Learning free, and at my desk:
Fortunately, I chose to attend a free webinar presented through Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) which was hosted by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. The inspiring session ran for nearly 90 minutes starting before school and finishing part way into period 1 (luckily, it was on a day that I could stay till the end!).
Heidi had presented a session in person at our school in the past, and while I cannot recall the topic, I can recall the way that she was able to mesmerise our teaching staff! I wasn’t sure what she would focus on but I reasoned I could always drop out of the call if it wasn’t valuable to me.
Bold Moves for Schools:
Heidi and co-author Marie Hubley Alcock, have recently released a new book called Bold Moves For Schools: How We Create remarkable Learning Environments (Jacobs & Alcock, 2017). Heidi is working in Australia with Karen Milkins-Hendry, Dean of the Development Centre at ISV, and Marga Biller, Project Manager at Harvard University’s Learning Innovations Laboratory.
The ideas and concepts they work with have strong connections to the work we have done this year with Thinking Strategies, and a small group of has done with No Tosh this year (Stephen Nelson, Nick Palmer and myself) and previously with Amy Andrews, Jody Ogle and Paul Churchill. In both cases, we were led through a process of Design Thinking For Learning #DT4L. This time the process is being guided by a team at ISV and takes place over three sessions so the potential for real and strategic change is strong.
Concepts from the webinar:
In an animated presentation, Heidi focussed on the ways in which we might apply a refreshed pedagogy for contemporary classrooms, comparing elements we have retained from the past and those we have ignored.
This was demonstrated with a classic image of a “school photo” taken outside the front of an old, wooden, one-roomed schoolhouse. We were challenged to consider what we had kept from this era, and what we have chosen to forget.
This image (Vernon, 2015) (shared with CC attribution – non-commercial- share alike) shows the inside of such a school:
While this was no surprise, the forgotten element of this, a challenging (and much more “Reggio Inspired”) example of use that has not continued as this image (James) displays:
Heidi postulated that teaching has been largely directed by others, an issue we must address by seizing control back for ourselves (webinar meets Revolutions – I was delighted!).
In thinking about the non-traditional schoolhouse image, she pointed out that responsive environments don’t run on habit. She asked us to consider education from an empty chair and suggested that we need to consider the needs of the learner.
Hippocratic Oath as starting point:
She compared us to doctors, saying that their focus always starts with the patient. They also pledge to do no harm – something that has occurred for some students exposed to ill-directed theories, or by us focussing on the wrong things.
We must come work from a position of respecting our students and their learning needs and listen to them with understanding as social contractors.
No more C21st skills or “future ready” excuses:
Heidi challenged us to stop talking about twentieth-century skills – we teachers and our students know we are in it. In fact, we are nearly ¼ of the way in, so none of our students have experienced life in the C20th!
So what then?
We should discuss 3 literacies only – digital, media and global. We need to consider these pedagogies and question how well we are meeting our students’ needs. We need to farewell our final year students knowing that they are mindful citizens, innovative designers and global ambassadors ready to take their place as adults in the contemporary world.
She tapped into my History self again by referring to Socrates and asking what we should keep from his time.
She challenged us to review pedagogies we are using to move forward, as summarised in this image based on (Jacobs & Alcock, 2017, pp. 12-17):
We need to move from a classical to a contemporary construction of space and programs.
Here are some highly simplified statements that summarise her question: “How can we be more creative with our canvas?”:
- Learning spaces versus cells.
- Learning times versus bells.
- Fluid, flexible spaces.
- Consider spilling into the outdoors.
- Replace seat time with proficiency so that credentials are the focus not hours in a subject.
- See time as currency (which is the way the No Tosh team worked with Stephen, Sophie and myself in September) – make every minute count.
Where to from here?
My immediate challenge is to plan for the end of the Senior School Library renovation. How might we reorganise the Senior Library to create a modern learning environment?
The Junior School faces the challenge of altering their current Lower-primary curriculum to a Reggio Inspired model; and the return of Year 6 to the site, which will alter the whole campus learning environment.
What are the conditions that enable learning?
Starting from this question indicates a real belief in the value of the learning process. Considering everything from the perspective of the empty chair soon to hold a student is a good place to begin.
We need to work with each other and our students with mutual respect and renovate our curriculums in ways that allow us to be ourselves. We do not want our students to travel back in time when they come into our Prep classroom.
It was the most amazing, uplifting, challenging and inspiring way to begin my day. I have so many ideas running around in my brain that I don’t know where to begin the follow up action, but I have been motivated apply some of the concepts, and completing phase 3 of our Senior School Library, and potentially dealing with a significant change at our Junior School, I have plenty of room to manoeuvre. I am enthused!
Watch this space!
Jacobs, H. h., & Alcock, M. H. (2017). Bold Moves For Schools: How We Create Remarkable Learning Environments. Alexandria, Virginia: ACSD.
James, J. (n.d.). One Room School on Dougan Farm. Dougan Farm, Wisconsin. Retrieved Ovtober 13,2018, from http://avbarn.museum.state.il.us/node/134319
Vernon, A. (2015). Inside the Old Schoolhouse. Bannak (Ghost Town), Montana, United States. Retrieved October 13, 2018, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/alanvernon/21513117544