How mobility and the cloud transforms learning at Silverton Primary School - Education Matters Magazine

All Topics

How mobility and the cloud transforms learning at Silverton Primary School


No traditional classrooms, no traditional classes, games consoles in the playground; Silverton Primary School continues to set the bar for innovative teaching and learning practices.

Taking a look around Silverton Primary it would be easy to think the school has huge budgets above and beyond its state peers. There are Windows tablets and PCs, Xbox consoles and Kinect devices throughout the school and even a robotics lab. The media room has its own radio station, news desk and camera as well as a very impressive green screen set up so the children can make their own movies, documentaries and news programmes.

Tony Bryant, Principal of Silverton Primary School, explains that the budget at Silverton is the same as every other similar school across Victoria. Touring the school it is clear that Tony has made very savvy decisions with every dollar he spends and that having a mobile technology solution with the latest technology is a big priority.

Tony explains that having the right technology from an early age is key to giving his students the best possibility of success when they leave for high school. It’s important for them to understand the full opportunity these IT solutions deliver in an increasingly connected world. It’s about giving the students the skills they need in the 21st century. They are learning how to create and publish information using a variety of Microsoft programs so they know how to collaborate with each other and even work remotely.

“It’s interesting, because Silverton Primary School sits in the bottom 10 per cent of the country socio-economically, and yet we perform in the top 5 per cent in the country, so the results are extremely high,” Tony said. “I think there’s a number of reasons for this – number one, the use of technology plays an important part in our curriculum – but I think we do things a lot smarter, and I think we’re focusing on the children’s needs more so than what we did in the past.”

Transitioning to One-to-One

For many years Tony used the philosophy of one device to many children. Students across every year were allowed to choose the device that best suited their needs for each project. Last year, Silverton trialled a one-to-one device program with the Acer 510 tablets and Microsoft Windows 8 operating system and saw amazing results very quickly.

“I trialled the Acer 510s with a group of children in year three and four to see what impact it would have on the children’s’ learning. They did all their work on it, they took them home, and they used them at school all day. At the end of the year, we found that those children had advanced further than the other children, their work was of a higher quality, and there was more of it,” Tony said.

“They collaborated more at home, and they connected with their peers whilst they were at home as well. We use Office 365, so the children would use the collaboration features to talk to each other, they were using Lync, they were using OneNote to work together so you had multiple children at home, working together, on the one project.”

The results were outstanding so Tony decided to roll out the one-to-one program across the grade three and four classes. Over the next three years Silverton will implement it across the school, starting with the higher years. The students love the interaction of Windows 8 and intuitively know how to select the different tile icons to go straight into their favourite apps.

“We will keep multiple devices for K to two’s because the children at that age like using different screens,” Tony said. “They particularly like some of the apps which are really quite engaging with touch. The older students like doing different things from making movies, to using them as a laptop, and the voice recorders and things like that, whereas the little ones use a lot more devices for different purposes.”

Even the students love working with the Microsoft Office 365 suite. David in Year 5 loves to collaborate and research with his partner in real time. He says they both have a section each, they write it at the same time and he loves that they can see what each other is writing.

“We use the computer for researching. It’s a project that we do every term based on different topics,” David said. “This term we’re doing economics, which is like marketing and selling products. We also have digital portfolios that we use every week. We write our goals for every term, and then we reflect on the year. We do the digital portfolio in PowerPoint and we use it when we have student led conferences which are meetings with our parents.”

A digital portfolio is a PowerPoint template that all Silverton Primary School students use. “The children store audio recordings, video, any digital media projects that they are doing,” Tony explained. “It’s used a lot in the parent teacher interviews, so at mid-year we run a three-way conference where the child runs the conference with their parents and their teachers, and the digital portfolio is a significant part of that; it becomes a record of their learning for the year.

“The children are very proud because it’s something they can show off themselves – it’s their work, it’s the things that they see as valuable, and the things that they want to share with their parents; and so then the discussion is all about the learning, which is the most important thing of the lot. More important than the assessment.”

