Friday, April 29, 2016

To code or not to code/ PISA /Teaching in flexible spaces/ Sir Ken Robinson and lots more

Selected Education Readings

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

The Author
Not Every Kid Wants to Learn How to Code
The latest educational bandwagon is that all children should be taught how to code computers, although exactly what this is supposed to achieve isn’t clearly spelled out.
“But here’s the thing; not every kid wants to be a computer scientist.  Not every kid wants to work with a computer.  Not every kid wants to stare at a screen, nor do something with technology.  Did we forget that in our eagerness to jump on the coding wagon?”

Learning to Code vs. Coding to Learn
Larry Cuban
Along much the same lines
“For what it’s worth, and in case it might be of any interest to others, here are, in no particular order, some of the most common arguments : I hear made both in support of, and against, educational coding initiatives.”

Does our ‘edtech’ obsession get in the way of education?
“Instead of proclaiming the virtue that apparently derives from forswearing technology – as if academic rigour and using computers were somehow antithetical – wouldn’t we be better off by remaining open to the notion that using technology, in certain circumstances, may actually contribute to improved teaching and learning? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to develop teachers’ expertise so that they are able to make discerning use of whatever technology may be most helpful at any given time for any given purpose?”

PISA envy
PISA-envy, Pearson and Starbucks-style schools
“The focus on test scores is vital to the neoliberal vision of education. It is what enables standardization and hence accountability across the system. If outcomes in the form of test scores are what counts, then it becomes easy to compare one student with another, one class with another, one school with another and one state with another. And test-based accountability has now become a truly global phenomenon, shaping local and national educational priorities and policies.

Alfie Kohn
Why Lots of Love (or Motivation) Isn’t Enough
Latest article by Alfie Kohn.
“True, these students no longer require carrots or sticks. They don’t need discipline because they’re self-disciplined. . . in a way that’s disturbing. Their motivation is internal, but it sure as hell isn’t intrinsic. And that key distinction would go unnoticed if we had just asked whether they had internalized certain values rather than inquired about the nature of that internalization.”

Save us from politicians
Better teachers? Better at what, exactly?
A lament from an Australian teacher.
“Until we are capable of putting our children's needs in front of anything else, we will continue to slip down the educational league table. It has nothing to do with better teachers. It's got everything to do with protecting our children from politicians.

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Teaching /learning in flexible spaces - Modern Learning Environments MLEs - New Tech High
70s  Modern Learning Environment!
Bruce has written another article about this current development.
“By the late sixties, in England, flexible school buildings were being specifically designed to allow a varied combination of individual and group work as well as for class and inter-class activities. And in the 70s ( inspired by American school critics such as John Holt) an open education movement started which culminated in the development of open plan schools.”

Sir Ken Robinson Changes the Paradigm
This is an oldie but well worth watching again.
Sir Ken Robinson’s inspirational talk at the RSA Conference called Changing Paradigms” has made its way around the education circles through different media. This animated version of the speech, taking us through the speaker’s colorful prose with illustrations, has made even more of an impact.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Prof Frank Crowther
We have lost so much over the past 50 years. We need to return leadership back to creative teachers.
“It was in the sixties when creative classroom teachers working within a shared educational philosophy were the real leaders. In contrast to all the structural changes that have happened since the advent of Tomorrow's Schools the role of the teacher has been neglected. There are some, such as Professor Frank Crowther, University of Queensland, who says that, since the 1970s, the professional respect for teachers has diminished.”

A future Vision for Education
Vision gives direction.
Modern Learning Environment / Innovative Teaching Practice – or just good learner centred teaching?
Imagine a school where every child would see themselves as an investor in their own learning. Older children would frequently coach and mentor younger children. Those who were more advanced in a subject would help those lagging behind. Children would help teachers design learning programmes, their parents would be parties to these discussions .The children would see it as their responsibility to learn in their own time, often using online tools provided by the school.”

What do we steal from our students?
“Dr John Edwards based his presentation, the final one for the conference, on a question his wife had asked him when he returned after teaching his graduate students.

