Head Teacher DER – Our Journey
Newcastle High School
Hunter Central Coast Region
Newcastle High School is a large, comprehensive school in the centre of
Newcastle. It has strong links with its local community and active past student
associations. Past and present students have contributed to a tradition of high
academic achievement. The school has a strong heritage tradition and also
reflects the diversity and strength of the city and region in its multicultural
make-up. The school caters for a wide variety of students and provides a
breadth of curriculum to cater for student needs. It aims to provide
opportunities for all students to achieve a credential at the end of their
schooling that will allow them the best choices for their future. One of the
most significant features of the school is its promotion of tolerance and good
citizenship among students within a caring and inclusive school environment.
The school has a strong focus on welfare and individual student needs.
In Term 3, 2009 Newcastle High School created the Head Teacher DER position to
support and implement the DER NSW laptop in the school. The strategies,
administration and outcomes of the project are outlined in the following pages:
Term 3 and Term 4 – 2009
Team DER established. Team DER was a group of teachers who put their
hand up to become part of DER leading team in the school. In this
period the professional learning offered by Sondra focussed on
software, web 2 tools (through a school developed wiki) and using the
laptops. While the students did not receive their laptops until late in
term 4, the teachers were able to begin developing the skills necessary
to change practice in their classroom. The team spent 4 x 2 hour after
school sessions undertaking this learning. They were repaid with a ‘day
of in lieu’ during Term 4. The HT DER also spent 2 periods with every
staff member in the last week of school in term 4 going through the
programs on the laptop. I organised for every staff member to have a
laptop. Therefore every teacher at Newcastle High School had some
training with the laptops in 2009.
Term 1 and Term 2 - 2010
During Term s 1 and 2 Sondra scaled back the team DER approach and
offered after school training in Moodle, Laptop Wraps, Web 2 Tools,
and SMART Notebook. Attendance to these sessions was low and
Sondra felt a level of complacency settle over the staff. She felt that
the program needed an evaluation and re-vamp. Late in term 2, she re-
focussed her program to accommodate this attitude in staff. She also
became concerned with the spasmodic uptake across faculties and
need for collaboration among staff. In short, the technology
infrastructure had become part of the school, yet staff were not taking
advantage of learning opportunities developed for them.
Term 3 and Term 4 - 2010
The focus for this period has returned to Team DER. The team all applied,
and the number of applications was more than the original Team Der in
Terms 3 and 4, 2009. The focus of team DER training this semester will be
adjusting programs to cater for the digital learning environment. The
software and hands-on training focus will be on Moodle, ePortfolios,
SMART Notebook and Web 2 Tools.
Student Laptop Familiarisation
HT DER spent 2 periods with each class of students.
During this timeframe, students:
Completed DET survey
Learnt to logon
Logged on to school Moodle
Participated in some Digital Citizenship Program
Microsoft Student tools
Dictionary, encyclopaedia etc
Applications on the DER Learning Devices
The school adopted a strict policy in terms of parent attending laptop
information and Charter signing sessions. All but 15 of 220 parents
joined the school at one of the parent information evenings. This was
seen as an important part in the respect that students have for the
machines in the school.
Early in the DER Program the school decided that for sustainability and
impact on the teaching and learning in the school as a whole that the 2
pillars of Infrastructure and Professional Development needed to be
equally focussed on. Andrew had the belief that without both these areas
being developed equally DER would not work. The school Technology
Committee, which is chaired by the Andrew (DP) and attended by
Principal (both English teachers), HT CAPA, HT HSIE, HT FATTS, contracted
Computer Coordinator and Librarian, became the cornerstone of DER
policy and implementation in the school. Andrew talks of their Der
strategy of one of “building the pillars to scaffold the house”. These pillars
are infrastructure and professional development.
The school has invested over $40,000 in various technologies across
the school. These include Interactive Whiteboards, 3 x 30 station
computer rooms, mini computer labs for group work computers, re-
designing of connected classroom into a learning space which allows
for flexible and collaborative teaching and learning. The ubiquity of
technology is now evident and this is believed to have a considerable
impact on the adoption by teachers.
The Technology Committee and the executive decided to put considerable
effort into shifting around positions in the school, and using the
availability of supernumerary positions to create a HT DER position.
Originally the position was set for 2010, but the committee decided to
implement it from Semester 2, 2009. The position is funded through 6
periods from the timetable and $15,000 per year from the global school
budget. An interview process decided the position. It is important to note
that the teacher who took on this role was a keen technology enthusiast
and early adopter, but not a specialist IT teacher. The position will
continue through to Term 4, 2010 with further consideration to its
continuation still underway. This is reviewed by the executive every term.
The project has helped the school to develop sustainable lateral links
between infrastructure and professional development. Staff are using more
technology, therefore wanting to learn more. The flooding of school
conversation and dialogue with technology news and updates through
internal communication channels is also leading to more use of the
infrastructure. The linkages between the 2 pillars mentioned above are
leading to a sustainable change in practice across the whole school.
While the development of a Head Teacher DER or eLearning etc. is
recommended by Andrew, he does not however, recommend a prescriptive
role statement for this position. For maximum impact and sustainability, the
schools need to look at their individual needs and mould the role statement
accordingly. What works for Newcastle High may not work for other schools.
The position however, is a crucial part of 21st Century schooling.
Professional development of the 2nd level of Team DER and further focus on
moving existing programs into the digital learning era.
Head Teacher DER