Regulus – 01-14
Innovation and Collaboration
The concepts of innovation and collaboration are explicit in the St Andrew’s College Learning Values. If 21st century learning is about preparing students for careers that do not yet exist then it’s innovation and collaboration that are at the heart of helping our students become problem creators and problem solvers.
This year the internet celebrates its 25th birthday which means all our students have been born in world that is connected, immediate and (busy). The challenge for a teacher is to create engaging activities that have academic merit. That’s where innovation comes in.
We saw examples of this last year with the This Is Us whole school video, Three Years On story and music clip, the combined Preparatory and Secondary Schools LEAP reading programme and the Amazing Places project from the senior Geography students.
Several St Andrew’s teachers already run successful blogs on innovative teaching practices. Sam McNeill (Director of ICT - http://tinyurl.com/StAC-Sam-McNeill-eBlog), Matt Nicoll (Chemistry teacher - http://tinyurl.com/StAC-Matt-Nicoll-Blog) and Tamara Yuill Proctor (Assistant Head of English -http://tinyurl.com/StAC-Tamara-Yuill-Proctor-Blog) all of which provide a virtual look through the window of the classroom into the world of elearning and evolving pedagogy.
The physical teaching environment is also adapting and changing as the teacher is no longer consider the “fountain of knowledge’ who needs to teach rows of students from the front of the class. This year, students in Ms Yuill Proctor’s English classes have new desks and seating arrangements as she transforms her classroom into a flexible learning space.
“A flexible learning space is one which can be readily changed in order to meet the learning objectives of the lesson,” she says. “It provides an environment where inquiry learning can more easily take place as students work on different tasks at different times but still enables whole class assessment when necessary.”
Ms Yuill Proctor recently completed an MA focusing on technology and knowledge building, and worked with Professor Kwok-Wing Lai through University of Otago on designing knowledge building communities. “The English curriculum with its skills-based - rather than content-based – focus allows students to really take ownership of what they study and how. I found that as my classroom activities changed and took into consideration collaboration, inquiry and problem finding/solving activities, my classroom environment was quite restrictive. The heavy desks left me with only a couple of ways to configure the classroom.”
With the support of Rector Christine Leighton and a TSB Grant through the Independent Schools Education Association, Ms Yuill Proctor visited innovative schools and tertiary institutions in Canterbury and Australia where she researched different learning environments. She looked at how different facilities were meeting the challenge of reshaping curriculums to handle the advent of 1:1 computing and collaborative learning programmes.
Within this changing framework however, Ms Yuil Proctor says it’s still important to recognise and support the role of the teacher in the classroom even if the traditional model of the transfer of knowledge from an individual teacher to rows of students is outdated. “It is also important to recognise that NCEA assessments still require a desk and chair per student at regular times throughout the year.”
She adds that it’s also crucial to uphold the integrity of the school and any new direction in learning still has to allow for the provision of a top class education. As a result of her research, Ms Yuil Proctor has equipped her classroom with desks that can be easily moved and configured in a multiple of ways, including the use of beanbags and an ottoman that can also be moved into different shapes. She removed the teacher’s desk and ordered a small mobile whiteboard.
“The next step is to further develop my teaching and learning programmes to make the most out of this environment and share the resources I create online for anyone to use,” she says.