By Travis Smith, Teacher Engagement Manager, Microsoft Australia
The world in which students use technology to learn today is vastly different from the world that existed when technology was first introduced to the classroom. Technological developments have created a thriving community of passionate educators and leaders – who all are looking for new ways to redefine learning, and help their students to achieve more both inside and outside the traditional school environment.
This month, dozens of Australia and New Zealand's most innovative schools, teachers and leaders gathered at the Brisbane Exhibition Centre for the Australia Redefining Learning Conference. Many of the schools in attendance are in Microsoft’s Showcase School program – identified as premier schools where the school leader has a strong vision for change, and Microsoft Innovative Educator–Experts – premier innovators and integrators of technology in Australian classrooms.
The Redefining Learning Conference aims to give schools and educators from around Australia the opportunity to come together as a community, collaborate to overcome key challenges, as well as learn from each other how technology drives better learning outcomes in the classroom. The conference started with visits to both Ormiston College and Saint Stephen’s College allowing the attendees to explore innovations and ideas first hand in fellow participants’ schools.
The conference saw keynote presentations from some of the world’s leading educators, including Mark Sparvell, Microsoft’s Worldwide Showcase School Program Lead. Mark spoke to how innovative learning design must be kept front of mind in order for successful change to occur in schools educationally, organisationally and economically.
“The Redefining Learning Conference is the perfect opportunity for teachers to connect with peers from different disciplines and schools to draw on collective expertise.”
David Faulkner, CEO of Melbourne’s Education Change Makers addressed conference to discuss how school leadership teams need to truly unleash their teachers, and promote creative and lateral thinking to help facilitate innovation in Australian schools. This keynote was the perfect opening to the Redefining Learning Conference kicking off the theme of teachers and school leaders connecting with their peers from different disciplines and schools to draw on their collective expertise and grow as a community together.
As part of the conference, students from Ormiston College led a hands-on STEM Hackathon that demonstrated the way in which STEM can be integrated across the curriculum. Having just returned from the Microsoft Global Educator Exchange (E2) in Budapest, Deanne Joosten, Head of eLearning at Phoenix P-12 Community College in Ballarat, took centre-stage to show attendees how she uses Skype to teach real-time drama classes throughout regional Victoria and even New Zealand. It’s amazing to think that these examples only scratch the surface of how Australian Showcase Schools are redefining learning.
Hale School in Western Australia is another school leading the way in pushing the boundaries of student learning experiences. Their Hale@home program, for example, enables future students living in the country to familiarise themselves with the curriculum, as well technology they haven’t used before, prior to starting their boarding-school experience.
“It is the teachers and the leaders in this room who are making this journey towards a redefined way of learning possible.”
What’s more, Saint Stephen’s College has proved their place at the forefront of blended learning strategies, after the school introduced Surface Pro 3s to all its teachers with the aim to leverage the power of technology from anywhere, at any time, to change the face of learning. The transformation at Saint Stephen’s goes to show that students should not just be handed technology, but should be taught the right skills and provided with innovative learning environments that will enable them to get the most out of it. Making the commitment to educate using technology starts with the specialists but ends with everyone. Every school can prepare students for both life and work in the 21st century.
“It is the teachers and the leaders in this room who are making this journey towards a redefined way of learning possible. Seeing the incredible work coming out of our Showcase Schools proves that each and every school in Australia and across the globe can undergo a transformation to empower their students to achieve more.”
Want to learn more about Microsoft’s Redefining Learning Conference? Find out more here.