Sunday, October 20, 2013

Australian School of Mathematics and Science (ASMS) (Part 1)

Learning Common
 One of the first things you notice about the ASMS is space. There are almost no internal walls and no hallway areas, instead there are learning commons. It caters for students from Year 11-13 (Year 10-12 Australian) and students apply to enrol in this school.  The location of the school is interesting as it is on the Flinders University Campus and students from ASMS can use the facilities at the university.

The second thing that I notice was how welcoming the staff were and how willing they were to share what they do and answer any questions.  I was incredibly grateful to the staff for all they did for me. A program had been put together for me to experience and learn about all aspects of the school. It quickly became apparent that ASMS had a clear vision that infiltrate all aspects of running a school, from the classroom teaching, planning, to professional development.
Science lab with large glass windows - this enable the
teacher to keep an eye on the class outside
or the students inside.

The science lab in the picture is interesting as it can cater for 2 classes. However, when I visited 1 student was in the lab with a tutor and the rest of the class were learning outside the lab but everyone could see everything due to the large glass walls.

You can see from the next 2 photos that the open plan environment is light and spacious. The furniture is about to be replaced and each 'common' will have its own colour.  

Teachers plan together not as subject areas but cross curricular. They share the planning and teaching. It was interesting to observe a math class where the two teachers had combined their classes and were working together. 

The media room was probably the only room with 4 walls and even one of these was movable. The teacher is quietly innovative. He uses Facebook not just as a communication tool with students but to get the students opinion and guidance from what should be covered, how and what equipment should be used/purchased. He also uses Facebook/twitter to share with students his professional development. This was quite accidental at first. However, students were interested in the fact that their teacher was 'learning' and they were also interested in what he was learning; following the links and participating in the online discussion.

It will take me two posts to cover all they I learnt from visiting this school. But I will leave you with one final photo of me in one of the school flight simulators -amazing that a school has one of these:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

University of South Australia, Adelaide.

The University of South Australia in Adelaide was a valuable place to visit. They are currently in the process of building a new $80 million learning centre to primarily house the Business and Accounting subjects. Whilst it is only possible to see the exterior, they do have a model room set up. Stuart Dinmore gave up some valuable time to show me this learning space and answer all my questions.
Each learning hub has its own tv & 3 touch screen computers

This is currently lecturers desk where they can control all tvs

The learning space has 6 learning hubs each with 3 touch screen computers and a flat screen tv. The tv's are for group presentations, group work or the lecturer can control them from a central point. The wall have a clear perspex cover that can be used with whiteboard pens.

Students will be expected to learn in a flipped classroom manner. The lecturer issues a podcast to be listened to before class and then during class-time the students can work on various activities.

Stuart presented some interesting challenges around this new design some which school struggle with:
How to get staff on board, and up to speed?
How to get students on board and up to speed?

Students have a preconceived idea of what university is, and that is sitting in a lecture theatre, going to tutorials and working on assignments. This type of active learning is not something that as yet is linked to the 'university experience'. 
Staff are used to giving a lecture and then running tutorials. This new learning environment to some might seem like an increased work load; as students now listen to lectures in their own time and the lecturer time is filled with teaching/learning. The activities now needing to be designed by the lecturer.  What I hadn't realized in South Australia is that salaries, funding and ranking can be based around student feedback on the course/lecturer. If students don't like the new way of learning will this have an unfair impact?  

These are challenges that secondary schools are also facing. As we go 1:1 with devices and reshaped our curriculum to create authentic and collaborative learning programs to prepare our students for their futures; our learning environments need to change. However, like our students we all have a variety of skills and creating a new set of skills to teach in these new learning environments takes time. We wont all get there at the same time but are should be working towards a common goal. It is about support you get on the way and  Stuart at the UniSA is working hard at providing this support to the staff.

I think that as schools are changing their learning environments, they will demand a tertiary education inline with what the UniSA are creating. They are an innovative university taking the first step to creating an education for students that will help support the knowledge economy and prepare young adults for their chosen career.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Clearview Primary School

Clearview Primary school is located in Rolleston just outside of Christchurch. It is a 0-8 school which has recently opened a new building.

The Ministry of Education is no longer building single celled classrooms instead is moving towards classrooms that enable a flexible learning environment for students.
When I toured this building several things struck me, it was light, comfitable and all students were in a variety of places and spaces. Clearview is used to having people tour the building and the students were not phased at all.

Large open space learning area

Large open space learning area

This room has sliding glass doors
The building a square and in each corner are two classroom spaces.  One of these smaller spaces has 2 sliding glass doors which enable it to be used separately. Wide corridors then connect these 4 corners with other open spaces, including a communal kitchen area for students and staff. In the middle of the building is an open air courtyard designed by one of the students at the school.

Outside court yard

Wide multi-purpose hallway with window seats

A wide hallway/teaching space next to the communal kitchen
What you can see from the pictures is the range of seating and working areas . A variety of heights for tables and chairs as well as a variety of colour.

With a change in classroom design the teaching and learning taking place has also changed with more collaborative planning and teaching by the teachers. Students, for example can choose workshops which are taught by different teachers this the  lends itself to the strengths/interests of individual teachers.  A challenge has been working out the reporting but this has been overcome by using Google docs.

It was interesting as a high school teacher to take a look around a primary school and see how their learning environment has changed, how it has impacted on planning/teaching and that the students enjoyed what they were doing.