Today, I accompanied a group of teachers around the Microsoft office here in Sydney to show them what a modern enterprise office environment feels like. Shared, common work spaces, numerous different types of meeting rooms and areas; lounge areas, board rooms, break out areas, flexible meeting areas and casual furniture to encourage discussion and team work, are all supported with technology that enables us to work more effectively than sitting together in our own siloed cubicles from 9 until 5. Why should this be any different in school environments?
Classrooms were developed to produce members of the industrial revolution workforce. What are classrooms today producing? A slightly broader range of graduates than 150 years ago I would propose. Students today will be entering environments like our office in Sydney where there is an emphasis on sharing and learning from one another. If I want to sit beside legal (not likely!) then I can, nothing stopping me.
Normal practice and design is to silo children into 7x7 classroom where they all sit facing the front and waiting for information to be delivered to them. We all know that this is not how we want children to be taught. In fairness, so many innovative schools and teachers have torn up the old rule book and have created real dynamic, engaging classroom environments where children and students are encourages to work together and develop their skills in a manner that suits them. We probably all know of, or are indeed are a, teacher who is using flexible or agile learning spaces to really make 21st century skill development happen and come alive for their students. But how can we change a normal classroom into a space that is more engaging and empowering for the tenants of these spaces. I think if 21st century skills are to be taught most effectively, the environment in which they are taught needs to be revolutionised.
Some simple concepts and useful resources that I've come across lately around learning spaces are:
The picture I've included, is certainly at the top end of the scale of campfire type classroom setup but don't be deterred by this. This setup can be easily achieved in any classroom. What it achieves is creating a more democratic feeling, engaging environment where all kids have equal access to the teacher, as he or she is presenting and teaching in the middle of them, and they all have equal access to each other for discussions and student led lessons.
While in the INSPRIE Centre in the University of Canberra recently, this concept is probably one of the simplest yet most useful elements of a learning environment I've seen. The enthusiasm that workshop participant took to using the walls to write on for brainstorming and concept presentation was inspiring, excuse the pun. It's a simple concept but one that adds an element of fun to the at times difficult task of getting a number of people really collaborating in the classroom.
As daily lessons and tasks change the size and members of class groups, the class environment will need to change to suit these needs. All kinds of agile class furniture can be purchased to make this flexibility easy.
The Language of School Design - Book summary.
There is a mass of great ideas in this book on a broad range of topics such as furniture, natural ventilation, connecting to the community, and home base and individual storage, to name a few. For anyone with a keen interest in school design, this is a fantastic resource and I would encourage you to purchase the complete book, now in a second revised edition.
This is an issue that everyone is talking about now. There is no doubt that we need to move away from the lecture style structure of the past 150 years and develop learning environments that really encourage and enhance 21st century learning. To see how successful one school has been since developing these spaces throughout their school, watch the following video. I didn’t want to get into too much building and technology detail today, I just wanted to put some simple ideas out there to help enhance the classroom experience for your students. Why not change the layout of your room or get some mobile whiteboards to collaborate on, better paint a wall with IdeasPaint and see how the dynamic changes in your classroom.
I'd love to get a collection of Australian innovative learning spaces so feel free to post links to pictures, videos and articles about local spaces that are really enhancing children's learning experiences.
Today while looking around Microsoft Research, I came across a new product called ChronoZoom. This turned out to be one of the coolest eduction products I've found in a long time. ChronoZoom is a collaborative project from University of California, Berkeley and Moscow State University working in the relatively new field of Big History. Big History attempts to unify the past—all of the past, from the beginning of time, some 13.7 billion years ago, to the present—through the four major regimes: cosmic history, Earth history, life history, and human history.
What, you might ask, is so wonderful about ChronoZoom? After all, history resources abound. There are thousands of digital repositories, collections, libraries, and websites full of images, videos, documents, facts, and figures. But the sheer volume and disparate locations of these resources confound researchers, educators, and students, who spend untold hours searching this information, seeking to better understand history and its lessons for our future. What if we had a tool that could bring all these resources together? ChronoZoom attempts to answer this question.