She asked him, 'What have you stolen from your students today?’
The poem is worth a read because it clearly makes the distinction between an antiquated transmission style of teaching (which is still all too common) and what is now required if we are to develop all students as 'confident life long learners', the 'seekers, users,and creators of their own knowledge', that our revised curriculum asks of us.”

Contributed by Phil Cullen:

Test-score inflation can boost graduation rates but comes with consequences, Stanford study finds
“Six years ago, a team of educational researchers shocked New York state with clear statistical evidence of widespread manipulation of test scores on the high school exit exams, or Regents Examinations. The analysis, which formed the basis for an investigative report in the Wall Street Journal and sparked major reforms by New York state, showed that test graders were artificially lifting the scores for 40 percent of the students who had fallen just short of passing.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Teaching /learning in flexible spaces - Modern Learning Environments MLEs - New Tech High

In 1932 a report on primary education in England recommended that 'the primary curriculum should be thought of in terms of
Published 1964
activity and experience rather than knowledge to be acquired '.

It was a revolutionary idea as schools at the time were very traditional and streamed by ability as they were in New Zealand..

After World War Two many teachers, returning from the war, were resolved to break down the pre-war segregated and fragmented education.  As well many city children had been shifted to rural areas where they learnt from their new environment.

Post war  many schools developed child centred learning  based on providing such an enriching environment and, within this framework, the basic skills were taught not as an end in themselves but as a means of extending activities and fostering self expression in the fullest meaning of the term. Such schools valued the learners own experience and promoted the child's curiosity and independence. Each child was to be treated as a unique personality with great potential and creating environments to achieve this was now the function of the school.

In 1967 a major study of education in the UK ,the Plowden Report,  was published supporting and encouraging such developments. Ironically the report also encouraged a 'bandwagon effect' and this, combined with the freedom of the sixties, led to reactions.against such teaching.

Dr Beeby
In NZ, in the 1940s, under the leadership of Director of Education Dr Beeby schools were being encouraged to develop along similar lines.

Perhaps NZs most well known educator was Elwyn Richardson but there were many other teachers - most often in rural schools - who were developing exciting similar language arts and integrated programmes.

The art advisers, under the leadership of Gordon Tovey played an important role in identifying and encouraging such teachers.

Elwyn Richardson saw his class as a community of artists and scientists exploring their personal world and their immediate environment. It was what some call a holistic approach to learning.

 I worked with a group of teachers in Taranaki along similar lines - our special feature was the development of room displays that celebrated the achievements of the students. Reading  ( the language arts ) and maths played supportive roles and eventually all ability grouping was done away with - students being helped at point of need. The discovery programme was central in such rooms.

By the late sixties, in England, flexible school buildings were being specifically designed to allow a varied combination of individual and group work as well as for class and inter-class activities. 

And in the 70s ( inspired by American school critics such as John Holt) an open education movement started which culminated in the development of open plan schools.

When asked what giant step forward American schools needed to make towards a better tomorrow Holt replied:

'It would be to let every child be the planner, director, and assessor of his own education, to allow and encourage him , with the inspiration and guidance of more experienced and expert people and as much help as he asked for, to decide what he had to learn, when he is to learn it, how he is to learn it, and how well he is learning it. It would be to make our schools......a resource for free and independent learning where everyone in the community, of whatever age, could use as much , or as little, as he wished.'

John Holt eventually gave up on American education ever being transformed and became a 'de-schooler'. He wanted ( along with others) to make classrooms a very different place. He wanted all students  to gain a genuine sense of, not just their own identities, but also their own worth and felt that schools did more harm than good for far too many students.

 A Modern Learning Environment
This bring me up to the current Modern School Environment, or Innovative Teaching Practices, movements.

I am not sure how they will be developed by teachers other than those who already have  an open approach to education. Time will tell but the flexibility of such buildings are a  great improvement on the limitations of self contained classrooms - sometimes disparagingly described as 'single cell classrooms'.
1970s open plan

As illustrated by the demise of the 1970s open plan schools,  creative education is more than the provision of building and, in today's environment, modern information technology. They  do however provide an opportunity to transform education and to realize John Holt's 'better tomorrow'.

In primary schools the issue of ability grouping in literacy and numeracy, with their genesis in the now out of date  industrial aged schools, has to be faced up to.

