2018-10-03 00:00:00

EdSmart case study: Stirling East Primary

By Emma Westwood
Writer | Editor | Content & Digital Strategist

Educator Chris Bennie explains how EdSmart fits into Stirling's 21st century game-plan.

Stirling East Primary School is a large metropolitan primary school, 28km from Adelaide in South Australia. The school renowned for its focus on technology, a strong sense of purpose and a beautiful old oak tree that graces its grounds. Stirling's mission is to prepare students for life in the 21st Century, and it is recognised as an Apple Distinguished Program for leadership, innovation and excellence.

Apple Distinguished Educator and Assistant Principal Chris Bennie helped get EdSmart up and running at Stirling, and his team have become valued members of our Smart School community.

We caught up with him for some reflection on the journey so far.


Tell us a bit about your history working with education and tech.

Digital technologies have been a part of my education journey since my first day as a teacher nearly 25 years ago.

Supporting students and teachers to utilise digital technologies to enhance the learning program has consistently been part of my role within schools. ’Tech’ never stops evolving and therefore its application as a tool within education continues to change.  

Over my career I have seen the introduction of the Internet, wifi, laptops and mobile technologies, not to mention the sophistication and power of the apps and software that students and educators use.

The challenge to ‘keep up’, apply the technology in meaningful ways and share it with others, is a big driver of my passion.

Ultimately though, my passion is driven by experiencing the innovative and exciting ways the staff and students utilise digital technologies to enhance the learning experience and show understanding!

How did you find the EdSmart on-boarding process and our ongoing mentoring and support?

We engage with a number of third party products to compliment and streamline our systems and processes at Stirling East Primary School. The EdSmart experience has been outstanding. Whilst the initial learning curve was steep for our administration team, the on-boarding was delivered in a supportive and manageable way.

We have been most impressed with the ongoing support we have received from EdSmart, especially Rizad! Rizad has been more than happy to be a point of contact for any issues or questions we might have.  Responses are always timely and relevant.  No issue is too big or small and there is yet to be a problem that could not be solved.  

We love Riz too! How has using EdSmart impacted your admin burden?

Time is always precious and now with EdSmart, our admin team is able to redistribute time that would have previously been taken up with photocopying, distributing notes and other admin.

The team no longer has to field parent enquiries around lost notes, notes not being received or enquiries from staff as to who has or has not returned notes or paid for excursions.  Having a centralised digital system allows everyone to be on the same page.

What are some unexpected benefits a nd outcomes of using EdSmart?

We recently purchased new photocopiers and chose cheaper/smaller versions of our existing machines - we just don’t need the larger, high output machines any longer.

The benefit of knowing exactly what stage each individual family and/or excursion is up to can't be underestimated.  

As we have begun to understand the potential of EdSmart in more detail, we have been able to utilise additional features.

Broadcasts have been simply fantastic for quickly and easily ‘chasing up’ those families who have yet to respond or informing families of changes or additional information for an event. The ability to quickly specify who receives the broadcast (i.e. only those who have not responded or only those that have said they can attend) is so simplified and quicker than traditional methods!

The benefit of knowing exactly what stage each individual family and/or excursion is up to can't be underestimated. 

What advice would you give other EdSmart schools, particularly those who are new to digitisation or automation and may feel intimidated?

It’s worth the steep learning curve, it’s worth the perseverance and it will get easier!  

Change is always difficult and in any organisation there will be those who embrace the change, those who resist the change and those who sit somewhere in the middle.  Be strategic in your transition - this will look different from school to school.  

In our site we rolled EdSmart out to one section of the school initially. The teachers in this area were enthusiastic (change embracers!) and it allowed me to work closely alongside them to manage the change - rather than scrambling to manage the whole school.

Given that parents are major stakeholders in this, it allowed us to expose a small group of parents to EdSmart initially. The parents then acted as ‘inadvertent advocates’ as they shared the experience with other parents.

Stirling East Primary - SA

In your view, what's the biggest challenge facing schools today?

Where do you start!? We could talk about the conflict of an industrialised education model versus the needs of society to create 21 Century learners who are creative and divergent in their thinking (and the difficulty of appraising this in a data driven climate).  But let’s not tackle that one here!  

In the context of the EdSmart story - it’s all about stakeholder communication.

The most common issue parents have with the broader school system and processes is around communication. Too little, too much, not timely enough, not consistent. Internally, staff are not always adept at keeping their colleagues notified of relevant information.

We have worked hard over the last few years to improve stakeholder communication and digital products like Edsmart are integral to this solution.

What excites you most about the way schools are innovating/evolving?

Schools are genuinely passionate about doing it better and doing it differently.  

Over the last decade (or more) many schools have recognised that the skills required of the current generation, the skills that will prepare them for the adult world they will enter into, will need to be different from those required in generations past. This makes for exciting challenges, practice and conversations.    

As an advocate for Digital Technologies in education, I obviously see this as being hugely complimentary. Innovation and evolution is about change - and change is challenging. It is exciting to see sparks of innovation explode into fantastic evolution - with the main benefactors being the students.

It is exciting to see sparks of innovation explode into fantastic evolution - with the main benefactors being the students.

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