“Tomorrow today” is the forward-facing motto of Adelaide Botanic High School which opened its doors to the first intake of students in early 2019.
The $100 million vertical school, based in Adelaide’s city fringe, will add more students each year until 2020 when it is expected to have 1,500 pupils enrolled across years 7-12. Instead of conventional classrooms it has multipurpose and open spaces, and recently secured a major architectural award for the building which has been designed as a radically different school environment, specifically articulated to support modern learning.
The school is adjacent to the Botanical Gardens, Adelaide Zoo, Uni SA and a two-minute walk from Lot 14, Adelaide’s innovation precinct that will be home to the nation’s Space Agency and a technology hub. It’s an exciting, engaging landscape that students move through each day on their way to school, providing glimpses of the sorts of future work opportunities available to them.
Besides benefitting from stellar neighbours, Adelaide Botanic High School (ABHS) is taking a fresh approach to the curriculum – teaching the eight core subjects across four connected learning areas – global perspectives, the arts, lifestyle choices and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths).
To promote learning it wanted a technology platform that would allow students to access anything they want, anywhere they want in the precinct – and ensure that the teachers are just as flexible and mobile. The platform has also been selected to support more flipped learning where student learning is supported, rather than spoon-fed by teachers.
So, what technology does a school so firmly fixed on the future select? Office 365.
ABHS has deployed Office 365 to deliver the entire curriculum with extensive use of Microsoft Teams, OneNote, OneDrive, and Sway. Students and staff use a HP device, equipped with a stylus to access the tools within Office 365.
Office 365 was deployed for the entire school over a three-day period using InTune and Autopilot.
Autopilot also automatically populates students’ OneDrives with the yearbooks and subject notes they need each term.
With single sign on through Azure Active Directory there are already plans afoot for students to handle their own systems enrolment from 2020; when they input their credentials the system will automatically provide access to the systems they will need for that academic year.
According to Daniel Hughes, the director of ICT service and digital delivery at SA’s Department Education; “The idea is simplicity, mobility, seamlessness and deployment at pace.”
At the same time selecting Office 365 as the learning platform means students and teachers can access the; “Same content at school at home without the school having to provide any gateways or reverse proxies because everything is cloud based.”
Hughes added that the move to the cloud has also reined in the costs associated with IT administration. ABHS’ ICT manager Nathan Amos and his team can spend more time supporting teachers and students instead of managing IT infrastructure.
That’s important to the teachers who have been specially selected to work at the new high school and are keen to maximise their use of the technology.
Daniel Seymour is one of two STEM co-ordinators at ABHS and an innovative pedagogies coordinator, who says that ABHS teachers are driven to innovate and do things differently in order to optimise learning outcomes for students.
He says a deliberately collaborative approach means that; “Nothing is ever the work of a single teacher but developed by teams of people – it’s about the idea of collective genius making things better and that becomes incredible opportunity for student learning.”
Underpinning that collaboration is Microsoft Teams which is part of Office 365 and which has been widely adopted by the teaching staff. “The pace we are working at means we need to maximise efficiency – file management and access to each other. Teams, OneNote and OneDrive are working for us,” says Seymour.
ABHS’ Assistant Principals in particular are championing Teams to manage collaboration and communication around the policy and procedures development needed in a new school. Also as part of a partnership of SA Government schools, Teams is being used to communicate and share work samples, driving deeper connections in a dozen schools across the State.
At present Teams is largely used by teachers where Seymour says that OneNote underpins all student activity and student-teacher interaction through the use of shared notebooks. Students are also using Sway and OneDrive, and undertook a digital fluency induction course at the start of the school year to ensure they had the skills to make full use of the technology available to them.
“Having the stylus is a gamechanger when it comes to OneNote,” according to Seymour who says that students learned about different strategies for note taking during the digital fluency sessions, and can now use mind mapping, Cornell Notes, or divide a page into different sections to store relevant notes.
“Having covered that our students might go into an intensive maths lesson and having the stylus helps in terms of retention of information. Writing formulae and maths symbols is easier and faster with a stylus while in a language class they could be drawing characters in Chinese.”
Besides the personal technology available for students, ABHS has invested in a number of Microsoft Surface Studios which have been deployed in the school’s media design spaces and it is also keen to explore how it might make use of mixed reality and the HoloLens in the future.