Even before the beginning of 2018, Central Coast Grammar School was well established when it came to classroom technology. Students from Year 2 up already had one-to-one devices – iPads and Windows-based laptops for younger students and the full BYOD gamut for Years 10 through to 12 – and in every classroom, teachers could plug their laptops into a projector and mirror their screen to a whiteboard. But two major upgrades have now enabled them to integrate pedagogy and technology to a much greater degree, transforming the way that teachers and students work together every day.
The first was the schoolwide introduction of Vivi, so that teachers and students could mirror their screens without having to go to the projector and connect their device with a cable. The second, enabled to a large degree by this new wireless presentation capability, was the refurbishment of the senior school English/History/Geography building, “B Block”. What was once a cluster of traditional classrooms is now a series of flexible spaces comprising digital collaboration zones, where students can work together in small groups around shared screens.
Image provided by David Nichols, Edu IT Guy.
The redevelopment of B Block was spearheaded from a technical point of view by the school’s Director of ICT, David Soede, but he describes Damon Cooper, Director of Teaching and Learning, as the “visionary and pilot” of the initiative. “Damon’s been a big driver of the multiscreen-in-a-room aspect,” says Soede. “He’s been doing it for a couple of years now, with HDMI cables, borrowing every spare screen I retire out of a lease or relocate from elsewhere in the school!”
Those days of ad hoc set-ups, however, are long gone. Most of the classrooms in B Block have four 55-inch Vivi-enabled screens and can be opened up, thanks to bifold walls, into double spaces with eight screens. Each screen is configured with a writeable wall and furniture accommodating up to six students, to create a discrete zone for group work. “[One student] can literally do the big-paper thinking with a pen,” explains Cooper, “somebody else can be doing some research, somebody else can be banging into a collaborative document. And we’re enabling those multiple roles in an effective group dynamic and maintaining teacher visibility.”This last point is an important aspect of the design of B Block. The teacher can stand in the middle of their room and clearly see the work that each group is doing. They can monitor the collaboration process too, and very quickly provide support or other intervention, as required.
Video provided by Central Coast Grammar School
The beauty of using Vivi is that, when teachers do need to move around to engage with students, they retain control of all the screens in the room simply by taking their device with them. This untethering of teachers from their desks was a core objective of Central Coast Grammar’s transition to wireless screen mirroring. And according to Year 7 teacher Andrew Cameron, the move to wireless has been a game-changer.
“I don’t have to be attached to one point in the room, I can be anywhere, with my laptop, with my tablet or with my phone,” he says. “I’m no longer a teacher that stands up at the front and delivers content.”
This is enabling teachers to respond in a more considered way to the needs of their class. Rather than judging the progress of learning on the questions being asked by students, they can move around the room and see where everyone is up to. “We can adjust and shift better than we could before,” says Cooper. “We can see what’s going on.” The teachers are also able to provide much more individualised feedback and guidance during class time. “The amount of incidental feedback is definitely more than I expected,” says Cooper. It’s a significant advance on the old model, he adds, where feedback mostly came as “commentary at the end of an essay.”
But these aren’t the only positive implications of increased teacher mobility. “We’re also seeing improvement in behavior management,” says Cooper, “because teachers can be closer to the students who need the most supervision.” He gives the example of a group of boys who have come in from playing a big sports game. “We can go and sit with them, and get them into the rhythm of the lesson while still running the lesson,” he explains. “And then we can hop up and move somewhere else.”
The second core objective of Central Coast Grammar’s adoption of wireless screen mirroring was to increase the ability of students to present their work in the moment of learning. The ease with which this can be achieved through Vivi has been crucial.
“We can switch between [students] very, very quickly,” notes Cooper. “No-one has to get up and leave their seat, no-one has to plug in, it’s simply done wirelessly from anywhere in the room.”
To illustrate how this works in practice, Soede describes a session he observed in B Block, where Cameron was helping his students learn how to design websites with HTML. “He had the kids working in small groups and one of them would have their HTML text up on the screen,” he recalls. “They were flicking between the text and the webpage, so they could see the source code and then what the webpage looked like.” The students took turns in their small groups presenting their code and website and, as the teacher walked around the room, he would see how each of them was progressing, ask questions and make suggestions. “If one kid was doing something particularly clever or interesting, such as a snippet of HTML code, Andrew could share it with the whole class.”
This approach is delivering a range of benefits for students: they receive guidance and encouragement as they develop their work, they learn from their classmates’ successes and missteps, and they gain confidence both from speaking in front of their peers and from having their work showcased. At the same time, the dynamic new learning environment is helping to keep kids engaged and focused.
Video provided by Central Coast Grammar School
Soede evaluated “about ten other wireless projection systems” and lists three specific attributes that convinced him Vivi was the best product for Central Coast Grammar: premium-quality HD video streaming, centralised system management and seamless user experience. All of those factors have been fundamental to the success of wireless screen mirroring at the school, but user experience has been particularly important during the transition, because it’s led to a high rate of teacher adoption. “Vivi is definitely one of the best technologies we’ve rolled out at Central Coast Grammar in terms of take-up and teacher happiness,” he says. No mean feat considering the impact it has had on the way they do their job each day.
From Cooper’s point of view, the transition to Vivi has had an effect on the whole school. “I think it has built a better classroom culture, a better culture of learning, because we’re closer,” he says, “we’re more engaged with each other.” The very model of 21st Century education, then – enabled by technology, centred on people.