Westminster School finds collaboration value in touchscreen laptops

Staff and students using devices to enhance learning

The rollout of 545 touchscreen laptops at South Australia-based Westminster School has made submitting homework easier for students while teachers can use the devices to check students' work.

First, 400 Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga devices were distributed to staff and students in January 2014. Another 145 devices were then rolled out in January 2015.

Westminster School's senior mathematics teacher, Angela Phillips, said she has found some features of the device useful when teaching classes.

“I often find drafting students’ work that is submitted electronically quite time consuming. Generally speaking, getting to all the mathematical symbols using software packages is time consuming,” said Phillips in a statement.

“I have been able to use the Draw tool to draft students’ works. I now request all students to hand in their work electronically, which also provides a digital trail to assist them with submitting their work in a timely manner.”

Maths students are also using the device’s camera to take shots of work completed on the whiteboard, she said.

The school uses more than 100 software apps including computer aided design (CAD) software, multimedia and music apps.

Westminster School's director of information systems, Simon Smith, said he wanted to introduce a new device that could adapt to the needs of teachers and students. The laptop also had to be lightweight and durable.

According to Smith, the ThinkPad met the school's criteria with a weight of 1.57 kilograms, seven hours of battery life and a 12.5 inch high definition screen which is scratch and smudge resistant. This has led to a “dramatic drop” in the number of laptop breakages and repairs, he said.

The long battery life also meant students were able to keep working on the devices during a power cut in 2014.

“Some students were sent outdoors [during the power outage]. They were encouraged to make the most of the situation by using the camera on their ThinkPad to take photos of nature,” said Smith.

“In terms of controls, we filter nasty content but in general, we take a pastoral approach. It’s a matter of educating the students on appropriate use of the device. We try and be in the background as much as we possibly can,” said Smith.

The laptops came with the Windows 8.1 operating system (OS) installed. Staff and students have found the OS easy to work with as it is not vastly different to Windows 7, he said.

There are no plans to roll out the Windows 10 OS until at least 2016, Smith added.

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