Saturday, August 12, 2017

Vision Led Design

At Freemans Bay School, we strongly believe that it is important to have a clear vision for learning that prepares students for their future. The five-year olds who start school this year will be graduating from Highschool around 2035. We need to think about what sort of spaces they will be working and studying in and join the dots between education space, curriculum design and developing attributes needed for their future world. The Innovative Learning Environment (ILE) design of our new buildings promote flexibility, collaboration, creativity, choice and personalised learning.

Our school vision of "Engage, Enrich, Empower" underpins our plan to align school design and collaborative and flexible ways of teaching and learning. We want our students to experience learning spaces like the modern activity based designed office spaces that many parents experience in their work spaces today, rather than the factory typing pool or hierarchical silo offices of the past.

The item on TV1’s ‘Seven Sharp’ show last week, looked at ILE through a very narrow lens. It was disappointing that the article was so one sided. It did not refer to the New Zealand Ministry of Educations research and evidenced based policy on ILEs accessible on their website. Nor did it refer to any of the research underpinning the global movement towards ILE in education and workplace design.  The  OECD Handbook on Innovative Learning Environments pulls together recent research on ILEs. You can also click here for some of the latest research on ILEs.

The ‘Seven Sharp’ article seems to be promoting teaching in single classrooms in the same way as  in the 1960s or back in even further. The sentiment of, “It worked for me so therefore why change things”, does not have the depth of thinking required to influence schooling design.  It is important to rethink last century school design and align with what we want to happen today. Joining the dots on the best evidenced conditions for learning and attributes required in the workforce beyond 2035 is a priority for school design.

Typical 1960's single cell classroom
Sir Ken Robinson, in his 2010 Ted talk,” Bring on the Learning Revolution”  promotes that for students to meet their creative potential in our schools we must shift from standardised schools to schools that personalise learning and create conditions where learners can discover their passions and flourish.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


This weekend I was thinking about the design of our second stage of our new school build which is due to commence after Easter.

We have some interesting spaces  planned,  that are designed with learning in mind, particularly how the brain works and how to activate brain pathways for learning to happen. 

My colleague Lene Lensby Lange in Copenhagan explained to me that all school designs in Denmark must include encouragement for movement. This is because we know that if learners are encouraged to physically move around their learning environment they will learn more efficiently as there is a relationship between movement and activating brain pathways.

Lene has shared some recent design elements from schools in Denmark in the photos in this post.

We are very pleased that in our design of learning spaces in our next build at Freemans Bay School, we will include some design elements seen in Scandinavia and UK. These will include a slide from one level of the building to the next, climbing walls through travelling spaces, floor patterns to encourage movement, elevated seating for climbing, a cave space to crawl into and a treehouse hut to climb up the stairs to.

These design elements are included as thought has gone into the most important client, young children, and the  way they are motivated to learn. The design encourages the learners to move around the building in different ways . The design will encourage learners to climb, crawl and run around installations. These spaces will encourage new ways to motivate and engage students in collaboration and creativity in their learning. They will also motivate them to engage and attend school.

The vision behind our design elements is different to many other schools in New Zealand and Australia as they deliberately explore the relationship between play and learning. We are exploring the interaction between developing the skills for learning and the way children learn. We are thinking about how school design encourages the users to incorporate physical challenges in their learning and to learn with others in different collaborative ways.

The thinking behind our new learning spaces is based on the relationship between play, physical movement and learning. We believe that opportunities for physical exercise and the way learners will use the spaces will provide motivating spaces for new ways of teaching and learning,

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The shift from teacher led to learner led education
Freemans Bay School is involved in the construction of building a new school. This involves demolishing current buildings and designing new learning spaces that will give traction to learner led personalised education. You can view these web cams to see the development over the last nine months and also how we have to meet the challenge of carrying on teaching and learning on such a tight construction site.

