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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
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The Connected Classrooms Program in NSW

Sue Beveridge
Educational Outcomes Business Change Manager, Connected Classrooms Program, DET NSW

The Connected Classrooms Program (CCP) in NSW is providing staff and students in the state's public schools with new opportunities for collaborative learning. Using state-of-the-art technology available through the CCP, staff and students are gaining opportunities to obtain, create, collaborate and share knowledge in new ways.

The CCP was introduced by the NSW State Government in 2007 and is now in its final year, a time when its benefits are starting to emerge. This article offers an overview of the CCP that describes the new ways of teaching and learning now possible in the NSW state system.

The component projects

The CCP consists of three inter-related projects:

Interactive Classrooms

Every NSW public school is being equipped with an Interactive Classroom which contains an interactive whiteboard, video conferencing facilities, and lesson creation and data collaboration software. The Interactive Classrooms project aims to enhance opportunities for collaboration between students, teachers and schools across the state. So far 81% of public schools have had an Interactive Classroom installed.

The project allows schools to participate in virtual excursions to places such as NASA facilities, Questacon and Taronga Zoo. Students are able to ask the questions that matter to them and to see hundreds of other students across the state engaging in similar dialogue. The video conferencing facility enables students to interact with experts from universities and industry, for instance students can view presentations being shared on the interactive whiteboard and at the same time ask questions via the video conferencing equipment.

Learning Tools

The Learning Tools project aims to deliver Web 2.0 technologies to staff and students for teaching and learning. These tools will enable them to create, store, edit and reuse digital learning content, and also deliver it to staff and students at other schools across NSW.

The project has provided 1.2 million school and TAFE students with a customised version of Google's Gmail service. In this version of Gmail NSW students and staff enjoy expanded mailbox storage, enhanced user features, and sophisticated filtering and security measures.

The Learning Tools Project has also provided blogED, a system-wide, bespoke blogging tool with built-in functionality to assist students learn about copyright, cybersafety and privacy. Since its release in March 2010 more than 10,000 blogs have been created by schools and TAFEs.

Additionally, the project is working to provide a secure individual online working space for all students and teachers; online access to student reports for parents/caregivers; and a collaborative environment for the discovery and sharing of digital learning content.

Next Generation Education Network

This project is enhancing ICT infrastructure to support the delivery of Interactive Classrooms and Learning Tools. Through the project 98% of NSW Department of Education and Training locations have already received a bandwidth upgrade.

Standardisation enhances student and teacher learning

One important aspect of the CCP program has been standardisation of the interactive whiteboards and lesson creation software used across NSW with a single enterprise licence covering the whole system. As a result more than 2200 public schools will be able to interact with one another via video conferencing from anywhere across the state and share content on their IWBs using Bridgit software.

More than 6000 teachers have also been trained in the use of Smart Notebook10. This standardisation has given teachers an easy way to share the content they have generated. Across the state hundreds of teachers are now able to share their units of work through 'board users groups'.

Teachers can also transfer to another school within the system knowing that the work they have created can be used on any standard IWB or computer.

Collecting and sharing research evidence

The benefits of the program are now emerging across NSW as new ways of teaching and learning are being generated. Examples of these stories from the field are being published on the DET intranet in the form of CCP bulletins – 35 bulletins have been published so far. Each story has been co-authored by a CCP communications officer and relevant participants from the field and provides exemplars of practice to build the capacity of teachers to use these technologies within their own teaching. The editorial policy for the bulletins has been published on the CCP intranet to assist school staff in documenting their experiences. A series of videos is being made to illustrate the new ways of teaching and learning undertaken by teachers, and the stories are also being compiled into a Compendium of Practice.

The program team is embarking on an Evaluation Plan which includes an automated process to capture usage metrics for the CCP technologies. The evidence from this usage will be used to generate management reports and support change management strategies. It is important to note that when teachers are provided with robust and reliable technologies which enhance teaching and learning, they embrace its use.

For further information contact:
Connected Classrooms Program www.det.nsw.edu.au

Background reading

Two pieces of research which inform the program may be of interest:



Subject Headings

Teaching and learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
New South Wales (NSW)
Educational planning