The Special Agents of Change

They make the education revolution become reality!

Here are insights from the team of educational innovators at one of the most transformational schools I have visited: SCIL, the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning at NBCS, the Northern Beaches Christian School

27. December 2011 by Bea Beste

As many people who know me may have noticed: I spent time at SCIL during my education expedition in March 2011, and again for testing PlayDUcation ideas and prototypes in December. This place of innovative learning has inspired and enthused me deeply.

I'm not a professional moviemaker. I just took visual notes with my camera, and managed to put some of them together now. I focused on leaders and teachers, who showed me around and shared with me their way of teaching and working together, their beliefs. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera on all the time, and in addition, even if I had it, I didn't always get an understandable take. So, please consider this collection of quotes to be just some glimpses about how the SCIL team operates and what makes the place so special:

They have a leader with a bold vision: Stephen Harris. See also my previous blog post about the "Big Five of Innovation".

They put the vision at the center of the organization: SCIL is a best practice example of a lean, non-hierarchic structure who empowers each individual to participate and create.

They go out and explore on expeditions: They visit schools and other places of learning and design in the world and they take their inspirations back home and recreate their own. The furniture they develop is stunning - inspired by coffee houses, museums, and lounges. I've learned that they were able to improve the learning outcomes of students with ADHS at a significant amount, just by creating sitting opportunities designed to allow more natural movements and positions of the body.

They have given up walls: When I share photos from SCIL, everybody usually asks: Don't they have a lot of noise and total chaos in these huge spaces? The answer is no. I've spent now lots of time in there, while learning, teaching and all sorts of discovery took place. It's good. It feels open, comfortable, airy, energetic and ... well not quiet. But a lot more quiet as any of us could expect.

They involve students in all learning processes: Basically, SCIL has made the shift from teaching to learning. They empower and involve the students at the very early age in the process of learning, taking the student’s interests and strengths as a starting point. So, the teachers changed their instruction modus from being in total control to being an authentic co-learner, guiding the student’s curiosity and passion.

They walk the talk in their professional development: They plan and execute all professional development in the same way they want the students to learn. So, there is no longer an instructor in front of a staff conference, but they work collaboratively in groups and explore how to make lessons non-traditional. They learn from each other.

They are allowed to make mistakes: There is an atmosphere of no fear at SCIL, but a culture of genuine trust.

They share and connect with the world outside the school: Blogs, Twitter, social media and the use of computer games are integral to learning and teaching.

They are excited about chance: Old school teachers dislike change.  The teachers at SCIL crave for innovation and love to try out new things. I suppose it has a lot to do with the overall culture of trust and no fear.

And finally: Yes, they cover the national curriculum. The students pass the tests, and they score mostly better than the average!



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