High Rise School

What is community? Where is community?

We have been toying with the idea of setting up a community based inner urban high-rise / shopping centre school in Melbourne. The idea has been around for some time:


ABC article here


Leader Article here


The Herald here.


With 600% growth forecast for the area – and schools planned as long term projects – this becomes a real opportunity to establish a plan for developing a site that captures what it is is to ‘do’ community, through a school environment in a dense population.




Slow Learning Movement.

As usual Radio National have done it again and got my mind all-a-flutter. This time the idea was about the Slow Food movement from Italy in the 1980’s. In response to Fast Food – they made time for ‘slow food’. The connection between this and education is self evident. In fact a quick search of the RN website shows that even in 2007 they were talking about slow food in schools.

Have a look at this carl_honore_praises_slowness.html TED presentation.

What I love of course is the timing of all of this. If I were not in the middle of helping to set up what I now know might be known as a ‘Slow School’ programme, I wouldn’t have paid that much attention to it. At any rate, I’m going to pop in a few links here and jot down any salient points as they come to mind. I’m in no hurry though – even if this is an idea worthy of the times.

This makes for some interesting reading on the subject.


Learning for Sustainability

There is such a rich heritage in this area of education. It is also interesting to note (anecdotally) that a lot of the research on Student Voice is connected with activism in the area of sustainability issues.

I’m particularly interested at the moment in the idea of school design and the way artifacts (building, chairs, ways of moving from one space to another, landscape etc.) afford  student agency, student voice (especially in the planning phase) and even implicit learning. Actually, since having moved in to my new BER classroom, I’ve not stepped foot in the old ‘Mod5’ demountable classroom to retrieve my bits and bots. Apart from there being no time, I’m just not motivated to go back into that dank smelly excuse for a learning environment.

At any rate, the idea of a ‘wind solar pavilion’ is very tempting at the moment. The cookie cutter BER (Building Education Revolution) buildings sprouting up around the country could employ walk ways that are roofed with solar panels, with LED security lights powered by micro wind turbines and gutters plumbed into the BER water tanks. They would be semi circles and could even be mounted on huge treetrunks as the frame.

Here is an example of a stand alone wind solar pavilion.

Imagine the frame made from tree trunks!

I really like the idea of sticking the turbine on top of live tree.


WOW! I’ve just been listening to Future Tense and two great ideas have popped up.

Firstly I’m really interested in the Tales Of Things concept. The status of material objects has long been an issue. Carl Ratner and many others have written on how meaning is layered on to material objects. The argument always seems to come down to a question of the agentive status objects (social or material). This technology seems to put an end to that debate.

Imagine a prep tour of our school. The family walks around the physical spaces of the building (at any time they like) and scan one of the printed ‘tags’ or bar codes that have been stuck to a door or wall or post or wind mill. The software on the phone then points the viewer to the website where the audio / video / text message is stored and then share in that story. Of course, you can then leave a ‘comment’ or your own response – building on the history of that site.

Given the recent litany of ongoing natural disasters and loss of live and loved ones, the above example is a powerful way of taking our past into the future.

Once I figure out how to print onto little stickers and tag stuff I shall update this post!

Okay – so I now have it figured out. How easy is this! I’ve trialled this with my grade six students recently – and the results have been really pleasing. The students have engaged with the ideas that this technology affords and have creatively pursued ways of using QR codes to show their learning in certain areas. Although, we have started really simply so as to gain the best chance of success. Click here to have a look at their task.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality, I’m thinking this could be a sense of ‘situated learning’ imbued with technology based learning tools.

Wikitude is a mob who are facilitating AR use on mobile platforms. My holiday project will be to make a ‘world’ and upload it to wkitude. Stay tuned!

