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Virtual reality, mobility driving future of learning at Port Macquarie school

Rebecca Merrett | June 5, 2014
The days of school students copying notes from a chalk board and reading straight from old textbooks are long gone. This is the view of Matt Richards, director of e-learning at St Columba Anglican School, which is using technology to change the way students learn and interact with teachers.

The days of school students copying notes from a chalk board and reading straight from old textbooks are long gone. This is the view of Matt Richards, director of e-learning at St Columba Anglican School, which is using technology to change the way students learn and interact with teachers.

The Port Macquarie school is using Google's Chromebox for Meetings and Connected Classrooms to connect with other schools and speak with subject experts around the world.

Connected Classrooms allows students to attend educational field trips or excursions virtually, and records the sessions so that students around the world can watch online at a time that suits them.

Chromebox for Meetings is a videoconferencing technology that the school using for students to virtually participate in shared lessons with other schools through an interactive white board or large monitor or TV screen.

"A really good one I did recently was with Underhill Primary School in London, UK. I had a primary class at the time and we were exploring sustainability. I was lucky enough to get my kids to come in after hours because of the time zone differences — I got 80 per cent of my class, which is pretty good," said Richards, who is a speaker at this year's EduTECH event in Brisbane.

"The kids literally asked each other questions. One of my students asked, 'Do you guys have water restrictions?' And the kids in London had no idea what water restrictions were. Coming from London, that's not something they think about.

"I think the next phase of education 3.0 is going beyond the boundaries of our country, and realising there are experts and innovators out there who are more accessible now through technology. We should be utilising them in the learning process."

Richards said he is also interested in using Google Classroom, as part of the Google Apps for Education suite, when it's released this year. Classroom is a learning management system for teachers to set up different folders for each class and students, and allows students to conduct work and submit their assignments online, and receive feedback.

This follows on from the school's 2012 Google Apps for Education deployment, along with 250 Chromebooks for students. The school also allows students to bring their own devices as long as these devices have at least a 7-inch screen and are capable of holding a charge for a day. When it comes to security, Richards said the school keeps its data in multiple locations. "So we've got it in the cloud in two locations, we've got it locally onsite and we've also got it in another remote Australian site. We don't keep all of our eggs in one basket; we mirror all of our content in multiple locations.

 

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