Through an easy to use interface demonstrating the scale of cosmic history compared to human history, the user can click into any period in history and find resources, links and content to explain the period in question. Zooming further and further shows the the links and overlaps in different periods in history. Perhaps it's about time we stop looking at periods in history as single silos of events and individuals and can visualise historical timelines.
What are the 21st century skills that ChronoZoom can help you with in your classroom?
Check it out and see how you can join up science and the humanities.
For more information on Big History check out the following links:
Gates Notes - Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present
Learning to teach Big History
What Happens when you CONNECT learning-leaders
DIRECTLY with RESEARCHERS ???
Next week, Dr Maria Langworthy will deliver a free webinar via www.palnet.edu.au
You can pose questions/ suggest direction ahead of time through a dedicated Palnet Forum and ‘post webinar’, you can engage with Maria and her research within the same offline space!
ITL Research is a multiyear global research program designed to investigate the factors that promote the transformation of teaching practices and the impact those changes have on students’ learning outcomes across a broad range of country contexts.
Maria Langworthy is a social scientist whose current work focuses on education policy research, leading the Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) Research project that is sponsored by Microsoft’s Partners in Learning. Maria will deliver an hour webinar around the key findings from the ITL Research, the implications of these on schools and also will introduce the tools that schools can access for free to reflect upon their own innovative capacity.
I strongly encourage all those who can join PALnet, principals and aspiring leaders, to join PALnet and get involved in this discussion.
Adelaide (Australia - South Australia)
Thursday, 22 March 2012 at 8:00:00 AM
DeforestACTION is a project created and owned by young people from around the world. It is supported by a number of industry and NGO partners who strongly believe that old models of reform are not working and young people deserve the chance to have a say in the condition of the planet they are going to inherit. It is also a project to ensure schools have real examples of 21st Century Learning. The teacher resources, guides, virtual classrooms and collaborative spaces help young people to quickly work in international project groups, tackling complex projects, while developing hope, confidence, civic and global responsibility and creativity. To join this fantastic global movement and to find out more information visit http://dfa.tigweb.org/about/.
Take a closer look with your student soon….
On March 28th, join us for an exciting DeforestACTION live event! We will take you deep into the heart the Borneo jungle to connect with orangutans, hear from Dr. Willie Smits and the Eco Warriors about the work they are doing with the Masarang Foundation, and speak with other youth and schools around the world taking action to stop deforestation.
Register now: www.tigurl.org/march2012
Register now: www.tigurl.org/march2012
How does this project actually monitor deforestation?
DeforestACTION is a key exemplar of student directed problem based learning focusing on real world challenges. Student directed learning derives from the notion that when students are connected through technology and empowered to build activities in their own way, the learning experience extends far beyond the four walls of a classroom.
Under this strategy, the 'classroom' becomes millions of students and schools interacting online with world-class experts in the field, sharing ideas with eco-warriors on the ground, and collaborating with people around the TIGed virtual classroom platform on how to solve global environmental problems.
One element of the project is Earth Watchers software. Earth Watchers is a ground breaking new software tool to enable young people across the planet to monitor the forests and provide usable intelligence to stop deforestation. It provides a new approach for education by actually involving the students directly in the conservation effort by allowing them to monitor real data and to go beyond tokenistic project / lectures to have a hands on impact.
Over 75% of deforestation in Indonesia is illegal, and the difficulty in locating and identifying illegal deforestation is a major part of the problem. Through Earth Watchers, young people across the planet can expose the illegal deforestation early, allowing local authorities to step in and halt it. This new transparency and global awareness is made possible by technology developed by Geodan inc from The Netherlands.
Here's how it works.
Tune into the webcast on March 28th and get involved folks!
The brand new INSPIRE Centre in University of Canberra hosted the first Partners in Learning Pilot Schools Program forum of 2012. I would like to thank all our participants and everyone involved in preparing and delivering for a very successful two days. Expertly lead by our facilitators Joan Dalton and Travis Smith, the 2012 Pilot schools have begun their journey of innovation. Over the rest of the year, the participants will be embarking on a journey to ultimately improve the learning and engagements in their schools. Throughout the program participants will develop a greater understanding of 21st century teaching, develop an understanding how to shift their practice to build capacity across their entire school, integrate technology effectively into teaching and learning and will collaborate beyond their traditional communities and develop meaningful partnerships with schools across Australia.
