Sharing - the key to success when things are new!

Recently I was lucky enough to spend time with 3 teachers from Bonython Primary School, Ben White, Ana Coutsolitis and Elise Cummins. I went to the school to find out about some of the wonderful things they are doing with ICT but the real highlight of what is happening in their school is SHARING!

Starting with the G Suite

Kindergarten Students working with their Year 5/6 buddies.
Many schools can relate to the challenges of introducing change and Bonython Primary School is on the right track! To introduce the use of the Google Suite with their staff, the school decided to have teachers use the G Suite for a year before giving students access. This allowed teachers time to familiarise themselves with the G Suite and learn to use the suite of resources before implementing it in their classrooms. They then found that as teachers were ready and could see a meaningful way to utilise the G Suite, they began to use it. This grew interest from other teachers who were supported by their colleagues but also, other students. Sharing at Bonython Primary School not only occurs between colleagues but between classes too. The school makes use of their class buddies system to have older students work with younger students and help them with the use of ICT.

Digital Portfolios - where to begin

Year 5/6 Students working on their digital portfolios - look at the sharing!

This year, Ben and Ana are teaching Year 5/6 and Elise shares her time teaching in the Autism unit and supporting the integration of ICT across the school. As a school, they are planning to introduce the use of digital portfolios. Elise stated “We’re hoping to get the whole school K-6 using Google Sites for Digital Portfolios.” They are eager to admit they are at the early stages and after assessing different solutions they have decided they will use Google Sites to create their portfolios. As a starting point the Year 5/6 students created an inspiration page titled ‘What Inspires Me as a Learner’. They researched what inspires them and what they want to learn about. Ben said the pages consist of “images and YouTube videos that they’ve watched and why they have included them.” The plan is to utilise what the Year 5/6 students do to influence the rest of the school.

So far, the Year 5/6 students have begun developing their portfolios. They are not using a template but are being guided by the teacher step-by-step to develop the basic portfolio design. Ben points out “The beauty of Google Sites is it’s very user friendly and very basic” so the students will add to their basic portfolio and make it their own. Some students have already added their own ‘English’ page and created a digital reading journal through the use of Google Slide Decks. Ben explained “with Google Sites, you embed Google Slide Decks in your (Google) Docs and as you update your Doc the Site updates.”

Teacher Ben White working with students to develop their own digital timetable using Google Calendar.

During my visit the students were beginning to use Google Calendar on their Chromebooks. The teachers explained they are aiming for students to create calendar entries and then develop their own timetables, practicing their time-management in preparation for High School.

The Learning Environment

During this time, students were scattered throughout the 5/6 unit which held 3 classes. Some students were working with 1 teacher at the IWB. This was students who were needing help to get started and as they felt they were on the right track, they moved themselves to another space in the unit.

5/6 Students working on their Digital Calendars
The students looked very comfortable!

Something I noticed that supported the use of the Chromebooks was the flexibility of the space that the students worked in. The desks in each room were not a dominant feature of the room and there were bean bags, lounges, cushions and most importantly, space for the students to sit with each other. This is where I noticed the sharing culture within the school. There was no child sitting on their own, they were all in pairs or small groups and it seemed to be self-chosen.

The couch was well used and I'm sure it's popular with the students too!

Flexible spaces for students to work
(notice the whiteboard table next to them!)

Students working with students

When I visited the school the teachers were planning to have the Year 5/6 students work with their Kinder Buddies to begin their Digital Portfolios. The first task was to take a photo with their buddies and write about themselves. Below you can see this first session taking place.
Year 5/6 Students working with their Kindergarten buddies on the Chromebooks to start their Digital Portfolios.

To start the Digital Portfolios with K-2 students, the focus of the school is “what learning do we want to be sharing with our families” rather than the process of how they will show them. The students will not necessarily be using Google Sites but their work will be automatically linked to a Site that has been set up for them. K-2 students will be tasked with:

1. Choose a piece of work
2. Take a photo of the piece of work
3. Write about the piece of work

THEN the exciting part is…….It will be uploaded to their Google Site because they will work in a live folder that links automatically to their Google Site while they are working on it! I can’t wait to see this in action!!!

The school works collaboratively to plan for student success in using the ICT available to them. The students came into Year 5/6 already with the knowledge of how to use different technologies. Last year Ana taught Year 3/4 and she explain how most of the work the students did was online on the Chromebooks. They looked at what they needed to cover from the curriculum and used “Google Docs, Google Slides, Forms and Team Drives - when that came out at the end of last year they were using that for everything maths, literacy, media art, we even looked at PE and the health components online.” With the students having this prior knowledge, it has allowed the teachers to focus more on what the students are doing, rather than how they are doing it.

Other Sharing

Year 5/6 student and their Kindergarten buddy working together.
Apart from the sharing in their school between staff and students across all year levels, the school also works with the feeder schools around them. They have worked closely with their local Early Childhood School, Isabella Plains Early Childhood School, to discuss their plans with Digital Portfolios and the ICT skill competencies they desire for students moving to the school. Likewise, they have also had conversations with their local High School, Lanyon High School to prepare their students for what is desired for their Year 6 students moving onto Year 7.

This forward planning and the culture of sharing they have created at Bonython Primary School will be beneficial to their staff and students for years to come. Thank you for sharing Ben, Ana and Elise!