Monday, October 30, 2006

catholics storm school heaven

Fascinating vodcast interview of Greg Whitby, executive director of Catholic Education in the Parramatta diocese, by Leigh Blackall, about:
A 24-hour school with no traditional classrooms and where students use mobile phones and laptops to learn is being built in Sydney ... The school will be referred to as a "learning community" and teachers will be known as "learning advisers" ... They can also have access to their work and lesson material at any time on the internet. Staff will provide online tutorials from 8pm to 10pm...Technology would be a major focus of the school that will boast a "meshed wireless environment" ... "It will be an e-learning environment using m-learning [mobile technology] tools." This could mean a student might be sitting in the playground carrying out school work via a mobile phone. Laptop computers will be another learning tool ...The traditional lesson timetable, where students might move from maths to science to English class, will be overhauled. There will be integrated lessons where students will still learn according to NSW Board of Studies guidelines, but may be taught in mixed age groups...
- quotes from evolution of schools, Sydney Morning Herald article
Here are some quick notes I took from the vodcast interview:
  • kids today learn differently
  • the mass production model does not work
  • how can we improve the learning outcomes for every child
  • create a different built environment, open spaces
  • it doesn't look like a school, no classrooms
  • engage staff in the learning journey
  • learning 24/7
  • "learning advisors", not teachers
  • all teachers are team members
  • kids negotiate their learning
  • no traditional timetable
  • free up the working life of staff
  • current models of teaching enslave teachers
  • currently we ring a bell and tell staff when to eat
  • staff need to demonstrate they have improved learning outcomes rather than mechanically put in hours
  • recognise staff as professionals who can make intelligent decisions ... this has been missing for so long
  • the traditional schooling process deskills teachers

My initial thoughts:

Futures: Is this a first? Has anyone else tried this? This is a great initiative! How interesting that catholics schools are the first to try this!
Technical: The meshed wireless environment is a leaf out of the 120 dollar laptop idea
Built environment: It would be nice to teach in a school that does not look like a gaol or a brick shithouse
Language: school will be referred to as a "learning community" and teachers will be known as "learning advisers" - this is specious brave new world freedom talk, which hopefully won't turn into a substitute for the real thing
Freedom: Former slaves find it hard to deal with freedom, lots of issues will arise, some teachers and students will be seen by some to go "too far" or "too fast". What will be the attitude to taking risks? There is a strong culture of risk avoidance in our society. How will they be dealt with, what development / growth model will be in place, how will leadership be exercised?
Assessment: Learning outcomes will still be tied to NSW Board of Studies guidelines, this will prove to be a major sticking point, the more progressive teachers will want to review and alter this. In a negotiated curriculum without tradional subject areas all sorts of hard to measure learning will be occuring. It will often not be detected through traditional assessment measurement. This will create pressure to role back innovation.

TALO discussion link
I particularly liked the contributions from Teemu Leinonen to this discussion.
(a) in rebutting the web2.0 hype and other jargon:
"Of course it is great if people see the light under the brand of "web 2.0", but still, we should more think about the process of learning and less the tools and the widgets used in it.

And if we do we may actually find out that we still need "teachers" who are committed to help the development of their students, "group" that are creating culture and maybe even "schools" that will be the places for all this. :-) "

(b) and his critique of the 24/7 school:
"Probably it is not a surprise for anyone that I also do not find the 24/7 school necessary that good idea at all.

I think the model of the school is totally based on a modern corporate culture where the company claims to own all their employees time: here is a laptop and a phone for us to reach you any moment we may need you. We expect that you are there always for us. BTW if you have a dog why don't you take it with you in your office - this way you are not spending too much time in woods with so bad network connection.

The hidden curriculum is not too hidden, at all. The school will train perfect corporate robots. Is this what schools are for?"

No comments: