Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Don't you ever let a chance go by.

It's the Christmas break. I'm not meant to be working, but I couldn't resist visiting a Sydney school while over here from New Zealand.  It would have been easy to think why bother and go fishing for Whiting down at Narrabeen but no this chance was too good to miss.
Northern Beaches Christian School ran a conference in Auckland and was attended by some staff from HPSS. Making it Mobile 2014 at Albany Senior High School was an exciting conference that offered me, as a teacher, a huge variety of tools and options in my teaching practice and the time that I spent there certainly had an impact on my practice in so many ways.  Actually when I look at the professional development that has been made available, this year, through our PD team I know that I am incredibly fortunate to be a part of the HPSS team.  Making it Mobile, GAFE, EdchatNZ and Ulearn in 2014 have all be challenging and incredibly useful opportunities.

I contacted Anne Knock  of NBCS, knowing that they were in their last week of term and asked if I could come over and have a visit.  "Sure, no problem.  See you at 10:30" was the reply.  One of the reasons for requesting this visit was the amazing building project that was presented at the Auckland conference, which would be completed early in 2015.  For a 'Fly through' of this project click Project Barcelona to get an idea of this neat learning environment.  One of my other reasons was really just to gain some perspective on what learning looks like in a school that is similar to HPSS in so many ways.  As it turns out it has been the highlight of my time in Sydney so far.

This building is due for completion in April 2015 and will feature some really cool connected learning environments which will have a focus on Science, Innovation and Partnerships.  One strong feature will be a highly 'student-managed' learning component, which will see senior students gain more responsibility and independence as they move into these new spaces.  As you can see this project is well nearing completion.

Just walking around, chatting with Anne was refreshing in many ways.  Just listening to her talk about how they use specific spaces and how they use those spaces with the challenge of a roll of 1300 learners from primary through to year 13.  When I consider that our school roll will probably be around 1300, I have come away with the confidence that our environment is ample. The Lego pit had me thinking, should I dive in and build something? Also we need one of these at HPSS, and not just for the students.  The spaces for learning were many and varied, some indoor, some out and some combined, but one thing was guaranteed, that they were all flexible and could be used in a variety of ways.

The connected maker spaces and design environment also left me with an appreciation of what we have to work with.  I am convinced that as we further develop our Big Projects and Pollinator aspects (authentic external partnerships) we will begin to see this as one of the major keys to relevant learning at HPSS.  This aspect is also being developed here at NBCS.

While I liked the learning  areas and Maker/design spaces the best was yet to come in  the form of an amazingly authentic performance suit, complete with a stage that rivals any real gig venue.  Students can walk into this space and become armed and dangerous within minutes.  Guitars, keyboards, recording devices, Lighting and Mic's were well setup and ready for action.  One could be forgiven for thinking they had just walked into a professional 'band gig setup' or commercial recording studio.
 This is what it is all about guys.  If I was a student in this school I would feel like I was 'the real deal', and that is the key to learning for me. Authenticity, Authenticity Authenticity, where one does not have the safety net of contrived situations, and if you feel overwhelmed, I am sure that this environment suited everyone from the beginners to the well-seasoned performers.

Making learning situations real means that the learning , the thinking, the design processes, the making and ultimately the outcomes are challenged by something better than a test or a grade.  They find themselves in the middle of authentic audience and even a market place.  One aspect of this space that reminded me of something I have considered and need to revisit is that these authentic quality instruments for learning are not tucked away in safe storage or locked in an instrument room.  They are out on display and are as much a learning incentive as any other learning mechanism or tool.  They are inspirational and are there to be used.  Managing equipment well and keeping it accessible is important and is a focus for me coming into the new year.

I just want to say a big thanks to @AnneKnock and the staff at NBCS for the tour.  Just the fact that schools can share practice and inspire is an indication that education is changing.  I have lots to think about.  Have a great Christmas and New Year!!