A few weekends ago, I was asked by the associate leader of learning at my school, Ormiston, to assist in presenting at the Nature of Learning conference which was being held at the neighbouring Ormiston Junior College. I was more than happy to join in and help out, as well as attend the other sessions.
The biggest learning for me in this process was actually preparing our presentation and our school tour. The group of us that was presenting talked over many of the founding ideas and principles that went into designing how our school works and functions. Particularly of interest was the OECDs 7 Principles of Learning put out in its Innovative Learning Environments Project. Our school tour was based around those seven principles while our other presentation was based around the other three elements of that report:
- Action Learning
- Guided Learning
- Experiential Learning
Action Learning fits in extremely well with our iExplore time, during which learners choose driving questions to answer and then work in small groups to answer them. As a habitat and as an individual I have been part of a very interesting journey with this idea over the last couple of years. My first go at it was something of a disaster, where we didn't even finish anything. Last year at a new school, I tried once again and was able to get some good, quality work from my students. This year at Ormiston I have been able to start sparking some projects that go well beyond the research and make a slide variety. We're getting some real, meaningful and deep projects.
Guided learning is basically the typical reading, writing and maths. And again, over the last few years, I have been individually and collectively on a journey to find out the best ways to do this. Am I there? Definitely not, but I feel like at the moment, we're giving the 90 learners in our habitat a variety of choices and opportunities to reach their potential.
The Experiential learning is what we are still working on, though the preparation for this presentation was very helpful in clarifying what that means. Essentially how we have been running these is like topic, though we have been providing choice. Ideally, we should be giving our learners some sort of provocation and then let the learners explore what they want in that topic. The suggestion given was bubbles. Some learners may choose to do art with bubbles, some may learn about soap and how that works, others might look at light and why the colours are the way they are. Others still may want to look at why bubbles form or why they float. With many topics there could be several directions they could go.
Preparing the tour was also interesting. We created a series of videos or slideshows that could be viewed using QR codes throughout the school. You can find them all here, explaining how we use the 7 principles of learning daily at Ormiston Primary.
As for the presentations, I did find some of them difficult as they were all people talking and talking. Interesting that a conference on the way in which people learn is set up for only one way of learning. I did get some really good ideas and thoughts from some of the presentations. I attended a workshop from a school that has vertical teams, meaning instead of having all the Year 3-4 teachers in a team, they have Year 1-6 teachers. I thought that in an ILE a vertical Habitat would be a pretty interesting idea, with year 1s and 6s all in the same space. It also gives the potential of having the same learning coaches their whole time at a school while also having different peers every year.
Another helpful presentation I attended was from our friends on the other side of town, Hobsonville Point Primary. They discussed how their learners have individual time tables and how they get lots of community involvement in their workshops. This is something that we have not yet explored and is very relevant as we would rather have more small workshops to give better attention to interests than the ones we have at the moment. It's all food for thought and these are ideas that have been thrown into the constant churning of my brain. It was definitely an experience that has helped me think about what I do and why I do it.