The essential point here is that this represents a change in pedagogy. Teaching and learning is not about content / curriculum delivery. The notion of a ‘Maths Teacher’ or any other specialist is  bizzare to me. It presupposes that all students  (and the teacher) will drop whatever agenda they are pursuing as they enter the ‘maths’ room for their ‘maths’ lesson and adopt a ‘maths student’ persona is order to make it nice and easy for the adult (who has adopted a ‘maths teacher’ persona) to deliver the maths information which they shall somehow learn. This notion has more or less worked in a pragmatic sense ( perhaps ‘social contract theory‘ may account for this in some manner) but at the expense of student agency / student voice, and in conflict with the idea that learning happens in, through and with people. Schools are not sites for learning – students are.

AR then, is a means by which we can bring the person of the learner – their interests, their ideas, their existing skills and networks and direct them in meaningful learning that results in the student (and teacher) creating something new and rich. Something which tells what they have learned about the ‘content’ and a mirror or milestone in their transformation of self (transmogriphication). These artifacts become the intersects of life where students can see how they have changed and contrasted a perception of themselves before and after the learning event.

Before learning about AR I did not conceive of myself as being able to teach in a way that I would like to – getting kids into their lived environment to do learning (one small example). With the knowledge about AR and wikitude I can see the potential for becoming the person I expect of myself. Having achieved this, I will have a transformed idea of myself as someone who can now BE or Do what I had wanted to do. (Think Piercian Abduction in that I endup with ‘self with current perception’ and start with ‘self with other than current perception’ What have been the change agents? )

Teaching Digital Natives.

Just listened to a David Puttnam speech from October 2008.

In Brisbane November 22 2010

In Brisbane November 22 2010

Very appealing to me as he is into sustainability as well as the connoisseur use of technology in teaching and learning.

The thesis would be that his vision of good educators are those who take digital learning technologies, contextualise and modify them to suit the learning needs of their digital native students. Central to this notion is kids pursuing their own interests, collaborative learning across many geographical sites and obviously the skillful use of the tools to do so. I particularly liked the way he said to just pirate stuff until the business model gets its act together to allow the free use of knowledge for learning. (Well that’s my paraphrase)

Seems to be embedded in the notion of digital natives (which is not exclusive ie: my children are hills natives not beach natives or city natives or Italian natives or vegetarian natives) Grounding a student in the singular concept of a mono nativeness seems a bit narrow. Also expects that kids know what their interests are. This too, particularly in the primary setting is a little too much to expect especially when considering Autism Spectrum Disorders and the impact of mental health issues on families. A huge part of primary education is in fact the transmogrification of students into selves that have a sense of what they like. Student experiences inform that process.

More futurelab

Media Scapes WOW! This is exactly what I have been trying to do for years with PowerPoint and Photo Story – LET ME AT IT!

Also FIZZEES awesome idea for keeping kids fit.

Key idea: Mobile learning is about the student being mobile and learning in the process. Technologies are therefore designed to afford such learning. “Learning in location and at the moment.” Using technologies to enhance ‘learner voice’.

Future Laps newsletter

Future Laps newsletter

Wow, whoever would have guessed that I’ve gone from a Google search on school building design to ‘Futurelabs’ whose passion is good teaching and learning. Lucky me.

Media Scapes:

  • Developed as an ‘app’ that can be downloaded onto portable devices. Think of museums that give you an ipod to walk around with as a virtual guide. Now imagine having Department of Education App (or school or local community based) that as you come into an area the GPS on your hand held (iphone / android device) triggers the commentary and imagery. For example, next years grade sixers will be the last in my school as it exists now. Imagine their year book being a guided tour with media of the old school buildings and examples of their learning in those sites. It remotely situates the narrative of their learning by virtue of your presence.
  • Puffing BIlly could approach students to develop a series of historical events that are triggered as the train moves along the track.
  • Students can give sustainability tours around the school in the same manner.
  • Weed and light audits can be conducted in the same way.
  • Kids identifying issues in their community can develop media scapes a tool for giving voice for social change.

School Building Design

With our new building about to take place I’ve made this little spot to collate some thoughts on building design.

Have a look at Dandenong High on the 7.30 Report.

