The fabulous team at Clarkville school were our hosts for the first MLE PLG for 2014. I was excited to return to Clarkville after my visit during my sabbatical term, to see how they were going on their journey using Modern Learning Practices. (Original blog post.)
Pene and her teaching team relayed their story so far:
Bells, homework, desks, students only learning in class, students as learners of facts, curriculum coverage.
Choice - students are self regulated learners, there is a high trust environment.
Connectedness - between the school, the community, the students and the teachers.
Culture - a culture that is focused on learning.
Consultation - student consultation team that provides authentic student voice, community in action (CIA) groups and workshops, relationships with early childhood providers and high schools, to develop transitions for students.
Authentic learning opportunities.
The development of a professional learning community.
Critical friends - seeking feedback from professionals such as Christian Long. ( Christian Long blog post)
A dynamic, responsive curriculum.
Student think tank.
All teachers teach all kids.
Clear data shift.
Enablers of a school wide culture shift:
A strong strategic plan owned by everyone.
Principal/ Board support.
Teaching as Inquiry.
Clear appointments process.
After this excellent introduction, some of the Clarkville students lead tours around the school. Teachers were able to spend time in each area of the school, talking with the students and teachers and seeing student work and learning environments. It was exciting to hear that some of the classrooms are going to be renovated and linked together, to enable collaborative teaching in a more open environment. The teachers and students are really excited for this next step to happen.
There were almost 100 registrations to attend this PLG and all around I could hear teachers discussing what they saw, chatting together and being inspired by new ideas. A huge thanks to the Clarkville staff and students for sharing their vision, hard work and innovations.
Recently a good friend of mine mentioned that her school was building a bus shelter. "Do you have any ideas as to how we could modify or improve the design?" was the question she asked, hoping to give the children a nicer place to be while they were waiting for the bus.
I put my thinking cap on, and the ideas I came up with were painting the inside with whiteboard paint or blackboard paint, so that the students would have something to "doodle" with while they were waiting. I wondered about a vertical garden on the outside, where edible plants could grow. I thought about the floor and how it could be painted with markings. Then I found out the bus shelter isn't going to have walls -it will just be 4 posts with a cover overhead! So back to the drawing board!
However, I thought it was great that the school's parent group was thinking about how they could maximise an opportunity. An important reminder that no matter how big or small a project is, there is always a chance to innovate!!
So all good things must come to an end! Today my sabbatical ended and I headed back to my fabulous class, which is also a good thing. I'm kind of excited to start trying out some ideas that I've gained during my term off and to see how I can use my environment to support and enhance learning for my students.
Firstly, I started playing around with the classroom design. This term I am teaching collaboratively with 2 other teachers for Maths, 1 other teacher for Literacy and up to 5 other teachers for Inquiry, Discovery Learning and some Literacy.
I decided I would like to make my classroom more of a "watering hole" space, with a larger floor area. In the past, I have had quite large tables that took up all the room, so I switched these out for tables that are smaller. I still wanted the kids to have a "home seat". It's something I use for many of my management routines - I can take the roll in 2 seconds flat - but they will only be there a couple of times a day. This may be something I'll need to learn to let go!
I wanted to create more options for students to choose a space to work in. So now I have table spaces, a huge floor space that can fit 3 classes when required, and more "rooms within rooms".
We also have our learning studio space that we use all the time. The open space seems now to dominate the room, while before the tables definitely did.
So the kids seemed to like the new layout today and are already beginning to move around the class more than they did in Term 1. When I had big tables, it was often like they were fixed to a spot, so it was great to see them doing this. It will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next few weeks, with collaborative teaching and learning getting underway.
If you missed it, so worth checking out this story on Campbell Live this week. A great tour of Hingaia Peninsula School in Auckland and some experts weigh in on MLE development.
So still waiting for this video to be released, but here's a glimpse!! Christian Long (The Third Teacher +) showed this clip at CEFPI. Still waiting for the big reveal - but what an idea for a reality show. $1000 and one weekend to revamp your classroom! Way better than X-Factor any day!
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A quote that has stayed with me over the past few weeks, comes from Stephen Heppell, speaking at the Core Ed MLE expo, that I have blogged about previously. His words have been resonating with me and I have been doing some serious thinking!!
On the subject of school design, Stephen said, "No detail is too small. School design is ALL ABOUT THE DETAILS." On his website, Stephen has some extensive information about school toilets - an area that is often an afterthought in school design, but can actually have a definite impact on teaching and learning. Not afraid to discuss the problems of the loo, check out Stephen's research and thoughts here.
I've also been thinking about two other areas of school design that I think we need to jump on as important details that could really make differences. The first is parking lots, student drop offs and traffic safety. There must be ways that teachers car parks could be closer to the classrooms. I see teachers every day lugging huge boxes of books and gear back and forward. It's also a fact that despite our best efforts, many parents still want to drive their kids to school. How can we organise this is a safe way? I taught elementary school in the US, where we had drop off lanes at the front of the school. This worked quite well and I saw something similar at Hingaia Peninsula School. So much easier and safer.
The second is staffroom design. The teaching profession is probably one of the few where everyone in the building needs to make a cup of tea at the same time each day. We've all been caught out at the end of the long line, or constant "Excuse me's" as people endeavour to get their lunch before racing out to a sport's practice or duty. Even new staffrooms I have visited still have this problem. Again, there must be creative solutions to manage the flow of people through the area in a short time.
So that's my challenge to school designers - think about the details! Research shows that when teachers are feeling valued and their environment is positive, this in turn has a direct effect on their interactions with that environment and their perceptions. (Gifford, 2002. Woolner et al, 2007) A closer car park and a hot drink aren't too much to ask!
It would also be great to see local agencies that support traffic safety, often run by the local council, involved in the planning and design of student drop off and parking areas. The police would also have expertise in this area. Rather than trying to implement safety plans later - let's get it right the first time.
Wonderings: How do we get multiple agencies working together? How can schools participate in the design process to ensure small details don't get overlooked?
I quite liked this slide share presentation from Wayne Barry.
Discusses physical, virtual, social, biological and cognitive spaces. Some interesting ideas about future research. The more I read, it seems there is much scope for research into modern learning spaces, collaborative teaching practices, technology integration and curriculum design. However, it becomes difficult in terms of research, to isolate these from each other. My teaching instincts tell me that these four aspects are vital to achieve educational transformation, and that none of them can stand alone.
My name is Ngaire Shepherd-Wills. This website is a record of my TeachNZ sabbatical, Term 2, 2013 and then I have continued to share my wonderings and discoveries about Innovative Learning Practices. I now work for CORE Education. Views are my own.