Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

Ready or Not…Here the laptops come…

I have been so busy doing the Digital Education Revolution lately that there has been precious little time to communicate about it! I have not blogged in more than a month, nor have I even had time to participate in Twitter. On the bright side, the holidays are coming and with them two whole weeks of thinking, planning and communicating time.

As it has been a while since my last blog post, this post is intended as a catch-up as to what I have been up to and hopefully those experiences may help others in the NSWDER.

The reality for most teachers is that the NSWDER has had the effect of a bulldozer, sweeping through existing plans, programs and time. There has been some excitement amongst the teachers at my school but also some resentment, anger and frustration at the sudden expectations with little time to prepare and not all teachers having access to the software the students will have on their laptops. A lot of teachers felt that without having one of the laptops themselves they were very hampered in their ability to prepare for teaching classes with laptops.

We started the process with a whole staff meeting where we asked four questions in faculty groupings: What are your concerns with laptops in classrooms? What are your ideas for overcoming these issues? What do you see as the benefits of laptops in classrooms? How can we prepare for the arrival of the laptops?  After collating the results of the discussions, a few things became apparent so we moved quickly to implement strategies to address these needs.  Firstly, there was a lack of information and understanding amongst the staff about the policies and procedures concerning the laptops, both at DET and school level. Secondly, there were lots of questions about the laptops themselves.

Accordingly, we planned an extended staff meeting where we ran two sessions: the first was an information session where we outlined the policies and procedures and the second was a session about the laptops: what software was on them, what they could and couldn’t do and ideas for using OneNote as the student workbook in all subjects.  Following these sessions we offered a HOT (Hands On Training) Afternoon which I ran from 4pm – 6pm.

The HOT afternoon spent the first hour teaching the basics of OneNote and then an hour introducing some ideas for what students can do with some of the other software.  In the second hour we looked at how to give feedback on work electronically in Word 2007 using the Review tools, creating digital portfolios in Adobe Acrobat Pro and creating quizzes in Adobe Captivate. The focus of the afternoon was clearly on what students could do with their software rather than on teachers creating resources for students, as that can be problematic in terms of the distribution of that resource for us at the moment.

Informal feedback from the afternoon has been positive, with teachers now understanding more about the roll out, the policies, the laptops and more importantly, now having some further ideas for teaching with laptops in the classroom. The results from the evaluation sheet will be interesting to receive a bigger picture as to the success of the afternoon. On a personal note, it was so exciting to see over 50 teachers enthusiastic and positive while learning new skills and brimming with new ideas and knowledge. I am proud to be associated with such incredible people who can put aside their feelings and embrace learning in such a positive manner. It was awesome and amazing.

What next? Our student laptop delivery is scheduled in Week 2 of next term. We have planned information sessions each day for the Year 9 students in the first week of term. The sessions will cover: school policies and procedures, cyberbullying, orientation to the laptop, introduction to OneNote and file naming protocols, folders, storage, etc. I am thinking about offering more HOT afternoons for staff but on a smaller scale – the sessions will run after school for an hour once a week during Term 4. They will be practical sessions allowing teachers to learn software and then have time to play with it and come up with ideas for teaching with it. The third ‘next step’ is looking at ensuring that quality teaching/good pedagogy is going on in classrooms with laptops.

Right now, as a Head Teacher, I am continuing to ask the questions:  what can I do to support and encourage my staff in their preparations? How do I make sure my faculty are ready for the first ten days of laptops in the classroom?  From there, I am thinking about reviewing our programs to more explicitly incorporate the laptop use in Years 9 and 10 in 2010 so that there are ideas and guidelines built into the programs. Our faculty will spend some time exploring that in those last two Staff Development Days this year.

I would love to hear about what other schools are doing (have done) in their preparations for the imminent arrival of student laptops in Year 9 classrooms.


September 29, 2009 - Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning | , ,


  1. Makes me frustrated to hear what some schools are capable of. We’ve had two 1 hour meetings this term, didn’t touch a machine, looking at the Vision/Rationale stuff put out by the DET.

    The faculty I’m in has spent some time in our meetings to look at some apps.

    But, overall school approach has been dreadful.

    Interested in “ideas for using OneNote as the student workbook in all subjects”. So, are you replacing paper books altogether? How will this work in Maths (my subject), do you know?

    Comment by Simon | September 29, 2009 | Reply

  2. Simon, we are looking at OneNote as the electronic version of a workbook but not yet as a replacement for paper books. At this stage we are leaving that to teacher discretion – their decision according to their comfort levels, practicality for their subject, etc. Much easier to do in English than in Mathematics, I think, but then again I am not a Maths teacher so not the best judge of that. I will keep chatting with our HT Maths and keep you informed as to how it plays out in Maths classrooms.