The INSPIRE Centre provided the perfect location to for such a workshop with a combination of agile learning spaces and innovations such as Ideas Paint to enhance the collaborative nature of the spaces. Combining these elements with everyone collaborating n one single OneNote notebook and participants were immersed in a 21st century learning environment. This is certainly something that we will return to in this blog soon.
Take a look at some photos of the workshops in action in the album below.
From time to time over the next few months, every school in the program will be guest blogging here so you can read exactly how they are developing the skills they have developed in this forum. To learn more about each school, just click on the school names below to explore their websites.
P.S. Sorry I couldn’t resist the post heading!
Today, our first Partners in Learning Schools Forum of 2012 kicks off in Canberra, bringing together some of Australia’s most innovative schools and teachers to showcase their world-class teaching practices using technology.
This is the first of three face-to-face forums for 2012 that Australia’s top public schools will be involved in over a 12 month period. Bringing together schools, teachers and Departmental leaders from each state or territory from across Australia, the forum fosters collaboration and learning between schools, providing a rare opportunity for education leaders to share ideas and network at a national level.
Twenty public schools from across Australia will be attending for their first time, having been selected by each State Department of Education to be involved in the Microsoft Partners in Learning for Schools Pilot Program. These schools have been selected through demonstrating innovative and progressive thinking about using technology in the classroom. They will play a leading role in helping other participating schools and teachers throughout Australia and the world develop best practices for incorporating technology into their classrooms.
My huge congratulations to the 2012 Pilot Schools and I would like to personally welcome each and every school to the program. I’m looking forward to a very exciting year ahead!
Chatham High School
Strathfieldsaye Primary School
Merrylands East Public School
John Fawkner College
Newling Public School
Korumburra Primary School
William Rose School
Horsham West/Haven Primary School
Churchlands Senior High School
Kedron State High School
Leeming Senior High School
Quinns Beach Primary School
Edge Hill State School
Gilles Street Primary School
King Meadows High School
Kidman Park Primary School
Manunda Terrace Primary School
You can follow the conversations from the forum onTwitter by following us at #PILAUS.
For more information about the program see here
Jane Mackarell,Academic Programs Manager, Microsoft Australia
If you could travel the stars where would you go? Let your students decide which planet they want to visit first using this online interactive planetarium.
WWT is a powerful virtual telescope that helps students visualise and understand our vast cosmos. It inspires learners to explore, to ask questions, and to practice the scientific skills that astronomers use to build our understanding of objects that are literally across the universe.
Young children can learn about the causes of night and day by manipulating the real-time model of Earth in our solar system. Middle school children can use it to understand seasons and Moon phases, as well as distance scales in the universe. High school students can learn how astronomers have pieced together the life cycle of stars by observing breathtaking nebulae, white dwarfs, and red giants. Tertiary students can explore important maps made by astronomers that help us to understand how gravity influences the shapes and structures we see in the universe. Every student can use it to tell and share their own stories of what they have learned about astronomy and space
There’s a WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program to enrich interactive learning. It’s an outreach initiative run by researchers at Harvard University, WGBH, and Microsoft Research. Ambassadors are astrophysically-literate volunteers who are trained to be experts in using WWT as teaching tool. Ambassadors and learners alike use WorldWide telescope to create dynamic, interactive Tours of the Universe, which are shared in schools, public venues, and online. Ambassador-created Tours are being made freely available and will ultimately form a comprehensive learning resource for Astronomy and Astrophysics. You can learn more at http://www.wwtambassadors.org
The other place to look is the Education page on the WorldWide Telescope website. Amongst other things, there is also a set of resources for classroom use, developed in the form of curriculum guides, lesson plans and additional resources to assist teachers and students launching into an exploration of the universe through the lens of the WorldWide Telescope. Since it uses the most current data taken from celestial imaging, users can easily pan and zoom into specific areas of outer space for fine tuned investigations. Images are taken from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as numerous telescopes here on Earth.
There is a do-it-yourself option for creating a planetarium for about a thousand dollars, using supplies from local office and hardware stores and a special first surface spherical mirror.
