My last full day here in Australia before the long trip home tomorrow. I get my day back, but who knows how long it will be before I get my body clock back. Last summer it took almost two weeks for me to get straight. Tips anyone? (Be nice.)
Haven’t had time to think much of this through, so excuse the relatively thin thinking. (Feel free to poke holes in it, as always.)
I’ve visited a couple of pretty interesting schools during my visit, one that’s in the process of being built, another that’s been around for 30 years, both different in their design. The new school, a high school, will be one built on open spaces for learning, project based learning concepts, individualized learning plans and very different roles for teachers and classrooms. The spaces have been designed with the great thinkers in mind, DaVinci and Einstein spaces, spaces that on blueprint at least offer up a great deal of potential for creativity and independence and passion based learning. Arts are embedded in the curriculum, and there is a really different concept of assessment. With any luck, I’ll be writing more about this place in the near future.
The other school was out in the country, surrounded by fields filled with cows and chickens and pigs. It was a small, PreK-6 school where the classrooms had all sorts of angles and skylights and patterns. Everywhere you look there is evidence of performance learning. Every classroom has a kitchen where kids do a lot of cooking. Outside, playground spaces are performance spaces as well. And the kids tend to the livestock and the farm as well as the school. I loved the feel.
Technology plays a role in both of these schools, though the roles are different to be sure. The high school will be a 1-1 school. The other is expanding the access of computers to its kids. Both are ripe for the ways in which technology can supplement real learning in the classroom, not just information processing. Obviously, there is much more about the culture and the infrastructure and the climate that goes into all of this.
The early thinking that’s evolved from those visits for me is this: we have been living in a world with pretty much one, ubiquitous model for schools for a long time now. This strikes me every time I take off on a plane to somewhere and am able without any trouble to pick out the school buildings we’re flying over. They’re all at right angles, with baseball and football fields nearby. The sizes and number of buildings vary, but it’s rare that I see yellow school buses parked next to anything that looks like something other than a factory.
In my own thinking about what schools might become, I’m realizing that I’ve been thinking that this old model is going to turn into a different model. But what’s really going to happen, I think, is that we’re about to explode into many different models. Obviously, this may not happen with any great momentum until we free up our ideas about assessment and learning culture, neither of which is an easy road. But we do need to find ways to support more unique, passion-based schools, places that like our kids, come in all shapes and sizes. I can’t remember when he said it, whether blog or e-mail, but Tom Hoffman reminded me a while ago that we have a lot of different models out there already, many of which are successful in their own right. And as we move away from that one factory model, we need to be open to whatever types of new models might evolve.
(Photo “old classroom” by shuichiro.)
Pat Sine says
Interesting thoughts. If you haven’t read it yet, you might try Rainbows End by Verner Vinge. There are great descriptions of what school becomes when access to the Internet/Web/Wikipedia is via wearable computing and schools serve both the young and those changing careers. The first 200 pages give you a good picture of this. After that it’s pretty heavy science fiction but an interesting story.
Kyle Lichtenwald says
We need to keep sharing these ideas and exemplary models of teaching and learning. Over time we will continue to watch the factory evolve. As a beginning teacher I hope I can share vision to incite change and develop an exemplary model within my community. In doing this I hope it breaks ground and motivates other educators to truly look at innovative methods of creating learning experiences. Something about desks in rows with a teacher lecturing at the front of the room gives me the chills. I couldn’t learn in that arena, I wanted to live the learning.
Educators need to be willing to share great ideas but also be acepting of new ways to improve their classrooms. I am an education student but I have learned so much from observing other teachers and the way they run their classrooms. You constantly have to absorb new ideas methods and strategies for learning. This requires being a learner yourself. Some veteran teachers may find it difficult but they too can learn from the rookies! Fresh ideas can never hurt!
Cindy Seibel says
Just before I read this post, I read an upcoming chapter by Andy Hargreaves titled The Fourth Way of Change: Towards an Age of Inspiration and Sustainability (to be published soon in a book titled Change Wars from Solution Tree and released at the Change Wars conference in October 2008).
I also have an interest in the impact of buildings (Do Buildings Matter?) on our beliefs about learning and how we visualize learning.
So your post about many models piqued my interest.
Hargreaves suggests that we should not be throwing out the legacies of the First (optimisma and innovation), Second (standardization and market competition), and Third (post-standardization – autocracy, technocracy and effervescence) Ways. Hargreaves argues for an educational vision that “connects the future to the past”, is supported by distributed leadership in a public democracy, where students are partners in the development of change, where parents and community are acknowledged as participants and where teachers are collectively responsible for pedagogical decisions. This he describes as the Fourth Way.
It occurred to me that Hargreaves Fourth Way fits well with your notion of many models. If we take the best of the past, it can’t be just one answer. But what it will have in common is what’s best for all students.
Dennis Richards says
Two good stories about the world “down under”- Australia and New Zealand,
1) Progressive schools utilizing technology for learning.
2) Progressive schools as examples of different models for learning environments.
An educator friend of mine just returned from Australia. I arranged a visit for her to a school through a Twitter friend who teaches there (met her through another Australian Twitter friend).
Here’s what my educator friend who visited Australia wrote me:
“Schools are run by the state, not the towns and are rated according to how difficult an assignment is based on types of students, available resources, degree of isolation, etc. The school is â€¦ [new and they are] â€¦ anticipating many more students when the new development surrounding the school is completed. The homes go for about $400,000. So the students are mostly middle to upper class. All students wear uniforms including hats as they are “sun safe”. The school is beautiful and has all the bells and whistles. All classrooms have SmartBoards, computers, etc. Staff here get 1 point out of a possible 7 (being the most difficult assignments).
Despite being a half a world apart, we all face similar struggles. The Principal is a proponent of multiage classrooms and made some good arguments for this concept. The classes are also team taught.
She took me around to all the classrooms for visits. Upon hearing I was visiting from America, students asked important questions like if I knew Beyonce and where Chris Rock lives. Discipline is not a big problem. In fact, the principal shared that a student could be expelled for doing something really bad like defacing school property. The staff was very welcoming.
A few days later, I visited [a school in another community ]which is a “doggit” (similar to a reservation) for aboriginals. The school had graffiti on it, barbed wire around it and was in need of repair. School is mandated for all children in Australia except for aboriginals. The environment is poverty stricken with little to no employment and alcohol and drug problems … Staff at this school would accumulate 7 points – low income, limited resources, isolated area and high crime rate. It was a very dramatic contrast.”
Justine Gannon says
I was wondering if you could let me know which school was the Prep-6 school? My son starts school next year and I am filled with angst and nearly researched out. I know you were speaking in Brisbane, which is where we are. Some external thoughts on school options are always helpful.
I’d be interested to know which both these Schools are. We’re looking at some restructuring of the way in which our Middle School works, and how we integrate technology into this. We are looking for example Schools to take our Senior Executive to for “inspiration.”
Gina Geoghegan says
Attended your key note @ Cockle Bay and thought it was great! Thank you for sharing. Just about to start on the journey… Heres hoping that a difference can be made even if only in small steps!
Brian "cream skimmer" Kelly says
Here are some suggestions for how to get your body clock back to norma:
1. Fly home West, rather than East, so you always are gaining time.
2. Treat it like an Mt. Everest ascent and make several one- or two-day stops along the way, e.g., the Maldives, Bahrain, Barcelona, NJ.
Selena Ward says
Not that I am happy with the factory set-up in schools, but it is not the building’s fault when innovative learning is not taking place. I have seen two classes shoved into a room to play Jeopardy or hear a guest speaker. I rememeber shoving desks together to fit mobile laptop carts in a tiny classroom. Unfortunately, too many teacher’s minds are in factory mode and it is too comfortable to change.
