Happy Steve

Innovation and Learning

Start with clarity of intent.

Now build it out with an evocative vision. Improvise progress by tinkering: with lots of trial and lots of error. The not knowing is the best bit: the mysteries the surprises, and from time to time the windfalls! 

Hello there, I'm Steve Collis! 

Click on "contact", won't you, and wave right back at me?

The Most Audacious 'Class' I've Ever Seen

And I've seen some audacious classes in my time. 

Lookk, before you do anything, just watch this footage. Then, optionally, read my waffle. But watch this footage. As jaw-dropping to me as any TED talk. Try to spot the teacher. OHHHH there aren't any. Yet the kids are working in synchronicity. WHY? HOW? Answer this, and you've cracked the paradigm-change nut we're smack-bang in the middle of:

We're talking DAY 3 of the year 2012, with 90 Year 6 students being joined by 90 Year 5 students. The Year 6s have been used to radical self-direction for 12 months, the Year 5s are more or less the newbies.

So this is establishment phase, okay? The most crucial time in any community. It's when the DNA, the starting-culture, is settled on. Happens everywhere: workplace, school, church, sport. In 2012, Week 1 of the year for many classes in Australia must have consisted of the teacher 'framing' the class; establishing a narrative for who they all are and where they're going. Heck, I just did this with my Year 8 French class. 

Yeah, person up the front framing the context for the many, the crowd, the younglings. Classic one-to-many relationship that so often characterises schooling. If you spot rows of desks, you'll know immediately that's the frame. "Look to ME for your reality."

Before I introduce the Most Audacious Class I've Ever Seen, can I quickly clarify this is NOT a Montessori school. This is NBCS, where I've worked for 10 years, a traditional High School that decided to throw away the map and start again. We have no notions of the noble savage and we don't put kids in a vaccuum. (I'm not saying the Montessori schools do). We use a 'landscape/frame/gateway' approach that overlays freedom and agency onto a sophisticated curated learning landscape that takes 100s of hours to set up. 

I salute this team: Lou Deibe, Chantelle Morrison, Katesha Allis, Daniel Wearne, Chez Robbins, Clare Froggatt and Skender Cameron. (Skender spent over 30 years in a 1 to many configuration. O boy does he have a transition-tale to tell!)

I am in awe of these teachers. 

So, day 3 of the year. 180 kids, 90 new, 90 veterans. Establishment phase.

Here's the premise: you have crashlanded on a desert island. There are no teachers.

How on earth, logistically, did they manage this? Well you should ask them on Twitter. From what I gather and observed (I spent about 30 minutes of the day in attendance in person): the 6 teachers hid outside the open space, observing the kids via video links and open windows. They tweeted clues in via a large twitter screen that acted as a well of knowledge. They used a P.A. system to phone-in further clues. They had established rules: students must remain within 2 metres of their team. Students must ignore 'spies' (adults who entered the space, dressed in costumes). It was pretty much pure game-based-learning. Simulation. Here's the environment we've curated, now prove yourselves. And LO AND BEHOLD, they did!

Audacious. 180 kids, 1 space, NO TEACHERS. They put precautionary measures in place. No gap in duty-of-care. But: one huge risk. An audacious risk. Step back. Create space. Allow agency.

Truth is, for the rest of the year it will be: 180 kids, 6 to 8 teachers, 1 space, and a virtual learning platform to rival the Khan Academy.

This sort of thing stands and falls on several ingredients, as far as I can tell:

1. A physical space that encodes agency.

2. A highly developed and painstakingly curated virtual learning environment. (We use Moodle).

3. A hyper-activated team of teachers. Ohhh do not for a moment suspect that teachers get a break in this environment. They end up working harder than ever before, moving from interaction to interaction, on the shoulder, just where they are needed, like Superman, swooping in to trouble-shoot, diagnose, stimulate, guide, mentor. 

4. A culture of entrepeneurial self-starting self-direction.

It is around #4 that this day was based. 

The DNA of industrial-era schooling basically positions students as obeyers-of-instruction. Turn to page 54. Copy down questions 1 to 10. Okay now be creative and write a story.

Look to the authority figure to be prompted. Great if you aspire to work for Foxconn.

So, we raise a generation of robots. I have no beef with this, historically. It has provided us with roads, dental care, superannuation, insurance, and miraculous foods. 

But, if you haven't noticed, we're currently undergoing a second industrial revolution. The top-down hierarchy is shifting to a bottom-up system. It's hippies, all over again, but this time it's savvy-hippies. Why? Because education has sky-rocketed, and the internet has accelerated collective intelligence in an exponential fashion. Blink, and the game has changed. Lucky that the brain is soft-coded or we wouldn't have gotten this far!

We're shifting to a mode of emergent-agency. I mean: every individual acts according to their own local insights and value-driven ambitions. Times a million. Something wonderful bubbles up. 

Watch the video. Notice the interactions. Notice, bizarrely, how several students, independently, make 'Lord of the Flies'-type noises at the camera when they notice it. But this ain't chaos, and it ain't anarchy (despite this website). This is organic, community, hopeful. Culturally-embedded hopefulness.

You have crashed on a deserted island with no teachers.

The ease of collaboration.

Hive-minds in action.

No authority figures.

Make it happen.