What I do and where we’ve been #1

From factory to C21st learning – vision, spaces, people, culture. Let me explain…

This year so far (from Feb to June 2010) we’ve had more than 200 visitors come through our school  Northern Beaches Christian School (NBCS), I work in the R&D unit – Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL). A school with an R&D unit? Yes, it’s a pretty unique place.

My role is ‘Director of Development’ and my one sentence job description is “I take what we do to the outside world and bring the outside world in.” And the outside world is very interested.

About 5 years ago our principal, Stephen Harris, decided to investigate how we could embed research and innovation within a school environment to be able to prepare young people for the big wide world they will enter. He wanted to establish a culture, equip teachers and design the school in such a way that would really emphasise collaborative, enquiry-based learning for a technology-rich and changing world.

This year the SCIL Building was officially opened and the students and teachers commenced work in the space. It doesn’t look like any classroom you’ve ever seen, that’s because it isn’t a ‘classroom’ – it’s a series of interconnected, multi-modal, multimedia ‘spaces for learning’.

But long before the schmick new building was opened, the process of change commenced. For all the visitors who come to our school the recurring question is: How did the principal manage to get the teachers on board with such significant change?

The answer is that the process of bringing the whole staff along for the ride began well before the opening of the building. There was a systematic, deliberate approach that combined support, training and guidance, with benchmarks, expectations and outcomes.

I spent some time thinking about the case-study of NBCS/SCIL and I’ve synthesised the process to four key elements: