Sunday, November 9, 2014

Personalising learning at Skapskolan.

I was delighted to be hosted by Marcus Lighting 
at Skapskolan.

This is a small country school that has students from6years old to 12 years old.   Lene Jensby Lange had suggested the visit and set it up for me - and it was an inspirational visit. The ride on the 
train and buses were also very enjoyable as we left the 
country to  green fields and farmland.

Marcus and his co-teacher have mixed age group teaching in differentiated spaces for individualised and group learning. They have utilised every space available in the room - including elevated seating (mountain top) and a cave room  underneath. The room is full of options for working including quiet and collaborative spaces and making spaces. There are lots of nooks and crannies for learners to choose from.
The space challenge has not compromised the schools vision of personalised learning. The students are engaged and have an enthusiastic attitude to their the current learning enviroment. Plans are under way for a building extension creating and upper level. For the extension they will continue to work with architect Peter Lippman, from Australia. Lippman's design  focuses on environmental quality of lighting, air quality and temperature as well as a focus on 
student choice and flexibility in how they learn.

You could observe the older students
caring and encouraging the younger students 
both indoors and outdoors. This is due to 
the relationship building that happens with the vertical 
grouping in the classroom.

The take out for me at Skapskolan is how the creative and efficient use of  space for personalising learning is aligned school design with their beliefs around personalising learning.

In the literature review completed as part of my travel fellowship research there was consensus that personalising learning is a desire to give students more choice and control over what they were learning and where and how the learning was to take place. In terms of school design this means providing an environment where:
  •  Learning is flexible - in a range of places that could support small groups, large groups or independent activities.
  • Learning is holistic – the whole child and their learning needs supported
  • Learning styles are acknowledged and supported.
  • A range of learning opportunities provided where students are empowered 
  • Students are grouped according to learning stage not age.
  • Reflection, self-management and collaboration incorporated as part of the learning.
Personalisation refers to educational systems that prioritise the individual needs of the learner. Such systems focus on an holistic approach to meet each learners needs.  Milibrand (2004,p.8) personalised learning definition is generally accepted,  “High expectations of every child, given practical form by high quality teaching based on sound knowledge and understanding of each child needs”.     
The school visit to  Skapskolan and discussions with Marcus and later Lene gave opportunities to consider the literature review findings and observe and discuss how teaching and learning  and  school design reflected and supported the school vision around personalisation. 

I felt really inspired by my visit to this small country school. I look forward to news of the 

next iteration - I wonder how the learning from the current build will be reflected in the new build?


Friday, November 7, 2014

Reflections on visiting -Vittra Telfonplan Sweden

Following the principle of Swedish free school organization Vittra and designed by Rosan Bosch.This has been hailed  as a wall-free school with differentiated spaces that allow the children to learn side by side on their own terms using laptops.

The learning spaces are creative, colourful and innovative. Specialist  rooms such as a dance space and a multimedia lab  permits students  to perform noisy activities without disturbing their peers in the open space. 

It is really worth listening to Rosan Bosch and her very clear  philosophy on learning and design - she is quite inspirational - as is the learning spaces at Vittra. 

It was interesting that some of the "open" spaces had been put into traditional classrooms recently. Apparently this move was due to pressure from parents - who wanted curriculum to be physically organised into subject spaces and department and faculties. Parents are very focused on national examination results. There is a difficult discord, when parents only experience of education is their own and this conflicts with the vision of student empowerment and personalising learning. Seeing these recent developments at Vittra caused me to reflect on pressure on educators to compromise their vision in high stakes environments. 

Vittra was also in the process of appointing a new principal which would strengthen the vision around personalising learning. Rosan Bosh is working with Vittra to establish a new campus in this commercial / industrial area. It will be interesting to see how the design of the new campus develops and the direction that the current campus takes under new leadership.

Change of leadership and staff turnover also impacts on sustainability and  schools with a similar vision to Vittra, need to consider how they can continue to develop  journeys of personalisation through change. I observed other schools in UK and Europe that had space for flexibility, collaboration and more student choice over learning but there was a predominance of whole class lessons, didactic style, and the open space was utilised when the "real' work was finished. How can we address the reality gap between our vision of personalised learning and how teaching and learning actually happens?  How can we sustain our vision through change and political and social pressure?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Creativity and passion in Copenhagen

Strandgårdsskolen is located in a low socio economic  suburb in Copenhagen.

It has been rebuilt over several years and has a clear pedagogical strategy.

This school has succeeded with a big turn-around with significant improvements to student achievement results.

The learning spaces are varied and attractive. They include subject based classrooms, breakout spaces and specialist teaching areas.

   There was strong link between the indoor and outdoor spaces demonstrating a commitment to utilising outdoor    spaces for learning.

This is an alternative provision for under 24 year olds who have dropped out of the ordinary school and youth education system.

It is built in an old rolling stock factory and has a creativity focus, including design, drama,  art and circus performance.

This creative approach to engaging at risk students in education is very successful. Once again I was impressed with the Danish way of hooking into passion and creativity in a very personalised way. Students have opportunities to explore different activities such as circus, performance, theatre, writing, visual arts, design and at the same time exploring options for their future. 

This school was built in 2010.  The school is located in an entirely new area  of 

Copenhagen called Ørestad.   

Currently the student intake is  5-9 year olds and  is planning to take older students in 

the near future.  They are one of the Copenhagen’s specialist schools – the school 

vision is to deliver a curriculum that is  virtual and aesthetic.

There is a local library next door as part of the premises. Orestad Gymnasium is also 

next door. I was impressed  with  the variety of specialist spaces such as art, music, 

science, robotics and making models.

   I was interested to find out that  Denmark schools  basically work  in two shifts - the more 

   academic subjects are taken in the morning and in the afternoon they are taught by 

   professionals  I called the "happy life teachers". 

   This is where the programme becomes truly personalised with students choosing from a 

   range of learning  activities including art, dance, robotics, outdoor building and cooking - 

   basically following their interest and passions.

   However this 'free play way" is about to change following resolution of a major dispute 

   between the local authorities and the teachers union. Teachers were locked out for 4

   weeks!     I hope that the strong focus on personalising learning, innovation and creativity 

   will continue as I found the students engaged, motivated and very passionate about

   their learning.