My week: Leaving rainy Sydney for sunny Melbourne, applying design-thinking processes, being a visitor and hosting visitors to SCIL.

Some key ideas:

  • Celebrate with the community!
  • Application of design thinking as an iterative process
  • Replicate homebases, rather than split grades
  • IWB at child-height (if you must have them)
  • Think ahead – especially when building freeways
  • Communicate the vision and stick to your convictions

@anneknock most retweeted tweets:

NAPLAN ”is yet to make a statistically significant improvement, in any state” Auditor-Gen report…
4 Rules for Innovative Leadership
1. No standing still
2. Value ideas
3. Release control
4. Don’t accept status quo

After drowning on a rainy Sydney long weekend, I left for Melbourne early Tuesday morning.

My week…

I was travelling there as a guest of a school on the city’s outskirts for the official opening of the new space in the school. This school had visited us at SCIL on a few occasions, as they were planning their Discovery Centre. It was a reworking of the concept of library, with breakout rooms a senior study area and a combination of furniture and work areas.
It’s always exciting to see a school embrace new ideas for learning spaces, to give students freedom of choice of furniture and spaces to work. Following the opening event I joined the school executive in their planning meeting. They were grappling with something on the radar for many schools.

How should we structure the day? How many learning session? How long?

Currently at the school there are 6x 50 minute learning sessions with a few short breaks, but it felt to them that the day was squeezed in. Some teachers found the double-period interminably long, while singles weren’t sufficient to really get into anything, and were mostly used for revision or instruction.

I showed the SCIL Change Management Model as a mechanism for implementing and embedding change within a school. We discussed the options for changing the structure of the day using the model, to maintain the momentum of change, rather than be stalled by the process of analysis.

On Wednesday morning I took the opportunity to have breakfast in one of my favourite Melbourne cafes – Seven Seeds in Berkeley St, Carlton. Great coffee and funky industrial design.
I visited a growing primary school in one of the growth areas of greater Melbourne. Travelling the 30km from the CBD on the eight lane freeway I was lamenting the narrow vision of the dual carriageways that seem to characterise the Sydney freeway system.

Since its birth Melbourne has been a planned city. Its CBD is easily navigable, there is a great tram network and has developed quirky designs around nearly every corner. As the city has grown, satellite suburbs have been planted, connected by a freeway system. This school, only a few years old is part of a new development. From the outset, the it has been designed and built to support the open plan model.
Kindergarten/Prep to Year 6 work together in one classroom area. It was seamless. Teachers and children were actively engaged all around. Even the teachers who had some release time to plan, chose to work in the midst of the large space, rather than go ‘somewhere quiet’. They were modelling collaborative work to the students and were able to work within their midst.

It’s great to see a school designed with just two spaces. Once the first one reached capacity the staff team discussed how to structure classes. Initially they thought about splitting the grades, but the K-6 space was working so well, they decided to replicate and have two K-6 spaces. The IWB were positioned at student height – for their use, not teacher instruction.
Back home again on Wednesday night, we had an unusually quiet day in the office on Thursday to catch up on things. On Friday we were pleased to host a group of school leaders from Queensland who had flown down to spend the morning with us. The group was particularly interested in learning spaces, as they are planning for a new greenfields campus.

This school is facing a challenge that many schools experience. They would like to be educational leaders, but they can’t seem to shift the thinking of the architect for the project. The architect can only see boxes along a row, reinforcing the one-to-many paradigm, arguing that this is what parents are looking for in a school.

I have got to know a number of school architects in recent years who are thinking progressively about designing spaces for learning, consistent with 21stC thinking. It is sad when I hear about those who only think in terms of building ivy-league monuments to the past.

The team had great ideas for learning spaces and we encouraged them to communicate the vision and stick to their convictions.

As a stark contrast, my final visitor of the week was the architect who designed the primary school I visited on Wednesday in Melbourne. He listens, thinks about learning and works with the school to design spaces for learning, 21stC style.

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