Freemans Bay Cam-1 to March 2017

Freemans Bay Cam-2 March 2017

The design of buildings is not enough. To change learning culture and practices collaboration is needed from design phase to evaluation of new practices. This process needs to be resourced. Unless teachers are prepared and provided with the necessary time and expertise to develop new ways of working, the newly renovated spaces will not move them to innovative technologies and teaching practices.

It is important that every school embarking on a school redevelopment or those building new schools, consider how to realise their vision for teaching and learning through a collaborative process with their school communities and project team.

Ideally the design team needs to focus on what the learning will look like to determine design elements that will support the school vision around learning. For schools to utilise design to reflect their vision of learning in terms of space and pedagogy they need to collaborate to agree what actual practice in the new learning spaces will look like. This important process needs to be led and resourced.

Last year our Ministry of Education introduced staffing support funding for schools who were involved in significant capital works projects.

A school can access a maximum of $50K of capital works funding in the first year and $25K in the second year to support the principal with additional staffing. There is a $3m threshold for projects likely to need this support funding.

At Freemans Bay School we have accessed these funds to resource hiring professional development consultants to  focus on resourcing teachers to collaborate around what the learning experiences in the new spaces will look like.

We will be moving our first group of learners into their new learning hub on May 1st this year and these teachers and learners will be able to test their newly developed ideas around new ways of working to give traction on the shift from teacher-led education

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Connected Educators

October was "Connected Educators" month. I was invited to collaborate to on a project to develop an e-book with a group of highly motivated people, all who have a interest in education based here in New Zealand.


The chapter I wrote is about the amazing opportunities that I have enjoyed through connecting with others through Twitter.

Enjoy the book!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Teacherpreneurs, Twitter and Transformation

Teacherpreneurs are considered to be highly effective, connected and resourceful educators who actively seek opportunities to grow their skills, collaborate, share best practice, ideas and research. They have a passion and determination to improve education in their setting and beyond. What excites me is that teacherpreneurs  can develop leadership opportunities to influence positive change  to education systems  for the better. With the incredible rise in technology and more demand for student agency the teacherpreneur can enable change to determine a more relevant curriculum for learners. These leaders create opportunities for educators to connect, share, grow their knowledge and expertise and influence education systems to be relevant to our students future roles in their communities. Teacherpreneurs cross oceans and cultures to make connection with other educators and advocate to transform curriculum. Their focus is to co create new learning that is relevant, authentic, personalised and technology rich, building on the diversity and strengths of all learners

October is Connected Educators  month globally and in Aotearoa, New Zealand. 
Connected Educator Month supports educators to thrive in a connected world. Sharing and collaboration centred on personalising learning needs and strengths across our country and global networks.

Thinking about Connected Educators month has prompted me to update my reflective blog and share my own personal experience about the power of connecting on Twitter and how Twitter has facilitated amazing learning and  incredible experiences for me. Through Twitter I have connected with teacherpreneurs and innovative educational leaders from all over the world.

In 2013 I was a  new Twitter user. I only had a vague idea what it was about – but I set up an account for Freemans Bay School. I received a tweet from Lene Jensby Lange asking about our e-learning model at Freemans Bay School. Lene had checked out my principal’s blog and followed up with a couple of questions about our e-learning model

Lene is a founder of Autens Educational Design Consultancy in Denmark. This consultancy facilitates and leads innovation to support educational leaders to align their school vision with new and renovated school design.  I asked Lene if I could meet her in Denmark to discuss links between learning design and school design as part of my travel fellowship in 2014.  Not only did Lene agree, but she showed me around a whole lot of schools and organisations and I was able to stay with her and family in Copenhagen – where the conversations flowed into the night.

Since then we have been great twitter mates!  We often have tweet or Skype, problem solving and sharing perspectives and experiences. Networking with Lene led to being invited to become a member of the Global Schools Alliance.

The vision of GSA was developed by a group of global educators:
  • David Price, OBE (member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire)
  • Andrew Raymer (Founder and former Head of Matthew Moss UK)
  • Dr. Steven Edwards (White House and World Bank advisor)

GSA aims to have innovative schools collaborate and be part of a learning community that will influence education systems across the world.