Open classrooms

Silverton has transformed its traditional school building into an environment of open flexible learning spaces called learning centres. The learning centres facilitate group learning where teachers can share, collaborate and work closely with smaller groups of students within the same area as up to 140 students.

“I had taught for two years in a single classroom school and it’s completely different to Silverton because there you just stayed with your grade for the majority of the week except for specialists, so you were teaching just one subject,” Silverton teacher Julie Saunders explained. “At Silverton the kids change so depending on the subject or the group you may have a different teacher so I may see my grade only for a few hours each day.

“This environment benefits the children because they get the positives from all the different teachers and the different skills that they can teach. They like going to the different groups and they mix with different students of different ages and they also get to try different subjects. Last year my grade was a trial grade for the Acer program and it was really successful and now all of the students love having their own tablet.”

The Acer 510 tablets come with Windows 8, which is the same operating system used across the variety of PCs across the school.

The school uses the Microsoft Office 365 collaboration platform to enable teachers to tailor their approach to individual student needs. They can easily store data such as grades and homework and thanks to OneDrive and OneNote they can work from home and collaborate anywhere, anytime.

“The kids love using Office 365 and collaborating because they’re able to communicate not just inside the classroom but at home, so it’s taking their learning outside of the classroom. They use Outlook to email me and they can put up a post on our online site and other students respond almost immediately. They share ideas and share their work. Using OneNote they can work on a project together and save it to OneDrive – they don’t have to be sitting next to each other,” Julie said.

“We’ll have a discussion going within our secure site, just within our grade, and they can be writing questions or posting things they’ve found, then one of them can then jump on the link and immediately add it to the word document or PowerPoint that they’re presenting their work in.

“They love using their stylus. They use it for certain tasks like for drawing or maths. You would think they’d need paper and pencil to do algorithms but they use their styluses to do that on just blank sheets on their computers. The split screen feature in Windows 8 is also really helpful for when they’re researching. They can have their information up and then next to it a note taking chart, so they have lots of screens running.”

It’s not just the students who are using Office 365, the teachers are using OneNote to create lesson plans and plan their day. They also share resources online across OneDrive which is a lot more efficient that sharing text books and paper. It also provides the teachers access to data across the grades, giving them visibility on the students’ progress throughout the year.

“I hardly ever use worksheets anymore because on the tablets we can just open our work and share it. I think it makes life a lot easier for teachers because the student engagement level just increases dramatically. They want to come to school, they want to take their work home and use the tablets, it just makes it a lot easier,” Julie added.

All of the personal devices across the school are touch and there are also Microsoft Surface RTs in the language room. Silverton introduced Chinese a few years ago and the teacher uses a collection of Chinese language apps. It provides a great opportunity for the students to apps and it helps show them how they can learn new things by themselves, as well as with the teacher.

A culture of transformation

Over the past few years Tony has used most of the Microsoft products across the school, from XP right through to Windows 7. Now they use Windows 8 and Office 365 and have focused a lot of their teaching methods around Office solutions, particularly OneNote, Word and Excel.

“Technology is always engaging, and children are very quick to take up any new thing; so what we’re finding here, the engagement of the children is so much higher because they’ve got the technology, and if you can get the children engaged in their learning, then you’ve got a chance to accelerate their learning. Teachers are like everybody else, they like taking up new things. When they see what’s happening to the learning, the acceleration, and the way the learning is changing, they are very quick to take it up,” Tony said.

Silverton has had a very strong relationship with Microsoft for many years. In 2009 it was selected as one of their mentor schools. As a part of that program, Silverton mentors schools from around the worlds and showcases the technology solutions the school has deployed and how they have worked to make them successful.

“After that we became one of their world tour schools; and so we’ve been involved in all of their forums over the last few years and travel overseas,” Tony added. “Microsoft sends a lot of people from all over the world to come and visit our school to try and learn from what we’re doing, so they can try and replicate some of the things that we do here back in their own countries. I just think that the relationship with Microsoft has afforded us the opportunity to do the things that we’re doing in our school, and it gives us that drive to keep improving.”

For more information on Microsoft in Education visit

Send this to a friend