These 'basic' areas need to be 're-framed' and seen as 'foundation skills' to enable student personal discovery.

 My observation is that many MLEs are still too focused on such skills for their own sake and that this not helped by accountability demands based on the reactionary National Standards.

Those developing MLEs in  middle or secondary buildings may be better placed to develop innovative teaching although in secondary schools there is always the problem of subject fragmentation and associated 'silo' teaching.

I was heartened to see an example in a major paper on 21st Century education  which  reminded me of the best of integrated teaching in the 60 and 70s:

Mountain study 1970
'One great example of this kind of connected, relevant learning activity was a school-wide learning project that focused on ringforts.27 Ringforts are circular earthen mounds built as houses in the Bronze Age, which have long been associated with the presence of fairies. There are 204 ringforts in the school’s parish and many of the students were interested in them, felt connected to them through their own ancestry, and chose them as a focal point for learning. So students aged eight to 12 studied the history of ringforts, including what people ate and wore when they lived in them; they visited them with an archaeologist; they mapped the forts using mathematical models; they built their own version of a ringfort in their school; they wrote a script and acted it out in their own film; and they travelled to heritage meetings throughout the country and gave presentations. Ringforts became a meaningful focal point for the achievement of multiple curricular learning goals making learning come alive for the students. When teachers and students connect the learning it is something that is natural, instinctive and embedded in their aspirations and their world.'

Such learning experiences were once a feature of New Zealand schools.

I have also watched a number of u-tube videos about Modern Learning Environments and one speaker, Larry Rosenstock, particularly really impressed me.  He has several  u-tube videos to watch - one features a visit by Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey!
Larry Rosenstock - philosopher principal New Teach High

I liked that he was an ex carpenter ( and law school graduate) and commented that through making things as a carpenter you can integrate all areas of learning. Making things ( project based learning) is a feature of High Tech High School - the information technology, and more traditional machine tools, are very much means to an end.

Even the school building is a converted air force building that has been adapted for educational purposes but once you get inside and see what the students are creating that is a revelation.

Larry strongly believes in not segregating students and believes by
Testing bridge strength
working together students are able to help each other. 

Even the school's name is a misnomer. There is no courses on technology and Larry says that 'it's a liberal arts school in disguise....  technology are tools to help students achieve their creations'. 'When you know how to use them you can make things that demonstrate to others what you can do'.

Full of student creativity
The school is based around the concept of Project Based Learning (PBL). Larry says that 'this is a place where you are going to find out who you are'  which is the essence of personalized learning. A place to discover and amplify whatever talents students have.

World wide there is an emphasis on STEM ( Science. Maths , Engineering and Technology) but High Tech High  believes this is  to 'the detriment of the arts'. The school obviously covers a STEM curriculum but it is 'loaded up with design and the arts... art is integral' to all they do.

Larry's philosophy is clear. He shares that he 'supported himself  through university through being a carpenter. When you are a carpenter  you are making things. It is really easy to put in the maths. You can study the world through anything.'
Part of student project

Everything the students do is documented  and students can demonstrate their achievements. The students, says Larry ' are doing what adults do - students have a purpose and a reason.' 'The maths, the biology, the arts are packed into projects'. Literacy and numeracy requirements are 'wed into all activities'. 

I loved seeing all the creative art around the school.

Rosenstock quotes John Dewey,  ' children are people, they grow into tomorrow only as they live today'.  High Tech High very much follows Dewey's experiential learn through action  - a curriculum based on real experiences .

He continues that 'High Tech High  'doesn't look like a school  - it is more an incubator to develop students' ideas'.

'The school is designed to  exhibit students work - it's about curating students ideas.'.. 'Having kids present their work gives us a benefit - and it gives student the opportunity to evaluate their own work and to learn from others to  get ideas for future improvement'.  Students presentation he calls 'stand and deliver' where students explain, demonstrate and defend what they have developed. Assessment is central to group projects and this includes individual  contributions to projects.

Displays of work feature finished products and process.

 At High Tech High peer pressure is used as a positive way to encourage other students.  All students graduate.
Carpenter days

The school is based on respect for the students  - 'if you treat them as adults they will behave as adults'.

