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Scotch College Adelaide's Information Technology Project: A catalyst for change

Malcolm Spargo
Scotch College
Adelaide, South Australia

In 1994 Scotch College began the first year of a five year Information Technology Development Plan. An integral part of stage 1 of the program was the contextual use of Macintosh Power Book computers by all students in the first year of their middle .schooling. This notebook project and its computer network support structure has been the most significant innovation and catalyst for change since the college became co-educational in 1972.

Scotch College is a co-educational, independent, R-12 school of approximately 950 students associated with the Uniting Church. The two campuses, R to 6 and 7 to 12 are located approximately 12 kilometres south east of the Adelaide Central Business District. The school has boarding accommodation for approximately 80 boys and girls with students able to enter as boarders from year 7. The college has a sub school structure:

Junior School - reception to year 6 (approximately 250 students)
Middle School - year 7 and 8 (approximately 200 students)
Senior School - years 9 to 12 ( approximately 540 students)

The Junior School is on a separate campus but within walking distance of the Middle and Senior Schools which share a geographically common campus. Each sub school has its own Head of School responsible to the Principal of the College. The Head of the Senior School is also the Deputy Principal of the College. A second Deputy Principal is the school Psychologist, staff and student counsellor and Head of the Special Education Department. A College Administrator is employed to assist the Principal and the sub school Head with the financial and infrastructural management of the college and the appointment and deployment of non academic staff. The Director of Studies has an oversight of curriculum from R to 12 with specific responsibility for the curriculum management and time tabling of the Middle School and Senior School campuses. Heads of Departments are responsible for syllabus development and programs of work within their areas of subject expertise.

Information Technology Project

A five year development plan

In 1994 the first stage of a 5 year plan to significantly increase student access to and knowledge of contemporary information technologies was implemented at Scotch.

An integral part of stage 1 of the project included the introduction of notebook computers as a requirement tor all students entering year 7, the first year of Middle Schooling. Parents could either purchase the computer directly from the school or lease it with payments being made as part of the term fees, spread over a three year period. An opportunity to lease or purchase was also given to students in higher year levels on the understanding that no special support structures would be available through the curriculum to students beyond year 7.

The project aims to develop in parallel, five essential and interrelated technological strands across the college and its community.

Strand 1: Contextual use of notebook computers in the classroom.
Strand 2: The development of a college wide information network.
Strand 3: The upgrading and extension of technology laboratories
Strand 4: The establishment of site access to BBSs and the Internet.
Strand 5: Remote access for the Scotch community.

Strand 1. Contextual use of notebook computers

At the commencement of the 1994 school year, all year 7 students took delivery of an Apple Macintosh PowerBook computer. The computers were delivered with three core software packages installed. Claris Works, HyperCard and an interactive typing tutor.

The choice of the Apple Macintosh was made on the basis of the in built networking, sound, and graphics capabilities of the PowerBook 145B and PowerBook 165 notebook computers. These features were available at prices that were certainly more than competitive with MS-DOS and Windows capable note books with the addition of the same networking and sound options.

The college already had made significant investments in Macintosh software and computer laboratory hardware over a number of years and the wish to retain compatibility was also a compelling factor in the choice of notebook computers for students and staff.

This year was chosen for introduction because it was a primary point of entry to the Middle School of the college. Although a majority of students follow through from our own Junior School, where students have already received significant experience in the use of computers as a learning tool, it is a significant new enrolment intake point with students arriving from a diverse range of feeder schools and with previous computing experience that spans the total spectrum of prior learning.

It is also a year where the timetable is structured in such a way that students spend approximately thirty percent of their time in an integrated Languages/ Humanities home classroom environment. This gives a specific focus within each day in terms of :

This focus is complemented by the teaching of mathematics within the same general environment and by the same staff but not necessarily within in the same student group or room. Students move to different areas of the Middle School building for Mathematics and there is some grouping based on ability.

The portability of the Macintosh notebooks allow students to retain access to computers as they move to specialist areas of teaching in other parts of the college for Applied Technology, Art, Drama, Health Education, Food and Nutrition, Languages other than English, Music and Science. The Applied Technology and Art areas have their own specific software and computer resources for CAD CAM work and graphic design.

