Creating Pathways to Success Through Extensive Use Of Technology
At Bentley Park College, a P-12 college located in the southern corridor of Cairns, we have long built our reputation on an excellent Rugby League and Netball program, which attracted many students who excelled more in athletics than in academics. The college’s socio-economic index is in the bottom quartile, and we have a large population of students for whom English is a second language. In the past, many students struggled with academic achievement— in 2011, only 25 percent of indigenous students and 55 percent of non-indigenous students received their Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE), which is awarded to students completing their secondary schooling in Queensland.
Improving student outcomes through information technology
We needed to make some major changes to see improved outcomes for our students. We needed to rebrand our college with a new vision and motto. Living in Cairns with one of Australia’s highest youth unemployment rates, we needed to “Create pathways to success”—not just pathways to unfulfilled dreams. We decided to focus on assisting our students in navigating and building careers towards a future in which information technology plays an increasing role.
We chose to become part of the Microsoft Imagine Academy, which provides technology education training resources for teachers, other staff, and students. This includes instructor and student materials and hands-on practice materials for Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification exams, Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification exams along with self-paced online learning courseware, lesson plans, and the Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum for training on essential computer skills.
To prepare our students for the Microsoft, Cisco and nationally recognised courses, a complete set of course offerings was created for students from year 7 to year 12
To help prepare teachers to deliver the MOS and MTA content, we used the free certification exam vouchers that are provided for teachers and staff as part of the Imagine Academy subscription and offered our teachers Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) training. To date, seven teachers have received their MCE certification, and more are on the way. Hundreds of our students have achieved one or more MOS or MTA certifications, each giving them a point for their Queensland Certificate of Education.
We also began offering Cisco certifications. We are currently offering Cisco IT Essential and Cisco CCNA certification courses to our students preparing them for careers in the technical IT field. Just like the Microsoft certifications, these certificates are recognized internationally and therefore provide our students with opportunities for a career anywhere in the world.
Other nationally recognized courses were setup and offered to our senior students, creating pathways to careers in graphic design and web design. These courses include Certificate I and II in Information, Digital Media and Technology (ICT10115 and ICT20115), and Certificate IV in Screen and Media (CUA41215).
Microsoft generously offered to install Office 365 on up to 5 computers for each student, which means that the students do not need to purchase MS Office for their computer. This increased access to needed software on students’ home computers has been of great value when it comes to create future pathways for our students.
To prepare our students for the Microsoft, Cisco and nationally recognised courses, a complete set of course offerings was created for students from year 7 to year 12. We also established a transition program for students from our primary feeder schools who access the senior campus weekly to build and program robots.
The focus on information technology has carried a lot of extra benefits for our college. The training of our technical staff in the Microsoft MOS and MTA certifications have supported the staff in designing and creating tracking software using Microsoft Excel and Access that assists us in early identification of students at risk of not achieving the needed points for the QCE.
Another benefit has been the attraction of teachers wanting to teach in a technology rich school, where the daily use of information technology is implemented as cultural techniques equal to literacy and numeracy skills preparing the students for a career in a world where most minutes of the day is affected by technology in one way or another.
The impact of the IT implementation has reached a point where Robotics has been introduced as a true STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subject. The students in year 8 are creating, 3D printing, building (using Arduino circuit boards), programming, designing printed circuit boards for robots that they hand over to the students in years P-2. The year 8 students also assist in helping these students learn how to program the robots that they have built.
Bentley Park College today
At Bentley Park College, we began our technology programs to improve student achievement and promote success in education and employment. Thus far, the results have been exactly that. Through programs like Microsoft Imagine Academy, our QCE attainment for all students has improved from 25 percent/55 percent to 100 percent for all students over a six-year period, and it has stayed up there. It is safe to say that the initiative has had a significant impact on the college and our students’ outcomes.
This couldn’t have been accomplished without the support of our partners such as Microsoft. The MOS certifications that students obtain have proved valuable —leading to employment for many students through partnerships with local businesses. And all this success has not gone unnoticed by the Queensland education authorities. Bentley Park was recognized in 2017 as Regional State School of the Year for our work in creating pathways to success through STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.
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