Lene Jensby Lange
Global Schools Alliance
Dr. Steven Edwards
Vega Schools
Washington D.C., USA

Sandy Hooda
Vega Schools
New Delhi, India
The GSA Founding members selected and evaluated progressive schools from for the Alliance. Member schools are considered highly effective and innovative in their respective countries. These schools agreed to bring their experience and knowledge to work together to improve the standards of education globally.

The vision of Global Schools' Alliance is to ensure children experience a better quality of education no matter where they live. Our mission is to collaboratively improve education that engages and empowers learners within the context of their culture and language.

The founding school leaders are from eight top-rated schools internationally.

  • Muriel Summers, Principal, A.B. Combs Magnet Elementary School, Raleigh, USA
  • Mark Moorhouse, Headteacher, Matthew Moss High School, Rochsdale, UK
  • Natalie See, Principal, Hilltop Road Public School, Merrylands, AUS
  • Allan Kjær Andersen, Principal, Ørestad Gymnasium, Copenhagen, DNK
  • Sugandha Mathur Anand, Head of School, Vega Schools, Gurgaon, IND
  • Sandra Jenkins, Principal, Freemans Bay School, Auckland, NZ
  • Carl Jarvis, Executive Headteacher, EOS Teaching Alliance (Hartsholme & St. Giles Academies),    Nottinghamshire, UK
  • Barbara Cavanagh, Principal, Albany Senior High School, Albany, NZ

The  GSA first symposium was held in October in New Delhi and was hosted by Vega School founder Sandy Hooda.

Although each school at the symposium was from a uniquely different part of the world we all shared a vision  of working together to promote rich, innovative and personalised education. You can see from the following table of participants the diversity represented. It was humbling as well as inspirational to be part of this GSA symposium.

Ni Putu Tirka Widanti (Ika)
Yayasan Kul Kul
(Green School)
Bali, Indonesia

Green School is located in Bali jungle. It focuses on fostering green/ enviro school thinking.
Jeffrey Holte
Learning Coordinator
Liger Learning Center
Phnomh Penh, Cambodia

The Liger Learning Center, in the jungle in Cambodia, has one goal - to create change agents within their own country
Allan Kjær Andersen
Ørestad Gymnasium in Denmark

Ørestad Gymnasium (upper secondary school) has a framework for cross-disciplines and an extended use of IT-based learning by revolutionizing educational space in a structure without traditional classrooms

Melissa Daniels
Founding Director
High Tech Middle Chula Vista

High Tech High is a group of schools in San Diego, USA. These schools focus on effective use of technology and digital learning.
Andy Raymer
former Head of School Matthew Moss High School
Vega Schools Board Member
Rochsdale, UK

Matthew Moss is the "most radical school in England" according to Professor David Hopkins and was featured in Innovation Unit's influential publication "10 Schools for the 21st Century". a highschool in UK Mathew Moass  has a focus on child centered education through project work.
Barbara Cavanagh
Albany Senior High School
Auckland, New Zealand

Albany Senior High School has a focus on project based learning supported by coaching students to ensure the development of dispositions for learning and life
sj headshot.pngSandra Jenkins
Freemans Bay Primary School
New Zealand

Freemans Bay School has a curriculum design is focused on engaging, enriching and empowering learners.
Pawan Gupta
Board Member
Vega Schools
Dehradun, India

Pawan Gupta is a historian, thought leader and expert on the spirit of India. Pawan has established village primary schools in the Himalayas utilising cultural and historical perspectives relevant to these school communities

During the conference we visited the Vega School construction site and will be watching the development of these schools with interest.

On the final night  of the symposium  we attended a large meeting where Vega Schools had invited parents, politicians and media from Delhi to hear about schools in Global Schools' Alliance. The meeting also included the state of Haryana Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma.

The sharing of each other’s school vision was inspirational and refuelled our shared commitment to lead education that ultimately builds on learners’ strengths and diversity to equip them to contribute positively to their communities.

