“We always look at the educational outcomes we want, then we back-track to the device, and ask what device and software combination will allow us to do that.” – Peter West, Australia

On my recent visit to Brisbane, Australia for an amazing Edutech Conference, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Peter West, an education technology specialist who is helping to transform learning at his school. Just as important, he’s helping others think differently about making the digital shift at their schools.  

West recently launched “Bring Your Own Laptop” (BYOL) at Saint Stephen’s College, a co-ed, P-12 school on Australia’s Gold Coast. What’s different about this program is that it was introduced only after extensive preparation – years of research and experimentation. And unlike many classroom technology implementations, BYOL started not with the purchase of devices, but with careful and thoughtful planning.  

West and his peers spent two years building content for the school’s learning management system. They rebuilt the school’s network to support an influx of new devices. And they experimented with a number of different devices from different suppliers – both tablets and laptops – to better understand how students would use the tools and how the tools would influence outcomes. “We always look at the educational outcomes we want,” West says, “then we back-track to the device, and ask what device and software combination will allow us to do that.” 

Ultimately, the school determined that laptops were the best solution – providing the right set of tools and form factor for their students’ needs. “We want to go well beyond the Web 2.0 stuff and cruising the Internet and e-mail,” West told me. “We want to go to the whole learning and technology experience.” 

With the Microsoft Student Advantage program, West and his team were able to provide students with Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus at no additional cost, since staff and faculty were already Office users. Standardizing on what West calls a “best-of-breed” solution worked particularly well for the school, as they have minimal technical support resources. 

West generously shares what he’s learned at national and international conferences, and regularly publishes articles – often touting the benefits of integrated online learning environments that allow a large range of systems to integrate transparently. But what makes him an extraordinary educator, in my view, is his holistic and well thought-out approach to applying technology in the classroom. West has demonstrated that starting with the desired learning outcomes – rather than the device – helps to ensure a successful implementation and more engaged teachers and students. 

Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Peter West.

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