Many students never have a chance to go to a bricks and mortar planetarium to learn astronomy, so the team created a virtual planetarium with WorldWide Telescope. However, outer space is still best experienced in an immersive environment like a dome, so they have published a set of plans that enable schools to build their own small planetarium that will allow 15-30 students at a time to experience a high-quality digital projection of space. The investment is less than $1,000 in building materials, plus a laptop and projector, along with some household tools and ‘sweat equity’ (ie there’s work involved!).
One of the principal benefits of having an on-site planetarium is that WorldWide Telescope will allow students to create their own shows to share what they have learned with the rest of the school- completing the learning cycle. You can download the instructions to build your own here.
WorldWide Telescope is available as a programme to download, or a web-based virtual telescope. You can get both versions at the WorldWide Telescope website
As part of our focus on 21st century skills, where better to start than a measurement tool to measure your teachers and students 21st century skils practices.
People all over the world are talking about the need to transform education to align with the realities of life and work in the 21stCentury. This is not just about the effective use of technology. It’s about developing kids who are deeply engaged in the learning process and taking the initiative to learn. But how do you make this transformation happen in your school and classrooms? How do you measure your success?
Partners in Learning School Research helps schools understand what education transformation means in practice for them. It can help you establish a common vision for innovative teaching and learning within your school. It can also provide you and your school community with measures of that innovation.
If you would like to better understand existing teaching and learning practices in your school, or recognize the need to measure new and existing teaching and learning practices in your school, learn more about
Research clearly demonstrates that student performance changes in response to what educators ask them to do. To develop a student's 21st Century skills, educators must develop learning activities that require the use of those skills. Utilizing innovative teaching methods is the first step towards improving students' learning experiences and helping them build the skills they will need.
Welcome to the new Innovative Education blog from the Partners in Learning Australia team. From this week forth, we will be blogging on a weekly basis on all things innovative and exciting in the Australian and global education community. We aim to provide a mixture of local innovative education stories, examples of international best practice, highlighting new and useful resources and software for educators and stimulate debate about how to best utilise technology and change practices in schools.
Starting today, we are aiming to develop a community of educators who contribute to and initiate debate around the issues highlighted here and elsewhere in the education community. The new Partners in Learning Network; www.pil-network.com, will provide educators with a place to initiate and contribute to all types of educational discussions. The PiL-Network is now the hub for all PiL resources which provide any innovative thinking school with the resources to begin their journey of innovation and change. To help generate conversations, we will also use the Twitter #pilaus when posting articles for debate and continue the discussions in the Partners in Learning Network.
We will endeavour to provide informative, relevant, rich content to enable you as educators to develop innovative best practices to meet the challenges of todays classroom. Over the course of the next few months, we will blog about great examples of developing 21st century skills in classrooms around the world. You too can contribute to the content on this blog. If you, your class or your school has undertaken an innovative teaching and learning project we would love to hear about it and welcome your submissions to guest blog right here.
We will also focus on the integration of technology into teaching and learning. Technology is not the single answer to the challenges we all face in education but it is the medium through which we can begin to address these challenges. Check out this video to see how the challenges education faces in Australia, are no different to around the world:
A fantastic blog to learn from education 'heroes' around the world is on Anthony Salcito's 'daily edventures' website. Here education heroes from around the world tell their stories of integrating technology into their teaching and learning practices.
As Anthony says, "innovation in education is a worldwide challenge," so we can all learn from innovative education project regardless of where they are located. Katarina, in the article above, is a great example of someone who took something different to engage her learners. Has anyone ever used robotics in their classes? If so, we'd love to hear your story so feel free to comment below.
Finally, perhaps we'll leave you with some homework! The Partners in Learning program has developed many useful, rich resources for teachers and education leaders. The InnovativeSchools Toolkit is a collection of such resources. The IS-Toolkit is a clear, accessible and practical guide for you and your school community to begin the journey of innovation. The toolkit is intended to be a starting point rather than a complete solution and it offers a process that can be customized based on your unique needs.
The four key areas for focus are:
The toolkit is a one stop shop with case studies, a knowledge library, workshop tools and structures, and a self reflection tool to provide school leaders with the knowledge base and resources to begin a jorney of innovation in their school. Check it out and see can it help your schools innovation journey.