The brave new world

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We in Wyndham know our schools are bursting at the seams. Truganina South Primary School has found a unique way to deal with the large number of students, and other schools are taking notice

“Every single one of our students has a tablet,” says Assistance Principal Michael Laird.

The first question in my mind is: how do you keep track of who is doing what? Very easily, says Principal Laird, as he sets up two iPads, and opens the same program on his iPad. He then transmits it onto a screen so that we can all look at the same thing. So won’t some students just go ahead and do their own thing? “No,” says Michael, “showing me how I can’t turn a page – I’m forced to stay on the same page as the teacher. Not only that, if I’m having some trouble, I can signal the teacher via the iPad without drawing attention to myself. And alternatively, if someone has done something particularly good, the teacher has a way of putting that page up on the screen so that the whole class can look at it without leaving their seats and causing pandemonium.”

Truganina South Primary School is a great example of how teaching and technology can go hand in hand. The school has a vision about how to use technology, and the management is not shy to test new ways to use technology to their benefit.

The school is a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) development in the Wyndham network area and caters for all year levels from P-6, with enrolments projected to grow from approximately 190 in 2011, to 750 students in 2013 and in 2014, nearly 1000 students.

The Public-Private partnership frees up the time and resources of the school to focus on the students and not the building. The building and its maintenance is the preserve of the private entity in the partnership.

So if any school is prepared for this kind of intake, it is this school. The way the school has used technology under the guidance of Assistant Principal Michael Laird, it is uniquely positioned to deal with large numbers of students while catering to their individual needs.

The school structure is organised around the stages of schooling. Grades are arranged in straight Preps and multi-age grades for Years 1-6. All teachers and students work in ‘Learning Communities’ to create flexible teaching options in classrooms and the teachers adopt a shared responsibility for all students within the Learning Community.

Going into some of these classrooms is a real eye-opener. The students are encouraged to work within groups defined by their skills rather than age and a teacher is a guide rather than a disciplinarian. The children are so engrossed in their learning that many do not notice the visitors in their classroom – a highly unlikely situation in a traditional classroom.

Michael takes great pride in knowing the ins and outs of Information Technology. “We make sure that the technology is used to aid learning. We decide what we want and find the technology that suits. I find many schools are keen to get the latest technology and they work their teaching methods around it. That is not how it should be.” He shows a screen that can be laid down flat so that the children can stand around it and work in their own corners. The teacher can show the various programmes on it – a kind of hands-on approach as all the children can do their experiments in their corner of the tablet.

The School’s Student Leadership system at Truganina South Primary School provides students from all year levels with leadership training and skill developments, and there will be many opportunities to experience positions of responsibility. Our students relish the opportunity to make decisions, take on responsibility and have an input into the direction of the school.

The community is also actively involved in the school. Parent involvement and participation in a variety of school activities is a significant feature of school life and something that is actively encouraged.

In partnership with the YMCA, a long day care and a community centre are features of the school site providing community and children’s services in the one location where families need them most.

According to the school’s mission their future plan is to become an exemplar 21st Century Teaching and Learning Facility enabling all community members access to high quality teaching and learning.

“In 2013 we will operate our own Professional Development Centre allowing us to provide high quality education and training for our staff and staff from other schools within the Wyndham network and beyond. The centre will also allow us to provide parent education sessions focusing on the needs of the community.”

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