The ACT Education Directorate is responsible for 89 schools and growing. This includes 43,000 students, of which 7,500 need adjustments to the curriculum. This diverse range of students led to a shared vision in the directorate of inclusion reform.
This commitment to making learning more inclusive led to the introduction of Read&Write.
In this special episode of Texthelp Talks, Greg O'Connor interviews Michelle Van Puyvelde, a School Leader at the ACT Education Directorate in Australia. Listen to hear the directorate's story of using Read&Write across all their schools. Including the impact it’s having on teaching and learning.
The ACT Education Directorate and Texthelp have built a continued relationship over the past 10 years. With Stella Scheele, Student Engagement Leader commenting:
“We started using Read&Write via a program for individual students. With Texthelp delivering many professional learning workshops on assistive technology. In the last three years we trialled Read&Write in 12 schools. The data showed positive results which led to funding of Read&Write for all teachers and students.”
Michelle Van Puyvelde, School Leader C for the ACT Education Directorate also said that:
“We've had a focus on involving families, with over 200 parents registering for a webinar hosted by Texthelp in May 2020. It's important that families have access to the tool for their young people at home, because that leads to consistency of learning.”
Teachers in ACT Education have learned that the features of Read&Write make learning accessible for all students. With our data showing that teachers and students used Read&Write 1.2 million times in 2020.
The biggest impact of Read&Write within the directorate has been on students' engagement. This is especially true in secondary schools where students may start year seven with below average reading skills. Michelle has found that:
“The amount of reading increases in that step into the secondary curriculum in Australia. That's where we see a lot of young people start to disengage. They have challenging behavior in the classroom and end up in a spiral of getting further behind. So by introducing Read&Write from upper primary, into junior secondary school, we are seeing greater engagement.”
This has placed literacy at the core of teaching and learning within the directorate. It’s about giving students the confidence to know that literacy is no longer a barrier to their learning.
There is a recognised need for a certain level of literacy in other subjects such as maths and science. For students to be able to collaborate and work together in groups, they still need literacy. Michelle views it as “empowering” their students. By giving them a tool that will enable them to be successful learners. And lead into successful post-school options as well.
Results from school pilots and feedback from teachers, shows that Read&Write has made learning more accessible. As well as giving students increased confidence with writing, spelling and reading.
Schools in the ACT Directorate had very short periods of remote learning in 2020. Yet, the situation gave teachers an opportunity to explore the features of Read&Write. Including how they can use them to help their students become more independent.
The directorate sees this as an opportunity to help teachers delve deeper into the capabilities of Read&Write. To help them think more about how to embed it into their classroom.
We're training teachers on how to use the tool but we need to deepen their understanding of why they’re using the tool and make it purposeful. Using pedagogy such as the Universal Design for Learning framework and the multi-tiers of intervention supports as strategies. So there is always a purpose behind why we’re using Read&Write and why we’re advocating for it so strongly.