Friday, August 03, 2012

A School in Sydney with a Vision for Learning

It was my great pleasure to visit the Northern Beaches Christian School in northern Sydney last week. NBCS is a private, non-denominational co-education, K-12 Christian school with a dynamic and visionary approach to learning. With Anne Knock Director of Development, as our host we were given the grand tour of the school and visited classrooms and learning areas across both Primary and Secondary levels. We also got to speak to Steve Collis and Mark Burgess, Innovation gurus at the on-campus Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning.

Julie, Anne, Steve and Mark

The library at NBCS

(Pic taken by Anne Knock)
 What really impressed me:
  • Their motto: 'Do it, then Think!' - Well! How many educators get to work within an environment that really encourages risk-taking?
  • Many places and spaces designed or organised to meet the needs of a diverse range of learners
  • Cross-classroom AND cross-age teaching - for example all of Grade 5 and 6 together in the one very large learning space, with a 2-year curriculum 
  • A library with no books! At last I have found a school strong enough to get rid of the rows of (largely) books that nobody borrows or reads anymore in that environment. Wisely they have moved books to curriculum areas, or year levels, where they are still used as needed. But now the library is a SPACE with movable furniture and partitions ready for all sorts of purposes
  • The 'whiteboard' paint on the walls. I cannot remember seeing this in a school before, but knew it was a little costly. Such a wonderful innovation....and IMHO beats installing (expensive) whiteboards
  • Mobility and flexibility of learning while mobile - YES! Similar to my school in Beijing, NBCS has a BYOD policy, where students and teachers can bring whatever device they need to connect to the robust wireless network. This was supported by 'trolley's' of laptops for loan in the library space, as well as collections of desktop computers in many classrooms with particular software for curriculum needs
  • A faculty that actually enjoyed talking about pedagogy and was encouraged to be innovative. Such a joy! Not that this is uncommon in other schools......or is it?
  • The general aesthetics of the buildings and surrounds - yes a beautiful Australian setting, with many building design innovations
  • The link with the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning - started by the existing Principal, Stephen Harris, who was awarded the Australian Principal of the Year, NSW last year.
  • The fact that a number of NBCS teachers connected with me and tweeted with me during and after our visit.....a connected and collaborative working environment with confidence using Web 2.0 tools and technology for learning
We are currently talking about NBCS possibly hosting a Flat Classroom Conference in late 2013. What an excellent venue, and what wonderful teachers and students to be hosts for an international community-based, project-based event. Stay tuned for more updates!

Great NBCS teachers to follow on Twitter (apologies if I have missed anyone I met or connected with last week!): Chris Woldhuis, Jonathan Pugh, Mark Burgess, Steve Collis, Anne Knock, Mark Liddell, Louise Deibe, Chantelle Morrisson, Liam Dunphy, Stephen Harris.

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