The college has provided twenty six notebook computers for the use of those staff members directly closely involved with the year 7 cohort. This represents a significant financial commitment by the college to the professional development of the staff. It also emphasises the conviction that 'access' and 'ownership' are the two criteria essential to the successful contextual use of computers in an educational context.

Strand 2: A College wide network

A Local Area Network was established in parallel with the notebook introduction linking all classrooms on the first floor of the Middle School building. This represents the completion of the first stage of what will eventually grow to become a college wide network. (See Appendix "Network schematic and file server").

The five stage plan allows tor the duplication of similar sub networks in each of the major building complexes that make up the total Middle School/ Senior School campus. Each of the sub networks will be connected by fibre optics cable so that on completion all sub networks will be interconnected but major areas of traffic will also be managed within faculty specific zones. The attachment, "Information Technology - Stage 1 1994 and Stage 2 1995" is not drawn to scale but represents the progress made during 1994 and indicates the projected developments for 1995. (The rapid development in the areas of computer networking and communications technology means that detailed planning beyond a period of twelve to eighteen months ahead is not considered worthwhile. Every attempt has been made to allow for an eventual shift in networking to ethernet as the new generation of 500 series Macintosh Power Books are already ethernet capable).

The networking, sound, and graphics capabilities of the Macintosh PowerBook 145B and PowerBook 165 note book computers enabled easy and flexible access for students to this network which extends throughout an area of the school in which they spend approximately sixty percent of their school day. Each of the classrooms has thirteen network connection nodes allowing the students to use their notebook computer as:

Extension of the existing phone system to link via modem to the network will also allow students who own modems to access the school network from home.

During the first half of the 1994 school year a second administrative local area network was also established. This second network connected senior academic staff, administrative staff and clerical assistants across the three college sub schools via an electronic mailing system. Access to this network was gradually extended to include other staff as network users from inside the college and also 'telecoms' users from outside, including parents, technical support staff employed by the Apple reseller who supports and services the project through an on site warranty repair service, and members of the Council of Governors of the college.

This administrative network and electronic mail system proved to be the most significant catalysts for developing a first hand understanding, by staff, of the potential and extent of the project. It also created the opportunity for trial and error on the part of administrative and senior staff in a controlled environment where adult learning could take place in a non threatening, supportive and collaborative manner.

The linking of the year 7 Middle School network to the administration/senior staff network during term 3 of 1994 represented the completion of stage 1 of the networking strand of the Scotch ITP and represents the first step towards the connection of sub servers across the college.

Strand 3. The upgrading and extension of technology laboratories

Four computer/technology laboratories have also been developed to play an integral role in the use of technology across the college. The laboratories offer additional computing resources and peripherals for projects and assignments where students need to use colour, scanners, video editing, specialist sound and/ or the use of expensive, specific software packages.

Strand 4: The establishment of site access to BBSs and Internet

The college has access to Bulletin Board Services such as NEXUS and Advertiser Newspaper's PressCom news data base service and ORACLE. Preliminary negotiations have begun in an attempt to achieve access to AARNet and the Internet in an attempt to achieve the medium term goal of bringing "the world of electronic information" in the class room. The initial stage will be to gain access so that staff can learn achieve the necessary experience to be able to find appropriate areas on the Internet to which productive student referrals can be made.

Strand 5: Remote access for the Scotch community

Support from Apple Australia has enabled the early trial and use of Apple Remote Access software on the file server. This currently allows easy access via modem for staff from home. Students units of work can be uploaded and completed assignments for marking can be downloaded if necessary. The longer term advantage will be to allow students access to the server in the same way. This will require an extension to the number of phone lines and the hardware to control multiple modems to be attached to a server on the network during the 1995 stage of the development plan.

The use of First Class as the electronic mail system used by senior staff for daily communications relating to management and administration at has also created a model by which it is anticipated that the wider Scotch community will share more directly in the project in the medium term.

The First Class system has conferencing facilities which allow a bulletin board style of service. Newsletters and other communications can be posted in the conferences section, accessed remotely and downloaded by staff, parents, members of the College Council and other friends and supporters of the college. This offers an alternative to information access for the parents of boarding students in the future.

