On a quest for the “Holy Grail” of education

by Brett Henebery14 Mar 2017


Saint Stephen’s College, located in Queensland, is helping teachers personalise the learning experience for students, and in doing so, it is providing more time for deeper, individualised discussion between teacher and student.

Its headmaster, Jamie Dorrington, told The Educator that the College has “been on a journey that has a definite direction and purpose, even if the path has meandered a bit”.

“Our goal has been to marry the extraordinary skills of our staff with the ever increasing potential of digital technology in order to enrich the lives of our talented students,” he said. 

However, to illustrate the daunting task ahead, Dorrington pointed out that it is like being “on a quest for the Holy Grail of education”.

“This involves shaping learning to meet the needs of each individual student rather than shaping the student to meet the requirements of the old, mass-produced aim at the center approach to schooling,” he said.

“The journey has taken imagination and a preparedness to navigate towards the horizon.”

But there is nothing magic in the process, he added.

“It is not really hard to predict the future of learning. All you need to do is find great ideas and think about how they can apply to the children in your school,” Dorrington said.

“The challenge takes the form of reassuring students, staff and parents by providing them with proof that their approach impacts positively on the individual learner.”

And this approach is working. Saint Stephen’s has produced some outstanding results academically, as well as in the arts.
 
“We have a diverse student body, including students from many countries, but they blend and unite to create an exceptional culture,” Dorrington said.  

“Our learning facilities are exceptional, our digital resources are engaging and our support structures are focused and effective, but it is the zest, joy and passion of our people that has propelled us on our journey.”  

Dorrington said that the ability to shape the future of education depends on two factors: imagination and resources.  

“We are fortunate to have an abundance of both,” he said.

Saint Stephen’s College was the subject of a recent case study by education technology provider D2L, which looked at how the school uses blended learning to ensure that education is never offline.

Peter West, the college’s director of eLearning, has spent the last 20 years empowering schools by fusing technology into their teaching and making sure that students have the resources they need to learn. 

“Our core business is education, not technology,” he said.

However, it’s the technology that allows the school to focus on what matters: blurring the line between offline learning and online learning into just learning.

West said that a traditional classroom works, but it’s “a blunt instrument”. 

“You end up teaching to the middle of the class: those that are falling behind are often left behind, and those that are ahead end up bored and unengaged,” he explained.

For parents who have concerns about how technology might change the way their kids are being taught, West pointed out that the computer “isn’t teaching their child, it’s only enhancing the student’s experience”.

“If anything, the technology helps to make the experience more human,” he said.


 

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