Kearnan College has almost 450 students spread across Kindergarten to Year 12. Located in Manjimup, 300km south of Perth, the school has a relatively large catchment area and many older students travel by bus, some for over an hour.
Mindful that today’s students’ learning horizons need to extend beyond the four walls of the classroom, and be more flexible, the college has embarked on a digital transformation program, providing older students and teachers with a Windows 10 Lenovo device equipped with touch and a digital pen.
It’s a flexible, reliable, and highly creative technology solution that promises to give students an excellent learning environment – where and when they need it – and an important grounding in the skills that they will need to thrive in the wider world.
Eyes beyond the horizon Kearnan College students have been learning skills to ensure they thrive in the classroom and beyond.
The rationale is simple according to principal Jason Meynell; “It’s essential that kids leave school as haves, not have nots, in relation to technology.”
When Meynell was appointed principal in 2017 he found that Kearnan College lacked a consistent technology platform. Instead, computers of all vintages and form factors – PCs, Chromebooks, iPads and iMacs – were being juggled by teac hers and students. Some were in labs and used infrequently, few were accessible out of school hours.
Meanwhile, Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA) was about to roll out its Leading Lights solution for 163 Catholic schools, intended to transform education across WA, and Meynell was enthusiastic about its potential.
“Leading Lights came at the right time, we needed to think strategically about how to use technology,” he says. Kearnan College opted to be an early adopter of Leading Lights’ Office 365 roll out, and needed a solid platform to tackle that, so turned to Solutions IT for advice on suitable devices. After a rigorous consultation process with Solutions IT, the school found a device that met all their needs.
Recognising the power of both technology consistency and capability, Kearnan College has now invested in Windows 10 Lenovo devices for students and teachers to use in school, at home, or en route (an important consideration as 50 per cent of students travel to school by bus – many for an hour or more).
Solutions IT deployed a first tranche of 300 devices, with a follow up order for 60 more, ensuring a one-to-one device ratio for students in the secondary school.
Applications making a clear impact already include Office 365, Paint 3D, Microsoft Teams and OneNote, and Minecraft Education Edition is being explored in the junior school.
“We have seen a huge transformation in how we teach since we committed to using these devices,” Meynell says.
Access to the pen and digital inking has had particular impact; “Students recently wrote lyrics to their own song, they created their own album cover using Paint 3D. This is amazing work, creativity.
“The next phase is a project to create a community newspaper with the primary schools that we are affiliated with.”
The transformation program also provided real world experience to one tech savvy Year 12 student who Kearnan College employed as an IT trainee for a day a week. To help migrate to the new environment, Solutions IT used the Setup School PCs app and Windows Configuration Designer that ensured devices were primed to connect to the school network and access key software applications.
According to Meynell the teaching staff are on board with the transformation plans and have embraced the Leading Lights Office 365 roll out, particularly for the collaboration opportunities offered by Microsoft Teams.
Joseph Claes is the college’s leader of innovation and a health, physical education and science teacher. He says that having one device across the senior school has had a streamlining impact for teachers who now only have to develop one set of content.
The adoption of OneNote has been so widespread across the college that there has also been a clear impact on the school’s print budget with a significant reduction in paper, toner and technician call outs, simply because teachers are using OneNote rather than relying on printed handouts.
“It has also reminded teachers that teaching is constantly evolving, and evolving with technology,” Claes says, adding that it has “reinvigorated” some teachers who have really engaged with the new technology. “Some hesitant to embrace the computers and are now using them for every class.”
While it’s still too early to have developed any learning metrics to gauge the impact of the new devices – Claes says it would have to isolate some learning indicators to be able to do that – he feels that there are signs of greater learning engagement from students.
For example, they are keen users of Microsoft Teams as a collaboration platform. “They are using it as a knowledge base – and before the teachers can even get to a question someone has already answered it,” he says.
As Meynell notes; “Our students and teachers have embraced this technology. We have a strong sense of direction now and the possibilities for teaching and learning are endless.”