Education, Larry believes, is the one intervention that plays a positive role in our society.

Teachers need to be 'evocative - midwives to students' ideas' 

Larry believes a good teacher  'is recognized by the sophistication of their students' work. He wants his teachers to replicate the 'memorable experiences of their own time at school.' 

He wants teachers to 'bring what they do outside of school into their classes. Bring it it in.Integrate it. Connect what you love with the subjects you teach. Then you will be moire passionate'.

'Students learn rigour by being in the company of a passionate adult who by doing inquiry in their subject invite students to participate.'

It seems MLEs are  more about passionate learning than technology or buildings.

Larry 'wants kids behaving like an actress, like a scientist, behaving like a documentary maker, a photographer,  a journalist- trying out new roles and sampling new identities.'
Student project

I kept thinking of the work of Elwyn Richardson, the work of UK pioneer teachers,  and the work we did in school in Taranaki. Same philosophy different times.

And I thought  it was a great message for those keen to develop innovative teaching practices - with or without  modern school buildings.

Some useful resources.

 Project Based Learning at New Tech High.

Essential Lessons from High Teach High

Oprah and Bill Gates visit High Tech High
George Lucas

An introduction to Project Based Learning ( Edutopia)

Edutopias Ten Big Ideas to Improve Learning( George Lucas)

Project based learning with 5 year olds

Project Based Learning at a South Auckland Middle School

Transforming Secondary Schools -Charity James

George Lucas’s Edutopia site  isa great practical resource for project based learning integrating the use of technology

This paper addresses the issue of the new pedagogy, which is central to the future agenda. The authors show that the new pedagogy is based on a learning partnership between and among students and teachers that taps into the intrinsic motivation of students and teachers alike


Friday, April 22, 2016

Creative Educator Readings - Pasi Salberg / LEGO learning/ MLEs and ILEs / and 'Rich Topics'

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

What Is Your Creative Approach?
John Spencer:
A young Einstein
“The truth is that there is no single creative type.” There are many creative types” who offer unique gifts that can transform learning and spark innovation. The more we recognize the diversity of the creative mindset, the better we become at integrating creativity into the culture and curriculum of the classroom. In the process, we not only thrive in our creative identity but we honor the creativity in our students.”

Art and the Mind’s Eye: How Drawing Trains You to See the World More Clearly and to Live with a Deeper Sense of Presence
Some Ruskin to challenge your thinking.
“Drawing, indeed, transforms the secret passageway between the eye and the heart into a two-way
.When you look and /draw you really see and ask questions
— while we are wired to miss the vast majority of what goes on around us, learning to draw rewires us to see the world differently, to love it more intimately by attending to and coming to cherish its previously invisible details.”

Former schoolteacher wins LEGO® Prize 2016
“Former schoolteacher and current scholar and author, Finnish Pasi Sahlberg, wins the LEGO Prize 2016 for his work to improve the quality of children’s education worldwide. Hanne
Rasmussen, CEO of the LEGO Foundation, presented the prize at the annual LEGO Idea Conference. The prize is accompanied by a cash award of USD 100,000 to support further development of quality in children’s learning.”

Children should learn mainly through play until age of eight, says Lego
“A lack of understanding of the value of play is prompting parents and schools alike to reduce it
as a priority, says Hanne Rasmussen, head of the Lego Foundation. If parents and governments push children towards numeracy and literacy earlier and earlier, it means they miss out on the early play-based learning that helps to develop creativity, problem-solving and empathy, she says.”

Why Teachers Are Sometimes Leery Of The Next Big Thing
We’re simultaneously tired of change, and evaporating as an industry without it. But that fatigue is important to honor. That so many teachers are tired of hearing it all isn’t simply proof they need to find new jobs. If a teacher doesn’t buy in,” automatically labeling them a non-team player is a problem. After all, the best teachers often don’t do what they’re told anyway.”

The Best Teachers Don’t Do What They’re Told
“I do realize that, on paper, there’s no reason a teacher can’t do what they’re told and be amazing, but think for a moment about the best teachers you know. Do they do what they’re told, or do they simply do what needs to be done and navigate any fallout better than everyone else? So how can you get there?”

