WALL LESS CLASSROOMS
Ricardo Fox 2014
I was recently asked by a journalist to write and clarify what I mean when I talk about wall less classes. I thought that it was an interesting concept to flesh out what we have been doing at Frasertown School.
We have been developing a living 21st century curriculum document based around how knowledge, and access to knowledge, has changed with the social and technological evolutions that have been occurring rapidly and significantly over the past 5 years.
With support, the school has provided each student with an iPad as a learning tool. Teachers have been provided with extensive professional development around technology, teaching skills, child centred approaches and teaching to facilitate the new technology to merge with our older technology.
The concept of wall less classrooms has an intellectual and physical approach. At our school intellectual development is based on knowledge having equity regardless of your isolation, personality, ability, wealth or social class - at school you have unlimited access to global information. With access to that global information we are able to engage students in learning and interactions that were once limited to the four walls of the classroom. Our children can talk to other students in Japan and share cultural identity, watch sporting events live as part of school units or "magical moments" like the Americas Cup, be taken on virtual tours of international libraries or museums by experts in another country, have mandarin language lessons from a teacher living in China and even make daily connections with our collaboration school, Richmond, in Napier. Exposure to knowledge is limitless.
The physical aspect comes in the form of modern learning environments. All classes have a range of furniture that students can choose to use to complete work. The wireless network allows our students to take their work outside and use our external environment - underneath trees, in trees, on the veranda, in the fort, in the library. They are not limited to a desk or mat inside the four walls.
Wall less classrooms are truly 21st Century Learning at its best. Below is the finished article.
Frasertown School in Hawke's Bay has been developing a “living 21st century curriculum document” that has seen its students using technology – such as Skype – to communicate with school children in Asia.
Skype story on Japanese TV
In November, one of the school’s senior teachers, Joni Hoek, led Skype sessions between her Year 3/4 class and children from Sekinami Elementary School in Kitaibaraki, Japan. The sessions came about after a Japanese education facilitator visited Wairoa College and Frasertown School.
Frasertown principal Ricardo Fox says after the first two Skype sessions there was a real interest generated about his school’s Skype initiative in Japan, including a photo of his students being shown on the news there.
“This type of programme in their education system is very unusual. Our students and staff were taken aback when we received a photo of our programme on the news in Japan.”
The school’s curriculum has been developed to reflect changes in how people access knowledge and the shifting social and technological landscape – particularly in the past five years. Each of the school’s 125 students has been provided with an iPad and teachers have been given extensive training to help them merge the new technology with the school’s older technology.
The concept of wall-less classrooms has been embraced – where students can use the internet to access global information. Access to information is no longer limited to within the classroom, Fox says.
“The wireless network allows our students to take their work outside and use our external environment – underneath trees, on the veranda, in the fort, in the playground. They are not limited to a desk or mat inside four walls.”
The technology has helped the students communicate and learn about other cultures in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. They are able to receive chinese lessons from a teacher living in China and talk with students in Japan.
Connecting with Asia is important because “it’s part of where we’re heading”, Fox says.
Asia’s business growth in the last decade has been rapid and it’s geographically close to New Zealand – within a 15 hour flight from Auckland.
During the Skype sessions with Sekinami Elementary the students shared pictures of family members, and talked about weather, hobbies, origins of names and television shows. The students have shared national songs and the Frasertown students have performed kapa haka.
“The language barrier is overcome by my basic Japanese language and an English language assistant there … who is attached to this project.”
An “Asia-equipped school”, Fox says, delivers the intercultural competencies that students need to live and work in Asia and with Asian people in New Zealand.
"Young New Zealanders need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to take advantage of the opportunities to live, work and interact with the Asian communities in New Zealand and with the peoples and countries of Asia."
Fox’s students learn Asian language skills and about cultural values and diversity. As technology skills are developed further the school is looking to build on what it has achieved.
“Our journey is only a year and a half old but what we have accomplished with connecting with Asia has been a delicious entrée to what we will be able to incorporate in 2014 to springboard us into 2015. We will continue to build the [Skype] project and let it grow naturally into whatever it matures into, which is exciting.”