When the first homework was handed out to kindy and first graders at Glenorie Public School this term, there were two groups to instruct. First, the children: their task was to compile a mini animal project using a set website and then email their picture and a simple descriptive sentence as an attachment to the school's online homework site. Then, there was the parent-teacher night to help parents understand what their youngsters were doing.
Glenorie Public is a school of few textbooks and exercise books, except for practising handwriting or in an emergency, like a computer going down. Every classroom has internet access and teachers steer students through online resources using a system called LAMS (Learning Activity Management System) to avoid Google overload and keep them off inappropriate sites. Homework is posted online and students use forums to comment on novels they are reading or to ask each other for help with maths.
Glenorie is a government school on Sydney's north-western fringe, relying on standard funding, says the acting principal, Debbie Evans. But it has put its resources into e-learning. For students without home computers there is extra computer time at school. The result, says Evans, is a learning model which encourages discussion and can be tailor-made for different competencies.
Teachers identify high-quality internet sites and set multi-stage activities, leading students to a wider range of sources as they progress and getting them talking in online forums.