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

What are Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs) or Modern Learning Environments (MLEs) really about?
Bruce’s very thoughtful article about this current trend:
Don’t get me wrong. I believed the open plan schools of the 70s had, and that their recent iteration MLEs, have great potential to develop ‘new minds for a new millennium’ enabling students, as the New Zealand Curriculum says, able to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’. But, I also believe, that lessons learnt about the success and failure of the 70s open plan buildings are worth considering; to quote Edmund Burke ‘Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it’.”

How can the learning sciences inform the design of 21st century
learning environments?
At last something sensible about Modern Learning Environments: After watching a number of short video clips about Modern Learning Environments or Innovative Learning Environments and being less than impressed – all those colourful spaces with trendy furniture and beanbags and little in depth learning to be seen – it was great to come across a publication that, if implemented, would add a qualitative dimension to such environments with its emphasis on problem based teaching.
“Over recent years, learning has moved increasingly centre stage and for a range of powerful
Time to see beyond the open spaces?
reasons. A primary driver has been the scale of change in our world the rapid advances in ICT, the shift to economies based on knowledge, and the emphasis on the skills required to thrive in them. Schools and education systems around the world are having to reconsider their design and approach to teaching and learning. What should schooling, teaching and, most especially, learning look like in this rapidly changing world?

Attention, Students: Put Your Laptops Away
“As laptops become smaller and more ubiquitous, and with the advent of tablets, the idea of taking notes by hand just seems old-fashioned to many students today. Typing your notes is faster — which comes in handy when there's a lot of information to take down. But it turns out there are still advantages to doing things the old-fashioned way.

10 Valuable Digital Age Skills to Take Beyond School
“In the past, we’ve talked about the critical 21st-century skills students need and why. But what about other digital age skills? What about other useful and practical abilities to have? These are things that can help build success and enable lifelong learning. They’re skills students can protect and preserve their identities with. We’re talking about things that can help them help others as well.

Under the blanket of digital age skills there are many useful pursuits. A student’s toolbox will be constantly evolving throughout their life. The need for newer and newer skills will always be the norm. In the meantime, consider this list a useful starting point.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Range of integrated studies
Rich Topics - an integrated curriculum
“A number of schools are ‘experimenting’ with providing the curriculum to their students by means of a series of ‘rich topics’. This is in response to what they have found is an impossible ask, to cover all the ‘overcrowded’ curriculum requirements that have developed as a result of the imposition of too many standardized curriculums. This seems a reasonable if not a very original idea; having been developed by creative primary teachers in the sixties and seventies.”

Wonderful book
Natural born learners.
“The book ‘Scientist in the Crib’  comes with high praise from educationalist. Jerome Bruner who writes, ‘this book is a gem, a really beautiful combination of scholarship and good sense’.This exciting book discusses important discoveries about how much babies and young children know and learn. It argues that evolution designed both adults and children to naturally teach and learn off each other, and that the drive to learn is our most important instinct. Very young children, as well as some adults, use much of the same methods scientists use to learn so much about the world.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What are Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs) or Modern Learning Environments (MLEs) really about?

An article in the NZPPF magazine (March 2016) asks, in reference to Modern Learning Environments, ‘are we facing a learning revolution or recycling the “open barns” of the 1970s?
John Key and Hekia Parata at Pegasus Bay MLE opening.

The authors of the article  ‘remember’ open plan classrooms of the 70s and write  that their success ‘depended on the willingness and capabilities of teachers to work flexibility with like-minded others’. 

1970s open plan school

Don’t get me wrong. I believed the open plan schools of the 70s had, and that their recent iteration MLEs, have great potential to develop ‘new minds for a new millennium’ enabling students, as the New Zealand Curriculum says, able to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’. But, I also believe, that lessons learnt about the success and failure of the 70s open plan buildings are worth considering; to quote Edmund Burke ‘Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it’.

With this in mind I read, with interest, the article to see what advances have been made in thinking about how to use such flexible spaces. It seems most of the information referred to in the OECD publication, ‘School Redesigned: Towards Innovative Learning Systems 2015’.
article comes from an

After reading the article several times I am none the wiser.

