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St Cyprian’s School takes technology to the learners

| September 22, 2010
By Angela Schaerer

Under the guidance of the Head, Sue Redelinghuys, St Cyprian’s School in Oranjezicht is embracing technology wholeheartedly.

This ranges from making teachers and administrators less reliant on paper-based systems to improving communication between staff and learners.

Placing pupils – not technology – at the centre

Nina Adams, the Information Technology (IT) manager at St Cyprian’s School, says the key to the success of the school’s approach has been to place the learners, rather than technology, at the centre of everything they do.

At the heart of St Cyprian’s School’s efforts is a Microsoft application called SharePoint Server, which provides a single platform tying together many different systems, and forms a web-based portal that can be used by teachers, parents and learners. Students can access stored documents, school announcements, administrative forms, useful web links and view their calendars to track assignment, test and exam due dates. They can also access class materials online, join in online discussion forums on subject-related topics and blog about what they are learning during their travels and community outreach programmes. Learner committees also have their own collaboration space, enabling them to share documents, assign tasks, track events or initiate online discussions on school topics such as sport, culture or community work.

Portals for teachers – and parents

“The social computing aspect will be a very important focus once we upgrade to SharePoint 2010 later in the year,” says Adams. “New features will include a Facebook-type profile page where you can upload a photo, add your interests, add a colleague, follow people posting useful content, and so on.” Teachers can use the portal to update teaching resources, view their calendars and timetables and access a wide range of learner information. Staff also have access to administrative documents and can make venue and resource bookings via the online reservation system. Many teachers use PowerPoint in their lessons, but previously could not access these materials when they were not at school, making lesson preparation difficult. The portal allows them to store and access their teaching materials, including video
clips and websites, from any location.

When the parent portal goes live later this year, both parents and learners will be able to view the learner’s home page. A learner’s overall progress will be easily tracked on a summary page, and learners and parents will be able to view detailed reports on attendance, schedules and academic progress.

The Information Hub a busy place

The learners are devouring the technology on offer voraciously. Within one of the courtyards of this stately school, a newlybuilt computer laboratory – dubbed The Information Hub – houses 52 networked computers, with another 14 computers in the library. This ensures the broadest access to technology possible among the girls. All grade 1 to 6 learners are taught basic computer literacy – how to use word processors and spreadsheets – and how to link this to what they do in the classroom. From
grades 7 to 9, the learners complete The International Computer Driving License, (ICDL) qualification, an international qualification in end user computing.

To create a lively technology platform, the school considered several options, including free and open source software options. “We chose SharePoint because it integrated well with our existing Microsoft systems. Microsoft also published a great deal of technical and case study material, documenting SharePoint implementations in UK schools. This provided us with a solid foundation from which to start,” says Adams.

Angela Schaerer is Academic Programme Manager at Microsoft South Africa.

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Category: e-Education, Spring 2010 Edition

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