Fostering connected learning and digital education
Educating Tomorrow’s Woman
Camberwell Girls Grammar School is taking an innovative and digital approach to learning, by creating global citizens equipped with the skills for a 21st Century future.
The meeting place of data and dreams.
Camberwell, in Victoria, was originally where three roads met, a few hours’ walk up the dusty track from Melbourne’s CBD. The antipodean Camberwell began life as a farming district, but the pleasant hills with their sweeping views soon attracted stone masons and architects to raise some of the old city’s finer mansions.
All the amenities of civilisation soon followed, including a small brick school house in 1920 — the first building in what would become Camberwell Girls Grammar School (CGGS). Nearly a century later, CGGS still sits at an intersection, but it is the meeting place of data and dreams.
Camberwell Girls is a Cisco Exemplar School, a showcase for what’s possible when students meet the best teachers and exceptional technologies.
“It's a program created in Australia for Australian schools that are looking to transform and innovate,” says Tanya Hanouch, Cisco’s Senior Business Manager for K-12 Education. Exemplar schools place teaching and learning outcomes at the very forefront of their mission. “We explore with the school how technology can play a part in creating a digital or connected campus using a range of solutions, and we help create the best experiences for teachers, students, parents and the community.” says Ms Hanouch.
Camberwell’s Girls Head of Digital Learning, Kim Perkins, doesn’t recall a more exciting time in his long teaching career. The changes have come fast and run deep. “The possibilities that this collaboration and communication technology have opened up, the excitement that it generates amongst the students, and the uptake by the staff has been one of the most impressive changes.”
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Cisco installed its full range of infrastructure layers — networking, Wi-Fi, switching and routing — to support a rich ecosystem of tools for teaching and learning, for communication and collaboration. Back-office management functions, such as recruitment, have been streamlined by the use of Cisco’s WebEx tools. Meanwhile, global video conferencing brings the whole world to the campus. Virtual visiting lecturers have included scientists based at Antarctic research stations and archaeologists on a dig in Turkey. The archaeologists taught a year seven religion class about their work, surrounded by thousands of years of accumulated archaeological evidence. Meanwhile, Chemistry students have been able to observe and participate in experiments that were too dangerous to conduct on campus.
The Vbrick content sharing platform allows the students to become content creators. It provides a secure platform for delivering high-resolution video live and on demand, and lets the school centrally manage video assets and permissions, while giving the girls an easy-to-use learning tool which quickly adapts when moving from the classroom to the laboratory or into a music and drama studio. Rehearsals for a school play can be captured and analysed in real time. For the girls, this encourages self-driven learning, as they capture and share video, leading each other through the iterative process of refining and improving their work.
Their acceleration up the learning curve is steep — students are able to capture, edit and submit video content to teachers in minutes, rather than the days and even weeks that had once been the norm. A chemistry student struggling to replicate the results of her classmates can now quickly follow their procedure on a tablet or desktop, comparing their successful approach and quickly seeing where she may have missed a step.
Maintaining focus on these sorts of outcomes, rather than process and technology, avoids the trap of change and investment for its own sake. Principal Debbie Dunwoody cites the school motto "Educating Tomorrow’s Woman" as a guiding star. Cisco is not invested in this Exemplar School simply to prove a technology. It works closely with Camberwell Girls to develop the girls’ ability to innovate and to develop their own creativity and collaborative skills. It’s an approach best summed up by the school’s Head of Drama and Performing Arts, Kiera Lyons, who says “Technology is a part of our world. Let’s not be run by technology. Let’s use the technology to enhance our lives.”
The Exemplar School program is a small part of a much wider commitment to corporate responsibility, which finds expression in Cisco’s Networking Academy — a global project to give people advanced skills in using information and communications technology. Exemplar Schools do not feed directly into the Academy, but they are encouraged to consider joining that larger venture through which Cisco spreads the benefits of ICT training all over the world, to schools as far away as Cambodia, Serbia and Mexico.
Ms Hanouch says the company chose to work with Camberwell Girls as part of the Exemplar program because the school set itself the goal of leading from the front when it came to providing the best learning environment and for managing campus-wide change. “Camberwell was all about enhancing the girls’ experience with collaborative tools and laying clear pathways into higher education and the workforce.”
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