ILEs , the authors say, are ‘the complete physical pedagogical context that are capable of evolving and adapting as educational practices evolve and change’ and that they have ‘great potential for reconceptualising what we understand about content, resources, learners and teachers’.

Education is now to be seen as an ‘ecosystem’ rather than an’ isolated event’ and that ‘the current epoch is definitely not old wine in new bottles’.

Most of the article is based on perspectives based on interviews of over 200 Primary and
Secondary principals and, beyond concerns about the remodelling of the physical environment, there was a clear emphasis on pedagogical concerns.

Principals thinking provided such insights as ‘ I think it is about doing things different way and having the flexibility to really put the focus back on the learners …and Innovative learning environments have to start with the pedagogy and what you are doing with children.’

And evidently ILE schools are not about localised learning but are to be seen as ‘networks or ecosystems’….. ‘interactions between a local community of organisms and its environment.’ Other than access to the World Wide Web there is nothing new in these ideas – except the jargon. This language is by courtesy of the OECD publications which provide such phrases as ‘Learning ecosystems are independent combinations of different species of providers and organisations playing different roles with learners in differing relationships over time in varying mixes.I am sure that must be enlightening for schools opening MLE buildings? 

An ecological consciousness
Education is about an ‘ecosystem where learning is personalised across a range of institutions across a range of institutions and spaces …. And it is a move away from the mind-set of school as a “be-all “and “end all”’.  This obviously refers to the idea that with modern technology learning can occur anywhere, anytime from anyone. This, it seems, is the ‘learning ecosystem’. Accessing this ‘ecosystem’ is, according to the OECD, ‘critical in the building and sustaining of innovative learning.’ The authors refer to the potential of the current Investing In School Success (IES) initiative where communities of schools work together as part of this ‘ecosystem’.  As an aside, as an ex a primary school science adviser, I am fully are of the idea of everything being connected often in ways beyond comprehension. We introduced ecological studies in schools from the mid-sixties.

George Lucas
It seems the ‘new wine’ is all about access to modern technology but I read in vain to see how this powerful technology is to be used in such schools – beyond their current use in innovative  open  self-contained rooms. So far, from what I understand, computer use in education has been ‘oversold and underused’ and its success depends on a change in pedagogy – the same pedagogy that KelvinSmythe calls this pedagogy a ‘holistic’approach – an approach that relates back to the ‘old wine’ learning throughexperience  writings of John Dewey, or today, the ideas of Sir Ken Robinson, or the excellent examples of project based learning (PBL) to be seen on George Lucas’s  ( of StarWars fame) Edutopia site.

The authors quote a principal whose ‘ecosystem’, after the introduction of computers, had a ‘flow on effect’ altering how the ‘students can learn and how the teacher has to teach’ which makes one wonder what was the style of teaching before their introduction? Evidently this ‘ecosystem’ allows ‘personalised learning across a range of institutions’. After viewing several videos on Modern School Environments (MLEs) I am left with impressions of spacious buildings and students using information media but little to show for it. As scepticeducationalist has Kelvin Smythe has quipped they are all too often ‘cathedralsof vacuity’.

As the article expresses ‘the underlying philosophy for learning is of paramount’ for success in
ILEs/MLEs but fails to clarify what this philosophy is. One principal, as part of the research, asks ‘how does this space influence learning?’ The authors add that ‘the critical part is the learning. It’s not the space’. Another principal adds, ‘space does influence what you can do but the pedagogy can be utilised in any space’. I presume this means that the pedagogy can be equally applies to self-contained innovative classrooms?

 The ILEs, the article states ‘signal a profound shift in the nature of schooling’ and that ‘moves to reshape schools into ILEs’ mean we are ‘facing some of the most persuasive shifts in the education system since Tomorrows Schools in 1989’.

These changes, the authors say, will challenge principals to ‘critically navigate the topography of proposed change.’ Another principal, who was part of the research, says that schools need to ‘broker a relational dynamic and philosophy for 21st century learning’ and adds ‘right, I get the challenge…that it’s all very well to put in furniture and create an ILE but it’s the practice that counts… (and he wants) teachers working in there who have the right philosophy and mind, who like working together and who like learning together. I think the philosophy is the most important thing’. Sounds like thoughts expressed in the 1970 when open schools were established.