My twitter journey has connected me with a range of committed  primary and secondary educators  from all over the world. Twitter has enabled me to be meet and be involved with inspirational educators and projects across the globe.

These global leaders of education are committed to  transformation of  education in their countries. Student agency is the common thread of these schools’ curriculum – all engage in projects in some form or other.  All are advocating  to break down the homogenous systems of education, based on ranking and one size fits all models and developing systems that will strengthen diversity and learners talents in an increasingly globalised world. All are from very different cultural, social and political contexts. They have a shared mission to influence education systems to give our learners the skills and dispositions needed for their future lives.The GSA leaders  have taken the concept of teacherpreneur to a new level.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Personalising learning spins our wheels

I love this  You Tube clip which is the work of  Sandy Hooda and the team of Vega School, Delhi. – It articulates their  personalised learning values and vision very well. I am sure that a lot of people will find it very useful to promote discussion and thinking about ways to enact their schools vision for personalising learning. It also gives a bit more detail on the Global Schools Alliance. Freemans Bay School is a recent member to this alliance and as you can see the GSA has some real visionary educationists in their  organisation. I am really looking forward to meeting and having some rich dialogue with them in October in Delhi at the new Vega School that is in this Your Tube clip.

Our New Zealand  Ministry of Education is promoting  their property policy now called Innovative Learning Environments.  Its a useful link, also thought provoking for anyone who is embarking on school design. I like the notion that values and vision around education is becoming part of the picture painted by our policy makers. However the development of the schools learning vision and  plan to transition towards the vision also needs strong leadership, resourcing and support. 

The educational and political context is a little different in NZ than the countries and schools that Sandy Hooda includes on the above Veda School video clip. We don’t have SATS like they do in UK. Schools in New Zealand are self-managing and develop their own curriculum. Freemans Bay School has no schemes or exams. Many schools in New Zealand have no schemes – but if they are into that and it spins their wheels – they have them. As a school leader I always get rid of them – I have been burning school schemes since the 1980s! We also have no text books  to damage learners spines as they are carried backwards and forwards to schools in backpacks.

Our secondary assessment system,  NCEA, is flexible and personalised for the learner. Our teaching and learning can be more project based and integrated as we don’t have the pressure of national exams from an early age. Its all about differentiation, visible learning and personalisation.  There are a lot of schools into a more project or inquiry  based curriculum  now in NZ. Schools such as Albany Senior and Hobsonville Point are leading the way in this area. There are now more secondary schools with a project based lens on their curriculum in New Zealand, than there were 10 years ago.

I think it is heartening  that our Government is giving stronger leadership around school design to the education sector. Note that the learning zones do not include subject based classrooms, instead they have learning zones or  hubs where personalised learning takes place with specialist areas provided for subjects that need these spaces.  Many school leaders are  trying to influence the Government to resource schools to articulate and develop their learning vision – and resource schools to develop strategic plans to achieve this.

I think the Ministry of Education property pages on their website is a great start to assist schools with their journeys towards a more personalised and innovative curriculum – they promote lead schools with  great practice to others in New Zealand and linking it to education values, culture, collaboration and making culture. 

Innovative Learning Environments is our Ministry of Educations policy. So if you are building a new school or remodelling – it has to be a ILE by design. The next steps would be  to resource the change management needed, otherwise bookshelves will be used to make walls and separated classroom spaces and teachers will do what they have always done and they will get what they have always got.

A Innovative Learning  review tool was posted on CORE Education site recently. This is a good place to start for school leaders to review where they are at and where they are heading. However we would get greater traction to a modern national curriculum if the Ministry resourced the education vision development as part of the project.

Finally as a foot note, we made the cover story of our Education Gazette

Our students wanted a safe place to ride their bikes in the city and here they are enjoying our new facility.

They helped to design the track and now are working out how it can be used during the day.

