It’s not every day another country hears of your school’s innovative learning and teaching, and sends delegates to visit to learn more. But that’s what's happened at St Joseph’s Catholic High School, Albion Park, where the High Commissioner for Zambia and his delegation have seen firsthand how the school is using technology to improve student outcomes.
St Joseph’s was pleased to welcome to the school, His Excellency Mr Francis Frank Bwalya, High Commissioner for Zambia, along with other representatives from the Zambian High Commission. They guided the distinguished guests through a presentation and Q&A session about how the school uses technology and data to improve students’ literacy outcomes; a tour of the new St Joseph's TAS and VET facilities; and a demonstration of the virtual reality technology available to students as one of many opportunities to expand and enhance their learning.
The visit comes as Zambia looks to implement innovative learning technologies across its own schools. With over 70 local languages and dialects trying to learn English – now an official language – the African nation is hoping to use digital platforms and technology to enhance the progress of English literacy teaching and learning amongst its people.
The Zambian High Commission delegation – which views St Joseph’s as a great example of technology in learning ‘in action’ – was keen to explore the many ways that digital platforms, including the Literatu Scribo suite, are being used at St Joseph’s by students and teachers to improve students’ writing and broader learning outcomes.
St Joseph’s Literacy Instructional Coach, Amanda Nascimento, demonstrated to the delegation how – through the artificial intelligence and machine learning functionalities of Scribo, and Literatu’s analysis of readily-accessible diagnostic data around the students’ literacy levels – the school has been able to fundamentally change the way its teachers use their available time to enhance and extend each student’s writing skills.
“Scribo is a writing tool – a bit like Grammarly, only better. Students can use it as a self-assessment to check any piece of writing they create before it is handed in; while teachers can set assignments or writing tasks via the program. Through Literatu, teachers can also conduct, collect, analyse and track students' writing,” she explained.
Assistant Principal, Jenny Bell, said the school was “very honoured and privileged” to host the delegation for the day. "This was an amazing opportunity to share with our most esteemed visitors the many ways technology is currently being used at St Joseph’s,” she said
“The High Commissioner greatly appreciated the fine presentations by our staff, and was very interested in learning more about the implementation of online learning platforms like Literatu in our classrooms. The delegation was very impressed by the positive impact that integrated information and communication technologies are having on the literacy skills and learning outcomes of our students” — Jenny Bell, Assistant Principal, St Joseph’s Albion Park
“Our school provided a very successful professional development experience for our guests from the Zambian High Commission; and overall, the visit proved to be a very rewarding and invaluable networking opportunity for all involved” she said.
Innovative Teaching and Learning Technologies – Literatu and Scribdo
Literacy Instructional Coach, Amanda Nascimento presented the school’s approach to embracing technology – both to better guide teachers in the delivery of their teaching and to better help students learn. She demonstrated how Joey’s students are using Scribo to check the quality of their writing, and how teachers are using Literatu to monitor and improve learning outcomes in literacy, as well as numeracy.
“Scribo is a specific feature of Literatu which is being used to provide students with the opportunity to enhance their writing skills across all subjects. It gives St Joseph’s students a platform to receive instantaneous suggestions for correcting their spelling and their grammar and even developing the sophistication of their language,” she told the delegation.
“Our implementation of this technology is having a significant impact on our students’ literacy skills and their confidence in their writing – and thereby, their capacity to progress their learning in all key learning areas” — Amanda Nascimento, Literacy Instructional Coach, St Joseph’s Albion Park
“Meanwhile, Literatu’s comprehensive data analysis and display platform is used by our teachers to help identify where each student is at with their literacy and numeracy skills – displaying data for a student, class and cohort, as well as the common areas of strength and weakness. This helps our teachers when planning tasks, as well as with strategic grouping and differentiation.”
Ms Nascimento said the High Commissioner was particularly interested in incorporating literacy teaching into all students’ subjects and learning. "His Excellency High Commissioner stated he felt integration across KLAs was a 'much better way' to assist students in learning essential writing, reading and comprehension skills," she said.
"He appreciated the way staff and students at St Joseph's have been using Scribo as a platform to check and improve their writing, in conjunction with a whole-school approach to paragraph writing and a more structured approach to identifying and correcting errors in writing tasks."
“Our focus on writing at St Joseph’s has been an integral part of our literacy strategy for the past two years and has led to improvements in both NAPLAN writing scores and growth for our Year 9 students. We were pleased and proud to share our resources and our achievements with our special guests” — Amanda Nascimento, Literacy Instructional Coach, St Joseph’s Albion Park
Innovative Learning Equipment and Resources – Virtual Reality kits
The High Commissioner then enjoyed getting ‘hands-on’ with some of the other innovative technology being used at Joey’s – including their suite of virtual reality (VR) equipment. His Excellency explored a real-time simulation of the human body, where he had fun navigating a 3D model of the human body, its organs and their natural functions – just like the school’s Biology students do, using it to extend their knowledge of human anatomy.
St Joseph’s ICT Specialist, Danny Casolin, told the approving delegation that St Joseph's students are fortunate to be able to use VR as an alternate, active learning experience.
“Wearing a virtual reality headset, students can explore and easily understand complex concepts and subjects that are near-impossible to grasp in a traditional classroom. Students can also easily turn their ideas into a ‘virtual’ reality using the headset and intuitive hand controllers. St Joseph's is proud to be leading in this space" — Danny Casolin, ICT Specialist, St Joseph’s Albion Park
“Some of our senior students are even creating projects that contribute to their Visual Arts and Design and Technology major works using this technology,” Mr Casolin said.
Innovative Facilities – JOEY'S NEW TAS/VET block
The delegation was also given an opportunity to tour the school’s newest addition to its exciting major building program – the $3 million upgrade to its Technical and Applied Students (TAS) and Vocational Education and Training (VET) block. The new building accommodates state-of-the art technologies and specially-designed spaces to provide high-quality learning environments and resources for students.
The High Commissioner was delighted to see the brand new, modern learning spaces providing for practical and flexible teaching and learning, enabling students to advance in subjects like Construction, Hospitality, Electrotechnology, Textiles Technology, Marine Technology, Clean Technology, Timber Technology, Mixed Materials Technology, and Food Technology.
St Joseph’s TAS Coordinator, Glenn Lowe, explained how the upgraded facilities will expand the opportunities provided for students – including through access to the latest machinery and specialty equipment, providing experiences in 3D printing, laser cutting/engraving, digital metal lathe, acrylic fabrication, and timber woodwork, with room for expansion to include CNC routing. A dedicated computing space will also allow students to develop their skills in programming and digital graphics packages that communicate with end-result machinery.
CEDoW and St Joseph’s Albion Park thank His Excellency Higher Commissioner and the delegation from the Zambian High Commission for the opportunity to show them our education system and the way the school is using technology to improve student outcomes. We wish them all the best with implementing similar strategies in their schools.