In a school where English is a second or third language for 67 per cent of students, technology is helping their literacy skills reach new heights.
St Therese Catholic Primary School Sadleir-Miller became an Apple Distinguished School this year, creating an iBook to document their journey to accreditation and the ways iPads have helped students with lower levels of engagement in learning thrive.
The award recognises the school’s commitment to continual innovation and improvement in teaching and learning, while the technology has given students a global audience for their work.
Principal Michelle McKinnon said the accreditation process began with a six-month pilot in Year 3 classrooms in 2017. It included professional development with an Apple educator that showed staff how best to use the technology to help students improve their reading, writing and spelling. Teachers have also created an iBook that outlines their approach to teaching spelling for new colleagues to use.
It is an extension of what they do in real life and a great way to collaborate and share their learning.
“Children started to make movies, stop-motion animations, podcasts, and digital books and it grew from there,” Ms McKinnon said. “We considered ‘what can the children do with the technology that they couldn’t do with pen and paper?’ You can create book with paper but you can’t share it worldwide without technology.
“I’ve gone into a classroom at 2pm on a Friday afternoon and the children haven’t even noticed because they were busy using their iPads in Geography to build a virtual city. In the past, and in most schools, you would not get that sense of engagement across the whole school day.
There were stories about being stranded on desert islands to exploring the world on a jet pack.
“There is a lot of talk about banning devices in classrooms, but it’s a no-brainer for us here. It is an extension of what they do in real life and a great way to collaborate and access and share their learning. Part of being an Apple Distinguished School is that it acknowledges the unique ways that technology empowers students and teachers to enhance learning.”
Year 5 students Emily Riley and Eden Pham are both fans of using digital resources in class.
“I like that I can write stories and when we were watching a movie we were allowed to take notes on it on our iPad,’ Emily said. “I like it better because I don’t get hand cramps when I’m writing. It’s a lot more fun and there are more tools to use.”
You get to research and have fun but you still have to stay on task.
Eden said it was good to explore different apps for different purposes. “Sketches helps us make beautiful drawings, and keynote helps us to decorate our work and make it more presentable so we can get higher marks and our parents can be more proud of us,” he said.
“In Garage Band we can have fun but also help create loops, music and songs. You get to research and have fun but you still have to stay on task. If there’s a question you’re stuck on, the iPad helps you to find more ways to approach it.”
Year 5 teacher Sarah Ribeira said she had used the technology in English lessons to extend gifted writers by challenging them to script and record their own podcast. To inspire reluctant writers, she asked each student to draw a pair of wings and use their design or others as a springboard to a new narrative.
“After a few weeks of using iPads to allow students to create their own stimulus for stories, their writing stamina had improved,” she said. “I no longer heard ‘I can’t think of anything to write’ or ‘my hand hurts’. There were stories about being stranded on desert islands to exploring the world on a jet pack.”