Involving students to make decisions about their learning environment really spins our wheels at Freeman Bay School.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dream Big and Be Brave

We are feeling quite frustrated with the time that it is taking for the the design process of our new school, to become a reality. We have been at master design process now for two years.  As a learning community we need to keep moving and changing to develop our teaching and learning to support the transition to our new school buildings or as if we are already in our new school buildings.

We started with wondering how could the current buildings be reconfigured in a way that they would support collaboration, personalising learning and flexibility.How could we create spaces in the interim that could be rearranged to support collaboration, experimentation and innovation?  Could the current spaces be tweaked so that teachers and learners could move around, have choices on where they could learn? How could we move from regular classrooms with desks and a white board which designated the front of the room to spaces that lend themselves to interdependent, co-operative, presentation areas and a range of gathering spaces?

We were brave! We knocked out walls and created spaces for teams of teachers to collaborate.

The first space we did this with created a learning zone from two old classrooms - we just pushed back the sliding doors and two teachers of Year 3 and Year 4 students worked together. 
The biggest challenge in this space was the acoustics. We added soft furniture and lined the open trusses and this treatment has improved the sound issue. 

The next thing we did was to knock a hole in the wall of another two classrooms - this also created a second space where two teachers could collaborate. Continuing to utilise the premise of Fullan's idea of "Value what you Value" - those teachers who were prepared to work in these spaces were able to choose different furniture to experiment with. This was on the understanding that they would remove their teacher desks and several other pieces of furniture on the "less is more," philosophy. Note the fantastic igloo that these classes have built out of recycled milk containers - as their cave space!  All the furniture in these spaces can be easily shifted so you can have all 60 students together for presentations. Full wireless, AV and interactive white boards, with the addition of mobile TV maximize the impact for students learning and there is a lively learning buzz in these remodelled spaces.

Now look at what we have just done in this term break. This strategy  is even more radical and I think very bold. See the class doors and panels in these learning areas - well they have been removed. Actually 3 classroom entry sections have been removed out of 5 classroom sections in total.

We have created super learning spaces! There are 5 or 6 teachers working in these spaces with up to 180 students. We have essentially created a space that can work for teams of 3 or 2 or across 5 or 6 teachers. The wireless access has also been upgraded and the year 5 and year 6 students have moved to "Bring Your Own Device for Learning". However we already have a ratio of 1:2 computer devices across the school.

The teachers in these super spaces will now trial different ways in how to  utilise the spaces available will add value to the learners experience. They will be exploring the opportunities the new environment provides. Linking back to Fullan's ideas in the previous post - this is a serious physical restructuring that will enable the school vision around learning to be stretched  by teams of teachers and learners. 

The teachers will have opportunities to explore how other schools with super-sized - spaces have utilised their enviroment to support learning. They are also encouraged to reflect on the range of research that is available.

Initially they have been encouraged to discuss the following within their teams:
  • What are their agreed ways of working as a team?
  • Consider different ways of collaboration, which will they be utilising?
  • Will different areas be utilised for different purposes?  If so what furniture will be needed?
  •  Where are the GO TO spaces
    • ·         For all?
    • ·         For half?
    • ·         For teacher groups?
    • ·         For a quiet space?
    • ·         For working in groups of twos or threes?
  • How will students be grouped to support their learning?
  • How will student learning be tracked and supported?
They have also been encouraged to look at this work Professor Stephen Heppell which I thought was quite practical and inspiring. Also this  of Melissa Heppells teaching space at IPACA. This will help to visualise different learning spaces and ideas to build on.

These teachers have agreed  to develop their use of spaces in different ways over time. They are all excited about the possibilities. It will be an interesting journey which I will be able to focus on writing about. This will be a real test of the idea that the environment is the third teacher. In our case we are testing the waters as we take our learning vision "Engage, Enrich, Empower" to a new level. We are certainly dreaming big and being very bold and brave in our latest transition strategies.

What are your thoughts about these strategies? Do you believe the environment is an enabler to driving learning vision? Have you any suggestions to share? I look forward to your comments.