The catalyst for significant change

During the planning for the first stage of the project in late 1993 the Head of The Middle School made the observation that, "This will be the most significant change to occur at Scotch since the school became co-educational in 1972". There has been ample evidence of significant change during the first six months of the project. It has also become increasingly obvious that the nature and scope of change is becoming almost exponential in nature.

Pedagogical change

The project has already produced an identifiable shift in methodology. The contextual use of note book computers in the classroom changes the way in which the students relate to knowledge, and interact and collaborate with their peers and teachers. An attempt has been made here to summarise some of the major areas of change that have resulted from the ITP at Scotch.

A transitional from an essential "instructivist" to "constructivist" methodology was anticipated and planning was done in order to cope with and manage the change. Although anticipated the new demands of coping with the physical restructuring of classrooms, the preparation of units of work, the installation delays in completion of the network and the stress of learning new and applied skills in the use of computers in the classroom context by teachers created great demands on staff.

Changes to teachers' work

Changes to students work

Changes to use of classroom space

The location of student desks within classrooms has changed in response to the location of power, the locations of network access nodes and also as a result of the significant changes to the way in which learning now takes place.

Although the locations of power boards and network connection points are similar within the classrooms the furniture placement, use of working space and location of printers is characteristically different in each of the three year 7 classrooms. Linear placement along walls near network nodes and clusters of desks at power outlet points are common combinations for workspace arrangement.

Staffing allocation changes

Staff most involved with the teaching of the year 7 cohort were selected on the basis of their teaching expertise and experience and not from volunteers or from those with the most computing experience. One of the basic premises of the project was that any staff member, given the appropriate level of support and professional development, could develop their own computing skills and in so doing identify the ways in which information technologies could be successfully and contextually developed in the classroom.

The level of previous computing experience varied greatly amongst the staff most directly involved. Some had no previous experience at all and began at the point of turning on the computer.

An additional staffing allocation equivalent to one full time salary was made in this first year. The allocation was divided across three current staff resulting in a reduction in their previous contact teaching load. The three have became a collaborative management team with the following responsibilities: -

The team works together to design and manage the professional development programs for other staff and as support staff working with the students and their teachers in classes.

Team teaching within classrooms has become more widely accepted. Students and staff have also come to expect and accept visitors to their rooms ranging from members of the press during the early stages of the project to the regular visits of observers from other schools in South Australia and from interstate.

Syllabus development changes

In developing topics or themes of work subject departments now need to consider the essential aims, objectives and learning outcomes in the essential core areas outlines in the following graphic.

Accepting technological competencies as a genuine component of the Legitimate Curriculum has been and still is on of the most difficult changes for staff and parents to accept.

Readily accepted are the "Old Basics":

It is more difficult to get acceptance for the consideration of "New Basics" as equally important areas of learning

Diagram: New basics

As a result of the extraordinarily rapid learning and computing skills acquisition by year 7 students during the first term of 1994 an increasing number of staff have come to realise the importance of the incorporation into syllabus statements of skills and outcomes relating to the use of information technology.

A list of Technological Competencies have now been established to which staff and Heads of Departments now refer as part of the process of curriculum and syllabus review. The key competencies in this area of curriculum are in each if the following subgroups:


Attachment 1: Network schematic and file server

The schematic diagram below represents Stage 1 in 1994 of the Note Book project network support plan for Gratton House upstairs Middle School where the Home Groups and Language Support Centre has been located for 1994. It is the intention that these Local Area Networks will be linked across the college through a four year development plan.

Diagram: Stage 1 of the project

Attachment 2: Information Technology - Stage 1-1994 and Stage 2-1995

Part 1:Year 7 First Floor Gratton AppleShare 3 Server using a Quadra 650 plus Quick Mail 100 user site license
Part 2:Quick Mail connection for Senior Staff Executive and linking of the three sub schools with Quick Mail 10 user Site License

Diagram: Stage 2 of the project

Author: Malcolm Spargo, Director of Studies and Information Technology Manager, Scotch College, Adelaide, Carruth Road, Torrens Park, South Australia 5062. Phone: (08) 272 7511; Facsimile: (08) 271 7916

Please cite as: Spargo, M. (1994). Scotch College Adelaide's Information Technology Project: A catalyst for change. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (eds), Learning Environment Technology: Selected papers from LETA 94, 318-325. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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