Maybe when GOOGLE gets into running schools we will have a new open classroom design with a new assessment system. If Microsoft can build a school of the future, can we imagine what a Google school of the future would look like? Thanks for the reports from OZ, we toured schools there in April/May 1991 and enjoyed it.
When I poll educators about their thoughts regarding schools of the future, the number one concern is “how will we grade/assess that kind of learning?” All this time I assumed it was the generational issues (digital immigrants, etc.). If GRADES are the obstacle for better methods of learning and preparing students, I’m really worried. Parents even asked questions such as, “How will I know how my child compares with other students his age if grades change?” “Will universities accept students who have had different grading structures– compared to everyone else?” Can one shift happen without the other?
C. Tschofen says
Does/would the very act of changing or eliminating the “traditional” physical structures of schools, as in the Australian examples, help to loosen the ideas around assessment and learning culture? Or does it only work the other way around? Or is this a simultaneous evolution?
I also wonder if the word “school” itself limits efforts geared toward change. “School” still seems to be a place, rather than a concept. One thing the “multiple models” scenario asks is whether education in schools — in geographically united groups, sharing a physical space dedicated specifically to â€œeducation/learningâ€ — is a goal, a necessity, or an option. Using the words “models” and “places” as you do, along with “education” and “learning,” helps to open up this discussion, but more vocabulary sure would be helpful!
Christian Long says
I’m only guessing here, but I’m assuming that the school you mentioned above re: “DaVinci and Einstein spaces” was designed by my school design colleagues/friends Randy Fielding and Prakash Nair of FieldingNair (also the co-owners of DesignShare.com, the organization I led — when I met you — the last couple of years before heading back to the classroom).
I’ve mentioned you to them several times (not too long ago via a Skype link when I sent one of their Edutopia articles), so hopefully you having seen one of their Aussie school projects will spark a professional/personal connection for you/they in the near future. If you get a chance to do a deep dive into their portfolio, I think you’ll really enjoy the kind of work they are doing throughout the US and the world.
Have I sent you a copy of this book yet? The Language of School Design: Design Patterns for the 21st Century (Nair/Fielding) It is filled with educational/design patterns that helped bring their studios (Einstein, DaVinci, Jamie Oliver, etc) to life over the last few years. Here’s the link so you can take a closer look: http://www.designshare.com/index.php/language-school-design/order-process You can either order it directly from Amazon or read a good chunk of it via a free e-book summary version right at that link.
BTW, Randy and Prakash are very closely affiliated with your buddies at Edutopia, so I’m sure your paths will cross without much effort as the months unfold. Needless to say, it’ll be a great meeting of the minds.
Hope your return to the US treats you well. Cheers!
Will Richardson says
Yep, sure was. Really interesting ideas that I’m sure we’ll all be watching. I’m hoping to get some more information on what the district is doing and blog more about it.
I believe that the outer model of a school is not the real thing that matters with schooling but I tend to think that when one who continues to support the factory model of life continues to support the factory model in every aspect of thinking. There are some places that this statement is false but the real battle in schools is keeping teachers and administrators thinking differently with new and improved ideas. “Factory model” thinking is not good in any aspect. For learning to continue at greater levels the teaching has to evolve and therefore thinking has to evolve. Times change and so should teaching and learning. Teachers should not teach the same thing the same way for years and years. Change needs to be made. Everything evolves, if things do not evolve they eventually die off. If learning does not evolve it will have the same fate as everything else it will die off. This would be a terrible thing, which would most likely not happen because someone would come along and change the way of thinking causing learning to evolve and continue on. This is what everyone needs to do and if everyone did try to change the way of the thinking learning would evolve to be very strong.
Rodd Lucier says
I found the perfect metaphor for the oft repeated design of our classrooms and the learning activities that take place within these spaces.
My neighbours are beginning to adopt new parking strategies, and this “Thinking Outside of the Driveway” parallels how classrooms need to be sites of experimentation: http://thecleversheep.blogspot.com/2008/05/think-outside-of-driveway.html