Reaching every student with Read&Write at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Kensington
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College (OLSH) girls secondary school is situated in the Eastern Sydney suburb of Kensington. The school sits in a very competitive schooling area and is one of very many, high performing schools, in Eastern Sydney. Around 10-20% of the school student population have diverse needs.
- 820 students using Read&Write
- Using Read&Write for 1 year
- Opened the curriculum for every learner
Every student at the school has their own device, it is part of the commitment that families make when coming to the school. Girls can choose from a Mac or Windows system, and both will be accommodated by the school. Students use their devices in every class, but they are expected to present their work using pen and paper too - since that is how exams will be completed.
OLSH uses Google Classroom, so with remote learning it was easy for students to complete and submit their work online. They also might need to conduct research and then write up what they found. We arranged to have a chat with the College Principal Brigid Taylor and Tracey Dunne, Leader of Learning Enrichment to find out more.
Brigid told us that she first came across Texthelp many years ago, but didn’t come back to it until last year when the college was in lockdown and girls had to learn remotely, Brigid tells us what kind of solution they were looking for. “We have a number of girls who struggle with the written word. We've got a lot of girls with dyslexia or SLD in reading, and obviously, remote learning meant that they had to read everything on the screen. It became really apparent that we needed to find another way for them to access the work”.
The prime motivator was the text to talk option, so the girls could highlight what was on the screen with the vast amounts of reading that they were doing. “They could just have it read to them, which was reducing their levels of anxiety and increasing their self belief that they could do the work.” After this the team at OLSH looked into the further benefits of using technology in school, as Brigid told us. “When we looked more deeply into it, we thought this is a great tool for every single student, because there's such a vast array of tools within the Read&Write suite that help with everyone's needs, including the teachers”.
What was it about Read&Write that stood out as a solution? “It's super easy to use. It links with Google seamlessly. It was really easy to get everyone on board, especially in the remote learning environment. It offers flexibility for use at home and at school. The accessibility of the program for us was huge, and the ease of being able to distribute it to every single student and every single staff member whilst working remotely.”
We asked Brigid what advantages technology offers, in comparison to traditional study. “You have to be careful that you’re not just substituting a textbook with a laptop. It’s about using the SAMR Model and thinking how technology can support learning”. We asked for some examples of how OLSH puts this into practice, Brigid said “If students are working on a collaborative task, for instance, they need to be able to work on the same document and they all need to be able to feed into the work. They also need to be able to get real time feedback from teachers and each other. Technology allows students to create work that they weren't able to do previously with the use of a textbook. We are able to provide them with different ways to show what they know.”
We asked Brigid to tell us a bit more about how Read&Write has been embraced by the whole school population. “Read&Write has allowed all girls to better organise their thoughts, and it has supported their overall study efforts. The teachers also find it helpful as they don’t need to type resources, they simply record it and it can be uploaded. They are using Read&Write for reports, summarising, taking notes and a multitude of other things”
As Read&Write is available to every student at the school teachers have encouraged everyone to use it. Gifted students have benefitted from the highlighter tools and text-to-speech when tackling large volumes of information. The highlighted notes can then be collected and saved to revisit later. Using the toolbar in this way can help students organise their thoughts thematically and plan out their work.
When it comes to diverse learners, how has OLSH been able to support learning with technology? Brigid told us more about this. “Particularly when you've got diverse learners it is important that students are empowered as learners, to believe in themselves and have the confidence to grow; when students are invited to demonstrate their knowledge in different ways as the learning environment seamlessly allows for this, it ensures all contributions are valued and students gain agency over their learning. This technology has allowed our students to thrive and highlights that success can be measured in a variety of different ways. It allows them many ways to show what they know and how they've met the outcomes in the way they are most comfortable with. Which they couldn't do before when they just had pen, paper and a textbook”.
Tracey Dunne, Leader of Learning Enrichment added. “Personalisation in the classroom and access to the curriculum was a key driver in making the decision to implement Read&Write across the entire College. We have a diverse group of students, as all schools do. We have those with specific learning difficulties (SLD)- Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Auditory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Speech, Language and Communication disorder, mild visual impairment or who have English as an Additional Language or Dialect”.
“Read&Write allows these students to access the curriculum like every other student - they no longer feel worthless and silly because they can’t access the work like all other students or at the same speed as other students”.
What about creating a two way conversation between students and staff, has technology been able to support that? Brigid explained more. “Technology allows for real-time feedback, which was very helpful when we were in lockdown. The teachers are able to help, give feedback and answer any questions right away. Sometimes that feedback is written, and sometimes it’s a few thoughts recorded as a voice note and attached to the document. Staff can also record a video for more in depth feedback. Read&Write has just allowed us to move away from traditional reading and writing, and expanded the ways that students are given feedback and present their work, and what they know. The specific accessibility tools alongside the reading and writing tools have helped to level the playing field for all students”.
The team at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College are still in the implementation stages of seeing what Read&Write can do. Brigid told us that “For some of our girls who struggled with the amount of reading that they had to do, it has 100% completely opened up the curriculum to them. For our diverse learners it has provided them with access to learning that they didn’t have before - in a very easy and very discreet way. Nobody knows they are using it, and that’s a game changer. When you are a student who struggles in a mainstream school, you don’t want to stand out, but you need help to access the curriculum. Read&Write has allowed us to do that”. It has helped us to address that equity issue and that level of personalisation that's required of us.
We would like to thank Brigid and Tracey for taking the time to talk to us and we look forward to seeing what’s next for Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College. We’ll be checking in with the team to see how the next phase of implementation is going.
If you would like to find out more about Read&Write for your school, please contact the Asia/Pac team below