Methodist Ladies' College
By Leon Guss
Director of Computing and Multimedia
Methodist Ladies' College
It is well known that 1-to-1 computing in schools began with a trial program of Year 5 and Year 7 students in 1989 at Methodist Ladies' College. The trial was a success, and in 1990 laptops were introduced for all students in Year 5 and 7 - the Toshiba 1000, a very different device to today's notebook computers and Tablet PC's. Many things have stayed the same, but much has changed with the 1-to-1 program over this time. This article will share some reflections about the world's oldest individualized mobile computing program.
A significant change to the operation of the program has been the transition in 1998-1999 from a parent owned to school owned program. The driver for this change was the desire to have consistency within a year level so that all students would have the same technology. The 1-to-1 program operates over an eight year span from Year 5 (primary school) to Year 12 (end of high school). There is a large intake year in Year 7 (start of high school). Year 7 in the parent owned scheme was a mixture of our primary school students, who had two year old computers, and new enrolments with brand new computers. In 1998, the differences in technology were significant from year to year. In the current school owned program we now have new computers issued in Year 5, 7 and 10, which means all students in a grade level are using the same technology.
Structures and support initiated in the beginnings of the program continue today. These include:
1) A School Board that continues to be supportive of technology
2) Our strategic technology committee - the Future Technology Directions Group (FTDG) - that meets constantly and has had very stable membership over many years. The FTDG constantly reviews and evaluates new technologies and their suitability for use within the MLC environment. This group is responsible for the technology strategic plan.
3) A Learning Technology Consultant (LTC) in each of MLC's four sub-schools to support teachers in the sub-school in integrating technology in their classrooms. The LTCs also work with heads of department in different curriculum or subject areas.
4) A very strong commitment to professional development of teachers, although professional development activities and focus have changed over time. Currently we have a Sharing Classrooms project where teachers visit each other's classrooms and observe technology use.
5) Longer blocks for lessons, which been extended to 75 minute periods. This type of timetable, introduced early in the 1-to-1 program, enables staff to structure activities that are project based and students have sufficient time to use technology to support their learning.
6) More student-centred teaching, with the teacher no longer being seen as the expert.
7) An IT department, now consisting of fourteen staff, that helps ensure the technology works.
Technology has changed greatly over the 20 year period. The internet did not exist in 1989. MLC together with all schools face the challenge of providing a safe environment for students with their daily use of social networking web sites such as Facebook. For example, our curriculum now includes activities on Online Safety and Ethics. The College intranet - myMLC.net is an information rich resource for both students and staff.
From our original software tools, LogoWriter and an integrated Works package, we now have a wide range of tools to support learning. Students have significant choice of ways to express their learning, from multimedia tools for audio, video, music composition to curriculum specific software for mathematics, the primary curriculum, mind mapping, as well as Microsoft Office Professional and Adobe Master Collection CS4. Tablet PCs are used across the curriculum in all subject areas where appropriate.
In summary, what has remained constant at Methodist Ladies' College is the support for change in learning as well as a commitment to integrating technology into the classroom and continuing to be innovative in a positive and successful manner. Our goal is to provide an education for our students so they will have the learning, skills and tools to contribute to their communities in the 21st century.
Leon has been at Methodist Ladies' College for sixteen years, fifteen as Director of Computing and Multimedia. His primary responsibility is the operation of the 1:1 program and managing the College's web strategy. Prior to joining MLC, Leon has worked at Apple Computer Australia, as an educational computing consultant and as a teacher of Mathematics and Computing Studies.