The APPA website has some fantastic resources.

ABC‘s By Design is also very informative.

Details of the extension to Sydney’s Giant Steps school: for children with autism, designed by Mury Architects
Photographs: Brett Boardman courtesy of Mury Architects.

Should we include workstations that students stand at?


Heppell has had quite an effect on the shape of learning in my classroom. Here is a neat little of example of layout ideas grounded in a pedagogical framework.

Particularly their show an a school designed for kids doing life with autism.

FutureLab is yet another example of the Britts taking this issue seriously.

This is the department of Education in (Victoria Australia) page on school design.

I’ve just been listening to Futurelabs Dr. Tim Rudd on building design. Once again, I’ve very impressed on the content – though he was not very concise in his delivery. Following is a slide I’ve lifted from his presentation which I think is most particularly relevant for our school at this time.


Responsiveness – short term changes
–Agility – e.g. environmental
–Flexibility – e.g. Moveable structures, furniture
–Adaptability – semi permanent but changeable
Diversity- providing variety of space types and sizes – responding to pedagogy/learning styles
Fluidity – how environment on the whole flows and whether spaces are organised in an integrated and blended way.
Open ended design – design incomplete – allow final shape of school to evolve by use. Over design – locks learning in
Reconfiguration – constant change and re-programming

The notion of reconfiguration I find very interesting – and most importantly, the idea of ‘co-design’ ie: ask the kids what they want.
Imagine a grid of 9 one foot squares laid into the ground like a phone pad.
Each square when stepped on makes a sound. It could be middle ‘C’ for example.
Kids then jump on the squares and make a tune – working together or individually or accompanied with other instruments.
Imagine if kids could program whatever sound the squares produced, three with nouns they’ve recorded, three with
verbs and three with adjectives.
Numbers could be used. The squares could even be of a material that represents the words (not a touch screen – a toe screen).

This is an example of kids designing their learning space and even the learning that happens. Actually, I’m sure there would be some sort of touch screen computer with a program like this already if not a “toe screen” setup too.

Here is the live presentation. – If you read the PowerPoint first, you’ll get more out of it.
Here is the PowerPoint.
Have a look at the list of videos from Futurelabs. There is some stunning and thought provoking ideas there.
Interestingly, the thought of Personalised Learning (PL) dominates as a reaction to the horrors of standardised learning.

Merely an evolution of a “Taylorist” world view, PL could easily become dressed up as a “Red X” or “Six Sigma” (building on the Fordist conveyor belt theme) Tayloristic
problem solving technique that appears to be grounded in the agency of the learner but is just an epistemological tool for the Structure.
What is missing in all of the discourse thus far is the notion of school design and pedagogy being grounded in the notion of LEARNER ADVOCACY.
This is built on the International Council of Nurses idea of the definition of nursing including patient advocacy.
I am suggesting a deliberate move away from a systems approach to school design, administration and pedagogy – and a strategic connection to the idea of experiencing teaching and learning as the ecological affordance of a relationship between learners and learners’ advocates.

Yada Yada

Hmm, I don’t know who you are reading this – but if you find any little bits of stuff that find a place in your world then that is great. As for me, this is a little collection of new stuff I hear and learn about and quickly forget where I learned and heard about it! I am forever doing things in my classroom out of response to some interesting research or idea – then can’t quite justify it or reject it without access to the original inspiration. Most of the themes I am trying to tie together include classroom design, student agency, teacher agency, pedagogy, ICT and school leadership and particularly sustainability education.

First up then is today’s podcast from All In The Mind.

Making Sense of Noise.

The US Standards can be seen here.


Be heard not seen.

Idea: A portable mic on in the classroom will lead to better hearing for all – better concentration and better learning.

Students learning to use the mic will develop public speaking and classroom leadership skills.

Idea Genesis: Overhearing a conversation in staff room about Karen helping hearing impared students with a audio set up.

Research: As above – RN program being a good summary.

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