Empowering students with St John's Catholic School, Tasmania
St John’s Catholic School in Richmond, Tasmania has a student population of 350. St John’s is a Kindergarten to Year Six campus; educating students in the Catholic tradition for over 175 years.
Ben Dyer, Customer Relationship Champion at Texthelp had a chat with Jacinta Keenan, Early Years and STEM teacher at St John’s. If you have watched our roundtable on “Education and Technology in Uncertain Times” then you will have met Jacinta before. If you haven’t watched the session, then it’s worth checking out. We’ll leave the links below.
Jacinta told us that in the early years classes the kids use iPads, while from grade 3 to grade 6 the children mainly use Chromebooks. In the early years classes there is a 1 to 2 ratio. In grades 3 to 6 the students are using individual devices that remain in school at the end of the day. Jacinta told us:
“We're a primary school, so we don't set a lot of homework that relies on devices. Because we're in Tasmania we haven't had lockdowns since 2020 due to COVID, so the majority of our students are face to face, with the exception of the current situation. At the moment, we've got a few children that are COVID positive, or they are a close contact, so they're learning from home. But we're not doing Zoom meetings, they are just engaging with online platforms if they can. We're giving them home learning packs if they need them as well. But because they come back within seven days, they're not off for long”
Jacinta tells us what St John’s were looking for when seeking EdTech tools: “We wanted a solution that would give children entry to the tasks, something that could stop a science lesson from also being a literacy lesson. We wanted children to be able to document their learning using a variety of tools such as voice typing, predictive text or any of the other tools”
“We were seeing an increase in students needing assistive technology. This was based on recommendations from psychologists. So we were looking for a product that you could use on any device at any time, and it didn't rely on students using the same iPad to access the tools that you need”
“In the past I have used standalone apps that have been expensive, because they haven't been subscription based. Because of the cost we could only have it on a few iPads. So we had to make sure the right child got the right device. Read&Write lets us help all students at an affordable price point”
St John’s made Read&Write available to every student, not just those with a learning need. As Jacinta puts it, “ We’ve taken the approach that it will help every student in some way”.
The school has been using Read&Write for almost a year. So far they are seeing students use the toolbar in lots of different ways. They don’t use it if they don’t need to but they dip in and out as they work, Jacinta tells us more:
“It's helping us to embed technology in the classroom, it's not technology as a standalone lesson. It's also empowering the students so they know they can achieve and complete tasks, in line with the other students in the classroom. They just access tools to help them complete the tasks, in a way that's more appropriate for them”
Jacinta goes on to say:
“I think since using Read&Write we're starting to see an improvement in our literacy rates. Even when students are using something like the predictive text on the keyboard, they have to sound out the word a little bit and then they're beginning to recognize those words”
“Having text read back to them while following along is helping with literacy skills. It's a great tool for editing but it's different to how we would traditionally teach editing skills. As a result, there’s less reluctance from the students to have a go and complete writing tasks as well”
What about getting started, was it difficult to implement Read&Write? Jacinta has some tips and advice for other schools:
“I think a key point for us at St John’s is that I’ve been able to support implementation. I've run the introductory sessions with the students and we've used a lot of the Read&Write resources. We like the really short videos on how to use each button in the toolbar. So I'd show the students some key tools, then I'd post the PDF resources with the video links to their Google Classroom, and the kids could go back and explore that later”
“My advice to anyone implementing it in the school is to really give the teachers support. You can help by getting involved, showing the students the tools - even if it’s just a couple of features at a time”
“I started with predictive text and using the dictionary function in Google Docs. Then a few weeks later we took a look at how to simplify a webpage, or have a page read aloud. Then we looked at audio notes, so we broke it down into manageable steps. Use all the resources that are available to you from Texthelp, they really help!”
The teachers at St John’s have worked with the students, empowering them to help themselves. They have allowed the students the independence to decide when they need to use the tools and when they don’t, without having to ask for permission. Jacinta finishes by saying, “The only thing we’ve found that Read&Write doesn’t know is how to spell the names of Pokemon characters - but who does?”
We’ll add Pokemon names to our to-do list! Thanks to Jacinta for taking the time to share the St John’s Catholic School experience of using Read&Write.
If you would like to find out more about Read&Write for your school, please contact the Asia/Pac team below