New Ways for New Courses

As part of the ongoing quest to make learning relevant for the students we serve, @materdeiwagga will introduce an Interest Elective for Year 9 students in 2015. The idea has been on our agenda since halfway through 2013 and it is great to see the idea now close to reality. Part of that reality involved a Planning Day (boring title) held with the courageous 10 teachers who are prepared to engage in iterative rather than linear planning. The purpose of the day was three fold:

  1. CLARIFY that is, to….. “Make clear or plain” the intent of the Year 9 Interest  Elective Initiative.
  2. DISTINGUISH that is, to…..“Recognise or note/indicate as being distinct or different from; to note differences between” current BOS approved/mandated courses and the  new courses.
  3. INVESTIGATE that is, to….. “Plan, inquire into and draw conclusions about” the best way to deliver Year 9 Interest Electives in 2015.

As part of achieving these Learning Intentions, teachers were reminded of the intent of this initiative. Furthermore, teachers were encouraged to see their participation as an opportunity for you to relieve ourselves of mandatory requirements whilst not losing focus on the rigor required for deep learning. It is an opportunity to explore new and different ways of learning delivery which authentically pursues our commitment for students to become ‘self-directed learners’ through the provision of learning opportunities which provides them with greater choice, where they are more involved in decision‐making processes and increasingly where they can ‘learn by doing’ with relevance to the real world.

The new courses are

  • Art Making – with the emphasis on ‘making’.
  • Challenge Plus – a practical course where students undertake Duke of Edinburgh principles.
  • Hunger Games – a new look at ways of engaging with food.
  • Interior Design – research, design and create spaces of interior design as a community service for the poor.
  • Outdoor Education – involves students choosing outdoor activities which challenge them.
  • Put it in Print – students will engage in texts, genres and mediums which worldwide publication reach.
  • Song Writing, Recording and Performance – say it all, really.
  • Video Gaming – students will anaylse the industry as well as use software to develop their own games.

These courses, as part of the 2015 Year 9 Interest Electives, are also linked to our 2015 Annual Plan With this in mind, teachers were asked….. “Have you thought about……

  • ways data can assist with your ongoing, iterative (not linear) approach to this course?”
  • formative assessment?”
  • opportunities for ‘real time reporting’?”

As part of our Planning Day there was acknowledgement of the constraints of budget, paperwork, personnel and timetable; however, there was a commitment for these not to restrict us in our thinking but to be more seen as signs that we can look for new ways of delivery. Our exploration of New Ways, included looking at The Global One Room Schoolhouse by John Seely Brown and also looking at snippets of the book A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown. These snippets were combined with the following questions…..

In the interests of INQUIRY, have you….

In the interests of SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING, have you….

In the interests of COLLABORATION, have you….

  • spoken with others in THIS team? Yes, you are a TEAM!
  • consulted students in your course?

In the interests of CONNECTIVITY, have you….

  • made contact with anyone in other schools delivering similar courses across the state, nation, world?
  • reached out to ‘experts’ who may assist?

These questions immersed these brave souls in deep reflection and prompted professional dialogue about the implications for them as teachers and the very different role of acting as a coach and becoming a facilitator of learning. At one point, there was a provocative suggestion that the courses should ban two words; ‘Assessment’ and ‘Reporting’. The words Assessment could be replaced by “Goals, Aims, Achievements”, and the measuring of such. The word Reporting could be replaced by “Record and Inform”. For example, we could explore ways of using sound and film to ‘Record’ learning and then use these to ‘Inform’ parents about student (individual and collective) learning and learning gain. As time was coming to an end, the question was also asked, “What about the word Program?” It will be interesting to see where this discussion about Assessment, Reporting and Programming ends up.

Over the next few weeks, teachers are committed to do one or some of the following…..

  • Seek out other collectives through online Social Media including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest et al
  • Explore how the GROWTH Model could assist with goal setting.
  • Complete an audit of resources Collating resources.
  • Reach out to other schools/teachers who may be doing something similar.
  • Explore the idea of a combined Project/Excursion Week in the second half of 2015.
  • Consider Local Facilities, Local Experts. Local causes where the work of these course could connect with ‘the real world.

The next steps are….

  1. For us to meet as a team for the last 30 minutes of the Professional Learning Meeting on Monday Week 9. This would be to prepare for the ……
  2. Meeting with students in Week 10. The prime prupose of this time would be to consult students about their interests, passions, goals they have for themselves in the Interest Elective. This will inform teachers how to…..
  3. On Monday or Tuesday of Week 11 (best) plan, prepare and resource the first 4 to 5 weeks of term 1, 2015.

I admire these teachers who understand these New Interest Elective Courses courses, without mandated requirements, simply cannot be ‘more of the same’! They have been encouraged to see themselves as ‘trailblazers’, as ‘innovators’, by engaging engaging in ‘new ways of learning’ with ‘a new culture of learning’. In time, the Year 9 Interest Elective will be another learning initiative which will inform  the rest of the school in years to come as the global educational landscape continues to change.

My only disappointment is that, with my impending move to Sydney, I cannot be around to see first hand the failures and success of this exciting learning initiative. Knowing these teachers as I do, and within the healthy risk-taking climate of @materdeiwagga, I know there will be far more success, than failures.

I would appreciate your comments.