I was very fortunate to go on a school visit on Wednesday to Summerland School in Henderson. We were welcomed by the Deputy Principal, Blair Giles, and then introduced to the Principal, Luke Sumich, who generously gave us his time to give us a tour of the school while sharing his knowledge and inviting us to interact with the children and teachers. It was a highlight to spend time in Amanda Signal's classroom and meet the Tumeke 12 kids (as an NZ immigrant I must admit to Googling "tumeke" to discover the literal translation means "too much" but that it now commonly means "awesome" thanks to the Urban Dictionary for filling me in) and the Tumeke 12 kids were definately awesome as were all the Summerland kids I spoke to!
I found the school organisation fascinating. The teams, I believe, can be formed by teachers wanting to collaborate and/or sharing a similar philosophy. Everyone is on-board with the benefits of eLearning but teachers have the freedom to be creative and integrate a wide variety of tools to support childrens' thinking: Bloom's taxonomy, double bubbble map, Habits of Mind, Thinkers Keys, Thinking Hats, Inquiry learning etc. But the difference between Summerland and other schools is the teams consist of different year levels. Luke explained this was to allow positive peer role modelling especially for the new entrants joining the school. Having taught in Year 0/1 for the past three years positive peer role modelling is very powerful and effective and it is certainly something I encourage in my Year 1 children. I often remind them that they can set an example for the younger children and they are equally able to empathise and remember how they felt when they were new at school. At our school we encourage role modelling with all classes, with the exception of Year 2, being composites i.e Year 0/1, Year 3/4 and Year 5/6. This gives the children an opportunity to be supported by their peers and then take on that role themselves the following year.
At Summerlands there is a really good vibe. There is an atmosphere of mutual respect; committed people working together; children keyed into what effective learning looks like, sounds like, feels like for them; evidence of asessment and thinking about where to next and confident, independent eLearners everywhere! I was keen to see Tumeke 12's Learning Links in action and I wasn't disappointed, happening upon a child sitting outside the classroom reading his book expressively into photobooth and then inserting it into keynote together with his self-reflection. I like the idea that he will be sharing this with his parents at Conferences, how powerful for them to be able to see his level of achievement at the beginning of the year on a reading graph and then watch him reading at that time and then compare that with where he is now!
We left the school smiling, with lots to think about especially as we near the end of our Cluster Contract. Luke mentioned recently learning what a wiki is and creating one for his school BOT and I think he made a lot of sense when he said that people need to have a reason for learning how to do something new. I personally learned to create a wiki when I had a need to house digital resources for the young learners in my class. But once I had done that I could then see more possibilities for wikis and when I created my Action Research wiki I found a use for the Discussion tab which is not relevant in my junior resources wiki! The exciting thing for me about eLearning in Education is that there is always a new way of approaching things, new possibilities for capturing interest and engaging children and providing reasons for continuing to learn.
Here is a slideshow of the photos I took on the visit: