Teachers and students at St Francis Xavier School in a remote indigenous community in the Northern Territory have been thrust into the 21st century thanks to a comprehensive IT donation made by Hewlett-Packard (HP) Australia.

HP has given the school in Daly River substantial IT infrastructure as well as ongoing learning solutions that include training, professional development, maintenance and support.

St Francis Xavier is responsible for the education of 50 children from the Daly River community. Under the watchful eye of Principal, Maj O’Neill, these children are taught in four class groups. The smallest children are part of the school’s pre-school program. Kindergartens through to Year 2 are combined in one class, Years 3 to 6 in another and a senior class caters for the older high school students.

To help these children make good use of far reaching technology, the IT infrastructure includes 15 HP desktop PCs; integrated work stands and HP 19-inch LCD monitors; an HP xw4600 workstation and an HP 30-inch LCD monitor for the teacher; an HP Color LaserJet multifunction printer; an HP ProCurve switch; as well as consultation services and warranties.

Assistance with delivery, installation and ongoing support and maintenance was provided by CSG, an ICT company with expertise in the design, implementation and delivery of integrated technology solutions.
HP and the Catholic Education Office worked closely with St Francis Xavier School to identify the technology solution that would best suit the needs of these outback students and teachers, whose school is three hours by car (in good weather) from Darwin.

The project includes the renovation of a classroom at the school to house the IT infrastructure, the installation of power surge adaptors which are necessary due to the unpredictable weather such as storms and lightening strikes, new desks and chairs and new locks for the windows and doors.

Maj O’Neill is thrilled with the donation and has already begun work on a community newspaper project using the technology as well as involving the students in an HP global schools initiative. She said the project had opened a doorway to the rest of the world.

‘This is such an exciting time to be starting at the school,’ said Mrs O’Neill. ‘I can already see the huge difference this is going to make to the students, the school and the Daly River community as a whole.

‘The project has my full support and we will continue to work closely with HP to ensure we get the most out of this wonderful opportunity.’

To make sure the technology matches the school’s curriculum needs, HP is also working with the Catholic Education Office. This link will ensure the viability of the project and also examines the benefits of using technology in education in other remote communities.

‘There are very specific challenges associated with remote education, which need to be addressed,’ Director of the Catholic Education Office, Mr Michael Avery, said.

‘Throughout 2008, we will be working with HP to monitor factors such as school attendance, participation and academic success to measure the impact the new IT infrastructure has on the students at St Francis Xavier School and where adjustments might need to be made.’

To select the school, HP liaised with various education departments and bodies throughout 2007, reviewing a number of locations against set criteria for the project.

The selection process began in April last year and HP has worked with the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL), a major professional association with a wealth of experience in education. Interestingly, HP and ACEL quickly identified that there was no shortage of schools in Australia that would benefit from this technology initiative but it was St Francis Xavier School that grabbed their attention.

‘St Francis Xavier School is leading the way in effectively integrating 21st Century learning skills in a truly indigenous setting,’ Chief Executive Officer, for ACEL, Ms Jenny Lewis, said. ‘The school has benefited from the experience of community and educational leaders, such as Miriam-Rose Baumann, who was previously the Principal. She believes that education is a matter for the whole community and must be adapted to suit contemporary indigenous needs.’

The Vice President and General Manager, Personal Systems Group, HP South Pacific, Mr Tony Bill said HP had been deeply involved in improving students’ access to high-quality education. ‘It is vitally important for learning to be engaging and compelling, particularly in remote areas like Daly River.

‘This new IT solution will help the teachers at St Francis Xavier take education outside the confines of a traditional classroom and will bring a whole new dimension to learning for these kids.

‘We know this is more than a donation of equipment and that our responsibility to the school doesn’t start and end here. We will continue to monitor the school’s progress to ensure the best possible outcomes.’