“What once was an ‘imagine if we could’ idea became a reality. It is truly inspiring.” — Nicole Adams, Australia

Nicole Adams
School Program Manager – Digital Transformation Team
Catholic Education Western Australia
Perth, Australia  @T_I_Learning  

When you live in a country as geographically dispersed as Australia, engaging with other classrooms in remote areas can be challenging, to say the least.

For Nicole Adams, it was a challenge she was up for, and one that is only possible with technology. Adams, who guides all primary teachers across Catholic Education Western Australia, used OneNote and Teams to collaborate with schools located throughout her 2.6 million squared kilometer state. And she transformed the learning environments in over 100 schools in the past two years.

“Through our new LEADng Lights (LL) digital transformation initiative, it is now possible to use the technology seamlessly across the state with the power of Office 365,” says Adams.  “One of LL’s cornerstones is equitable access to tools and expertise for teachers and students who live in remote and regional areas. In addition, access to these tools means all schools and students are not restricted by school budgets.”

Using Teams and OneNote as the drivers, Adams created a program called “TransitUS” to work with remote students from around Western Australia to help them prepare for their transition to a city-based boarding school.

  1. Community visits: Adams and her team visited regional areas for relationship building and to share information about the program.
  2. Forum: A Perth-based day-long program for students, designed to teach them skills needed for their first year of boarding. This allowed the students to explore the city and included activities like learning how to catch a train, navigate the city, and use a self-checkout.
  3. Connect: This 8-week online program allowed students to take a deep dive into life as a boarder and to learn more about their future boarding school. Students completed weekly challenges based on the Western Australia Curriculum’s General Capabilities and discussed the outcomes in a regular Teams call with other participants and the program coordinators.
  4. Virtual Celebration: An afternoon to celebrate new friendships, skills, and knowledge through an online party.

“We engaged in a Teams group call once a week for eight weeks with students and parents,” Adams shares. “During these calls, students had the opportunity to chat with each other and learn about their weekly task. The tasks allowed the students to get to know each other, engage in STEM activities, and helped them learn about their new school. Each task was presented in OneNote and students had a week to respond. Once completed, the students would share their responses via the Collaborative space in their Class Notebook. This collaborative feature allowed the students to see what others had submitted as well as comment on each other’s work. Students also used the Conversation area in Teams to extend these conversations to the wider group, which pleasantly created a sense of relationship-building amongst the students.”

“While the call only happened once a week, having Teams as the learning environment provided unlimited opportunities for the students to interact with each other and me as the teacher,” says Adams. “There was a constant flow of conversation that related to their transition, learning the technology skills, and general development of friendships in the conversation space.”

At various points in the program, Adams surveyed students and parents to gauge the program’s impact. They saw an increase in student confidence about their new schooling environment as well as a significant increase in their technology skills. And parents of the TransitUs participants appreciated that there was a program created for their children, as they felt rural students are often overlooked.

The engagement with this group of students during such an important transition in their education and life has been extremely rewarding for Adams. “Seeing the increase in confidence, technology skills, and knowledge demonstrates the value of the program,” she says. “What once was an ‘imagine if we could’ idea became a reality. It is truly inspiring, and I am eager to see what else we can do now that we have system-wide equitable access to the technology and tools.”

Connect with Nicole on her Microsoft Educator Community profile, or on Twitter.

About Nicole Adams

  • Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: I love using Teams and OneNote, they really have had a massive impact on the way I teach and collaborate with others in the system.
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, be afraid of repeating them.
  • Website I check every day: Twitter
  • Favorite childhood memory: Going on an airplane for the first time, it ignited my love of travel.
  • Favorite book: If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith
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