To succeed, the authors conclude, ILEs will need ‘structural support’ including ‘targeted support for principals who as learning leaders empower teachers to also lead and innovate. Pedagogically, what may need to alter is the philosophy and beliefs held by teachers and learners, learning and how learning happens’.

Who is to provide this support and what is the philosophy/ pedagogy that needs to be defined for ILEs? In the 1970s teachers, whose ideas developed in ‘open ‘classrooms transferred ideas developed to open plans and were successful but for schools which were simply provided with open plan buildings failed.
The article left me with more questions than answers - strong on rhetoric but light on reality but at least I learnt some new vocabulary.

 I am left with number of questions:

1.      What is the profile of a successful graduate of an ILE?
2.      What would it be like to follow one student through a day?
3.      Ideally what would a day look like to a visitor after a year’s ‘organic’ change?
4.      What are the stages in growth (‘topography of change’) that might occur as a school develops this new pedagogy/philosophy?
5.      What is the best way to utilise the spaces provided?
6.      How will individual student growth be assessed?
7.      How ILEs are so different from the best of the 1970s open plan units (the ones that didn’t simply put ‘old wine in new bottles’)?
8.      What evidence of in depth student research/thinking would a visitor observe?
9.      What qualities would teachers need to have to be able to work closely with each other?
10.   What would ensure that ILEs do not suffer the same fate as open plan schools?
11.   If personalised learning is a feature of such ‘learning ecosystems’ is there any place for traditional ability grouping and streaming and, in primary schools, the current over emphasis on literacy and numeracy programmes that have their genesis in an earlier industrial era?
12.   What structures need to be in place to assist students to make appropriate choices and for teachers to provided assistance if needed?

My simple view of  successful 1970s open plan schools and Modern Learning Environments is to imagine them as
Students as scientists
communities of scientists and artists
working in an environment with a range motivational displays and a  mix of workshops,   science laboratories,   artists’ studios and art galleries. With the powerful information media now available the ideas introduced during the open education years now have the potential to be realised

 I see MLEs as environments as a kind of educational Te Papa showcasing the students’’ ability to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’ (New Zealand Curriculum) integrating areas of the curriculum as appropriate. I imagine an environment that
Displays to show student thinking
personalises learning by celebrating students’ voice, choice and identity; an environment that taps  students’ questions and concerns and explores the real, man-made, natural and historical environs of the school; an environment that provides all students with lifelong learning skills; an environment able to develops the imagination, passions and talents of all students.

I imagine an environment  displaying  learning similar to what is to be seen at science, technology and maths fairs, art
Displays of student creativity
exhibitions and performances of the creative art
s; a place where the ICT is ubiquitous - all but invisible. All this might mean is developing visual displays by printing selected work from student electronic portfolios.

The above thoughtsreflect educationalist John Holt writing about his ideal school in 1964 asa plac‘where each child in his own way can satisfy his curiosity,
Still a great read
develop his abilities and talents, pursue his interests, and from the adults and older children around him get a glimpse of the great variety and richness of life'.

Holt’s ideal school was a challenge for the teachers in 1970s open plan schools and are still applicable to today’s MLEs.


This paper addresses the issue of the new pedagogy, which is central to the future agenda. The authors show that the new pedagogy is based on a learning partnership between and among students and teachers that taps into the intrinsic motivation of students and teachers alikeCrucially, this new learning is heavily based in the “real world” of action and problem solving, and it is enabled and greatly accelerated by innovations in digital technology. These forces converge to produce deep learning tasks and outcomes.

Of course much of what the authors describe is not new at all. It builds on a tradition going back through to Piaget, Vygotsky and other key theorists.
‘The new pedagogies model promises to drive out of our schools the boredom and alienation of students and teachers—an incredible waste when there is so much to learn. The next decade could be the most transformative of any since the creation of factory-model schools 150 years ago. 

Imagine a future were students and teachers can’t wait to get to the learning – where indeed school never really leaves them because they are always learning. We see the directional vision. We detect elements of it in reality. We can taste the possibilities. It is a future that is distinctly possible to realise. It will take the learning ingenuity of the many. It is a rich seam worth opening.’