What they wanted to do
- Upgrade aging technology
- Introduce affordable devices that matched current teaching methods
What they did
- Introduced Chromebooks to students in Years 3–6
- Integrated with existing G Suite for Education accounts
What they achieved
- Higher student performance
- More student engagement in collaborative learning
In 2014, the St. Luke’s school community conducted a six-month review to determine their technological future. “We needed a big upgrade, both in infrastructure and devices,” says Celia Coffa, e-learning coach. “The Catholic Education Office in Melbourne was already moving to G Suite for Education, and we were encouraged to look at various devices.” Any tool St. Luke’s chose also had to match their teaching methods.
St. Luke’s involved parents, students, and teachers in the decision. They settled on Chromebooks for their affordability and ease of use. “We're a primary school, so we also needed something that would fit any moment in the students’ day,” Celia adds. In 2015, the school provided a Chromebook for everyone in Years 5 and 6, while students in Years 3 and 4 shared them on a 1:2 basis (they later received individual Chromebooks in 2016).
“Learning is enhanced when you connect with others beyond the classroom. Having that access has been fantastic.”Celia Coffa, E-learning coach, St. Luke the Evangelist School, Blackburn South, Victoria
The transition to using Chromebooks was easy. “We were able to extend what we had already started, to become collaborative, connected learners,” Celia says. “That was the main benefit. Learning is enhanced when you connect with others, both within and beyond the classroom. Having that access has been fantastic.”
Students and teachers were already familiar with G Suite for Education. Combining G Suite with Chromebooks creates new or unplanned learning opportunities, and “contributes to the whole schooling atmosphere,” Celia says. “Students are happy to learn, share what they're learning, and find the meaning themselves. It's just good practice in a school to let students be self-learners.”
G Suite for Education provides a suite of tools useful at home and in the classroom, while also opening an entire ecosystem of powerful learning tools that go beyond collaboration. These include Google Maps, and Chrome apps Read&Write and Screencastify. Students and teachers use Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Slides to learn and collaborate. With Google Sites, St. Luke created a landing page where students can access any resources they need. Students also write 100+ blogs, which teachers monitor. “We try to teach them to use online spaces in a professional way, rather than in a social way,” Celia says. “Our blogs are open to the world, so anyone can see the work that they present there and create further learning opportunities.”
Occasionally, too, students lead the way in learning how best to use the digital tools. “Our staff have a lovely attitude, and are not afraid to admit that we’re all learning at the same time,” Celia says. What she calls the “open-endedness” of Chromebooks and G Suite make such student-teacher collaboration possible. One teacher, for instance, wanted to determine where pupils’ families had originated. While some students located printed maps, or opened digital files in Google Docs, a few immediately turned to Google Maps and began inserting pins.
"Chromebooks have changed the way we learn in many ways,” says Cooper, a Year 6 student. “We can share with our classmates and teachers and everybody can work together—not just in the classroom, but also on the Internet."
St. Luke’s innovative, passionate educators are relentless in improving their teaching and learning methods. Their students’ scores in a national assessment program were already climbing when the forward-thinking primary school launched the technology upgrade. Chromebooks and G Suite help maintain that momentum. Just as the financial savings were quantifiable, the effect on students was easy to see. “There's renewed enthusiasm,” Celia says. “Things are so much easier now. There are no disincentives anymore to think about using a tech tool, because it's ready to go.”
Students now take a great deal of personal ownership of their education, and Celia expects that St Luke’s will go deeper with Chromebooks. “As teachers, we’ll provide opportunities, saying, ‘Okay, here's our issue. You solve it.’ We’ll present students with problems rather than answers, and they will help solve those problems.”