their) experience grew, we had more of a feel of where to go or what we might try.”
From a classroom teacher’s perspective, Beck Myors found the course content supported the planning phase of her teaching programs. The Essentials Course added to her existing skills and initially gave her the confidence to work with students to use desktop publishing software, create presentations and design websites and then as she gained confidence to explore and integrate other applications into her teaching units.
In class, teachers now better understand that students can help one another with often unexpected benefits. “One student when asked by others ‘How did you do that?’, ‘Wow that is so cool!’ would straighten up and patiently show them. After ‘how’d you do that again’ he’d repeat the lesson” (Myors). From being a restless student in class he has become responsible, confident and better socialized within his peer group.
The teachers say that children not only want to come to school – they are enthusiastic and delight in telling others what they are learning. The principal believes “they are learning how to be more successful, how to go beyond, how to think and when they realize that there is more than one way to do something it’s as though a big door opens and they can begin to educate themselves”.
In 2007 Killarney Heights Public School is being completely re-cabled and teachers are eagerly waiting for the benefits this will provide across all classrooms. Having mastered the applications taught in the Intel Teach Essentials Course staff are now wanting to experiment using new technology tools with their students.
Jessica Wilshire is convinced that the school needs to keep looking for innovative and exciting approaches and that the teachers need to keep sharing ideas and achievements across the school and the community. With skilled youngsters who are already comfortable with presentation and desktop publishing applications coming through from the early school years the ‘bar is being raised’ for each successive stage but following the Intel Teach training she is convinced that many of her teachers now have the skills and confidence to meet this challenge.