    Comment by mgiddins | September 29, 2009 | Reply

  3. Mel
    Thanks for sharing your journey so far. Dedication by capable satff in providing PD is fantastic. However, I sincerely hope we don’t have to individually lead (show? hold hands?) all staff every step of the place we need to be. ICT is now old tech. Computers in schools is ancient news. This “revolution” is really a learning one, for all participants. Thats why many feel the shift discomfort so acutely. To embrace change, with initial assistance, like your place has achieved is commendable. No its not. Its fan bloody tastic. Great story.

    Comment by Tony Searl | September 29, 2009 | Reply

  4. When you wrote about “reviewing our programs to more explicitly incorporate the laptop use in Years 9 and 10 in 2010”, you were addressing a core issue of the moment. Moodle can play a role here. As part of a college we’ve started some cross campus collaboration on integration of our Moodle development across two junior campuses.

    Through our campus ‘Teaching and Learning’ staff meetings, and at a faculty level, we’ve been exploring the implications of Web2.0 for about 12 months now. At the most basic level staff and students have been using Delicious. Some teachers had already started blogs and Moodle’s forum facility is working well in some areas

    OneNote has had a rapid adoption in – English, HSIE and Science. Maths is using Mathletics and my discussions with people from Mathletics indicate widespread adoption. I’ve run my Year 9 elective Geography entirely on computers and showed them OneNote before they received the laptops so they’ve adopted it seamlessly.

    Comment by Russell Darnley | September 30, 2009 | Reply

    • We are currently setting up Moodle in our school and it should roll out for widespread use in 2010, with possibly Year 9 using it earlier in Term 4 of this year. Lots of set up work to be done there though and I will be tackling some of that in these holidays. We too have been exploring Web 2.0 and its implications for most of this year, and my faculty have been using Edmodo, blogs and wikis as part of that process. Thankfully, this will help their transition with laptops in the classroom and with Moodle.

      Comment by mgiddins | September 30, 2009 | Reply

  5. Thanks for sharing Mel – I’ve been a bit offline this term too, I must confess…
    Would love to hear how you go with Moodle – our school got it this term, and just a few teachers on the technology committee are using it next term, and then will inservice their faculties next year. Half of the second Staff Development Day of 2010 has been set aside for this. I’ve logged in to Moodle, and have been setting up courses for the English Faculty, but haven’t used it with kids yet.

    Comment by kellimcgraw | September 30, 2009 | Reply

  6. Yep, laptops here.
    Some reflections to add to yours: Little order or structure in the faculty I’m in. The DER night was so positive, over 300 people (mostly Dads!), but sadly only 10 teachers, it is not polite to say it but for whatever reason the HT teaching and learning ‘in charge’ of the DER didn’t attend. But I think that is the wrong approach, we are all in charge of this, individually, but also collectively. I’ve only just joined this faculty, and the school hasn’t had the resources to meet the ICT outcomes in our syllabus, the programs etc therefore need a lot of re-working.
    We have our own English faculty Blog, as approved by the Boss and the flittering people,, but again, the teachers don’t have the time or skills to come to the party.
    Can’t wait, I loved the power in the room during my year 9 English ‘learning’.

    Comment by Troy | September 30, 2009 | Reply

    • The blog looks great! Given me ideas to do something similar with our faculty…or then again, with Moodle on the way it might be best to do it in Moodle… so many decisions, so little time to think! Roll on the holidays!

      Comment by mgiddins | September 30, 2009 | Reply

  7. Yep, Moodle does that same thing, it a closed sort of way (does that make sense?) I’ve found Edublogs secure, allowing the students to feel as if they are in the ‘real world’, not just something set for class. I intend to use both, to work together, so students have experience of using Moodle, the Blog and also Edmodo (we all got onto Edmodo today, easy…)

    Comment by Troy | September 30, 2009 | Reply

  8. Hi Mel, our laptops were rolled out two weeks before the end of Term 3 to students and 25 teachers were given laptops about 3-4 weeks before that, including all HT. We have had an extended HT session, sessions at staff meetings, staff attending laptops 4 learning workshops, festival of laptops sessions and have planned further PL at end of Term 4 (two days on laptops) At HT meetings we are briefly looking at ‘any issues’ each week.

    In English we started with Digitally Yours and set up ‘rules’ and using Onenote using Jameison High suggestions. The English staff were already keen to get started and they love the unit. It has allowed the kids to explore their laptops while teachers are ‘facilitating'(moving around the room, working with individuals and small groups, kids helping each other). Teachers report high engagement from students and very few ‘rule breaking'(playing games, searching internet etc). Teachers also commented that they ‘didn’t have to know the software’ for students to work through the unit. Which was good, since three of our six teacher laptops developed ‘log in’ issues in the last two weeks of school.

    Our plan is to revise units as we go and look for lessons that can be redefined using laptops and available software and internet sites. The English DER ‘how to’ resources are really helpful here. Our programme already had a fair bit of technology in it and students often create slide shows and other mutli-media texts for class tasks and assessment.

    Comment by Lyntiernan | October 13, 2009 | Reply

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