Some selected notes:
Stephen Heppell opened the first day of the conference proper, with a keynote reinforcing much of his message from the Masterclass. An overarching theme was ‘mending the world through connected learning’.
Stephen reminded the conference of the blogging project, ‘Quadblogging’, set up to allow four schools to ‘find’ each other and spend a week for each of four weeks as the focus of the other three schools. During that week, different perspectives are offered on students’ writing. The first project proved amazingly successful, with students at the Heathfield Primary School where David Mitchell is the Deputy realising incredible results in SATS – writing at Level 5 increased from 9% to 60% in a year.
There was more explanation of his reasoning behind giving his grandchildren a mobile phone before they start school – essentially, he wants to normalise the use of them so that they are removed from the ‘forbidden fruit’ category well before school starts.
One aspect of his presentation left me thinking about the pace of learning: I believe he was arguing for accelerating the current pace of learning to reflect how quickly students can get on top of what we currently require them to learn. He talked of students who graduate precociously, in favourable terms. My question: if time to reflect on learning – to develop metacognition – is also essential, and it requires increasing levels of cognitive maturity to become accomplished in metacognition, then accelerating would seem counter-productive?
Stephen Harris – Northern Beach Christian School/ SCIL
This session was crammed with ideas about 21st C learning enabled by technology but empowered by reconceptualising learning spaces, pedagogy and staff development.
Of particular resonance for me:
- His use of pithy statement implying the ‘mode of operation’ – rather than just offer a vision, the school states what kind of practice/ mindset best supports that vision
- Importuning us to ‘do, then think’ – schools ‘think too much’. A simple diagram where ideas are prototyped and either embedded if successful or sent back for further thought if not summed this up. Design thinking is at the ehart of everything
- the leadership model was redesigned to have a project-based group, which changes according to need – a responsive leadership model
- administrative support structures need to be redefined to reflect new administrative structures. Piggybacking onto old structures eventually reaches a limit.
- leadership team members are encouraged to ‘kick the ball’ without constantly checking with the Principal beforehand. The ball game metaphor continued with teachers being encouraged to move as a team to where the ball will be, not where it is.
- A key phrase around the school is ‘I’m curious about…’
- Teams of students greet all students every morning at the gate
- the day comprises 4 x 75 minute teaching slots
- project based learning was rolled out across the curriculum over 3 years
The School’s Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL) was referred to several times as worth engaging with in one of the programs they make available.
Brisbane Boys’ College – Middle School Building Project
This presentation, by Matthew O’Brien, Head of Strategic Planning, took us through the design process that led to the new Middle Schooling precinct at BBC. With considerable flexibility in the spaces themselves -very attractively appointed – the challenge is to adapt pedagogy to exploit it.
Wilson architects were praised for their expertise; there is a site-wide master plan of which this is integral. (Coherent signage was also a priority!)
As part of the preparatory process, a video was made to share with the community showing the construction while explaining the design principles.
Damian Howard, Assistant Principal, St Raphael’s School, Melbourne
Damian began by putting his school into context – its heritage and proximity to a particular prison! In essence a fairly traditional and less than affluent context meant little change had occurred until recently.
He reminded us of Michael Fullan’s exhortation to create learning places that make learning ‘contagious’, something of a theme of the school. He also is an advocate for student voice- taking control of their leaning, he says, is key. The work of Dr Jeni Wilson was briefly alluded to.
Damian used the extended metaphor of force/ friction/ intertia/ momentum to explain his school’s journey. For example, he explained that change requires force to get started; friction slows- or stops – change; inertia is the tendency not to change what you’re doing – he encountered a fair deal of that. Momentum trying to build it – is a major task. When asked why he was pushing for change that unsettled staff? ‘Schools are for children not staff’. The ultimate response.